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Education which brings about learning is any act or experience that has any lasting effect on the mind, temperament or body of an individual. Technically, education is that process by which the society conveys information from one generation to another. This information is, made up of accumulated skills, knowledge and values which are upheld by society. Looking at the term "education", it originated from the Latin term "educare" which means to "bring up." This Latin term is in a way related to "educere" which is taken to bring out the potential that is within. A third term related to these is "ducere" which implies "to lead." (Hicks, 2005)
Today teachers are being fed with the ideology that not so important are drill-and-practice exercise on basic skills as many had been led to believe in the past. However one can argue that any learned person remembers most things through memory. These teachers are told that drill and practice only imparts rote memorization on the part of the student. Rote memorization or rote learning is a technique which emphasizes not on understanding of the study topic by a student but rather on memorization of key aspects of the topic hence learning by repetition which is a key technique applied in this type of learning (Connecticut State Department, 2004).
Some simply refer to rote learning as "cramming" which is normally used especially by students when in a hurry to prepare for exams. However, rote learning is also used especially in the mastery of advanced levels of study of complex subjects like chemistry and the like. However, at foundational level of study of most subjects, rote learning is of key importance. Most of us can acknowledge the fact that it is because of rote learning that we are still able to narrate the multiplication table in mathematics or we are able to remember some particular lines in plays we read back in high school as part of the literature being taught. The words "In sooth I know not why I'm so sad, it wearies me, you say it wearies you, but how I came upon it found itâ€¦.." are the first words of a play and are said by a character named Antonio in William Shakespeare's "The Merchant of Venice." (Shakespeare, 1843) This I can attribute to rote memorization. Another much simpler example is whenever one asks you for your name; you always just say it even without blinking an eye. This is because you've said it so many times before that it has been imprinted onto your memory (Heward, 2005).
However, the application of rote memorization changes from one field of study to the other. In Mathematics for examples, critics of rote learning have argued that the students gain more understanding if they practice questions to do with a particular formula rather than just to memorize the formula. Secondly, learning how to derive the formula is the best means to understanding it which has actually been proven to be the case. However, if incase of an imminent examination, rote memorization is a good alternative for committing already comprehended facts to memory (I.K.U, 1944).
Rote has also been defined as "to do something in a routine or fixed way, to respond automatically by memory alone, without thought" (Heward, 2003). This definition of explains the fluency and great level of understanding that is developed as time goes by given repeated drill and practice exercises. Responding to certain things becomes more a matter of instinct or rather reflex since the "how to do it" is already incorporated into the body system.
Today, teachers are also told that drill and practice dulls the student's creativeness. However, repeated practice can be looked at from the aspect of specialization and concentration by the mind. As a result, the actor apart from developing a greater degree of confidence becomes even better skilled at doing the particular chore since new ways of doing it are developed. This conclusion was drawn by Brophy (1986) from research findings on what can be done by teachers to influence student outcome. A further argument is that the basic skills and knowledge that we do possess were only attained as a result of repetitive drill and practice of them at one stage or another in life. Drill and practice exercises should thus not be treated as "low level" as they are what we used as a stepping stone to the greater understanding that we now possess of errorless and automatic performance of tasks. An example is talking. In order to talk we were first taught how to pronounce the twenty six letters of the alphabet. This we did through repetitive drill and practice. We are thus now able to make words out of these letters and then join words to make sentences that can and are easily comprehended by others hence our ability to communicate (Prakken, 2005).
Some posit that drill and practice of basic skills does not result to achievement of literacy or higher-order thinking capabilities. They are for the alternative that time in class be spent in activities that are more invigorating or more targeted towards the student's enjoyment. This they believe will result in better comprehension. According to Kohn 1998, drill and practice ought not to be used necessarily in the teaching process. Instead the students should be left to ask questions on particular aspects of the study topic that seem appealing to them or rather those which they haven't comprehended. As a result they will be in a position to draw constructive conclusions from the answers they get (Greenspan & Benderly, 1998).
