Learning, Memorization, and Assessment

You Should Tell Your Friends!

Learning, Memorization, and Assessment

– What is success?

How can you tell the difference between learning and memorizing? In our family we love music. About two years ago we came across a method of violin instruction called the Suzuki method that teaches music in much the same way our babies learn language. They learn through experimentation, imitation, and repetition. One thing I love about this method is that it teaches the children to memorize each piece they play. At first, I was a skeptic because I know how difficult it is for me to memorize anything.

Very easily though, the children in our music group learn the ‘finger pops’ to each new song.

  • They can say the finger numbers in order but does that mean they know the song?       No.
  • Not only can they learn the finger numbers, they learn to sing the fingerings with pitch and rhythm. They learn to sing the song before they ever begin to play in on their instruments. So does singing and learning fingerings mean they know the song? No.
  • Once the child can sing the song, they begin playing and experimenting with the music on the instrument. They press the right fingers, hit the right strings, and play the right rhythms. Does this mean they know the song?


They have memorized the song. In a way, yes that is learning.

Moving Beyond Memorization

As a teacher and parent, however, I hope my desire is for more than memorization. Don’t misunderstand, developing memory work is important and should not be neglected. Math facts, for example, must be memorized. Schooling the heart of child aims, on the whole, for deep ownership of the content and your portfolio is there to help you capture that.

I want my students to have ownership over what they have learned. I want the child to take the fingering, pitch, and rhythm and recreate the song with expression and passion. That, my friend, is learning. That is making music.

So much of education is exactly like this. Do you teach history so your children can repeat war facts or information about Ancient Egypt?

We teach history so that our children can better understand their world, the way peoples have interacted for centuries, and how they can use this information to be agents of change in their own world.

LearningKeeper Captures Depth

If we are not teaching for memory, then our assessments must fall in line. LearningKeeper.com is your powerful partner for documenting this type of learning. Perhaps you have interviewed your student on the importance of freedom of speech or perhaps they have written an essay on the religious views of our founding fathers.

Portfolios have power.

Audio, video, writing samples, art, song writing, projects…. use these and the power of your portfolio to move beyond memorization and enjoy the power of the portfolio in your schooling!


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  1. Belita Stout says:

    I absolutely loved reading this! Your perspective on the Suzuki method is powerful and what I want to strive to teach all my students. Thank you for sharing your love of learning with us!

    • Alison Haley says:

      Suzuki method has taught me what I knew in my heart all along about educating the heart of the child… not just the mind!