View Full Version : Do you guys know anything about memory based teaching?

H.E. Pennypacker
April 27th, 2007, 07:27 AM
There is a 100 question biology exam coming up in a few weeks, and before I have to take it, I want to convince my professor asking students to memorize facts is not an effective way of teaching science or anything else.

I am very confident that conventional teaching methods are extremely poor and only expect students to worry about grades, rather than trying to get a good understanding of the testing material. This encourages students to memorize many facts, take an exam, and forget all about it the next day, week, or year.

This raises an important question: what is the point of knowledge if it will be discarded right after examination? Why do we have schools to begin with if we are not equipping students with real knowledge rather than threatening them with failure if they don't memorize a billion things?

My question is...are any of you aware of any studies/research that (even remotely) proves my point?

By the way, the upcoming exam is based on ten chapters (oh Lord!). I don't think I have ever taken a 100 question exam. My professor apparently has recently started teaching (became a professor recently).

April 27th, 2007, 07:40 AM
I have studied a lot over the years and here are some thoughts

The human brain is not like RAM. Things are not actually discarded. Ive learnt alot of things that I will never use or remember exactly but I know they are there if I ever need to use them.

The only solution to a bad teacher is a good book. Dont bother fighting the system or a bad teacher. Teach yourself.

April 27th, 2007, 08:15 AM
I have studied a lot over the years and here are some thoughts

The human brain is not like RAM. Things are not actually discarded. Ive learnt alot of things that I will never use or remember exactly but I know they are there if I ever need to use them.

The only solution to a bad teacher is a good book. Dont bother fighting the system or a bad teacher. Teach yourself.

yeap. the system is like it is, far from perfect. but nowdays there are so many sources of information. too bad that the examination method is old and deprecated (memorize & then reproduce ), which is a real problem that I've faced countless times during the years

April 27th, 2007, 09:16 AM
I base my opposition to exams on the fact that school is pretty much the only place you will ever be subject to an exam environment. The reality is, in the big bad world - nobody is going to sit you in a hall and shout at you for speaking. Most jobs encourage teamwork, and you will literally lose your job if you hand in any report or assignment for not researching things thoroughly (yes, reading books, imagine!) and basing your ideas on other proven ideas, or at least research which supports your ideas. It's true - some jobs will require you to work alone and to have knowledge stored in your brain - a paramedic for example, they need to know what to do to stabilise someone before they get transported to a hospital. A surgeon needs to know exactly what he/she is doing in case something goes wrong during the operation. A car mechanic needs to know how to fix a car if they're called out to a breakdown.

However, the majority of jobs will encourage you to work in teams, to discuss ideas and to research while you're actually doing the task (more akin to coursework or group projects). It just seems to me like an exam doesn't prepare you for anything in the outside world - yet for the most part, an exam gets to decide your qualifications, hence what jobs you're qualified for. It's so vital to succeed in exams, but they are designed to make you fail. Isolation, strict time limits, and the inherent stress, all combine to make you perform sub-par. How many times have you walked out of an exam, having answered questions incorrectly, and the answer springs to your mind? So, in my view, exams are pretty much entirely the wrong way to test students capabilities. Chances are, you will not be working on things alone when you leave school - you will be encouraged to confer with people and to pool your ideas. In fact, you'll probably be penalised if you don't work with other people - they'll say you're "not a team player" and other things. Exams are just a stupid way of testing people, in short.

Anyway - your professor may not have any say on the matter, depending on what your exams are. If they're just a stupid class test, then yes, you may be able to convince him, but if they're national exams like A-levels or whatever, then you will have to convince whoever controls the education in your country (Department of Education, perhaps?).

Nils Olav
April 29th, 2007, 04:39 AM
I agree with you but, I think it's because teachers are just lazy.

April 29th, 2007, 05:29 AM
I'm in high school, and only two classes are like what you described: Chemistry and Physics. My chemistry teacher even takes off marks if you don't word something exactly like it was on the book (even if its not a definition or anything). My physics teacher just gives us formulas, MIGHT describe once how they were derived, and gives us assignments and tests to make sure we can use the formula.

However, there are some courses that try to make the teaching more effective. In biotechnology, for example, we are tested regularly on our labs and lab procedure, and we get many assignments which arent marked very strictly (teacher usually writes all over it with comments yet gives me 95 if I have all needed info), but are usually challenging. Also, our final year exam will be a broad-topic essay which you can't study for, putting the emphasis on year-long learning.

I find it works quite well.

April 29th, 2007, 05:36 AM
if you truly understand a subject, the details will come as second nature. thinking of it as 'memorization' is for people who only hope to pass the test.

Tundro Walker
April 29th, 2007, 08:55 AM
I have a split opinion on this.

If you're majoriing in Biology, the you better darn well have memorized all that stuff, because it's the foundation of your degree path / future career.

However, if it's just a pre-req class that's necessary to fulfill a Science-req for your degree in (just to be silly) Basket-Weaving, then I don't think the prof should be so anal about memorizing facts.

When I was going to college, I originally majored in Physical Therapy. So, when I had Biology, Physiology, etc, you better believe I memorized tons of stuff. And it made sense to, because it was practical knowledge I would use every day as a PT. But, U.S. History, Chemistry...pfft. I lucked out in those classes, because the teachers knew folks not majoring in them didn't want to memorize a bunch of stuff, but mostly just wanted to focus on the "big picture" stuff and "where to go find the information if you need to". EG: In Chemistry, the teacher always let us use our books for tests. We could use calculators to work the problems, too. In US History, it was the same way. The tests were always open book. However, a lot of the questions on the tests were essay "what do you think" type questions. You had to have some kind of practical knowledge on, say the Nathaniel Turner Slave Revolt, to be able to talk about it in a practical fashion on an essay question. The History teacher wasn't interested in us regurgitating a bunch of dates, but more interested in us learning from history's past (lest you're doomed to repeat it).

