Elaborative Encoding vs. Rote Memorization
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Elaborative Encoding Needs to Overtake Rote Memorization in Academics

It is time for the age of repeating and deleting to come to an end and the era of lasting learning to finally begin.


I imagine, at some point in the time of your schooling, you have been told the same things as me.

You are anxiously awaiting the arrival of an exam, trying desperately to cram the information into your head in whatever fashion it'll stick. Unsure of your footing in the materials, you are still puzzling through your own study habits in an attempt to figure out the best ones for you. You have been told simply to know the information, right? Your teachers told you to write down everything they said and give it back to them in various forms, right? So you simply write and rewrite and rewrite until your fingers become sore, your eyes have to blink out the exhaustion, and you have a few times the number of copies of notes.

And likely only a dismal amount of information in your mind.

The plain fact of the matter is this: rote memorization, otherwise known as a learning technique based solely on repetition, is ineffective. And oh, I mean wildly ineffective. It is the least likely of the possible study methods to be any kind of beneficial because it will never allow for understanding. It will simply allow you to obnoxiously regurgitate descriptions or formulas and have no idea how to use them.

What can you expect? Rote memorization is based on a surface level understanding of materials and will thus give you a feebly shallow grasp on concepts that are more likely to disappear on the day of the exam than it ever will be to assist. It does not allow you to engage with the knowledge you seek. It is like looking at objects through glass and only through glass - you'll be able to see what is in front of you and can describe it at length, but you will never get a hold on it, and once you walk away, the memory will steadily fade from your brain.

That, my friends, is where elaborative encoding comes along.

Have you ever used a memory device to help yourself learn? Something like a song to remember the states, an acronym to remember music notes names on a staff, anything of that nature? Your mind combined several different areas of study and of your own personal interest and attached them to concepts you previously had nothing to do with. It is not much of a step to make up the difference between repeating something to memorize it briefly and putting random words to a tune to keep them in your mind, but oh my goodness, the outcome of each is vastly different.

Elaborative encoding is a system of learning in which a person connects information they don't really know yet to already existing set of memories or thought processes. By actively connecting what you don't know with what you know, you are forced to truly learn the information and be able to apply it to whatever concepts you choose. You have to know what something means to relate it to a part of your life, and once it is related to a topic or memory that is important to you, it sticks in your brain to the point where you can refresh it with a single thought. With a single phrase! You can tell yourself stories and make the concepts characters, you can write music, you can discuss the framework of a class in the context of your favorite movie. There is no limit to what you can accomplish in learning when you attach information to things that matter to you. And it stays! Oh my goodness, does it ever stay.

Simply repeating information cannot get you anywhere. It will not help you learn, and it will certainly not motivate you to continue on in whatever area of study on which you have set your eyes. Unfortunately, academia is oftentimes not very set on teaching the ways to learn information. For some reason, we are taught mainly what we should know and never how we should know.

And I think that that should change.

It is never too early an age to learn how to learn. It is never too early an age to learn how to function well in life. It is never too early an age to learn how to know what you know, to stave off stress, to build good habits. It is never too early an age to get a running start in what you can one day love.

Elaborative encoding. A mixture of what you know and what you love, unlocking a world of understanding beyond. Have the courage and the know-how to give it a try.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

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