Understanding is Remembering in Disguise

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    There is a big difference between understanding and remembering, in my opinion. Comprehension and memorization work together to solidify knowledge in a student’s mind, and in many ways can stem from one another. Understanding requires deeper knowledge though, while memorization touches on shallow knowledge. Willingham states that “understanding new ideas is mostly a matter of getting the right old ideas into working memory and rearranging them”. I think this quote really effectively demonstrates the relationship between the two. So, I mostly agree with the statement that understanding is remembering in disguise, with the caveat that the remembering that occurs must be modified. Regurgitating past (memorized) knowledge is not enough to create understanding, but it can definitely be a helpful tool.


    Jill Sweeney

    I definitely think that understanding and remembering are completely different things. I think that remembering something is much less work and application than understanding something. I think that many students would be able to remember something but if you asked them to explain it, their lack of understanding would be prominent. I think it is important to remember how students learn in different ways and at different paces. Teachers should allow for students to ask as many questions as they need to and to have differentiation when students need a boost to get to the level of understanding rather than just remembering and teaching to the test.


    Sarah Reich

    I agree with Willingham’s idea that understanding is remembering is disguise. To gain more knowledge we need to build it off of the things we already know. This idea goes back to the importance of background knowledge. New ideas are understood when we have something to compare or contrast them to. This topic relates to my exercise physiology exam I took at the beginning of this week. The test was about different training regimens. I found this material pretty easy to understand because I could relate it to the exercises I do in the weight room for track. For some of the questions I wasn’t really going off of the material I learned in the lesson, but instead was thinking about what I do when I lift.


    Jared Tschohl

    I would go back to my argument related to shallow knowledge, that our assessment measurements are poor.
    We believe understanding has been achieved, because a student can remember a lot of different information about a topic. This is basic learning/regurgitation. If you have never read Doing School by Denise Clark Pope, she would agree with Willingham that understanding and remembering are very different, but many teacher equate them to being equal.

    I think a very basic example of the difference between remembering and understanding would be when students first begin to encounter math word problems in first and second grade. At that time, most students have only learned adding or subtracting, so it can be very easy to determine is something getting bigger (adding) versus smaller (subtracting).

    When you move to 3rd/4th grade and learn multiplication/division, then you get thrown the word “each” at you. Although most can narrow it down to multiply or divide, students I see struggle with determining something is getting bigger (multiplication) versus smaller (division); BUT it was the same concept with add/subtract, so why is it harder with two new operations that have the same concepts attached?



    I don’t agree that understanding is solely just remembering, but I do agree that even when we are presented with new content, we have to resort back to some knowledge we should have to better understand it. This reminds me of how mentioned having factual and background knowledge of something first. For example, I love reading different books on history of my culture. But for me to fully understand some of it, I find myself looking up words or phrases that are used in the text, then going back to piece it all together. I think remembering can help you to better understand a topic.



    I can definitely see where Willingham is coming from when he claims that understanding is remembering in disguise, but I have to disagree with his claim. Instead I would like to suggest that remembering plays a key role in understanding new concepts. I feel like the way that Willingham worded his claim is possibly misleading and could suggest that remembering and understanding are somewhat synonymous. For example, I might remember that when doing chemical reactions you have to balance the elements following a bunch of different rules, but I might not understand why I am doing it.

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