Rote learning, colloquially referred to as 'cramming', is widely used in the mastery of foundational knowledge. Examples of topics where rote learning is regularly used in schools and colleges include phonics in reading, the periodic table in chemistry, multiplication tables in mathematics, anatomy in medical studies, cases or statutes in law, basic formula in any science. By definition, rote learning avoids comprehension, and hence is regarded as an ineffective tool in mastering any complex subject at an advanced level.
Rote learning is sometimes ridiculed with the derogative terms such as parrot fashion, regurgitation, cramming or mugging because one who engages in rote learning may give the wrong impression of not having understood what they have written or said. It is for this reason that it is strongly discouraged by many new curriculum standards. For example, science and mathematics standards specifically emphasize the importance of deep understanding over the mere recall of facts, which is seen to be less important, although advocates of traditional education have criticized the new standards as slighting learning basic facts and elementary arithmetic and replacing content with process-based skills.
Advantages of rote learning
Teacher's have no excuse to not give you marks for your answers because you have written exactly what the text book says or much better, the same that your teacher made you write in notes. If they ever by mistake scored less you can simply show them the notes and ask to increase your marks.
Rote learning is a fast way of memorising things and has a rightful place in education and development. There are situations where you require the learning of material in a fast way that does not require critical thinking and creative improvement but rather take in as much as you possibly can for accessing later. Rote learning is ideal in such situations.
For example, as a child you have to memorise the alphabet before learning to read. Do you remember when you learnt the alphabet? Probably not because this was a prerequisite before you learnt words and it helped your learning and development as the alphabet got implanted into your memory quicker.
Additionally, rote learning has its fair place in the memorisation of multiple times tables and other mathematical tables, equations and figures where recalling of those numbers or characters is required later without any investigation or reflection on that data being learnt.
Supporters of rote learning stubbornly state that any form of deeper understanding and amalgamation or even analysis of the alphabet or times tables or any type of similar work is completely unnecessary. Do we need to understand these times tables? Is there a requirement to understand the actual alphabetical list? Therefore here are two places where rote learning would be suitable.
Children in their early years can especially benefit from rote learning or the memorisation of facts, numbers and characters to aid their learning in association with other educational and complex materials. Rote learning can also be useful for special-needs classrooms where students have difficulties with learning such as with mental handicap, dyslexia and related conditions.
Learning various languages especially those that we don't use, foreign verbs and similar content can all be improved with rote learning for fast memorisation.
It has also been disputed that the strict memorisation of multiplication time’s tables assists students in their development of maths calculation skills and memory recall for deeper abstract mathematics later on in their learning and mental development.
Rote learning is perfect for young children who need to remember and learn any form of mathematical table in the fastest way possible. This includes subtraction, addition along with division calculations.
Through constant or continual repetition children can increase skills and master certain numerical processes with greater ease which in turn will enhance their self-esteem and confidence levels. This proves to be essential for progressing in computation skills.
Rote learning gives an edge in many of the competitive exams, especially theoretical and multiple choices. You hone the rote learning skills, you read/look at the question once or twice and in no time you know the answer. Unlike the others who lack the skills would read and understand and solve then figure out the answer.