Rules of Accelerated Learning, #1: Focus on What is Alive

Buskerfest 2006 alive accelerated learning

image CC Osei Thompson

This is part of an ongoing series on the fundamental rules or “patterns” of accelerated learning. Each rule is very contextual; these are not silver bullets or cure-alls.

Rule #1: ALIVE

If you’re working to accelerate your learning (or teaching) as much as possible…

It’s difficult to learn skills or new competencies from reading books, verbal explanations, or standardized curricula.

  • Hypothetical skills are difficult to sort out and disentangle from value-based opinions (“you’re doing it wrong!”)
  • It’s easiest to understand a process when you can observe it or experience it for yourself.
  • Skilled practitioners, even if poor conventional teachers, communicate volumes simply through role-modeling.
  • Learners and learning styles vary widely; learners are easily overwhelmed or bored by a standardized curriculum.
  • The most engaged and successful learners are those experiencing a “flow” experience of full engagement in the moment.
  • Learning is strongest in playful, energized, heartfelt exchanges.
Therefore, always look for situations where you can observe or learn from skilled practitioners, and gauge your success by the degree of engagement of the participants. 
  • Prioritize real-life, in-person experiences: see, touch, hear, feel the skill being practiced.
  • If written or explanatory resources are the only ones available, prioritize researching accounts of the skill in practice, rather than explanations on how or why it works.
  • Abandon abstract value judgements of the rightness or wrongness of any particular expression of the skill, as long as it is being performed by a competent live practitioner. The more points of view, the more organic your understanding of how the skill is expressed by different people in different situations.
  • Observe closely the energy of learners; are they bored? Are they overwhelmed? How full of life are they?
  • Adjust the environment to create the fullest engagement amongst all participants, from moment to moment.
  • Make play central to the learning process.
If you focus on what is ALIVE, you’ll spend a lot of time pursuing and courting skilled practitioners and very little time speculating or puzzling through what it might be like to become skilled in your target area. There is a limit to how much time you can spend searching for a fluent expert. You may need to NARROW SCOPE according to START AT THE BEGINNING by choosing only to learn or teach skills according to what experts are available. You will also spend more time observing and responding to the level of learner engagement. This tighter feedback loop will demand more energy and participation from instructors and students, and require more breaks and rest.

6 thoughts on “Rules of Accelerated Learning, #1: Focus on What is Alive

  1. Nice! This was very useful to me. The connection between written learning and value judgments was a light bulb moment! If you’re actually DOING a thing, the abstract debate over whether it’s “right” or “wrong” or “proper” or “improper” becomes irrelevant! You can focus on what’s actually happening and how well it’s serving your needs.

  2. Pingback: Accelerated Story, Part 1: Alive « Story by the Throat!

  3. Pingback: Rules Are Made to Be Broken | The Language Hunters' Blog

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