Rote memorization is the process of learning something through repetition and practice. It involves repeating information over and over again until it becomes firmly embedded in one’s memory.
This type of memorization bypasses any understanding or reasoning, as one needs to remember the facts without necessarily understanding them.
For example, if someone were to learn the periodic table by rote memorization, they would need to remember elements and symbols rather than understand why certain elements have certain properties or why some elements interact with others.
This type of learning is often used to learn new words, formulas, equations, concepts, and other related topics.
Rote memorization can also help strengthen recall skills, enabling you to remember more information quickly and effectively.
Rote Memorization Definition
Rote memorization is a learning process that relies on repeating information repeatedly until it is firmly entrenched in one’s memory.
It involves memorizing facts and data without necessarily understanding or reasoning through the material.
According to Seel (2012),
“…rote memorization is a theoretical term to describe storing of information in long-term memory through sheer repetition” (p. 2889).
This learning method does not involve any understanding or reasoning, as the goal is to remember the facts without understanding them.
For instance, one might use rote memorization to learn a language, mathematics formulas, the periodic table, or new vocabulary words.
Furthermore, rote memorization helps strengthen recall skills, enabling a person to remember more information quickly and effectively (Hoosain, 2017).
Simply, rote memorization is a learning process that relies on repeating information over and over again until it becomes firmly embedded in one’s memory.
Rote Memorization Examples
- Learning new words: Many language learners use rote memorization to learn new vocabulary words. Repeating the same word multiple times becomes ingrained in one’s memory and is easier to recall.
- Memorizing formulas: Math classes often require students to memorize certain equations and formulas. Rote memorization is an effective way of learning these equations as it helps with quick recall when solving problems.
- Memorizing periodic table elements: Science students often have to learn the names of elements and their symbols on the periodic table. Rote memorization can be used to help remember all this information quickly and effectively.
- Reciting poems or verses: A poet or other literary figure may recite a poem or verse by having them read and repeat it multiple times to be thoroughly embedded in their head for recitation purposes.
- Practicing musical pieces: Musicians often use rote memorization when practicing a piece of music, as they need to memorize the notes and rhythms to play the music accurately.
- Memorizing facts about countries: As part of a geography course, students may have to learn facts about different countries – such as population size, capital cities, and currencies – through rote memorization.
- Remembering historical dates: History classes commonly require students to remember key events that occurred during certain periods, which can be learned more quickly and effectively through rote memorization.
- Memorizing facts about presidents: When learning about politics, many classrooms will recite facts about different presidents for them to commit those facts into memory faster than if they were using a different learning technique like reading comprehension skills alone.
- Memorizing medical terminology: Medical students usually have to remember complex medical terminology, which includes diagnosis codes, Latin terms, and treatments, among others. This information must be communicated quickly and accurately so that physicians can diagnose patients. Rote memorization helps with this process, significantly reducing typos due to its repetition-based method of learning the said material.
- Reciting scriptures from religious texts: Religious organizations sometimes require adherents to remember scriptures from holy texts through repetition. Rote memorization can aid with the smoother recollection of such texts when needed at specific occasions or services related to said religion/organization.
Rote Memorization vs. Meaningful Learning
The main difference between these two learning styles is that rote memorization relies on repetition. In contrast, meaningful learning requires understanding complex topics or ideas to recall them effectively.
- Rote memorization is a method of learning that involves repetition and drill-type exercises. It involves repeating something over and over until it is thoroughly learned (Mayer, 2002). An example of this could be the periodic table – a student may need to repeat each element and its symbol multiple times for them to commit it to memory.
- Meaningful learning, conversely, involves synthesizing and making connections between different topics or ideas and comprehending material for it to be remembered (Mayer, 2002). For example, rather than simply repeating the names and symbols of elements on the periodic table, a meaningful learner would also consider their physical properties and reactivity.
Additionally, meaningful learners can apply what they have learned in different contexts due to their deep understanding of the material.
In contrast, rote memorizers typically only remember things in the exact same way they were taught them (Mayer, 2002).
