Rote learning and fostering of memory

Fri, May 16, 2014, 01:15

Sir, – Daisy Christodoulou’s observations, as reported by Gráinne Faller (“Maybe rote learning is not such a bad thing”, Education, May 13th) on the importance of rote learning and of the fostering of memory, are borne out by studies showing a clear correlation between working memory capacity and fluid intelligence. Aristotle considered that even virtue was developed through habit rather than through reasoning and understanding.

My colleague Prof Orison Carlile and I have written about the dangers of fashionable student-centric approaches to education. These include a lack of emphasis on disciplinary knowledge, and an over-emphasis on learning styles and multiple intelligences theories.

Teachers of the English national schools curriculum were told to dampen their enthusiasm for the categorisation of learners into “visual”, “auditory” or “kinetic” types because of a tendency of pupils to label themselves – “I’m a visual learner – I can’t do numbers”. The different disciplines should dictate the styles and ways in which they are learned.

The value of learning multiplication tables by rote far surpasses the tedium of doing so.

People talk of “deep learning” being superior to “surface learning”. However, in order to go deeper, you first need to go through the surface.


Waterford Institute

of Technology,

Waterford City.