Bad Intelligence: Why Memorization is NOT Learning

People applaud kids who use memorization to ace exams over and over and they are celebrated as smart. Valuable. But guess what? If you do look at our education system for the past 100 years, it has not changed so much after all.

We measure intelligence with one factor only: the ability of kids to recall terms and dates and other so-so’s using memorization, and that is it. But in case you have not realized yet, memorizing is not learning and intelligence is not solely seen by mimicking words written anywhere. Instead, intelligence is the ability to function fully and efficiently and make connections among concepts and apply their importance in real life and this is where our schools fail to deliver. We produce kids who are bookworms but not street smarts.

Memorization: Test Papers are Boxes

We are aware that there are at least seven types of intelligence: verbal, kinesthetic, mathematical, musical, spatial, intrapersonal, and interpersonal.

A good education is one that allows students to develop the different aspects of their personalities; more so, incorporate what they learn with morals and values for everyday living. However, we always measure education via one thing: examination papers. Papers that are mostly asking details. Though it is important to know the basic, in Bloom’s Taxonomy, aka the hierarchy of learning, memorization is considered the lowest form learning.

When we train students to just memorize, we are not teaching them how to think. Rather, we are training them to just be “responsive.” When this happens, students given situations or problems fail to consider a bigger context. They also get used to thinking along with only what was already given to them. Hence, poor problem solving skills.

Moreover, giving out test papers that require enumeration and simple recall forbids creativity growth. This only tells us that schools that allow this type of assessment measure one aspect of a student’s persona only. Where does the holistic development fall in here, then?

Education or Memorization?

Some teachers would say that they opt for simple recall exams as, allegedly, some students and parents rebel against test papers that challenge students to reason out instead of using plain memorization. They prefer answering test papers with questions that have already been asked in class verbatim. Why? So as the students not to get confused and to be disappointed.

Given that, we are already seeing the negative effects of this practice: first off, we need to consider that real learning means “knowing” and “comprehending” regardless of how a sentence or a question is formed.

When a learner no longer understands what is being asked if the questioning is tweaked, then can we really say that the child has learned well? By pressuring teachers to come up with predetermined questionnaires, we are forbidding our learners from using their critical skills — which is highly inevitable in the real world.

Second, not allowing children to be disappointed degrades their ability to handle stressful situations. It lessens their ability to cope. In short, memorization-based learning promotes stagnation.

Honestly, we cannot reform the whole education system in a snap, but we can start by how we help students evaluate what they know.

We can still give out exams but we need to be sure that different types of questioning are incorporated in there. This is where a Table of Specifications (TOS) comes in.

Table of Specifications

A Table of Specifications is a chart that guides test paper making via allotting specific points and number of questions on a particular topic covered in class.

Moreover, it requires a particular number of questions dedicated to the other forms of questioning other than recall which are understanding, applying, analyzing, evaluating, and even creating.

A TOS is based on the objectives of a topic and the amount of time it was discussed. By using this method, we can be assured that teachers would stay away from making a test that is solely objective or recall type. By doing so, the different strengths of learners could be developed.

Nonetheless, should an outputs-based exam be also considered, a special criteria should also be designed to fully develop and fairly rate students’ potentials. This way, we can be careful that we do not tolerate mediocre projects attributable to individuals having “varying intelligence.”

About Patricia Abrihan

Patricia has always been inspired by the witty yet innocent voice of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird that she believes that writing is able to revolutionize ideas of society. She is a former college instructor from the Philippines and is currently a freelance writer and blogger managing her portfolio. She is open to collaboration and also loves reading and watching movies.

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