The Accelerated Learning Style: Is It for You?

The Accelerated Learning Style: Is it Right for You?

by Tony L. Bell

With the ever-increasing advancements in information and technology, continuing education has never been more important. With these advancements, concepts in learning styles are also evolving, including the Accelerated Learning Style (ALS), a relatively new concept in education based on the work of Dr. Georgi Lozanov (a professor of psychiatry and psychotherapy) in the 1970s.

Accelerated learning is a combination of principles and techniques that allow learners to use their brains more efficiently. Potential students often misunderstand the concepts and requirements of an ALS program. The attraction of completing a bachelors or masters degree in as little as fifteen months is very alluring. Often overlooked, however, is that the volume of information covered in the ALS program is no less and often more than traditional programs. And the pace at which the information must be absorbed is very fast and not viable for everyone. Strong skills in reading comprehension, critical thinking, and articulating your thoughts in oral speech and in academic papers are necessary for success. Traditionally, academic subjects are taught through lectures and logically formatted textbooks and courses, using rigid multiple choice, true or false, and short essay testing to evaluate the learning outcomes. The subject matter is normally delivered in small blocks and taken one step at a time.

You independently attend the lectures, study the textbooks, and take the exams.

In contrast, ALS subject matter normally covers large blocks of information in great detail. The ALS places the responsibility of learning squarely on you, the student. After learning objectives and research materials are presented, you must prepare to participate in classroom discussions and demonstrations using the knowledge gained from the research materials and past personal experiences. The ALS actively involves you, using open classroom dialogue. All classmates bring differing perspectives and insights to the discussions and are expected to participate, creating a dynamic forum for learning. Failure to prepare quickly becomes apparent to everyone. Often classes are divided into small groups and each is given a unique project concerning the main subject and a deadline. As a team they must prepare and deliver a thorough presentation of their project to the entire class. As a team member you must complete your part of the project.

Learning outcomes are evaluated by class participation and synthesis papers, in-depth papers written about the subjects that answer the questions:

  • What have I learned?
  • How have I learned it?
  • What difference does it make to me?
  • How have or will I use what I have learned?

This technique demands a thorough understanding of the subject and concise recollection; it demonstrates critical thinking and competence in your ability to articulate thoughts and understandings to others. Research has revealed that three personality characteristics are essential to success in the ALS environment: motivation, determination, and responsibility. You as an ALS student must have a level of motivation that will sustain the desire to complete the program, the self-discipline necessary to complete the requirements, and a determination to deal with all of life’s distractions and stresses that invariably develop. You must be responsible.

The ALS is geared toward the working professional, and most ALS students are adults with families and jobs that make demands on their time. They must uphold those responsibilities as well as their commitment to the large quantities of reading and writing required. Class usually meets one night a week and sometimes on the weekends. The ALS requires a substantial adjustment to your lifestyle, learning style, and time management priorities. A higher priority must be given to studies and preparation than recreation and social activities. It is a fast paced and highly stressful learning style, not suited for the learner who is more comfortable in the less stressful, slower paced traditional learning atmosphere.

The ALS employs a variety of learning tools, including experimentation and application through roll-playing, demonstrations and presentations that reinforce concepts. As an ALS student, you are expected to voice ideas and thoughts and justify them with supportive reasoning. “The program is definitely fast paced, you hit the ground running from the first day,” says ASL student Linda Rupp. “I had to restructure my entire living schedule including the little things like grocery shopping. Trying to fit it in between my work schedule, home chores, class work, and sleep took some doing. At first the accelerated pace seem overwhelming and confusing, a ton of information coming at you fast and furious; however, after awhile you begin to realize how the system work s and everything just falls into place. The stress factor levels out and you become more comfortable.” This student successfully readjusted priorities and established a workable system that allowed her level of stress to subside. Although most students adapt, some do not.

In his book First things First, Steven Covey points out that one of the top stress producers is urgency addiction: doing what we think needs to be done – right now. However, what we must do to overcome this addiction and lower our stress is re-evaluate our values according to our principles and prioritize our time using the resultant values. If you are a motivated person who is responsible, has the determination to endure the heightened stress, and are willing to do what it takes to achieve your objectives, then an accelerated learning style program may be right for you.

Learn Your Preferred Learning Style

Everyone is different. These differences have an effect on how we learn. Some prefer active concrete hands-on learning while others prefer a more reflective contemplative approach.

According to Thomas O’Conner in Learning Styles in Higher Education, those who do best with this style of learning tend to be students who learn best when they can address knowledge in ways that they trust. If their orientation to the world draws theory from concrete experience, then they will learn best through doing rather than reflecting. If their personal style is oriented around abstraction, then their best learning will be abstract. In fact, an individual may not ultimately confirm knowledge until they have handled it in modalities they strongly trust.

All students should evaluate his or her preferred learning style and the learning program’s teaching methods for the best match, to achieve the best learning outcome. Tools such as the Introduction to Type by Isabel Briggs Myers and The Kolb Learning Style Inventory by David A. Kolb are excellent for self-evaluation. The better the match between students preferred learning style and the learning program’s methods, the more beneficial the outcome will be: the best bang for the buck, so to speak.