Use the Accelerated Learning Cycle to increase your learning success.
All human beings naturally go through a cycle of learning every time they learn something new.
This is true whether it is a baby taking her first steps, a youngster learning to ride a bike, a college student tackling the mysteries of quantum physics, or a manager learning how to export his company's products to China.
There are different ways of conceiving of the learning cycle—some educators have proposed four phases, while others have proposed five—and the names can vary, too.
What doesn't vary is that learning slows down or stops completely if we skip one or more of these phases in the learning process.
As a self-learner, it is particularly important that you understand these phases. If you are in a formal classroom and your instructor fails to apply them, you will be able to evaluate why the learning process feels so strained, slow and difficult.
You will also know what to do to fix the process for yourself.
If you are teaching yourself a complex subject on your own, you will know how to apply the phases so that your learning becomes easier, faster and more enjoyable.
The Accelerated Learning Cycle presented here comes from the International Alliance for Leaning which is the premier professional organization for Accelerated Learning educators and corporate trainers.
The cycle consists of five phases:
The first phase in the Accelerated Learning Cycle is Learner Preparation.
When you enter a classroom or start to study something on your own, your mind is usually far from the task at hand. You may be thinking about the conversation you had last night with your spouse, about the essay you have to write for your psych class, or about the engineering problem that needs to be solved.
You may be tired from a lack of sleep, or resentful about the time this class is taking away from your regular work schedule.
Therefore, the first step in the Accelerated Learning Cycle is to bring your attention into the moment so you can focus on the learning ahead.
Learner Preparation Suggestions
To prepare yourself for learning, try sitting down, closing your eyes, and taking a few deep breaths. Consciously bring your thoughts into the moment and begin to focus on the task ahead.
Decide how much time you will allot for this learning task and then give yourself permission to put aside all of the other items on your to do list for that amount of time.
The second phase in the Accelerated Learning Cycle is Connection.
As an adult learner, you bring your entire past experience with you when you begin a new learning task. This means that your past experiences with learning—whether they were positive or painful—walk into the classroom with you.
Adult learners seek meaning in everything they do. If you are being forced to take this course, if it appears to have no relevance to you or your life, you will set up barriers to learning that will be almost impossible to overcome.
If your instructor fails to make you feel safe and welcome in the class...if he fails to show you the relevance of this class to your own life...if he fails to excite you about the learning ahead...you will need to take yourself through this phase.
Before entering the classroom, spend a few minutes writing down several specific questions or goals for the learning ahead. During the class, watch for the answers to your questions or the fulfillment of your learning goals and jot these down as they occur. (In other words, make up a little game for yourself.)
Brainstorm different ways in which this course might apply to your life, might increase your skills and knowledge (even if they don't seem to be immediately applicable).
Find ways to connect positively with the subject and your ability to learn. Remember how much you once enjoyed your eighth grade algebra class, how your passion for foreign countries led you to memorize the world atlas, how challenging learning to type was but how you now type on the computer every day without thinking about it.
Visualize yourself laughing with your classmates and instructor, making meaningful contributions to the class, and being successful in the learning task.
The third phase of the Accelerated Learning Cycle is Creative Presentation.
This is the phase of learning in which teachers present new material. Ideally, they present it in ways that are interesting, challenging and relevant to students' lives. They use many different methods that draw on multiple intelligences, learning styles, and the fives senses (smell, taste, sight, sound, touch).
And they encourage students to cooperate and communicate with each other, put together team projects, observe real-world phenomena, and solve real-life problems.
In a traditional classroom, you are dependent on the instructor to present the new material to you. If the instructor fails to do so in creative and interesting ways that fit your learning style, you will need to find ways to reinforce the knowledge for yourself.
For example, you could set up an experiment outside of class; mind map/synthesize the material using images instead of words; watch films on the subject; interview experts and write down a brief synopis of what they said; or exchange questions and answers with fellow classmates and put together your own mini presentations.
The fourth phase of the Accelerated Learning Cycle is Activation.
This is the practice phase, in which the instructor ideally helps learners integrate the new material in many different and creative ways. It is a time when the instructor encourages learners to experiment in a safe and supportive environment, make mistakes, get feedback, and build competence.
There are many different activities you can participate in that will help you build mastery.
For example, one great way to practice material is to create a game out of it. Try designing and playing board games, card games or jigsaw puzzles with your classmates using the new material.
You can also build a physical model of your learning out of clay, wood, or classroom materials. (Try laying it out on the floor so that you physically walk through the different elements of it.)
You could also turn your new knowledge into a mini play and act it out. For example, I once took an AL workshop on the brain in which the instructor had created a script based on The Wizard of Oz. Each student took on a role such as Dorothy, Toto or the Tin Woodsman—complete with a simple costume.
We then read the script while walking down the yellow brick road (which had been laid out on the floor), listening to music, and acting out our characters. The trick was that the script had to do with the parts of the brain. We not only laughed a lot, but we remembered the material, too!
The fifth and final phase in the Accelerated Learning Cycle is Integration.
This is where the learning truly takes hold and sticks. It is where the learning becomes an integral part of you.
During this phase, learners review everything they’ve learned, celebrate how far they’ve come, the answers they’ve found, the new questions they’ve discovered, and how they will use the learning “back home.”
In fact, many of the activities will ideally continue after the class is over. This might include peer support activities or on-going coaching.
To thoroughly integrate your new learning, you might want to research, write and publish a professional article about it. You could also summarize the gist of what you learned in a written memo to share with others.
One of the best ways to truly learn something is to teach it to someone else. This might involve creating and delivering a presentation to colleagues who were unable to attend the training or teaching the material one-on-one to someone else.