Wednesday, June 05, 2013


I can remember doing this in college (maybe high school, too, I'm not sure), staying up late, reviewing notes, rereading as much as possible. Then taking a test the next day. Sometimes it helped. Sometimes it didn't.

I don't think anything I accomplished in those late night sessions was actually learning however. I don't even remember some of the classes I took in high school and college, much less what was on those exams. What did I gain by cramming? A better grade, I guess. But not much more.

I'm seeing this happen a lot, at all grade levels right now. Kids with flashcards for all subject areas, Jeopardy games being played on a daily basis, rapid fire questions shot at kids whenever possible. Cramming isn't just for high school and college students anymore.

As we live in time of testing, testing, testing, that can impact our jobs and our school funding, we are doing all we can to ensure kids score well.

Are we doing all we can to ensure students are learning as well? Learning that will last?


Valerie Strauss posted this one sentence from Cognition: From Memory to Creativity by Robert S. Weisberg and Lauretta M. Reeves:
Rote repetition can result in some information being retained, although it is not  a particularly effective method of encoding information into memory.


mburtis said...

I've been thinking about this a lot lately, too. I also have memories of this kind or practice, as well as memories of severe anxiety and fear about my performance in school. For me, this started in particular in high school and extended into college.

When I look back on the way those episodes made me *feel* (and I can still break out in a cold sweat remembering them), it makes me sick to think of either of my kids every feeling that way. EVEN in high school or college.

I stop and ask myself if that's just my overly-sensitive mama instincts. I will admit that I'm far more sensitive to the idea of my kids hurting (in any way, shape, or form) than I ever imagined I would be. And, in theory, I can understand the argument that we all need(?) to experience a certain amount of pain and adversity. And, in theory, I can accept that I have less and less control over my children's exposure to adversity as they get older and older.

But. But. But.

What I remember feeling can only be described as STRESS. And I'm not so sure that STRESS -- in any shape or form -- is really healthy or helpful for anyone.

Is it ever okay for our kids (or any of us) to be cramming, stressing, afraid, and anxious?

Anonymous said...

By high school I had become disillusioned by the "regurgitate" tests that I had to take. Really what gave me the biggest thrill was seeing how much I could cram in right before taking tests to see if I could maintain information before it was all forgotten. School became a big game of trying to figure out how to beat the system with the least amount of work and cramming falls under that category.

It definitely didn't do me any good as a learner and it has taking me a long time to break the bad habit. I'm glad I discovered in college that there could be real joy in learning but, it is shame that it took me so long to realize it.

Even now I cringe when people think I am good at remembering random facts. I don't want to be viewed as smart because I can remember things or recall them. To me there is little challenge there (although I know for some people it doesn't come as easily) and what I really strive for is being the type of person who can use the things they know construct a thoughtful and creative argument or idea.

Jenny said...

mburtis, I believe life will offer our kiddos enough pain and adversity and they don't need school to do it for them. I don't believe that's an overly-sensitive mama instinct at all. Your memories are a powerful guide for what you want for your kids.

sehauser, I think so many don't discover until college what learning can really be. What a waste we are creating for our children. Young children learn for the sheer joy of it. We take that away in schools, unfortunately. I'm glad you (and hopefully many others) managed to rediscover the joy.