As a side note, you got stuck with a crappy Biology teacher if he's making you do a 100 question, multiple choice test. A good Biology teacher would have you do tons of essay questions, forcing you to think about the consequences of Darwinism, how the definition of life may or may not exclude Virii, how alterations in the Krebs Cycle could inherently make cells more efficient yet more vulnerable, etc, etc.

Let me put it this. In Japan, all they do is memorize, memorize, memorize. All the students take years of English, and they memorize tons of it. But, a lot of them can't speak English. They've spent so long memorizing words and drilling/regurgitating them without focusing on practical application or use, that they can't speak it conversationally.

I think practical application is more important to learn then memorization of facts. Afterall, you can always look up facts in a book (or google). But, showing students how to practically apply that knowledge in a useful fashion is REAL teaching. When folks use something enough in life, their going to memorize things about it just to become more efficient (EG: programmers memorizing certain code use, because they use it day in and day out). It's just human nature to become more efficient at things we do, but we do things because we find them practical, THEN we memorize things about what we do to make ourselves more efficient. If you start learning something with memorization, it's harder to learn, because you have no practical use to encourage you to WANT to memorize anything.

Of course, sadly, it comes down to whatever your prof wants. He's the one who's gonna pass/fail you, and college tends to be one of those "putting up with ****" things that weeds out the "I wanna be an astronaut when I grow up" kiddies from the "I'm a professional lawyer that graduated from Harvard" folks. Some of the stuff you do in college will simply be "paying your dues" so you can finally get to the good stuff you really WANT to learn.

Good luck! LOL!

Tundro Walker
April 29th, 2007, 09:10 AM
Side Note,

If you do get stuck with a teacher that forces tons of memorization, start a collection of flash cards.

What you do is take all the facts you learn every day that you know will be tested, and put each one on a 3x5 card. Every day you show up to class (preferably 5 min early), you go through the flash cards. Do it with some friends, so it'll be a fun experience (folks remember things easier when it's fun).

Each day, you add what you learned in class to your flash card collection, and each day before class, you go through all the flash cards, from the start. By the time the test shows up, you'll have everything remembered from repetition so much, that you'll be turning in the test in about 10 minutes. No joke. This beats the pants off some late night-study cram junk. A group of friends and I did this for Physiology class. Each week we had a test, and it was all memorization junk. We'd show up early, do our flash cards, and by week's end with the test, we're strolling up before everyone else and scoring 100's. More and more folks joined in each week, because they noticed the good results, and after a while, the noise was so over-whelming you couldn't help but join in. After a while, the teacher sat the whole class down and had a talk with us, because he thought a lot of us were cheating...each week more and more of us were finishing the tests sooner, and he noticed a huge jump in the GPA of the class. We told him what we were doing, and he thought it was such a bizarre but useful idea. He obviously couldn't argue with the results! LOL!

Unfortunately, it only works for classes where the teacher is either lazy and just makes you memorize things or it's just a class where you HAVE to memorize things (like Physiology). If you have a teacher that's trying to challenge you with practical knowledge, essay questions, etc, well, first be thankful, and second, you'll need to actually read and study to arm yourself with the knowledge necessary to answer the questions in an intelligible fashion.

seshomaru samma
April 29th, 2007, 11:49 AM
memorising is not an accaptable method in any knowen educational theory in the western world.

(im sure you can google/wikipedia all the names i'll mention so i didn't bother with links)

the basis of modern western education is Piaget ,according to him learning is the process by which mental disequilibrium caused by perturbations leads to a reorganisation of the way reality is understood. This implies that the most effective way of learning is new information rather repetition of information.
On the basis of Paiget work we have a theoretical trend called Constructivism. You can look for Von Gleserfeld, Confrey, Hiebert & Carpenter.

However ,in recent year there has been a move away from Constructivism towards what is called the Socio-cultural approach. The Socio-cultural approach claims that learning is a social practice and that the best way to learn is through interaction. You can find thousands of articles about it . Look for Vygotsky , Cobb, Bruner , Lave & Wagner etc.

for example
vygotsky (http://www.newfoundations.com/GALLERY/Vygotsky.html)
bruner (http://www.infed.org/thinkers/bruner.htm)

Tundro Walker
April 29th, 2007, 12:13 PM
I always found the following helped me learn:

1) interest in the subject (you learn what you're interested in more that what you're not interested in)

2) associative learning, IE: associate what you're learning to other things. Using Cellular Biology as an example, you can associate the Nucleus as Downtown or Civic Hall, Mitochondria are the Power Plants, and so forth. By associating new material to things you already know, you can easily pick it up since you're using an already-learned mental model to encapsulate a new one. Re-enforcement works of knowledge works.

3) Make it fun. Make a game out of it. Or use it to make a game. Get friends involved. (I think group study sessions try to do this, but folks just end up necking in the back room all the time...LOL!)

April 29th, 2007, 01:58 PM
Linking in to what seshomaru samma has said: You can confront your professor by saying that behaviouristic models of learning (de-contextualised attempts to create an association between the stimulus (question) and a specific reaction (correct answer) by repetition) are less effective than constructivist approaches, more demotivating and - even if you succeed in learning the stuff you're taught - often do only lead to inert knowledge (knowledge which you can express, but not apply). In Germany, we sometimes speak of the "Nürnberger Trichter", and I found a nice picture on Wikipedia (http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/N%C3%BCrnberger_Trichter).

I guess one of the major problems is that declarative knowledge is so much easier to test than procedural one. Isn't it convenient to give your students a list of answers/words they have to memorise and just ask them to reproduce those answers in the test, without having to worry about testing whether they can actually apply the knowledge?