kitchen table math, the sequel: Apparently students who attend Ivy League schools are good memorizers

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Apparently students who attend Ivy League schools are good memorizers

Yale students seem to have spent so much time memorizing history facts and dates that Professor Joanne Freeman feels compelled to warn students against the Revolutionary War "fact bubble":
Tip number one is don't get lost in the dreaded Revolutionary War fact bubble, which I have to say it makes me think of the first time that I taught this course. I was actually a brand new professor and I had just come to Yale and it was my first course and it was my first lecture in my first course and I'm [sound cuts out] It actually was in Connecticut Hall, which, for those of you who don't know, dates back to the period when this course is talking about and was Nathan Hale's -- essentially his dorm. So there I am. I'm a brand new professor to Yale and I'm teaching a course about the Revolution and it's in a building that dates to the Revolution, so I'm having sort of a "wow" Yale moment as it is, and I'm off, I'm giving my lectures, and I'm really excited. I give about three of them and someone raises their hand after about three lectures and they have a kind of a puzzled expression on their face. I said, "Yes?" And he says, "Excuse me, Professor Freeman. What are we supposed to be memorizing? Where are the facts and dates?" [laughs] So as a new professor my first impulse was: Darn! I forgot the facts and dates. [laughter] I got it wrong. [laughs] But actually, the fact of the matter is, they're not the star of the show. Certainly, dates are not the star of the show. There are dates you're going to have to remember so don't think Easy Street; there's not a date I have to know. There will be some dates, but this isn't a story about dates. It's obviously something a lot more interesting and a lot broader than that. Okay. Avoid fact bubble.

Joanne Freeman "American Revolution" | Lecture 1 Introduction: Freeman's Top Five Tips for Studying the Revolution
Obviously, excessive memorization didn't keep these students out of Yale.

I'm sure there's a reason for that, the reason being that excessive memorization actually helped.

And here is Daniel Willingham:  prior knowledge & working memory in 1 paragraph

1 comment:

SATVerbalTutor. said...

I'm as much for memorization as anyone on here, but coming out of HS (especially at a place like Yale), a lot of kids are stuck in the AP fact bubble. They're used to memorizing tons of stuff, but they don't really know how to analyze. I tutored someone like that a few years ago (going to Harvard), and it drove me INSANE. Minimal curiosity, zero ability to put the pieces together -- she just wanted to memorize what she needed to know but nothing more so she could get her A+.

Now, will these kids with all that factual knowledge have a massive advantage in college over those who have a lot less factual knowledge? Of course. But they'll still have to make the switch from learning to take the test to learning in a much deeper way. And for some of them, that's going to be a really huge transition.