Your first college class starts next week.

During your orientation, you heard, "You must carefully use both rote and meaningful learning strategies."

You don't know what they mean, but you must understand both by next week.

Spongebob Squarepants biting his nails nervously

No worries, you've got this!

Learning these techniques can help you structure your study time for maximum results.

Rote Learning

Do you remember multiplication flash cards from elementary school? You were repeatedly quizzed until you could answer them all correctly.

A boy writing notes in a notebook. Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

This is an example of rote learning. Rote learning involves memorizing information through repetitive practice.

Flaticon Icon Advantages

  • Leads to quick recall of important facts and key info

  • Great for foundational knowledge

Flaticon Icon Disadvantages

  • Doesn't allow for deep understanding of concepts

  • Doesn't connect to previous knowledge

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Use rote learning when:

  • You need to memorize new terminology

  • You need to learn basic math concepts

  • You forgot to study for your psychology exam and the test is in 6 hours

A brain is put together with small pieces

Integrate rote learning into your study habits through repeated practice.

  • Use flash cards to help recall information

  • Practice the same problems and learning activities you encountered in class

Rote Learning Application

You'e explaining rote learning to a classmate. Which of the following examples could you use?

Flaticon Icon Study for your history test by re-reading the assigned chapters.

Flaticon Icon Use flash cards to memorize terminology that will be on your biology exam.

Flaticon Icon Create a short speech to practice for your speech class quiz.

Flaticon Icon Repeatedly label the parts of a cell body diagram.


Select all examples that apply:

Meaningful Learning

Did you participate in a debate in high school? You had to research both sides of the issue and study information related to the topic. Then you applied the work to defend your position in the debate.

Man standing at a podium asking

This is an example of meaningful learning. Just learning the information isn't enough. You need to apply that knowledge during an unscripted moment.

Meaningful learningrequires you to understand the concept and apply it in real-life situations.

Flaticon Icon Advantages

  • Leads to long-term recollection

  • Focuses on understanding

  • Enables active use of the knowledge

Flaticon Icon Disadvantages

  • It's time consuming

  • Requires developing a customized learning plan*

*For example, an ecology student may create custom questions like, "How would the local ecosystem change if the red fox was removed?"

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Use meaningful learning when:

  • You need to study complex systems

  • You need to understand a topic in depth

  • You need to apply knowledge

Arrow with information pointing towards image of head and brain

Integrate meaningful learning into your study habits through problems or scenarios.

  • Ask yourself "Are viruses alive"?

  • Think about what you'd do if you were the doctor in this scenario: "A patient complains: 'My neck hurts and my right arm feels like it's asleep.'"

Meaningful Learning Application

You're a psychology major and have a big test coming up. You'll be evaluated on all of the psychology theories you've learned this semester. Choose one of the following methods to prepare for the exam.

Flaticon Icon Study the notes you took in class. Then review the chapters and create flash cards for each theory and unknown term. Practice the flash cards for the week leading up to the exam.

Flaticon Icon Complete the application questions at the end of each chapter. Then challenge yourself to find similarities and differences between the theories and how the theories are used in real-life situations.


Which option is the best representation of meaningful learning?

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