Guest Blogpost; Meaningful vs. Rote Learning

In todays school curriculum and for many years previous there has been huge emphasis on Rote learning in core subjects of school life such as Maths, Irish and English. As an Early Years education graduate this form of learning is bewildering to me as we were trained in practical life meaningful experiences. Rote learning is a form of memorization and repetition technique, commonly used to learn times tables, and Irish Poetry. From my experience as an early year’s graduate and working in an afterschool setting this technique is rather outdated. Many of the young children in my care are taught to learn off unnecessary Irish poems (word for word) with no understanding or meaning of what they are learning which is hypocritical in nature, as the curriculum framework (Aistear) that governs early years education says that children are encouraged to learn, problem solve and be meaning makers of their own journeys. Its unimaginable how there is still a massive separation between pre-school and Primary school given that there is only a few years between transitions. In my opinion children learn at all different paces. Each person is unique in their learning, be it verbally, practically, visually so why should learning be a one-way route?

There are many ways to incorporate meaningful learning into the classroom. For the visual learner these children need tangible items in hand to learn from, such as colourful beads, pieces of fruit, anything will work as long as the children can physically hold the item. In my day in school only about 15 years ago we were shown that the only way to learn Maths is to memorize times tables, and to this day I can recall the times tables in my sleep. Sometimes this learning is useful and its imprinted into my long-term memory but as for other types of Mathematics I am hugely a big failure. I never understood the real meaning of mathematics and its use in everyday life. Professionals should include everyday situations into the learning of Maths in the classroom such as including a construction area at the side of the room to reteach skills such as learning all about angles, measurements, estimating and following instructions. Another example to teach Mathematics is to set up a home corner with a shop. The children can learn to count, addition, subtraction, by totting up the prices of items in their “shop”

We must ask ourselves, do we want to promote confident, problem solving independent learning? Or to promote the traditional monotonous learning lacking in meaning and interest?

Thanks to Hayley Browne, a young recently graduated professional in Early Years Education from Cork Institute of Technology who has worked in the sector for many years along with many years experience in different settings.