M.U.S.T. Memorization Understanding Synchronizing Tool

M.U.S.T. Memorization Understanding Synchronizing Tool

Do you remember your 5th grade math teacher’s name?

No? But you still know how multiply 120 x 6, don’t you?

It’s easier to forget names, dates and notions than theory and rules we learned.

Didactic activity involves many different learning processes
As you can see from the Bloom’s Taxonomy Pyramid, the two processes at the bottom are where the teacher is the active originator of the contents providing them to the students’ learning; going up towards the top of the pyramid the active role shift to the students themselves, and the teacher can only provide guidance and assistance. Only once they have understood a concept, they can “apply”, “analyze”, “evaluate” and finally “create” …



So, let’s focus on the 2 activities where the teacher has the crucial role, especially in class, enabling students to:
– Memorize names, terms, dates, definitions…
– Understand concepts, rules, mechanisms, interactions…


The Problem

Often the teaching, learning, studying and testing processes are carried in an undifferentiated approach by both teachers and students, while those two different mental processes (memorize and understand) should require specific and diverse methodologies.

It is difficult that a good memorization could happen during the class time; to memorize students need to be in a quiet environment and collect the information that have to be stored in their memory. Reading text, watching a video or a picture, observing details and trying to fix them in the memory is an “individual” process, where the student is the main (only?) actor.

But sometimes, far from the class and the teacher, there are not enough resources to provide the required information to be memorized.

On the opposite, understanding is enabled by a rich and interactive environment, like the classroom; where not only the teacher can help with explanations and responses to specific questions, but also other students can cooperate, with their comments, examples and requests for details.

But again, the problem is that often there is not enough time to dedicate to the explanation, due to the many topics to be covered during each class.

The result of this uniform approach is that there is not enough time in class to allow the best “understanding” and not enough resources to allow the best “memorization” outside class.

A possible solution

  1. Identify the main “understandings” you expect the students will comprehend at the end of your course
    • Formally and clearly write them
    • Communicate them to the student at the beginning of your course
    • Make sure they understand that this is a requirement to pass your course
  2. Define and list all the elements (terms, data, definitions, dates, names…) that you expect the students will be able to recollect at the end of your course
    • Create a directory with all those specific elements
    • Build a Knowledge Tank in Canvass® where all those elements are stocked and described (books indexes, videos, websites, articles, references…)
    • Indicate the locations and sources of the extensive additional information for each one of them
  3. Plan your course devoting the majority of your “precious” class time to the “understandings”
    • List all the “memorizing” items that you will use in each class and that have to be known by the students in advance
    • Use most of your time in class explaining and creating the knowledge
    • Test frequently the understanding level of the students, without necessarily grading them (feedback and motivation is the purpose)
  4. Create tests balancing the two component of the learning process: questions on understanding and questions on memorization
    • Clearly indicate the nature of each question: understanding or memorization
    • It doesn’t matter if multiple choice or open questions: if the correct answer is specific and already given in class or stored in the Knowledge Tank the question is about Memorization
    • If the correct answer(s) could be more than one and the students not only never heard the answer before, but they have to “create” the answer, this is a Understanding question.

Further improvements

Millennials are used to personalizing every aspect of their life, from the smartphone case to their Frappuccino®; so why are education and courses are still “one-size-fits-all”?

Of course it will be almost impossible to personalize the teaching and the lessons, without an unaffordable cost.

But why not allowing the students to shape their learning according to their interests?

Using modern technologies, like Canvas® it is easy to allow the students to personalize their learning experience.

  1. At the beginning of the course ask the students to identify and communicate you the -three?- chapters/topics they are more interested in (first benefit: they are obliged to go through the entire program/book to take a meaningful choice)
  2. Create in Canvas® folders with specific questions for each chapter of the text book (or section of your program)
  3. When testing, provide 50% of the question on general topics related to the entire program, than allow each student to access to their preferred topics folder to find the specific questions for the subject they choose to be their elective.

Example of testing the Understanding/Memorization

In my course – Global markets, understanding local cultures to develop global brands –  I have the following “understanding objectives”

Learning Objectives:

Students will be able to analyze and classify different cultures around the world; they will be able to adapt a marketing plan to the specific local culture and to create an effective communication plan both for the content and the formal point of view.

In detail, they will be able to master the following concepts

  • The nature of a Culture
  • Cultural hidden paradoxes
  • Biases and constraints in understanding alien Cultures
  • Hofstede’s model and Cultures classification
  • Elements of the marketing offer: Hardware & Software
  • Brand nature and Brand models
  • Global Brand management strategies
  • Communication system
  • Communication dimensions
  • Communication strategies


Example of the list on the index book of the “to be memorized” items

Example of different questions on test:

green –> memorization

yellow –> understanding


And HERE you may find an example about how to personalize the learning experience for each student creating on Canvass modules on specific Chapters/topics containing additional information, resources and questions.


Finally, going back to the Bloom Taxonomy, in a more sophisticated vision

I test the ability to CREATE of my students asking them to create two commercials, two videos of 30’, of the same product, but to be used in two very different cultures. They have to show how they change both the content and the form of the communication approaching different cultures. This way I can check the whole understanding of the many concept studied during my class.

Here an example of two videos for Soy Milk, to be aired in US and in China.

The US commercial :


The Chinese commercial:




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