Going Beyond Memorization

What is the relationship of concepts to facts?

In order to do this question justice, I must first provide definitions of concepts and facts.  A fact is a piece of information that is objectively true, such as 2×2= 4.  In contrast, “a concept is an abstract idea generalized from particular instances or evidence, so involves an inductive process of thought” (Scheuerman, R).

Bloom Rose.png

Figure 1

Through our own educational experiences, we are aware that there are many things we learned simply through memorization.  This included multiplication tables, the state capitals, and the Periodic Table of Elements.  Knowing and understanding facts, sometimes through rote memorization, is an essential component of learning.  According to Bruner, “instructional results are limited when students merely study the formal outcomes or products of subject matter”.  Remembering specific bits of information or facts is necessary, but limiting if that is all the student has acquired.  When it comes to memorized facts, “the child will use it in a single situation and possibly not even effectively then” (Bruner).

That being said, we need to go beyond this and build upon it.  Simply knowing the facts is not adequate.  If students cannot build connections between old and new learning, they will not be able to effectively transfer knowledge.  Students must develop the skills needed to come up with abstract, complex, deep, higher-level thinking.  They also need to be cognizant of how to apply information to new situations, and use prior learning to form explanations and predictions.  This type of learning and thinking is involved in Benjamin Bloom’s Taxonomy of Intellectual Processes.  In figure 1, you can see an image that represents his categories which are evaluation, synthesis, analysis, application, comprehension and knowledge.  Students need an understanding of facts and concepts to be successful learners.  If educators can facilitate conceptual learning, a student’s education will be more meaningful.  Going beyond memorization is of great importance, especially when cultivating the next generation of critical thinkers.

Bloom Taxonomy pyramid

Figure 2



If you look at figure 2, you’ll see that memory is at the bottom of the pyramid.  This does not mean it is insignificant, but rather the foundation of growth and development.  We ultimately want our students to be creative independent thinkers.


“Blooms rose” by K. Aainsqatsi – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Blooms_rose.svg#/media/File:Blooms_rose.svg

Bruner, J. S. (1996). Some Elements of Discovery. Learning By Discovery: A Critical Appraisal.

Center for Teaching. (n.d.). Retrieved January 24, 2016, from https://cft.vanderbilt.edu/guides-sub-pages/blooms-taxonomy/