However, in as much as Kohn's argument above is sound, what we have to acknowledge first is the fact that the student must have gained some knowledge in the initial stage to be in a position to ask a question. One of the ways through which the said knowledge was imparted to him or her was through classroom teaching in which the teacher explained points on the study topic at length. Going back to Kohn's argument, when the student asks a question, the teacher takes time to listen to the question, understand it and then gives a feed back. This feedback is more or less what the student had already been taught in class but now put in different wordings which may be simpler in order for the student to understand. What we can all note here is that there is repetition of ideas. The simplest explanation for this repetition is basic drill but now in a new form.
In summary, the notion that drill and practice limits Students' deep understanding and dulls creativity does not hold as it is from the fundamentals of drill and practice that we learn to do the most basic of thing in life. Once we've learnt the most basic of things, we apply the knowledge we now possess to open up our minds further i.e. we use it as a basis for thinking.
Drill and practice thus can be said to be the foundation of learning (Evertson & Weinstein, 2006).
Students Must Be Internally Motivated to Really Learn
Research has proven that regular appraisals of student performance have positive effects on student conduct and attainment. However there are those who are for and those who are against this.
Psychologists through research and study have identified some principles of learning which seek to explain what makes people to learn more effectively. Edward Thorndike fronted the Effect principle which looks at the student from his or her emotional point of view and is related to motivation. If the student finds passion or happiness in whatever they are doing then they will be encouraged internally to continue doing it. However if this is not the case, the student will cease. The satisfaction they obtain acts as a motivator. However this principle is generally dependant on the law of type and amount of utility or satisfaction that is being talked about. The more the utility the more the water the theory holds (Schloss & Smith, 2006).
A criticism to this theory however is the fact that at times the only choice we have at our disposition is that of learning. Given a case where we have examinations, a student will out of fear of failure take the step and make an aim to learn as much as he or she can within the time period at their disposal. Here one is left at a crossroads as to whether the exam is a motivator or a conditionality that must be satisfied. Here it can be clearly seen that internal motivation is not of core necessity. Rather, the condition is since the only way out is by satisfying it.
In the classroom situation, there are both positive and negative motivators. Examples of the latter are punishments to students whilst those of the former are gifts being given to the best students or even more simply just by mere acknowledgement of work they've done. However in as much as negative reinforcement is required, too much of it tends to be detrimental to performance. This is because repetitive scorn by a teacher tends to crush the sense of worthiness of an individual. Once this is the case, lack of interest sets in and a "don't care" attitude is developed. Positive reinforcement on its part is encouraged as it has more often than not proven to produce better results while at the same time leaving the learner motivated. Thus the learning environment ought to be made up of elements that positively affect the students. This positive effect translates to a feeling of satisfaction. However a closer look at the above two clearly indicates that the perfect blend in a classroom situation ought to be left to the teacher to determine (Zentall, 2009).
Some scholars have however argued that the issue of reward to encourage better performance actually does more harm than good. Kohn, (1993a, 1993b) argues that the use of such rewards and other student or worker appraisal techniques ends up destroying the self motivation of the student as one basis of the technique is the key assumption of future better performance. In most cases, it is almost the same group of people who scoop such awards hence the rest become discouraged with time. This results to an imbalance of power where some students are led to believe that other fellow students are more gifted or intellectually capable than them.
Kohn further posits that rewards only make us change the way we do things but they do not in any way change what we perceive of them. Most people will thus only do their best simply because of the reward that awaits them but not out of their own motivation to do them. Once the reward is inexistent the motivation goes away and nobody cares about what is done. This case is not universal since different people have different personalities. It is these personalities that make us behave differently from others given the same conditions (Bricker, 2004).
Research has shown that as pupils move up the academic ladder, the amount of teacher verbal approval actually reduces whilst that of disapproval increases. This is explained by the notion that teachers being the key players in the learning process would want to instill into their pupils and students the ideology that something is done not because of the rewards awaiting an individual at the end but because it is the right thing to do. With this in mind, the self motivation to do it comes automatically. This self motivation was referred to as the "intrinsic" reason. The eventual intrinsic reason was success itself.
