Memorization VS Understanding: Benefits & How To Find A Balance
I am not going to bore you with so many jargons on what comprehension and memorization are all about.
Comprehension versus memorization! Which is the best approach to learning?
According to Wikipedia, learning is the process of acquiring new or modifying existing knowledge, behaviours, skills, values, or preferences.
In order to avoid generalizing to a fault, this article has been tailored specifically to learning in academic settings.
Comprehension is the ability to understand something while memorization is learning an isolated fact through deliberate effort.
Comprehension and memorization have become controversial topics as you also probably want to know the best approach to learning.
Quite a number of students may support memorization while a couple of others may love comprehension.
From my own perspective, I belong to the school of thought that sees both comprehension and memorization as vital ingredients for learning.
As students, you must learn to balance the two depending on the course you are offering.
There are some courses that test you more on memorization than comprehension (but that doesn’t mean comprehension is not required) while some courses test you more on comprehension.
For example, Anatomy requires more of memorization – understanding the brachial plexus (the group of nerves that innervate your arm, forearm and hand) is not enough but you are also required to memorize these nerves and their course.
While Physiology requires more of comprehension – understanding the hemodynamics of the cardiovascular system is more crucial than just memorization.
The best approach is to find a balance between these two in each course you offer.
How to find a balance
1. Spaced Repetition
The best technique that consolidates both comprehension and memorization is spaced repetition which enables the brain to consolidate the information acquired.
The psychologist, Herman Ebbinghaus, studied his own memory and generated what is now known as the Forgetting Curve.
In its simplest terms, the Forgetting Curve demonstrates that after forming a memory, you gradually forget more and more of it as time elapses. This because retrieving memories is a separate process from storing them.
Fortunately, repetition potentiates neural connections and allows you to remember information more effectively.
The problem sometimes is that you have far too much information to learn. Hence, you can’t repeat every fact you need to know on a daily basis.
It becomes more dangerous when you wait till exam time to memorize the relevant information. You will also end up forgetting it a few days after exams!
However, with repeated exposure to a piece of information at increasing intervals, you can optimize memorization. You will also be able to retain the most important information in the least amount of time and build a lasting memory.
2. Use ANKI
So, how do you implement the spacing effect?
Due to the increasing amount of workload, it is very difficult to manually keep track of the concepts you want to learn.
Anki is spaced repetition software that you can download on Playstore.
Anki makes remembering things easy because it’s a lot more efficient than traditional study methods. You can either greatly decrease your time spent studying, or greatly increase the number of things you learn.
3. Use Flashcards
Anki and other spaced repetition software only automate the process of scheduling facts that you need to learn in the form of flashcards.
Making your own flashcards is a form of active learning. Therefore, you will learn the information on those flashcards faster and more effectively.