September 15th, 2021

What is Accelerated Learning?

While traditional education is the standard across the county, there has always been a need — whether personal or professional — for some students to fast track their education. But with the lingering effects of the Covid pandemic, the importance of accelerated learning has been getting new attention. This is because accelerated learning can be a beneficial approach for helping students recover from significant learning loss.

As the name suggests, accelerated learning aims to quickly move through essential material and skills so students can achieve desired outcomes faster and more efficiently. According to the Center for Accelerating Learning, accelerated learning is a “total system for speeding and enhancing both the design process and the learning processes.”

Accelerated learning uses data and findings from neuroscience research to make the process of learning more efficient. The goal of accelerated learning is to make learning easier and longer lasting. There are many ways to approach accelerated learning, but the focus should always be on acquiring new knowledge and skills – not simply remediation. Teachers should concentrate on essential content and skills to move students forward rather than attempting to master unwieldy curriculums with unnecessary details and information.

Features of Accelerated Learning

Accelerated learning applies many principles about how students learn and puts them at the forefront of lesson design and implementation. For example, students respond better to a variety of teaching methods, when they are engaged, when they can make connections to what they already know, and when they are comfortable.

Additionally, the Schools, Students, and Teachers Network in London stresses the importance of accessing information through all our senses, making learning experiences original and unique. They also note the importance of regularly reflecting and reviewing what students have learned.  

One of the guiding principles of accelerated learning is that learning is not simply meant to be absorbed. It should be created. The Peak Performance Center writes, “Since the brain is not a sequential processor, but rather a parallel processor, it thrives when it becomes fully engaged doing many things at once. Thus, the natural learning process is not a matter of absorbing one thing at a time in a linear fashion, but rather absorbing many things at once.” In this way, accelerated learning requires a more holistic approach to teaching and learning.

Accelerated learning should be active. Teachers should seek activities to immerse students in a topic as opposed to presenting information that they passively receive. This means including more activities and less lectures, so students have the opportunity to make their own meaning from the content. This approach will not only improve understanding but also improve the retention of material and skills. Students should also be given frequent feedback to grow and process their learning.

Benefits of Accelerated Learning

The primary benefit of accelerated learning is that it helps students learn more quickly by being more efficient. This can have a profound impact on student outcomes, as well as the entire structure of traditional education, including hours spent in the classroom and the make-up of a school’s faculty and administrators. The experts at Digital Class Educational Marketplace estimate that “accelerated learning can reduce the time used in the classroom by 50 percent due to a multidimensional approach.”

Students engaged in accelerated learning techniques will have a more enjoyable and memorable learning experience, and thus remember more of the content and skills presented. Accelerated learning techniques naturally create more personalized learning since it requires students to make connections and create their own understandings..

Tips for Implementing Accelerated Learning Strategies

Accelerated learning is not intended to provide remediation. It’s meant to build on previous skills, so students are prepared for new learning. As the Michigan Department of Education explains, “accelerated learning focuses on preparing students for success with upcoming new learning and lays the foundation for continued academic growth. Remediation… delays opportunities to learn new content until students have mastered all missing skills and concepts…”

Accelerated learning requires high expectations for all students. It’s not meant to cram in fact after fact or research every nuance of a subject. Instead, learners are encouraged to concentrate only on essential skills and content for each unit. It aligns classroom support with grade-level classroom instruction by employing a variety of techniques.

Each of the following are great ways to implement accelerated learning.

Create a positive learning environment.

Accelerated learning requires first and foremost, a positive learning environment. From day one, teachers should help students to feel welcome, safe, and important. Any disruptive behavior or criticism (of others or oneself) should not be tolerated.

Students should also regularly be encouraged to participate in small and large group discussions and activities to nurture community and positivity.

Break down content into manageable “chunks.”

Learning just a few skills or new ideas is easier than being presented with many new skills and ideas. By breaking content into more manageable chunks of information, students can more quickly grasp the concepts and move on.

It’s easier to set goals in this way and keep track of student progress with more frequent checkpoints. Furthermore, teachers can provide scaffolding supports before students get too lost or confused.

Create opportunities for active learner involvement.

To foster a more engaging and active learning environment, teachers can use a number of multi-sensory techniques including:

  • Debating
  • Role-Playing
  • Field Trips
  • Mind Mapping
  • Group Discussions
  • Games
  • Problem Solving Activities

Give students something to do beyond just sitting, listening, or reading.

Create opportunities for real world application of skills and content.

Applying the skills and content students have learned is one of the most powerful ways to measure their mastery over such information. According to 321Insight, “research tells us that in order to generalize new skills from a teaching situation to real life, students have to have meaningful and real life opportunities to use those skills.” This is an important aspect of ensuring the success of accelerated learning.

Conclusions about Accelerated Learning

Accelerated learning is a promising approach for responding to the losses many students experienced as a result of the Covid pandemic. It can help minimize inequities between school districts, as well as among students in a classroom. Unlike remedial work, this approach to learning is intended to help all students equally and hold them each to high, grade-level standards.

Accelerating learning can help improve student outcomes more quickly and more efficiently than traditional approaches to learning and should be considered by any school district interested in being a force of change.