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Rote to Note – Teaching and Learning


Slate chalkboards prevented students or teachers from retaining work completed. Work needed to be erased before the next task was begun. Teachers would instruct in a didactic manner in the role of a ‘sage on the stage’. Any books, if available, were in the hands of the educator. The materials determined the method of instruction. Memorization and repetition were predominant. Learning was “achieved through collective recitation led by the teacher. A keen memory characterized a good student.” (Schools: American education)

“Rote learning is a learning technique which avoids understanding the inner complexities and inferences of the subject that is being learned and instead focuses on memorizing the material.” (K12 academics)  Reflective learning and critical thinking did not occur unless done in the oral traditions of debate and rhetoric.


Educational practices adapted to the availability of mass produced looseleaf paper, bound notebooks, pencils, erasers, sharpeners and fountain pens. Teachers could now retain student work for reflection and review. Students would copy, correct and review lessons to ensure accuracy and retention. The students’ ability to take notes encouraged the lecture format of didactic instruction.

“The main functions of note-taking are to encode and to store information externally for later review. Note-taking can help increase a learner’s attention while listening to a lecture or reading a text, and as a result, help the learner integrate and elaborate upon what he or she hears, sees, or reads with prior knowledge.” (Lin & Bigenho, p. 201)

In this manner, note-taking appeared to “promote knowledge reconstruction and transformation, thus leading to cognitive change.” (Castello and Monereo, p.267)

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