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Rote Learning: Its Purpose Is To Create Automaticity
The 1850 edition of Noah Webster's Dictionary defines "rote" as: "To fix in memory by means of frequent repetition." That certainly is the essence of what we mean by rote memorization.1
A search at Merriam Webster Online, however, defines "rote" as:
This definition misses the mark of what memorization is all about.
Many of today's educators look down on rote learning and consider it akin to a form of child abuse. Today this form of learning is considered to be "out of style,"2 "ghastly boring"3 and even "mindless."4 "Having to spend long periods of time on repetitive tasks is a sign that learning is not taking place — that this is not a productive learning situation," says Bartoli.5
What these educators totally ignore is the fact that rote memorization is not only the easiest way to learn something; it often is the only way to learn something.6 Its purpose is to create automaticity, so that the child will know something without having to think about it. Below are just a few examples of skills where automaticity plays such an important role that a child will suffer from a learning disability unless they have been automatized:
There are many other examples, but this should be enough to illustrate the importance of rote learning.
Research has shown that when properly applied, rote learning is a consistently effective teaching method. For example, a recent meta-analysis of 85 academic intervention studies with students with learning disabilities found that regardless of the practical or theoretical orientation of the study, the largest effect sizes were obtained by interventions that included systematic drill, repetition, practice, and review.8
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