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I have a theory that second-hand memory tricks obscure learning. I believe that memory tricks are one individual's way of encoding information in their brain, which is not necessarily compatible with another individual.

This means the student will have to decode the memory trick, understand the "unzipped" contents, and then re-encode it in their own mind.

An example is AN OIL RIG CAT (in Chemistry) - although it makes sense to me now, I and many other Chemistry students would agree that redox is a very difficult subject filled with many back and forth confusions because of poor teaching conventions like these.

I think students should be given the proper respect as to learn the actual material, not some dodgy memory technique.

What do you think?

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2 Answers

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I could not agree more! This is rarely useful, in most cases it is just something extra to remember. Many times this doesn't actually help with understanding the concept. It should definitely be up to the individual to acquire their own learning style and teachers should not forcefully implement methods such as those involving acronyms.

Some can be useful, but some can be shortcuts that prevent the student from doing the real thinking. ROY G BIV is one that I remember from year nine, I think that it was useful for me as it was only a basic concept (at the time). But there are others that are pointless, even confusing.

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I totally agree. This really happens a lot in high school where a teacher explains a rather difficult (or new) concept. The problem actually arises when students are introduced to mnemonics to remember the theory - i.e. when the lesson ends with ...but you can remember this with a helpful mnemonic. That's when students run down the lazy path of learning the material.

If a student is given AN OIL RIG CAT as a take home message what does he actually learn from that? Anode corresponds to oxidation is loss and cathode corresponds to reduction is gain. Loss or gain of what? PROTONS!

However, I feel that it is the student's decision to decide when and how to use them to enhance their learning. This could involve using mnemonics to piece together an understanding of a concept such as:

AN OIL = In a redox half cell, oxidation refers to the loss of electrons at the anode

It's simply learning with the help of mnemonics rather than using mnemonics to learn.

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