MEMORIZATION IS A VIABLE LEARNING MECHANISM
The American Test Anxiety Association found that as much as 20 percent of students suffer from test anxiety. (Photo: Marcus Johnson)
Rote memory is the most commonly required memory task for students in primary and secondary school, according to ascd.org. This type of learning involves memorizing and soon forgetting facts that are often of little primary interest or emotional value to the student, such as a list of vocabulary words.
Facts that are memorized by rehearsing over and over often don’t have obvious or engaging patterns or connections. When there is nothing to give them context or relationship to each other or to the students’ lives, these facts are stored in remote areas of the brain.
These isolated bits are more difficult to locate later because there are few nerve pathways leading to these remote storage systems. Brain-based strategies can be used to reduce the amount of rote memorization required, and what remains can be less tedious because these strategies help students access and use more effective types of memory storage and retrieval. The goal of research-based education is to structure lessons to ultimately rely less on inefficient and tedious rote memory. Helping students access and use more effective types of memory storage and retrieval will literally change their brains.
Most in-class tests require students to memorize information rather than gradually learn the information in small details. Often times, students are given inadequate time to prepare for a test that requires lengthy study which results in students being forced to rely on memorization. However, the disadvantage to this preparation method is that soon after the conclusion of the test, the material is completely forgotten which does not promote learning or academic growth.
WCC psychology professor Kamil Hamaoui believes that growth and development in students is more dependent on the questions on a test rather than whether or not the test is conducted in class.
“In-class tests that include questions on recognizing or recalling definitions of terms are measuring memory abilities. It’s possible for a student to remember the wording in a given definition, without fully understanding the concepts or having the ability to apply the concepts,” Hamaoui said. “However, in-class tests, whether consisting of multiple-choice questions or essay questions, can also measure the ability to apply concepts, analyze situations and evaluate information and arguments.”
I don’t think the ‘in-class’ or ‘at-home’ distinction is as important to consider as the type of questions included on the test.” – Kamil Hamaoui, WCC Professor
WCC student, Barbara Okoroji believes that in-class testing is an effective way to measure her academic growth and development.
“I personally believe in-class tests help with growth and development because it helps me track and improve how I am doing in class,” Okoroji said. “I have noticed that I remember the material more when I take a test in class long after taking the test as a opposed to when I do take home quizzes.”
Another WCC student, Luis Quinde, expressed the view that in-class testing is based on memorization alone.
“I think it is just based on memory. You can get a good grade depending on how much information you can retain in your memory,” said Quinde. “I have never remembered one or two questions about the tests that I have taken after two days.”
While in-class tests can facilitate knowledge and academic improvement in some students, the strategies utilized by the professor prior to administering the test is what ultimately decides if the test will promote learning among students or forces them to ‘cram’ information in their brains just to be able to rewrite it on the test.