Teaching-Learning

What Is More Important for Effective Learning: Memorizing The Topic or Understanding?

Memorization
Memorization
Heya Mubasshira
Written by Heya Mubasshira

Once a nobleman said, “If there is no treasure in scripture and heaven, then there is no treasure in education.” This means the education that is only limited in books, which doesn’t have any real-life application, the importance of that kind of education has always been questioned.

One of the important aims of education is, a student has to be able to apply the knowledge that he/she has gained in his/her life and go forward. But in reality, the kind of education I am talking about where students are just memorizing their lessons, they can barely apply that in their real life.

By memorizing, I mean, thoroughly just reading and memorizing a lesson for a reason without knowing any kind of context, history, or explanation of that. A student reads only what is printed on his/her book. And when they read and memorize lessons in such a way, most of the time, they do that without knowing or understanding. A purpose behind it is to have a good mark by answering the questions correctly.

Language education, Photo credit: Babbel (https://www.babbel.com/magazine/static/img/en/integrate-language-learning-700x394.png)
Language education, Photo credit: Babbel (https://www.babbel.com/magazine/static/img/en/integrate-language-learning-700×394.png)

Having a good result with a good number is every student’s purpose. But it is surely a negative side when they memorize their lessons without understanding to fulfill their mission. For instance, it is very important to remember the equations to do the math. So, students start memorizing them. But they don’t get to know how they can easily find out those exact equations by doing simple math.

On the other hand, our teachers can’t explain everything from the very root level because of the shortage of time. Math is quite an interesting subject. But yet, most of the students are horrified of it. One of the main reasons behind it is that, reading and teaching only depending on memorizing kinds of stuff. It doesn’t happen only with math. This situation is going with almost all the subjects for a very long time.

This kind of tendency of memorizing every topic destroys a student’s creativity and innovative thinking ability. Because memorizing doesn’t require any effort, a student doesn’t need to work with his/her brain. So, they are only stuck in what they have read before. Apart from that, if anyone gives them any new topic, they will face trouble to think about or work on it from a whole new perspective.

Now, if we talk about history, it goes the same with it. Most of the time, students are stuck only in memorizing dates, incidents, names, etc. History teachers teach almost the same thing which is printed on the books. But history is also a very interesting subject, just like math. It has a lot of interesting topics. Those can be demonstrated in drama, explaining them by comparison between different incidents from past and present.

Arranging debate on those topics can also be a great initiative. Taking such initiatives apart from sticking to only textbooks, topics will get more interesting. Those were the same topics that students were afraid of before. Students will have their interest, will be able to think from a different point of view comparing different incidents from past and present. They will have critical thinking abilities.

On the other, students can easily remember the necessary information if we help them to relate them with other topics. Fluent learning is comparatively more effective and sustainable. Because they learn fluently relating to the other topics which are known and interesting to them.

We know our teachers try their level best to teach their students in the best way they can. Teachers try to explain and compare them from a different point of view. But they also keep in mind that it is only limited to classroom teaching is not enough. They need to change approaches from classroom teaching-learning activities to exam and evaluation system as well.


Students will become more curious. Whenever they see any equations, they will try to find out and verify it by doing math from their previous learning and understanding. At the same time, when they do this, their previous learning will be revised automatically.


We can replace this typical tendency of memorizing everything with actually understanding subjects in depth. At a glance, it may seem almost similar, but there are some subtle differences between these two concepts I am talking to. Maybe we gave you a hint about understanding before.

When a student is learning a subject or a topic, he/she will learn about the background of it, quite a few explanations, and analysis of it. And all of this will happen in a very fluent manner, just like when we learn our mother language. If we really can teach our students in this process, even learning a very difficult subject will be very easy and interesting to them. Most importantly, they won’t be afraid of it, or there will be unnecessary pressure.

When a student is learning a subject comparing and relating to other ones from a very root level with interest, there will be a nice bridging and harmony among all the subjects. That’s why this kind of learning will be very sustainable. Like teaching them those equations of math simply by doing another math will make the students realize that these kinds of stuff are not only for memorizing; there exists a way of understanding these kinds of stuff with interest.

By this, students will become more curious. Whenever they see any equations, they will try to find out and verify it by doing math from their previous learning and understanding. At the same time, when they do this, their previous learning will be revised automatically.

Many teachers try their level best to teach in this way and eliminate the tendency of just memorizing lessons. Despite all the efforts, some of our teachers complain that the students are still doing the same. After taking all the possible steps, sometimes students can’t just forget this habit. In this case, we can say that these students have always learned their lesson by memorizing.

If a student develops a habit of learning by memorizing from the very beginning of his student life, then it will take some time to adapt to the new, creative and innovative ways of learning and leaving that habit in later life. What the teacher can do in this case is to change his/her traditional teaching and assessment style. When teaching a topic in class, the teacher should try to encourage students to ask more questions and to get answers from those students.

Sometimes students will say right, and sometimes they will say wrong. If they make a mistake, the teacher will enhance their knowledge by correcting it. Then when it comes to their assessment, the teacher will tell the students what kind of knowledge and skills he will actually evaluate. It is important to keep in mind while making questions that empirical and comparative skills need to be evaluated through questions. That means, only the student’s ability to memorize shouldn’t be the main skill to evaluate. There are a lot of skills along with it.

Yet many things really need to be remembered. However, this is only for a very early stage. With these in mind, it is possible to achieve even higher skills by applying them. That means even more important than remembering is to apply them, to interpret and compare them from different points of view.


teachers should constantly encourage students to get out of the habit of memorizing. New methods should be presented to the students; during their assessment, they should be clear how certain aspects of the student will be evaluated apart from the only memorization.


Teaching and learning activities based on memorizing have been going on for a long time. And this is why in almost every level of education, from elementary to higher education, students will be seen who are mostly dependent on memorizing. All of a sudden, it will be difficult to change their learning patterns.

Therefore, teachers should constantly encourage students to get out of the habit of memorizing. New methods should be presented to the students; during their assessment, they should be clear how certain aspects of the student will be evaluated apart from the only memorization.

It is possible to dismiss the tendency to memorize in the education and evaluation system if we, all of us, including teachers, students, and even parents, try to simultaneously forge larger interests to forget the smallest interests from our place. Instead of memorizing lessons, students need to develop a habit of understanding from the basic level that will enable them to gain sustainable knowledge for the future.

About the author

Heya Mubasshira

Heya Mubasshira

Heya Mubasshira is a student of the Institute of Education and Research, University of Rajshahi, Rajshahi, Bangladesh.

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