Discovering Accelerated Learning
How do we respond to another “new thing” which is promised to save the company money, give us back hours of time, and transform employees into productivity-driven machines? Is this even worth considering?
Apparently so, for companies like Travelers Insurance, Bell Atlantic, AGFA, a rather large U.S. semiconductor manufacturer, and a major North American retail chain. By utilizing Accelerated Learning (AL), all these firms — and many more — have noted marked improvements in learning speed, retention, and efficacy.
How is this possible?
AL takes a more holistic approach to learning, involving both the mind and the body. Its (apparently correct) contention is that learning is collaborative and not competitive. They point out that isolating learners in a competitive environment is actually detrimental to learning.
A Princeton study from 2014 concluded that “deliberate practice” (conventional learning consisting of structured activities designed to improve performance in a particular area) had a significant influence on skill acquired in the area of games, music, and sports (26%, 21%, and 18%, respectively). However, in education and professional skills it accounted for only 4% and 1% respectively.
In one case, Florida Community College implemented AL methodology to enhance computer learning, garnering a 400% improvement. For them it was as simple as pairing people, making them share a single computer, and then telling them that they were responsible for their partner’s success.
Travelers Insurance, on the other hand, did a side-by-side comparison with the same internal training course, and using conventional training methods, and AL methods. The results were nothing less than astonishing.
The Conventional training produced scores greater than 85% only 12% of the time; AL methods produced scores of 85% or better, 67% of the time. And if that weren’t enough, they produced these results in only 80% of the time required by conventional training.
Clearly the proponents of this new system had something significant to offer. An average working year is 2,000 hours before overtime, or any work you take home with you. Traditional learning techniques require 8,000 hours to master a skill. Looked at from another perspective, it would be the equivalent of four years of college, with no time for any other work.
To truly master a skill in the conventional work environment might take two decades. All the true experts (with a conventional education) have a touch of gray hair, in all likelihood.
Accelerated Learning to the Rescue
Years ago in high school chemistry class, more for expediency than anything else, they accidentally engaged in Accelerated Learning. Giving each student a tiny work area with a sink, natural gas outlet to supply a Bunsen burner, and enough space to set up a retort stand would have been impossible. A larger surface was provided for each pair of students, and they were co-dependent for their grade.
Despite the fact that chemistry grades were almost always significantly ahead of the bell curve for combined classes, school-wide, nobody seemed to catch on to this fact until now. Chemistry class was supportive, participatory, fun, and you listened to sounds and watched colors to judge reactions. You did the actual work, rather than watching a video, or listening to a lecture.
Instead of learning things by rote, AL incorporates images, music, creativity, and color, all blended with both mental and physical activity. This helps people to immerse themselves in their own learning experience.
Making it work for you
The requirements for this enhanced learning are rather straightforward and logical. First, you need to create a social environment without a bunch of isolated desks or chairs in straight rows. People can’t collaborate if they feel like they are in competition with each other.
Next, you need to engage your learners; you have to make them personally responsible for gaining knowledge. Starting off with a PowerPoint presentation to outline some objectives, and possible strategies for achieving them, is fine. Ultimately, however, they have to be divided into discrete work units of a few people who must work together to achieve the goal.
Maybe a couple of these groups will coalesce into a single larger group; a larger group might break up into smaller groups. There could even be individual migration between groups. It’s best if there aren’t too many “rules” that could limit cooperation or collaboration.
Whatever the learning is, it must be in a relatable and useful context. For example, if you were told that household voltage is 100v in Japan, 110v in the Virgin Islands, 120 in North America, 127 in Curaçao, 220 in China, 230 in Australia, 240 in Zimbabwe, both 110 and 220 in Cuba, 110 and 230 in Saint Vincent, 120 and 240 in Guyana, 127 and 220 in Brazil, and both 127 and 230 in Suriname, do you remember if Jamaica was mentioned without looking back? What voltage do they use in Curaçao?
Lacking a reason to store that information, it was dismissed from your mind. Even if you did recall it, it would be gone within 30 minutes unless you were given a reason to remember it.
Ars Gratia Artis
In the same way, a detailed 1,000-word description of an Ansel Adams landscape is far less useful or memorable than seeing the actual photograph. The human brain is not a book; it is much more like a photo album.
When we read, we visualize whatever is described; that is how literature transports us to another time and place, whether fictional or real. We smell odors that don’t exist; we see the sandy strand of the Azores; the azure sky over Gibraltar replaces the reality of the thunderstorm outside our window.
If textbooks were written as well as your typical bestseller, education would be easy. Unfortunately, they’re written in turgid, dull prose, making the contents highly inaccessible. Combining the other senses to compensate for the lack, adding extra dimensions such as practical tasks and experimentation, allows the learners to discover or create the information themselves.
“I want to be able to fix my own car” is a pretty large task, encompassing many complex systems, and it’s intimidating enough that most people would find it too overwhelming and give up. That is where chunking comes in.
- “I am going to learn how to change my motor oil”;
- “I am going to learn how to change a tire”;
- “I will learn how to replace a headlamp”.
The forgoing are all attainable goals, and by focusing on discrete objectives, they are simple to master.
Once you have learned the essential 20% of a subject or task, the rest becomes easy to acquire. To “learn Italian”, for example, would be intimidating, but to learn the 200 most commonly used words would be relatively easy, which is certainly enough for you to be able to make yourself understood. Beyond that, adding new words would be automatic, and you’d hardly notice that your skill was growing.
Accelerated Learning means moves away from the standard paradigm of traditional learning; it means embracing a new methodology that is 200, 300, or even 500% more effective. There are now organizations that offer companies training by this method, or simply train you in how to use this method.
However, with the information contained here, you could certainly revitalize your own training programs without even going outside your organization. If you want a ready-made system, and are willing to pay for it, there are plenty of businesses offering services. Whether you go it alone, or have someone manage it for you, this is one change that will give you a distinct advantage over your competitors.
It’s time to get this handled while there is still an advantage to be had. Put this of the top of your to-do list!
Stewart, Cooper & Coon, has helped thousands of decision makers and senior executives move up in their careers and achieve significantly improved financial packages within short time frames. Contact Fred Coon – 866-883-4200, Ext. 200