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close this bookHow Children Learn (IAE - IBE - UNESCO, 32 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentThe International Academy of Education
View the documentPreface
View the documentIntroduction
View the document1. Active involvement
View the document2. Social participation
View the document3. Meaningful activities
View the document4. Relating new information to prior knowledge
View the document5. Being strategic
View the document6. Engaging in self-regulation and being reflective
View the document7. Restructuring prior knowledge
View the document8. Aiming towards understanding rather than memorization
View the document9. Helping students learn to transfer
View the document10. Taking time to practice
View the document11. Developmental and individual differences
View the document12. Creating motivated learners
View the documentReferences and further reading
View the documentThe International Bureau of Education - IBE

8. Aiming towards understanding rather than memorization

Learning is better when material is organized around general principles and explanations, rather than when it is based on the memorization of isolated facts and procedures.

Research findings

All teachers want their students to understand what they are learning and not to memorize facts in a superficial way. Research shows that when information is superficially memorized it is easily forgotten. On the contrary, when something is understood, it is not forgotten easily and it can be transferred to other situations (see also the next principle on transfer). In order to understand what they are being taught, students must be given the opportunity to think about what they are doing, to talk about it with other students and with teachers, to clarify it and to understand how it applies in many situations.

In the classroom

How does one teach for understanding? The following are some tasks teachers can carry out in order to promote understanding of the material that has been taught:

· Ask students to explain a phenomenon or a concept in their own words.

· Show students how to provide examples that illustrate how a principle applies or how a law works.

· Students must be able to solve characteristic problems in the subject-matter area. Problems can increase in difficulty as students acquire greater expertise.

· When students understand the material, they can see similarities and differences, they can compare and contrast, and they can understand and generate analogies.

· Teach students how to abstract general principles from specific cases and generalize from specific examples.

References: Halpern, 1992; Resnick & Klopfer, 1989; Perkins, 1992.