Rote learning vs. Critical thinking

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Learning is simply the acquisition of new knowledge, but it is much more than that. There are more ways to learn than we could count, from rote learning to critical thinking and everything. There are so many different ways to learn that it’s no wonder why people continually debate the best ways.

In this article, we’ll be defining precisely what rote learning and critical thinking are. Then, we’ll discuss the significant differences between the two before finally discussing when you might use one over the other. Hopefully, by the end of this article, you’ll understand the significant differences between rote learning and critical thinking.

What is Rote Learning?What is Rote Learning?

Rote learning is learning by repetition. It is the act of repeating something several times so that you are able to recite back the exact wording. Rote learning is used throughout schooling but often gets a bit of a bad rap since it is based on reciting precise language, not the ability to truly understand what you are learning.

Rote learning, sometimes called rote memorization, is ideal for specific circumstances but unsuitable for others. A great rote memorization example is acting. In acting, you say lines over and over until the exact wording is stuck in your head, thus allowing you to play a different character. This is a classic example of rote learning.

Other times when you might want to use rote learning include learning definitions where one word could change the meaning of the definition or memorizing historical dates. There are many times when the details are essential, and these are cases when rote learning may be super helpful for students.

Historically, rote learning was the basis of education. If you think of school scenes in old films, it was typically students repeating information back to the teacher. While this style of teaching is now frowned upon as not providing the students with the tools they need to process information truly, rote learning is ingrained into our society and education system.

Although this article will focus primarily on the role of rote learning in the education system, it is used throughout modern society. The rise of technology and cell phones may have pushed memorizing phone numbers to the wayside, but there are still things that we need to remember every day. From remembering your address to the password to accessing your cell phone, rote memory can help with lots of daily tasks.

What is Critical Thinking?

What is Critical Thinking?

Critical thinking uses reasoning and logic to interpret and analyze facts to understand the conclusion. This learning style forms the basis for the scientific method and is rooted in many forms of education. Critical thinking has been growing in popularity throughout our modern schooling systems, almost in opposition to older systems, like rote learning.

Critical thinking is often praised as giving students the tools they need to make educated choices for themselves. It relies on the student’s ability to reach a conclusion instead of someone else telling them the conclusion they should reach. Heavy reliance on both problem-solving skills and communication skills is common in critical thinking.

Critical thinking is often considered to be a cornerstone of what is called meaningful learning. Meaningful learning is what happens when factual information and cognitive abilities are combined. This could mean that a student combines knowledge that they have learned with their critical thinking abilities and is able to come to a conclusion that will determine how they act.

Critical thinking is the skillset that you use when you watch or listen to the news. You see, read, or hear information about the world but then rely on your critical thinking skills to process the data and come to a valuable and functional conclusion. By practicing critical thinking, students are better able to process information that is being brought in by the senses.

In order to practice critical thinking, your brain must be in good working order. Critical thinking requires a lot of mental energy and skills and can take a lot of time to develop the capacity to utilize critical thinking to its highest capability. Critical thinking is often integrated into various lessons throughout schooling to help improve the brain’s elasticity and decision-making skills.

As we said, with rote learning, this article will primarily focus on critical thinking through an academic lens, but there are other critical thinking applications. Critical thinking is integral to the world around us. From deciding in a meeting to answering the question of “what would you like for dinner,” it is vital that we can quickly think about all the factors and come to one concise and well-thought-through decision. This is an essential life skill.

How Do Rote and Critical Thinking Differ From Each Other?

How Do Rote and Critical Thinking Differ From Each Other?

Rote learning and critical thinking are about as diametrically opposed learning styles as there can be, while both still essential to your overall brain development and knowledge acquisition. While rote learning is more about repeating to memorize details, which is something you could do without really processing what you are memorizing, critical thinking involves lots of active thought.

