March 6, 2018
A fine line exists between regurgitating memorized terms and retaining knowledge
If a student’s midterm is a multiple choice test, it can send them into a frenzy of memorizing testing material only to eventually forget it.
Students are supposed to learn how to retain and apply what they learn in class. But memorizing dozens of terms for a midterm is not what that process should look like. Instead of actually getting something out of a class, students just get a grade.
Testing is a necessary part of education in order to measure growth over the course of a semester. However, these exams can be prepared for and structured differently.
Some teachers agree that simply memorizing information instead of analyzing and exploring to retain doesn’t help students. In a column for The Atlantic, math teacher Ben Orlin argues that raw memorization, or repeating a fact over and over, won’t stick for students.
“Memorization is a frontage road: It runs parallel to the best parts of learning, never intersecting,” Orlin said.
While studying for an upcoming psychology exam, I realized that I won’t remember any of what I studied, nor am I actually learning anything useful because all I’m doing is memorizing it.
I was quite literally memorizing key words from certain multiple choice answers that the teacher’s assistant had given to the students prior to the exam.
A student’s success shouldn’t be measured on how well they can memorize words or facts, but what information they can learn and then apply to life.
For example, in my 17th and 18th century British Literature class, we examine text and interpret it.
Instead of learning facts, we are learning a skill: close reading. We write a couple essays, but for the most part, this class is about reading, discussing and applying all of this knowledge.
While this isn’t always possible, especially in large lecture classes, approaches like this can be incorporated in all classrooms.
Orlin also suggest methods of retaining information that stray away from memorization, including using mnemonics and building on facts that we already know.
All students that attend college should have the goal to actually learn, not just obtain a degree. And educators should have the goal to teach, not just have their classes perform well.
When midterms come around, students should remember that they’re here to learn and gain as much knowledge as possible without reciting terms on a sheet of paper.