Time to go back to the old teaching methods?

Latha Vydianathan

I have often noticed that my students are insecure while writing an exam and are unable to remember the contents they otherwise would have experimented with. This lack of memorization skills among the students often leads to wastage of time during exams. Many just sit and stare at the blank answersheet. When asked, the common reply is, “I am thinking”. It takes them several minutes to remember and start writing.

Is this a result of technology overuse? We do not need to memorize phone numbers anymore, because our phones do that for us. We don’t need to remember directions to places in the city we live in; there is Google that provides us with the best route. The same goes for birthdays, social media reminds us. There are many such examples. Undoubtedly, the advance in technology has revolutionized many areas of human life, but at what cost? Did the smart phones take away the need to use our memories? Are we now incapable of remembering a phone number? What are the consequences of this deteriorating ability of ours to memorize and remember? 

As an educator, my concern is that the new generation has difficulty memorizing information and learning. Students often complain that they cannot remember something they just read or what they learnt in a previous class. The importance of memorization in learning goes a long way as a best practice.

Retrieving information and memorization comprise an active learning strategy that involves remembering what has been learned using only memory. The importance of recalling information has over a period of time taken a back seat with the popularity of the learning by doing approach. Experiential learning does have an impact on the way students learn, however the practice of information recall is generally regarded as one of the best long-term learning strategies. Therefore, we must once again give priority to exercises that require one to use their memory in our pedagogies.

Before making changes to the way I teach, I wanted to know my students’ opinion and if they were willing to commit to going the extra mile to reinforce memory skills. The recall method that I have recently discovered is the creation of mind maps and their presentation in class. This practice has encouraged students to use only their memory and the notes they take while listening to a class. Content based crossword puzzles are another encouraging activity to test students’ memory power.

This lack of memorization skills in high school students is worrisome. We create shifts in paradigms with a desire to improve student learning standards. I am beginning to wonder though if we have done the right thing by implementing projects, experiments and the like to improve student success and completely ignoring memory. Is it the right time to relook and return to the age-old fundamentals of learning? There was a method to the ‘repeat after me’ exercises of yester years. They reinforced the concepts and helped the learners to confidently appear and do well in their exams. The willingness to make an effort was a part of the practice and created a positive learning impact. Creativity is necessary in the learning process, but it is also true that practice makes one perfect.

The author is an educator and has deep interest in the integration of life skills with literature for a purposeful and peaceful life. She can be reached at latha.vydianathan@yahoo.com.

Leave a Reply