Helping Students Memorize: Tips from Cognitive Science

Most teaching professionals are heavily invested in the idea that learning isn't about being able to regurgitate facts on an exam. We also worry, and with good reason, that emphasizing rote learning steals time and effort away from the deeper thinking that we want students to do. But in my work I've come to realize that memorization deserves some airtime because it is one important route to building content knowledge and expertise. Furthermore, acquiring content knowledge doesn't have to detract from critical thinking, reasoning, or innovation—rather, it can complement all these. Cognitive scientists are making new discoveries all the time about the connections between memory and processes such as drawing inferences, making predictions, and other skills that make up the ability to think like an expert in a discipline.

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