Institutional Research and Strategic Analytics

October 2020 - The Role of Memorization in Student Learning

The Office of Institutional Research at CSU, Chico regularly uses survey data from the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) and Faculty Survey of Student Engagement (FSSE) to explore issues of interest to the campus community.

One benefit of analyzing these surveys together is the ability to compare and contrast how students and faculty feel about shared topics. Interestingly, one of the most significant points of contrast between students and faculty in 2020 was the degree to which they felt memorization was emphasized in courses at CSU, Chico.

CSU, Chico By the Numbers

In Spring 2020:

24% faculty 63% students Believed memorization was emphasized either
"very much" or "quite a bit" in their classes.

Review a two-page report (PDF) that further explores this contrast, and considers the place of memorization alongside other learning techniques in higher education.

Explore the 2020 FSSE-NSSE Combined Report (PDF) and see how both students and faculty felt about other important topics.

What Can I Do To Better Understand These Issues?


Talk with your instructors to better understand their views on memorization as a learning tool, and if / when they feel it should be used. Think reflectively about the different ways in which memorization might be emphasized or discouraged in your classes. Do you rely on or use memorization techniques out of habit, or because of active encouragement by an instructor?


Engage with your students to better understand their learning experiences in class. Is memorization an appropriate learning tool for some types of material? Do students feel that memorization is being actively emphasized by you, or is it a habit that some may have learned at an earlier point in their educational careers?