Rote learning, also known as learning by repetition, is a method of learning by memorizing information. This memorization is usually achieved through the repetition of activities such as reading or recitation, and the use of flashcards and other learning aids. The theory behind this learning technique is that students will commit facts to memory after repeated study, and will then be able to retrieve those facts whenever necessary.
In modern times, the practice of rote learning is heavily criticized by some educators and parents who claim that it encourages students to parrot facts without necessarily understanding them, and does not encourage students to question or analyze the information they have learned. However, some educators maintain that rote learning is necessary in certain situations. For example, very young children who are just beginning their education may have to learn certain facts by rote. These children need to acquire basic knowledge so they may continue to develop skills like critical thinking and creativity. In order to learn to read, young children must first memorize the alphabet. The development of higher math skills is prefaced by the memorization of the multiplication tables. Proponents of rote learning claim that analysis and deep understanding of the alphabet or the multiplication tables is unnecessary, and that it is more important that children memorize these facts quickly so they are able to begin learning more complex material.
Another educational environment in which rote learning can be an appropriate learning technique is in a special needs classroom. Students who are mentally handicapped or suffer from learning disabilities such as dyslexia or dysgraphia often require repetition in order to learn new things. In fact, some students with disabilities may only be able to learn by rote.
Sometimes, a student may be asked to learn a great deal of material over the course of a brief time period, perhaps when learning lines for a dramatic role. Alternatively, a student may need to quickly assimilate information that is unfamiliar, such as foreign language vocabulary words or the conjugation of foreign verbs. In these cases, rote learning is again useful because it promotes fast memorization.
The practice of studying for an exam is actually a type of rote learning. Students may use a number of learning aids to help them to remember information while studying. They make take notes or create outlines, drill each other with flashcards, or create acronyms or short poems to be used as mnemonic devices.