Accelerated Learning that sticks

Accelerated Learning—Learning That Sticks and Impact by Design

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Accelerated learning (AL) is not about using music in training, having posters in the room, or playing games—even though you may find those things in any given program designed using AL principles. Accelerated learning is a systemic, integrated methodology that supports instructional designers, facilitators, trainers, and organizational development (OD) practitioners in creating processes and programs that have impact on their learners and on the systems in which they work and live.

AL is more than just a methodology for designing a learning event, it is a way to integrate the learning into the organization before, during, and after any formal training program. It has been used effectively around the world in corporations, schools, universities, and not-for-profit organizations to build capacity, shift mindset, and enable needed change.

There are many reasons to support the effectiveness of employing the AL methodology:

Participants master content and processes quickly and easily.Particpants retain the knowledge and skills longer and understand the concepts and ideas more deeply.Participants are able to apply the learning in their lives as well as at work.More important, what makes AL so effective is that it is transformative. Participants overcome limits in their thinking, expand their possibilities, and tap into their potential. They become more curious, reflective, and capable as lifelong learners.

This learner mindset means that the benefits of learning in this type of environment is sustained long after the formal learning program or change initiative is over. With AL, learning development happens on three levels:


-knowledge and skills
-stakeholder engagement
-cognitive belief systems.

Key factors for developing AL


-The focus is on the learner and desired outcomes. The facilitator creates a learning environment that provides flexibility, engages the learner at many levels, is safe and stimulating, and always focused on the benefit to the learner and the organization.
-The facilitator uses diverse types of learning activities to make it easier for the participants to master the content or process, develop ideas for a problem, create a new product or service, or build the skills needed to succeed in the real world outside of the learning program.
-The process focuses on the whole person—mind, body, and emotions. It supports rational, contemplative, and sensory "knowing."
-Participants are fully engaged in the process. They interact with the materials and with one another in ways that build community and foster collaboration.
-The learning process begins before a learning event and continues on-the-job or in the learners' lives. The designer, facilitator, or OD professional engages with stakeholders, creates effective pre-work and post-event activities, supports, and creates further opportunity for reflection, learning, and focused conversation.
-The program takes into consideration the environment in which people live, work, and think, and supports them in creating the optimal conditions for success in the systems in which they will apply what they have learned.

Moving forward

The exact design of an AL program will depend on the content, the target group, the desired outcomes, and both the limiting and enabling factors present in participants' minds, organizations, or world. There are key success factors or pillars found in all types of learning programs whether they are online, face-to-face, or on the job.

In part two of this blog series, we will discuss the seven pillars and how they can be applied in the design and facilitation of training programs, change management processes, corporate retreats, strategy sessions, and meetings.

About the Author

Gail Heidenhain, president of Delphin and board chair of the International Association for Accelerated Learning Practitioners (IAALP), the professional organization for accelerated learning, has been consulting with organizations around the world to design and implement strategies that enhance and accelerate the learning process. Her focus has been on the people side of the business—developing effective global leaders, high performing teams, and the intercultural competency and personal effectiveness to help companies thrive in the global marketplace. Gail has also trained and certified over two thousand facilitators in accelerated learning globally since 1985. She co-developed the highly successful accelerated learning design technology employed throughout much of Europe to design and facilitate learning in a variety of contexts and organizations. She spearheaded the DGSL (German Society of Accelerated Learning) three tier certification program that was implemented in 1991. She was the expert adviser in the development of a research project to test the effectiveness of accelerated learning at the University of Munich in 1992 that was sponsored by Siemens. Building on the success in Germany, Gail initiated the creation of standards in AL certification and accreditation in the U.S. She has served on the boards of the North American Simulation and Gaming Association (NASAGA) and the Organizational Change Alliance (OCA) as well as on the conference committees of ASTD and the National Staff Development Council (NSDC).

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