Learning Smart vs. not LO13645

Bill Harris (billh@lsid.hp.com)
Fri, 16 May 1997 10:24:48 -0800 (PDT)

Replying to LO13614 --

Carol wrote:

> Bill, I can understand and appreciate that this type of teaching tool
> (memorization) did not seem "cruel" to you. You are also very correct
> that the use of that tool is not unusual - unfortunately. The key, IMHO,
> to your statement was when you said "to me". The trouble with relying on

Thanks for the reply. I fully agree that what I think may be called
"action learning" has lots of merit. Especially in the business world,
reducing the amount of effort required to translate learnings into action
back at the workplace increases the likelihood that new knowledge will be
applied, and it certainly makes the training more productive. I also
agree that it works (or can work) in education. I have seen at least one
of my kids get the sort of written assessment you described instead of (or
in addition to --- I don't remember) a graded report card, and I do think
he (and we) got additional insight that way. Finally, I also agree that
each of us learns best in our own ways, and we benefit when we understand
that. For example, I believe I learn better by reading and by doing
rather than by listening to lectures. I _didn't_ exactly relish all of
the rote practice in long division I recall from grade (or grammar)

As Ray Harrell noted, though, there does seem to be a role for rote
learning. I studied a musical instrument for a number of years. During
that time, my teachers would have me spend lots of time on the major
scales in all keys, working on my range, uniformity of sound across the
range, intonation up and down the scale, speed, volume, etc. Then I would
work on minor scales, again in all keys. Then I would work on arpeggios
.... (Of course, it was mixed up somewhat.)

Scales aren't particularly exciting, but being able to play them well was
key to being able to move on to more exciting stuff. It's pretty
difficult to learn how to play an instrument by starting on a major
concerto and working on one note at a time. It becomes feasible by
learning how to do all of the more mechanical things really well and then
learning (and discovering) how to put those mechanical things together in
creative ways. Of course, teachers (and we ourselves) can do things to
make the scales seem more or less interesting.

Perhaps rote learning is more important for physical activity; I don't



Bill Harris                             Hewlett-Packard Co. 
R&D Engineering Processes               Lake Stevens Division 
domain: billh@lsid.hp.com               M/S 330
phone: (425) 335-2200                   8600 Soper Hill Road
fax: (425) 335-2828                     Everett, WA 98205-1298 

Learning-org -- An Internet Dialog on Learning Organizations For info: <rkarash@karash.com> -or- <http://world.std.com/~lo/>