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The Learning Process

Let us begin by describing the theory of learning. There are two distinctive approaches to learning, as described in the article - The Intention to Both Memorise and Understand: Another Approach to Learning by David Kember, 1996. According to this article, students can learn superficially with the intention to pass exams only, or in a deeper meaningful manner. We will call the former - memorizing, and the latter, understanding. In this article, we will recommend using both approaches in a balance.

Memorization is only partly helpful and can only take you so far. On the other hand, understanding concepts will take you further than memorization. However, it is the combination of the two approaches that will create enough synergy to enable you to not only perform better in your tests, but also be able to translate the information learnt into practical life changing knowledge. The trick will be to determine when understanding is needed, when memorization can suffice, or is necessary and when the combination is critically essential.

The Understanding/Memorization Combo

The combination and balancing between understanding and memorization has been utilized in several countries including China, Japan, Finland and some European countries. The combination can occur in two directions: The first involves, first, understanding the concept through extensive elaboration of the information presented, then once understood, the student will practice the information, repeatedly, through recitations and writing the information repeatedly by hand so that the learner can remember it accurately. This process can be described as knowledge retrieval. The second approach involves memorizing the information first and then over time, the student develops an understanding of the information. Students who utilize Foundations learning resources are encouraged to adopt the first approach more frequently. Research has shown that memorizing first results in learners finding less need to develop the more important 'understanding' of the concepts. However, the student should be able to memorize, whenever they encounter a concept that they have totally failed to understand.

Understanding Vs Memorization

Memorization, alone, has its place. For example, in remembering people's names, or the names of different animals. Mathematical and chemical formulas, laws, theories and illustrations, such as those in Biology, can also be memorized. Memorizing, alone, is temporary, but it allows the learner to output the content exactly the same way it was inputted. Understanding is ideal for remembering concepts and processes. Understanding can be used alone, if there is a flexibility between the output and input. Understanding allows a learner to use his or her own words to express the same information. Understanding is permanent and can be retrieved from memory whenever it's required.