So, rote memorization can be useful for quickly committing certain facts or pieces of information to memory, but meaningful learning is more effective in the long run as it requires a deeper understanding of the material.
Rote Memorization Techniques
While rote memorization is not the most effective way to learn, some techniques – repetition, association, visualization, chunking, and mnemonic devices – can help make it easier.
Here is a brief overview of these techniques:
It is the most common technique used in rote memorization. It simply involves repeating a piece of information over and over until it is ingrained in one’s memory and can be easily recalled (Seel, 2011).
This technique involves associating pieces of information with ones that are already known, thus making them easier to remember when needed (Norman et al., 2002).
For example, associating a person’s name with their face or a term with its definition can help commit both pieces of information to memory faster than without an association.
This technique involves creating mental images to help remember certain facts or ideas more quickly and accurately (Seel, 2011).
For example, visualizing the names of elements on the periodic table as images rather than just words can help commit that information to memory faster than relying only on repetition alone.
This technique involves breaking down complex ideas or concepts into smaller chunks that are easier to remember (Xu & Padilla, 2013).
It is especially beneficial for longer strings of facts or knowledge, such as historical events or detailed formulas, which cannot be easily committed to memory through mere repetition alone.
5. Mnemonic Devices
A mnemonic device is a phrase or acronym used to help associate different pieces of information, making it easier to recall when needed.
For example, ‘My very eager mother just served us nine pancakes’ could aid in remembering all nine planets in order from nearest to furthest from the sun (Mercury, Venus, Earth…).
Benefits of Rote Memorization
Rote memorization has some distinct benefits, including quick learning, improved accuracy, and better recall.
Rote memorization is a useful technique for quickly learning information that is necessary to know but does not necessarily require deep understanding (Battino, 1992).
It can be especially helpful in contexts such as learning foreign language vocabulary, memorizing historical facts, or mastering complex formulas or equations.
Additionally, it can be used to help commit factual knowledge to memory, such as names, dates, and places which often require repetition to remember them correctly.
In short-term memory, facts and figures are first stored in a student’s mind. However, the more they revisit this information with repetition, the better their chances of solidifying it within their long-term memory (Battino, 1992).
Furthermore, rote memorization provides some benefits when it comes to problem-solving. It helps create strong mental models and frameworks that can be used to break down complicated issues into more manageable pieces.
Disadvantages of Rote Memorization
The primary disadvantage of rote memorization is that it provides a different level of understanding and insight than more meaningful approaches to learning.
Rote memorization requires simple repetition, often not giving one a deeper understanding of the concepts or ideas being learned.
Additionally, using this technique regularly can lead to mental and physical fatigue due to the monotonous nature of repeating information over and over.
Finally, rote memorization may also be inefficient when it comes to problem-solving, as it does not allow for flexibility in thinking or the ability to think outside the box.
Rote memorization is a learning technique that relies heavily on repetition to commit information to memory.
For example, it can be used to learn foreign language vocabulary quickly, memorize historical dates or equations, and commit factual knowledge such as names and places.
While it can be effective for quickly learning facts, figures, and other information, it does not provide the deeper understanding and critical thinking skills fostered by meaningful learning approaches.
Although rote memorization has clear benefits, such as improved recall and accuracy, its limitations should be considered.
Ultimately, a balanced learning approach combining rote memorization with meaningful learning can lead to a more well-rounded education, helping learners remember information and understand and apply it in various contexts.
Hoosain, R. (2017). Rote memorization or concept learning. London: Open Dissertation Press.
Mayer, R. E. (2002). Rote versus meaningful learning. Theory into Practice, 41(4), 226–232. https://doi.org/10.1207/s15430421tip4104_4
Norman, G. R., Der, V., & Newble, D. (2002). International handbook of research in medical education. London: Kluwer Academic.
Seel, N. M. (2012). Encyclopedia of the sciences of learning. New York: Springer.
Xu, X., & Padilla, A. M. (2013). Using meaningful interpretation and chunking to enhance memory: The case of Chinese character learning. Foreign Language Annals, 46(3), 402–422. https://doi.org/10.1111/flan.12039