An Accelerated Learning Parable From The Real World

Here's a true story that will help you catch the spirit of A.L. It's presented here for those who want an instant grasp of some of the major ideas of accelerated learning. This appears in Dave Meier's McGraw-Hill book, The Accelerated Learning Handbook.

It was 9 a.m. on a sunny Friday morning in Albuquerque. And it was the third and final day of a three-day A.L. workshop for 26 trainers at a major US semiconductor manufacturer. The phone in the training room rang. It was an emergency call for David, one of the participants. David took the call, hastily hung up, and told us that he would have to leave the class for an hour and a half.

He explained that this was the final day of a one-week orientation program for new hires going on in another building on site. An hour-and-a-half presentation on safety was scheduled for that morning. The person who was to teach it had to cancel. So David, who had taught it, was being tapped and off he went.

Rushing to another location, it dawned on him that he didn't have his presentation materials and handouts. What was he to do? Then he recalled one of the principles of the A.L. workshop he was in, namely that learning is creation, not consumption. "That's it!", he thought. He immediately had his plan.

Walking into the training room, he found the learners in an advanced and nearly terminal comatose state, having sat all week long while one subject matter expert after the other inundated them with a glut of information.

To bring them back to life, David immediately asked them to stand up, count off in fours, and form four teams. Then he gave them their instructions. The teams were to fan out into the organization for 20 minuets to find as much as they could about safety in the organization. They were asked to encounter existing employees, explain their mission and ask them questions like, "What are the most important safety tips you can give us? What do we really have to watch out for when we're fabricating semiconductors in the plant? What's the worst thing that could happen to us in the factory?" He told them to get as much information as they could in 20 minutes and bring their findings back to share with the whole class. The teams then left in their quest for knowledge.

Twenty minutes later they were back - animated, excited, and definitely out of the comatose state. As each team reported their findings to the group, David had to do very little, other than to draw them out with a question now and then. To his amazement and delight, the learners were covering everything he would have covered, but in a far more effective way. And it didn't take an hour and a half. In just 50 minutes they had covered the material.

David got a big round of applause from the class. And they told him - now listen to this - that this was the best presentation they had had all week!

This true story illustrates beautifully some of the major principles of accelerated learning, namely:
  1. Total learner involvement enhances learning.
  2. Learning is not the passive storage of information but the active creation of knowledge.
  3. Collaboration among learners greatly enhances learning.
  4. ctivity-centered learning events are often superior to presentation-centered ones.
  5. Activity-centered learning events can be designed in a fraction of the time it takes to design presentation-centered ones.