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The Difference Between Rote Learning and Meaningful Learning


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While rote learning and meaningful learning are both ways of learning, they are very different. Does one type of learning benefit your child more in the long run?

To get to the bottom of this question, let’s examine both types of learning.

What Is Rote Learning?

Rote learning is the memorization of information based on repetition. Examples of rote learning include memorizing the alphabet, numbers, and multiplication tables. Some consider rote learning to be a necessary step in learning certain subjects.

Memorization isn’t the most effective way to learn, but it’s a method many students and teachers still use. A common rote learning technique is preparing quickly for a test, also known as cramming.

Advantages of Rote Learning

There are some benefits of Rote Learning, including:

  • Ability to quickly recall basic facts
  • Helps develop foundational knowledge

Disadvantages of Rote Learning

The drawbacks of learning by memorization include:

  • Can be repetitive
  • Easy to lose focus
  • Doesn’t allow for a deeper understanding of a subject
  • Doesn’t encourage the use of social skills
  • No connection between new and previous knowledge
  • May result in wrong impression or understanding a concept

While being able to quickly recall pieces of information is helpful, to understand information on a deeper level students must use a different method of learning: meaningful learning.

What is Meaningful Learning?

Meaningful learning involves understanding how all the pieces of an entire concept fit together. The knowledge gained through meaningful learning applies to new learning situations. This type of learning stays with students for life.

Meaningful learning is active, constructive, and long-lasting, but most importantly, it allows students to be fully engaged in the learning process.

Two important goals of all types of learning include retention and transfer. “Retention” is the ability to remember the material at a later time. “Transfer” is the ability to use prior knowledge to solve new problems. Students achieve meaningful learning when both of these goals are fulfilled.

Advantages of Meaningful Learning

Meaningful learning helps students achieve success in the classroom by:

  • Encouraging understanding, not memorization
  • Encouraging active learning techniques
  • Focusing on the outcome of the learning process
  • Relating new information to prior knowledge

Disadvantages of Meaningful Learning

The challenges associated with meaningful learning include:

  • Takes longer to achieve
  • Should be tailored for different types of learners

Some students may face challenges with meaningful learning, as it requires building off previous knowledge. This is where dedicated teachers and tutors can help ensure students understand concepts so that meaningful learning can continue to happen.

Rote Learning vs. Meaningful Learning

Experts emphasize the importance of deep understanding over the recalling of facts. Students who learn with meaningful learning are able to problem solve better than those who learn by rote.

Meaningful learning teaches students important cognitive skills they will use throughout their life. Cognitive skills are what students use to evaluate, analyze, remember and make comparisons. In the long run, meaningful learning is the most effective way for students to engage in learning.

Why Oxford Learning?

With our Cognitive Learning approach to teaching, Oxford Learning emphasizes the importance of meaningful learning. Our programs don’t focus on memorization or repetition—they teach students the fundamentals of lifelong learning. Your child will develop learning skills and strategies that will help him or her on the way to better grades in school.

Does your child need help mastering the art of meaningful learning? Oxford Learning teaches students the skills they need to be a more effective learner. Find out more about how Oxford Learning helps.






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