The melodic sound of Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” escapes into the hallway as the company’s CEO happens to walk by. Curious, the executive peeks into the training room only to notice brightly colored posters hung on the walls, canisters of Play-Doh and Koosh toys strewn about the tables, and groups of participants making a collage by cutting out pictures from magazines.
At first glance, this scene might seem like a public relations nightmare for the training department; after all, the company’s CEO has just witnessed adults “playing” on company time! In actuality, what the top executive observed were accelerated learning techniques being fully utilized in the corporate classroom.
What is Accelerated Learning?
The term accelerated learning is a broad term encompassing numerous techniques, methodologies, and approaches to teaching and learning. Playing music, incorporating color, providing table toys, and working in small groups are all considered accelerated learning techniques. What might seem like play can actually be a beneficial learning experience which, in turn, has been shown to speed training time, reduce training costs, and improve training results—not to mention provide a learning experience that keeps learners engaged and motivated.
The origins of accelerated learning dates back to the mid 1960s. Much credit is given to Bulgarian professor and psychotherapist, Dr. Georgi Lozanov, as the person who set the groundwork for what we know today as accelerated learning.
Dr. Lozanov developed a model of teaching called Suggestopedia (“suggestion” + “pedagogy”). His model challenged the status quo of his educational colleges. He asked the questions, “As educators, what are we suggesting to our learners? Are we suggesting that learning is easy and fun? Or, are we suggesting that what’s being taught is so challenging that mastery of the subject will be difficult?”
Dr. Lozanov’s unconventional approach to teaching resulted in a pleasurable experience for his students. His sessions were conducted in a safe and non-judgmental environment into which he often incorporated the use of music, art, role-playing, and games.
In the late 70s Dr. Lozanov’s Suggestopedia theory was examined by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and proved to be effective. Shortly thereafter, it sparked the accelerated learning movement in the United States and other parts of the world.
Accelerated learning is more than just allowing trainees to play games while listening to classical music. As with any other curriculum, it must be designed and delivered effectively.
Incorporating Accelerated Learning Techniques
When designing a course that implements accelerated learning techniques, it is recommended that instructional designers follow a solid instructional systems design (ISD) model.
Just like with any other instructional design project, research should be conducted during the learner analysis phase to determine characteristics of the learners such as experience, educational, and reading levels; however, when designing from an accelerated learning approach, the research also attempts to tap into the beliefs of the learners.
Through surveys or interviews, the designers collect data to determine what past beliefs or suggestions have limited the participants to learning various content or material. Once that information is determined, designers then design activities and exercises, as well as create an environment, that “de-suggests” or helps the learner move beyond their limiting mental beliefs and expand their perspectives.
Regarding the environment, courses that have been designed from an accelerated learning approach tend to look and feel much different from a traditional classroom environment. Wall space, seating arrangements, and materials have all been carefully selected or designed to create an environment that is aesthetically exciting, highly interactive, and encouraging of all learning styles.
The course instructors play a major role in fostering this accelerated learning environment and atmosphere. They create and promote positive group dynamics by coaching, inspiring, and challenging their learners all while instructing course content.
Most accelerated learning techniques go way beyond “Death by PowerPoint” presentations; but with that being said, it takes a skilled instructor to pull them off. Those who facilitate these techniques need to be comfortable not only with their content but also with facilitating activities and exercises that are considered a bit eclectic or unconventional.
Successful accelerated learning instructors are chameleons. They are just as comfortable with taking to the stage to tell a story which inspires and entertains, as they are with stepping back and allowing the learners to complete an activity where self-discovery is the intended outcome. In other words, they facilitate learning by modifying their role to support and foster learning during an accelerated learning experience.
It’s likely that you are already incorporating a few accelerated learning techniques in your course design and delivery (even if you weren’t aware these techniques have a name).
If you’ve never used any accelerated learning techniques in your training, I’d encourage you to try them. You’ll be among many professionals in corporate training departments, educational institutions, and military installations who have used accelerated learning techniques in their curriculum with measurable success.
For those of you who are currently using accelerated learning techniques in your organization, tell us, what specific techniques have you used with success in your training programs?
Jeff has been a course leader with Langevin since 2000. He completed a Bachelor of Arts degree in both Speech Communications and Broadcasting from Western Kentucky University. Before pursuing his passion for training, Jeff worked as a television reporter, flight attendant, fitness instructor, and tour guide. Jeff started his career in training at the daily newspaper in Atlanta. Training seemed to be a natural fit for him since he’s always been a bit of a performer. When at home, you’ll catch Jeff watching a cooking show, recreating a dish he’s eaten abroad, or exploring one of the many great restaurants in the Chicago area. During the summer months, he hits the road to follow the talented drum corps of Drum Corp International—something he’s done since high school!