Saturday, 28 January 2012

Learning by Rote

I enjoyed Yewtree's comments on Atheism and meditation, but it's her sensible comments on learning by rote that particularly raised my interest.

It has been assumed, certainly since the 1960s, that rote-learning is bad. But of course there are things you really need to learn that way. If an electrician is using resistors, it's far better that they simply learn what the colours mean, rather than carrying out a series of experiments every time they want to use a 75Ω. A football referee who learnt the rules of the game by trial and error would not be massively popular among the players and the fans - although he or she might end up on the Premier League list. And we learn road signs from the Highway Code by rote, not by driving into quays, shooting into the air while going over humped-back bridges or overtaking on double white lines. There are places where experimentation, experience and flexibility are great things in education. And places where maybe, on the whole, you're better not.

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