speed learningSpeed learning has become an increasingly popular concept in recent years. We live in a fast-paced society, where thanks to technology, knowledge is readily available on a number of media platforms. There is also a greater emphasis placed today on the importance of higher education, and intelligence in general.

Technology provides a plethora of easily accessible knowledge and information, and speed learning has increased in popularity due to the demand for our processing to catch up to the amount of information to which we have access. This guide will teach you more about speed learning, and how to positively incorporate it into your academic or professional life.

How Do We Learn?

Learning is defined as the process by which people acquire new skills, knowledge, information, or behaviors, as well as the process by which those aspects are reinforced in our minds. Neuropsychology is the study of how the brain works, how we learn, and how we behave as a result of the information our brains take in. There are several different methods by which we process information, and a result there are many different types of learning. Most of these learning distinctions are described in terms of the variety of relationships that humans have with educational stimuli.

Learning is first broken down into two categories: associative and non-associative learning. Associative learning involves the process of learning an association between two stimuli or behaviors. In a simple sense, associative learning occurs when a child learns the relationship between cleaning up his or her toys and being rewarded, whether it be a physical reward or simply appreciation and encouragement from parents.  Non-associative learning involves being exposed to a stimulus enough times that your brain experiences a nearly permanent change in its response to that stimulus. Examples of non-associative learning are often seen in animals. If a sea slug is poked by a human hand or object, it will curl inwards, but if it is poked repeatedly, the reaction to the stimulus changes until it hardly reacts to the stimuli at all.

Non-associative learning is split into two forms: habituation and sensitization. Habituation refers to becoming used to a stimulus over time, causing your reaction to weaken, as with the sea slugs. Sensitization refers to an increase in response due to repeated exposure to a stimulus.

Associative learning, on the other hand, is divided into many more categories, including rote learning, meaningful learning, informal learning, and formal learning. Rote learning refers to the process of memorizing information so that it can be recalled at a later time, and recreated as perfectly as possible to the way it was learned. Meaningful learning refers to developing knowledge of something to the extent that it is understood nearly perfectly, especially in relation to other knowledge. This differs from rote learning because the emphasis is on the understanding of, rather than the ability to retain, specific information. Informal learning refers to learning through experience, and the information you gather as you go about your daily life. And formal learning refers to traditional education in a school environment, complete with student-teacher dynamics and relationships. Formal learning is unique in that there are goals, time frames, and specific objectives laid out by a third party, to which the learner is subject. Speed learning is most often discussed in relation to formal learning and rote learning.

Speed Learning

The goal of speed learning is to increase the rate at which we learn without sacrificing the nature of what we’re learning or how well we’re learning it. With speed learning, the emphasis on comprehension of material is equally as strong as the emphasis on the speed with which the material is learned. There are a number of methods associated with speed learning. Some schools of neurological thought maintain that humans have a common maximum speed at which we can learn and process new information, but proponents of speed learning argue that with enough practice, our rate of learning can increase to an impressive degree.

The methods that must be modified to achieve speed learning include reading, observation, listening, questioning, and reflection. Increasing the speed at which we complete these tasks creates a more efficient path to the common goals of learning and education.

Speed Reading

If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of speed learning in general, it’s likely that you’ve still heard of speed learning’s most popular component: speed reading. The aim of speed reading is to increase the speed with which we encounter, interpret, and retain written information, and speed reading is a popular class offered all around the world today. There even exists a world speed reading championship. The current world champion is named Anna Jones; she reads 4,700 words per minute, and can prove that she comprehends about two thirds of the information she reads at that speed. Speed reading methods include avoiding sub-vocalization, skimming, and meta-guiding.

Sub-vocalization is the process of hearing everything your read in your mind. Since children are taught to read by sounding out the noises indicated by individual letters, we tend to recognize words as strings of letters rather than as entities themselves. Speed reading technology often encourages readers to recognize words as a whole, incorporating only the first and last few letters of word, rather than as a sequence consisting of each letter that the word contains. Children are also encouraged to practice and learn reading by reading aloud, and this method morphs into mentally vocalizing what we’re reading as adults. The process of sub-vocalization seems like a no brainer due to the way we’re taught to read, but it actually wastes a lot of time and slows down reading speed, according to speed reading advocates. Though the research is not definitive that sub-vocalization is harmful to reading speed, you can improve your reading speed, even slightly, by trying to lessen the degree to which you sound out letters and words in your mind.

The practice of skimming should be familiar to anybody who has ever struggled through a long reading assignment for an academic class. To skim a page is to search for visual clues about the important information contained on the page, and the context in which it’s contained. Though skimming is a method of speed reading, it is not technically considered a method of speed learning. Speed learning involves learning at a higher speed without compromising the quality of the learning, but skimming is a practice that leads to lower comprehension rates, since it involves not reading a significant amount of the written material attempting to be learned.

Meta guiding involves visually guiding your eye across the lines of a page as you read them. Many people use meta guiding when they read by letting their pointer finger or pen underline each word as it is read. Meta guiding can easily lead to skimming, so in order for meta guiding to qualify as speed reading, the reader must be sure to read and comprehend each word.

Other Speed Learning Techniques

Achieving proficiency in speed reading will lead to an increased learning speed overall, since processing written information is necessarily in all forms of both rote and formal learning. Two other speed learning techniques that do not necessarily involve speed reading are the story method and the practice of recreation.

The story method is the practice of interpreting new information that you need to learn in terms of human relationships, something with which all learners are familiar. The idea behind this method is that a learning roadblock will be avoided by turning complicated information into something that is very much uncomplicated, because we have an inherent understanding of human relationships. A perfect example of this method is the effort of committing to memory the way a chemical reaction works. If two atoms or molecules bond together in a particular reaction, some speed learning proponents say that you will be able to more quickly comprehend, and better retain, that information by thinking of the bond as a human relationship, like a marriage.

Recreation in terms of speed learning refers to trying to recreate the information that you take in by pausing in your studying every ten or twenty minutes. This is particularly useful when studying for a test in which you’ll need to have memorized a great deal of material. Each time you stop reading or studying, sit down and try to write out as much of what you just learned as possible, with the greatest possible accuracy. Repeating this practice over time will not only improve your memory, but will enable you to retain more and more information on the first read-through of learning material.

Speed Learning Benefits

A combination of speed reading, applying human relationships to learned material, and honing in on your ability to retain as much information as possible with the recreation method, will increase the speed with which you learn, while maintaining, and perhaps even improving, the quality of your learning. You will improve your cognitive skills, save yourself precious time, excel in terms of your academic and professional goals, and speed your own life up in order to keep up with our fast-paced world, where technological advances have made intelligence an ever-increasing and ever-present commodity. Practicing speed learning techniques will benefit your mind, and save you precious time in the modern world.

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