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Accelerated Learning: Learn fast & effectively

Accelerated Learning

Accelerated LearningThe world changes fast, and to keep up, you need to be learning new stuff all the time. And some of that needs to be from a large and complex body of knowledge. Yet, as a working manager, your time is at a premium. So is there any way you can create accelerated learning?

The answer is yes. Over many years, we have accumulated a broad and eclectic body of knowledge about how we learn. It combines experience, practical psychology, and neuroscience. And practitioners bring this all together under the banner of Accelerated Learning.

Why do we Need Accelerated Learning?

In the nineteenth century, rote learning was an adequate way to acquire the knowledge our forebears needed. Because, most of what they learned at school (if they were privileged enough to go to school), would still be relevant throughout their careers.

That’s no longer true. Now, we need to change or build on what we know constantly. Society, technology, and work change so fast that it’s a struggle to keep up. This has two big implications for learning:

  1. First, we need to do it throughout our lives
  2. Second, the sort of things it really pays to learn at the outset are things like principles, critical thinking, and learning itself

And these are the two challenges that accelerated learning addresses:

  • Rapid intake of information, ideas, and processes
  • Thinking skills, memory, and evaluation

What is Accelerated Learning?

Accelerated Learning is a basket of tools, approaches, and theories of how human beings learn effectively and efficiently. Many have a solid grounding in science and research, with a strong empirical evidence base. Others far less so. In many ways, it reminds us of NLP, but with a stronger weighting towards evidence. Indeed, NLP has co-opted some of the same ideas.

Who Uses Accelerated Learning?

Accelerated Learning is valuable for three main groups of people:

  1. Traditional teachers in school or formal educational settings use it to design effective learning for their pupils and students
  2. Training and learning facilitators in the workplace, or offering vocational learning and development for adults, also use it to design effective learning for their learners
  3. Adult and student learners can use the principles to aid their own study, for self-directed learning and exam preparation

The Philosophy of Accelerated Learning

The idea behind accelerated learning is to speed the acquisition of knowledge. There is a lovely metaphor in ‘The Accelerated Learning Handbook’ (US|UK) by Dave Meier. I’m going to borrow and extend it. Meier likens children’s learning to an open bowl that receives everything you pour into it. Adults’ learning, he suggests, is more like a pinched vase. And our role in creating adult learning is to open that out again into a wide bowl.

I also like the distinction Carol Dweck draws between a fixed and a growth mindset. For me, these are like a closed and an open bottle. Dweck’s ideas are a valuable addition to the ideas pf accelerated learning.

Four Learning Types: Child, Adult, Fixed, and Accelerated Learning

The Principle of Accelerated Learning

The body of accelerated learning knowledge and ideas is so rich, that it’s hard to pull out a small number of core principles. But I think any practitioner would see these four as central:

  1. We learn best in a stimulating, permissive, and relaxed environment
  2. The more variety learners get, the better they learn
  3. Creating resources builds energy and is more effective than consuming content
  4. We have many senses, and the more you can engage, the better you will lean

How to Accelerate Your own Learning

So, let’s expand on those principles, and list some of the ways you can accelerate your own learning, whether in training, when reading, on the job, or in any context. This is a curated sample of the many ideas you can try.

  • Be very clear about the outcome you want, at the start of each learning session and at the very beginning of a learning process. Periodically take time to review how you are doing, and whether your goals have shifted.
  • Start each learning stage by skimming over the materials available to you and noting the main domains and areas of knowledge on offer.
  • Choose or modify your learning environment to suit your own preferences. Think about your preferences for:
    • stimulating surroundings
    • tidiness and order
    • quiet and music
    • fidget toys or distraction-free space
    • scent
    • quality of light
  • Engage as many of your senses as possible:
    • movement
    • touch
    • visual
    • auditory
    • reading
  • Look for opportunities to collaborate. We teach best what we most need to learn. So, seek chances to pass on your new knowledge, to test your understanding and cement your long-term memory.
  • Ensure you are properly hydrated, and choose the food and snacks you eat wisely
  • Good rest and frequent breaks make learning more effective. Sleep plays an important role in understanding complex ideas and consolidating memory.
  • Use memory aids to build recall. Things like:
    • mindmaps
    • pictures
    • diagrams
    • colour
    • acronyms
    • rhymes 
  • Take active notes and build reflection time into your learning process.

What is Your experience of Accelerated Learning?

We’d love to hear your experiences, ideas, and questions. Please leave them in the comments below.

To learn more…

The Learner’s Pocketbook is full of tips, tools, and accelerated learning techniques to help anyone involved in the learning process to get the most from it.

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