Some teachers believe that praising students takes too much time which would have otherwise been wisely spent on teaching. Recognition and praising of performance particularly by low-achieving students who have little academic achievement attached to them always works best. This has been noted as one of the most important modes of teaching. Some teachers believe that praising student performance is not part of teaching. Rather they view it as time wastage. To them teaching is only about communicating the knowledge they possess to the student. However this is not true since we all naturally like being appreciated. In this respect therefore when a little effort we make is recognized and is laid out for the entire world to know, we automatically feel the urge to do more because we would like to feel even more appreciated (Wong, 2004).
It is also believed that the classroom environment does not necessarily provide for a situation where praise can be accorded. Instead, reprimand is what is expected and always seems to work. Instances of praise of good behavior being displayed by students often result in no relative change. Instead, the student still carries on with the good behavior. However, if a student who is misbehaving is reprimanded, they will immediately change their behavior for the better. A classroom is featured by many occurrences and if a teacher decides to praise positive behavior, this may be taken negatively by those students with good behavior but who often go unnoticed.
Given all the above arguments and theories, one can say that internal motivation of students to ensure actual learning is achieved is greatly dependent on the personality of the student and not on the motivation itself. However, instilling a sense of self drive to an individual works since this ensures that they are in a position to know what they want and determine how they will get to it. Having this in mind, the student will note that whatever they are doing is not because they must do it but rather because they want to do it and the person for whom the result is targeted is them. The notion therefore holds against all odds (Mitchell, 2007).
Building Students' Self-Esteem Is a Teacher's Primary Goal
Scholars have argued that for a student to learn efficiently, it is not just a matter of having the best tutor. Rather a major component is the student's own attitude towards what is being taught. They further argue that a high self-esteemed person will in most cases develop an interest in something before they decide to do it. This explains why the most successful of persons are normally those with a high self esteem as they actually love what they are doing. This doctrine applies not just in the field of academia but also when it comes to social life of individuals.
However from the above, one can argue that the ideology is not correct. Looking at today's classroom, most of the high performers are individuals who are often resigned to themselves; they tend to have a small group of friends with whom they always seem to hang with. Most of these friends are high achievers as they themselves are. The lives of such tend to revolve around what brought them to school whilst very little attention is paid to their social lives. Given these characteristics they have it is therefore quite hard to qualify the relationship between high self esteem and high performance in the class.
Edward Thorndike in his Principles of learning posited that one of the Principles of learning is readiness on the part of the student. Here he explains that in order for effective learning to take place, the student ought to be both psychologically and emotionally prepared. Physical preparedness is also a must. An example of physical preparedness is when in a school where the students where uniform, the student ought to be in uniform else they would feel out of place and may lack concentration in class. Similarly the learning environment should be one that fosters learning. It is on the part of the teacher to ensure that all these conditions are met if high output is expected. Simply put, the student will not learn well if they are not shown the reason for learning. One way of showing these reasons for learning is by satisfying the above conditions. In doing so the student acknowledges the importance that is attached to the whole process and will in turn develop interest.
However, we should however not mistake high performance to be a product of a high self-esteem. As a matter of fact, self esteem develops with time as a result of past achievements by an individual. The more experience one has, the more the confidence. In the classroom situation, when a student accomplishes a hard task successfully, they get more courage to attempt an even harder one. This is especially the case in mathematical subjects. They will even be seen trying to show off to others that they have accomplished the task.
The ideology that it is upon the teacher to enable students identify and build a high self esteem is attributed to teachers at times not correcting students when they openly on the wrong. The same notion is also attributed to at times teachers leading students to getting high scores yet they never worked for them. These have positive short-term effects but even greater negative long term ones in that the student's self esteem tends to go down since they discover they cannot do certain things on their own (Rutherford, Quinn & Mathur, 2004).
Instead of focusing on developing the students self esteem, a teacher would rather concentrate on educating them thus passing the knowledge he/she possess. This is so because given the different attitudes and personalities that students have, trying to develop a particular students self esteem might be at the expense of educating the whole class. The self-esteem notion therefore doesn't hold. Teachers should therefore focus their attention on each and every student.