To Rote Learning Or Meaningful Learning; Now That Is The Question

To Rote Learning Or Meaningful Learning; Now That Is The Question

Rote learning and meaningful learning are very different from one another in terms of practice and effectiveness. We’ll discuss all these things in detail in this article. So pay attention as closely as possible.

Rote Learning

Rote learning is a memorization technique based entirely on repetition.

The basic idea is to repeat the matter again and again (either in your head or by reading it out loud) till you start memorizing the same after a certain period of time.

Examples of rote learning include the likes of:

  • Memorizing alphabets,

  • Learning multiplication tables,

  • Memorizing formulae, etc.

This form of learning is commonly used during tests to cram in as much matter as possible before the day of the examination.

The Pros and Cons of Rote Learning


  • Rote learning makes it possible for students to quickly recall basic facts and figures at the time of the examination.

  • Rote learning helps in the effective development of foundational knowledge in the student.


  • Rote learning can be too repetitive in circumstances. As a result, students can quickly lose their focus after a certain period of time.

  • Rote learning does not allow for a deeper and clearer understanding of the subject matter.

  • Rote learning can create a wrong impression of the subject on the student.

Meaningful Learning

Source- Flickr

Meaningful learning involves a true understanding of how all pieces of a concept fit together.

Knowledge gained as a result of this learning stays with the student for his/her entire life. It can also open up brand new paths to advanced learning situations like research and development.

Meaningful learning is constructive, active, and long-lasting. Contrary to rote learning, it allows students to engage themselves thoroughly into the matter by appealing to their interests of all.

The Pros and Cons of Meaningful Learning


  • Meaningful learning focuses more on understanding and not memorization.

  • Meaningful learning is an active form of learning.

  • Meaningful learning focuses strongly on the outcomes of a learning process.

  • Meaningful learning helps to connect the dots between newer information and previous knowledge.


  • Meaningful learning takes a longer time to achieve.

  • Meaningful learning needs to be tailored to the requirements of the different forms of learners (including kinesthetic, auditory, and visual learners).

Meaningful Learning Vs. Rote Learning

Educational theorists suggest a clear distinction between the rote and the meaningful form of learning where they consider meaningful learning superior to its “rote” counterpart.

Rote learning may work reasonably well in a primary and secondary school setting where there’s no heavy requirement for the learner to find relationships between concepts and principles, and the idea is to garner as many marks as possible in the final examination.

Higher education, on the other hand, calls for specializations, where it is naturally expected of a student to know what s/he is talking about.

S/He just cannot cram in a bunch of facts and figures without understanding the underlying principle and expect to get away with it. Meaningful learning is the key here.

Additionally, the academic syllabus is nothing less than an ocean in higher secondary classes. Simple memorizations would definitely not suffice because it’s simply impossible for a human being to cram in such a huge amount of information at that point in time. Meaningful learning is the only thing that can help him/her out in such circumstances.

Anyway, now let’s go through the differences from a general point of view.



Rote learning occurs from little or no relevant knowledge of the subject matter.

Meaningful learning arises from well-organized and relevant knowledge structures.

Rote learning calls for zero emotional commitment to relate new with previously known information.

Meaningful learning calls for 100% emotional commitment to relate new with previously known information.

Final verdict

As you can see from the distinctions made above, meaningful learning is definitely superior to its “rote” counterpart. Therefore, our advice will be to practice the meaningful form of learning whenever the situation permits you to do so.

Richard Feynman summed this up perfectly though this quote of his (pay particular attention to the last statement):

You can know the name of a bird in all the languages of the world, but when you're finished, you'll know absolutely nothing whatever about the bird... So let's look at the bird and see what it's doing -- that's what counts. I learned very early the difference between knowing the name of something and knowing something.”

With that, we’ll bring this article to an end for now. Hope you had a good read.


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