Higher Education

, Volume 31, Issue 3, pp 341–354

The intention to both memorise and understand: Another approach to learning?

  • David Kember

DOI: 10.1007/BF00128436

Cite this article as:
Kember, D. High Educ (1996) 31: 341. doi:10.1007/BF00128436


In distinguishing deep and surface approaches, an important determinant is the intentions to understand and memorise respectively. A student adopting a surface approach does not seek understanding and, therefore, relies upon memorisation. Understanding and memorising are, then, seen as almost mutually exclusive as far as intent is concerned, although those seeking understanding may make some strategic use of memorisation for particular tasks. This paper reviews emerging evidence of an approach which combines memorising and understanding. The research has been conducted in the Asian region, and so provides part of the explanation for the “paradox” of the Asian student. There has been widespread anecdotal evidence of “rote-learning” and yet Asian students are often high achievers. Several plausible explanations for the occurrence of the approach are advanced. These include limited ability in the language of study leading to a narrow systematic pattern of study, cultural traditions respecting order and diligent study, and the need for children to learn the language characters.

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Kember
    • 1
  1. 1.Hong Kon Polytechnic UniversityHung Hom, KowloonHong Kong

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