Illustrated by Sutthiya Lertyongphati
Accelerated Learning refers to a series of simple techniques that any teacher can incorporate into any lesson to ensure that a maximum amount of learning takes place. It works on the premise that time spent in class must be efficiently used, implying that sound lesson planning forms the foundational framework.
Let’s take a look at five simple, but highly effective techniques you can use to accelerate learning.
Technique Number 1: Practice and Application
A lecture or talk is usually not enough to make content stick. Students need to know how to use it in order to understand it.
In short, this means that students need to complete lots of questions or tasks on the content and, crucially, receive feedback on their work.
Most school textbooks have cottoned-on to this by providing lots of questions within the pages themselves. However, you should look into extra ways to supplement these in-text questions with workbooks, past-paper questions, worksheets, puzzles, and games. On top of creating and keeping my own resources, I personally source extra materials from the following places:
- Workbooks: Letts, CGP, and Barron’s provide amazing workbooks which goalongside many American and British school courses.
- Past paper questions: Your exam board will be able to provide these for you. At the moment I’m teaching CIE courses and past papers are available on their teacher-support site. I often group these past-paper questions by topic, and many courses like the IBDP even provide easy-to-use question banks.
- Worksheets, puzzles, and games: The TES and UKEdChat are great places to go for these. You can even sell some resources you’ve made on TES too. For games, I like to use my personal choice of seven, which are very effective.
Technique Number 2: Break Content Down into Achievable Goals
It was the famous Anthony Robbins himself who said that “If it’s believable, it’s achievable”. Students need to know where they are going, and how they are going to get there. Break down their progression into a series of simple, believable stages, or targets, that they must achieve.
Use level ladders, progression charts, and even your own tailor-made tables. These can be stuck into student notebooks so that they constantly have a reference guide. Also, use student self-assessment checklists regularly so they can assess their own progress. An teacher example is given below. You would probably adjust this for students to make it more encouraging:
Technique Number 3: Use the 80:20 Principle
Have you ever heard of the Pareto principle? It’s a golden rule that says that 80% of your results will come from 20% of your work. It’s used widely in business (80% of sales, for example, coming from 20% of marketing campaigns).
The Pareto principle can be applied to anything.
In English, 20% of words make up 80% of written scripts. In music, 20% of chord progressions make up 80% of all pop songs. Accelerated learning requires that you focus on the vital 20% and avoid wasting time on the less vital 80% of the task.
Try breaking your subject down into the vital 20% of skills and knowledge students will need, and practice these regularly. To do that, you’ll need to know what the 20% is, to begin with. You’ll need to scour through your syllabuses and Course Guides, use your own knowledge and experience, and experimentation.
Apply the Pareto principle to all of your teachings, from foreign language vocabulary to cookery, and your students will learn faster than ever.
Technique Number 4: Block Out Distractions
I once gave a stern lecture to the entire final year cohort of a previous school. I had noticed that many of the students were getting distracted by the internet, chat, apps, gaming and smartphones. Some parents were complaining that their children were not getting enough sleep because they were staying up too late chatting through Skype with their friends.
It’s really important to educate students on the dangers of distractions. Technology can be a transformational tool in the learning process, but it can also be a dramatic procrastination tool. Watch your students closely when they are using technology in the classroom, and constantly create an atmosphere of urgency – that things must be done quickly and on-time.
Technique Number 5: Teach Students How to Revise
Too often we assume that students already know how to revise properly for exams, and many receive no formal education on the process of learning itself.
This is cause for regret.
Hold special study skills classes with your students as the terminal exams approach, perhaps through some kind of school mentoring program. Teach your students about mind-mapping, cue-cards, recording audio notes and other revision techniques. This Guardian article offers a great place to start.