Both rote learning and critical thinking help your brain develop different essential abilities. Rote learning helps your brain improve its ability to remember details and retain information for extended periods of time. Critical thinking helps your brain form connections between information and draw conclusions based on that information.

Though the differences between rote learning and critical thinking are numerous, they can work together. The two styles feed off of one another. It is worth noting that in order to make a significant decision, you must have all of the information and facts necessary to make the decision, some of which you probably learned through rote learning. Once you have that information, you will need your critical thinking skills to be able to process the information and come to your ultimate conclusion.

Although both can be used in lots of different subjects in school, some subjects tend to be more aligned with one than the other. For example, rote learning is more associated with basic math, acting, and history. On the other hand, critical thinking is more related to literary analysis, science, and higher-level mathematical research. All that being said, both rote learning and critical thinking are used in almost every subject and at nearly every grade level since they are so intertwined with learning in general.

How Do Students Benefit from Learning Critical Thinking?

How Do Students Benefit from Learning Critical Thinking?

Critical thinking is a way of interpreting the world around you and thinking critically about every piece of information you use to conclude. Learning critical thinking is immensely useful to a student’s future success. So much so that it is a metric that is often measured to gauge how successful a country’s education system is.

Developing good critical thinking skills at a young age will allow students to tackle more considerable life challenges later. For example, if a young adult has to choose between two different job offers, they will need to think critically about the facts they have and what they know about themselves to make the best decision. This type of decision-making is based heavily on critical thinking.

Learning how to develop critical thinking skills can be challenging, but it is something that is built into our education system from a young age. Introducing young students to small exercises that ask them to make choices based on information is a great way to start developing their critical thinking skills.

Critical thinking is a broad term that defines a comprehensive skill set. In order to be able to practice critical thinking effectively, you must also have a variety of other skills that will help provide you with the information necessary for critical thinking. Skills like rote learning can help your brain start building the scaffolding that it needs to develop critical thinking skills later on.

How Can Rote Learning Be Useful?

How Can Rote Learning Be Useful?

It can be easy to bash rote learning as just simple memorization, but it can have a lot of advantages. One of the main benefits of rote learning is that it can help your brain improve its memory. Your brain is a muscle, and just like every other muscle in your body, it needs to be worked out.

Memory is an essential function of the brain that slowly develops throughout your education. Practicing memorization can help your brain improve its ability to process and remember information. Utilizing rote learning with purpose has even been shown to help your brain retain information for much longer than it would have otherwise, but only after lots of practice.

Regardless of if you are learning lyrics to a song or memorizing your multiplication tables, rote memorization plays a massive role in lots of learning. It is an integral part of learning. Throughout your education, there are plenty of specific instances when you have most likely been required to learn something very specific.

Rote learning is an essential tool for young children. Early childhood brain development is key to future brain development, and many of the early milestones that children must reach are based on rote learning. Repetition of sounds over and over will help a child learn to form words and begin to understand language. Rote learning is a skill that young children rely heavily upon as they develop.

Wrapping Things Up: Rote Learning vs. Critical Thinking

Regardless of how you feel about rote learning or critical thinking, it is hard to deny that both are necessary for different situations. Rote learning has been used for ages as a tool to help students memorize information and has been shown even to help your brain develop. Critical thinking is essential to your brain development and your ability to make a decision based on facts. Both rote learning and critical thinking work together to help you make every choice in life.

Understanding the differences between the two is key to using both rote learning and critical thinking to their greatest extent. Hopefully, this article has cleared up any confusion you might have had surrounding either rote learning or critical thinking and shown you why both are essential tools in your learning.

Professor Conquer
Professor Conquer

Professor Conquer started Conquer Your Exam in 2018 to help students feel more confident and better prepared for their tough tests. Prof excelled in high school, graduating top of his class and receiving admissions into several Ivy League and top 15 schools. He has helped many students through the years tutoring and mentoring K-12, consulting seniors through the college admissions process, and writing extensive how-to guides for school.

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