Learning styles: the power of accelerated learning

learning styles accelerated learning John Brant life coach la Crisalida Retreats

In the early 1980s there were no mobile phones, the internet didn’t exist and basic computers were a luxury item. Advances in technology over the last thirty years have given humanity new ways to learn, grow and evolve. These advances have compelled all of us to keep learning and evolving if only to keep up! Learning is essential for your growth and development and those that can learn fast and effectively are at an advantage.

At school, there were some teachers where I found it easy to learn from and others where I didn’t. Partly this was my interest and ability in the subject, but even if the subject was the same, some teachers made a subject interesting, whereas others couldn’t keep my attention for long. Now, having knowledge of accelerated learning techniques, it turns out that those who couldn’t keep my attention often weren’t matching my preferred learning style.

I have spent a long time exploring and researching how people unlock their learning potential and help them to pursue their own inspired path in life. In this introductory article, I describe a few accelerated learning techniques that you can use to enhance the efficiency of your learning and unlock your potential.

Learner centred v Teacher centred approaches to learning

In the past, when a child was unable to concentrate at school, the responsibility was usually placed on the child, and some were considered to “lack discipline” or were “learning disabled”. This reflected a teacher centred approach to studying where children were also tested purely on their ability to retain information written in books and taught in the classroom.  However, there is now an increasing recognition that to get the best academic results, a “one-size-fits-all”, teacher centred, approach doesn’t always work and there is a responsibility on the teacher to understand and embrace different learning styles amongst the children they are teaching. In schools and now more widely, there is slow but discernible move from teacher centred to learner centred approaches to learning.

Learning styles

Have you ever come across a teacher who you have no idea what they are talking about?  It can be tempting to think that there are “good” or “bad” teachers and a “right” or “wrong” way to teach. However, it is likely that there was a mismatch between the learning style of the teacher and yourself.

People sort and process things in their mind differently and it is this which helps us define our most efficient learning style. For example, a basic model is that some people prefer information in “visual” form, others in “auditory” form and there are also some people who prefer to “feel” the information.  Also, some people are abstract thinkers (learning through abstract models) and others practical learners who prefer to learn by doing. 

When we design the workshops at La Crisalida we consider how to deliver information in a way that is most efficiently absorbed by the highest number of people. Our intention is to reach all the preferred learning styles of as many workshop participants as possible.

Hindsight versus foresight

When we are young, we first need to master our ability to learn using hindsight. We keep hold of things that work and let go of things that don’t. Foresight is a completely different approach where we see (plan) ahead to solve problems.

Animals learn by hindsight, but adult humans also have a highly developed area of the brain called the executive centre. This part can be used to plan and solve complex problems. It comes online when we can balance our emotions and remain calm. The executive centre is the part of the brain that helps us to create an inspiring vision for ourselves. This part of the brain also helps provide us with meaning and fulfilment in our lives.

We encourage and teach the concept of balance at the retreat, so that our guests can reconnect with themselves and start to engage the executive centre. This way we can learn to value ourselves and what makes us truly fulfilled.

Neuro-Linguistic-Programming (NLP) representational systems and meta-programmes

I have used and studied the field of NLP for more than fifteen years. NLP provides the best toolkit I have found for understanding the patterns of the mind. Studying NLP can help anyone excel in communication, leadership and achievement. 

A preferred representational system refers to the preferences for how experiences are processed and stored in a person’s mind. The basic “visual”, “auditory” or “kinaesthetic (feeling)” already described, forms the basic structure of representational systems together with something called “auditory digital” which describes someone whose preferred representation is their own inner dialogue. If you tend to like to see lots of pictures, charts and diagrams to help you learn and don’t enjoy listening to a teacher talk at you it’s likely that your preferred representational system is more visually based. Alternatively, if you like studying whilst listening to music, and can learn quickly listening to tapes, it’s likely that your preferred representational system is more auditory based.

Meta-programmes” involve further distinctions about how we prefer information. For example, do we prefer to see the big picture first, and then slowly move down to the details or would we rather be given all the details to enable us to piece things together. Some people filter based upon information on the people first, others filter based upon things and the third main group is people who filter based upon places. 

Another meta-programme in NLP relates to the “chunking” of information. Personally, I struggle to listen if someone communicates by giving me lots of small “chunks” of information before giving me the big “chunk” of information relating why they are giving me the information in the first place! Whereas I know others prefer all the small chunks of information first to make their own minds up about how to apply it. Being aware that not everyone “chunks” information in the same way helps to avoid misunderstandings or lack of engagement with others when we learn and/or communicate.

Other accelerated learning principles

Most people learn best by putting what they have learned into practise. Studies have shown that applying your knowledge is the best way of retaining and recalling it. If you are looking to accelerate your learning in any area, I suggest you take the “do, learn” approach. This means alternate your academic learning with practical application. When you have applied some theory to something more practical, you are likely to come up with more powerful questions and be able to recall information better.

There is a big difference between “experiential” learning (meaning experiencing it yourself) and “intellectual” learning (being told about it). At the retreat we encourage guests to become mindful and listen to their bodies and so highlighting an experiential type of learning. What we discover is that our body is communicating to us what it needs – if we able to stop and listen to it.

Stories or metaphors are a great way to learn and can bring “dry” information to life. It’s amazing how much we can learn by reading novels. Disney excel at creating cleverly crafted stories that engage us and provide some interesting learning opportunities.

To accelerate your learning, I would also suggest adopting the 4MAT approach.  The 4MAT model covers four phases to learning anything:

  • the first phase is the “why?” phase, where we clarify the purpose of our learning,
  • the second phase is the “what?” phase, where we consider what information is relevant,
  • the third phase is the “how?” phase, which focusses on how things work or fit together,
  • the final fourth phase is the “what if?” phase where we consider the practical scenarios which might emerge where this information is useful.

When we are learning it can be useful to know which of these four ways of approaching our learning we have a preference for. Personally, I need to know “why” something is relevant and worth learning before I can engage fully. Others have a thirst for one of the other three parts. My least preferred part of 4MAT is the “what if?” and in my workshops I have to consciously try to keep those who want to explore how to apply the information happy and engaged. 

The final accelerated learning technique in this article is “speed reading”.  When we are reading, most of us hear the words internally as though we are reading the words to ourselves. Speed reading involves awakening the visual reader within us (and so moving our reading speed from the “speed of sound” to the “speed of light”!). Studies show that using a visual guide to our reading (like using a finger to help guide us where we are on the page) helps to accelerate our ability to read faster using our visual faculty and absorb more information. Using a visual guide is the key to speed reading. With practice we can use a visual guide to help us visually absorb the information contained in a written book, using the unconscious mind. There are plenty of speed-reading courses available but having experienced a few, all it really takes is practice and a willingness to trust your unconscious mind (so that you can recall the information it when you need it!).

Taking your learning to the next level

If you love to learn, why not explore accelerated learning techniques further by booking a training or mentoring session with me online. I offer a package of sessions and can help you to identify your preferred learning style.  I will introduce you to other more advanced learning and recall techniques such as memory association.

For more information about other coaching and mentoring packages you can check out our webpage: life coaching.  

You can also come and explore your own approaches to learning in our life makeover workshops here at the retreat

About the author

John is one of the founders of La Crisalida Retreats. He is a life and success coach, Transformational Coach and a master trainer in NLP. He leads our life makeover programme as well as overseeing the retreats.