How to be smarter with the same brain

Early intensive education can increase a child's IQ by 30 points, say proponents of accelerated learning. Maureen O'Connor reports

We've all seen the adverts. Improve your IQ, learn a language in double-quick time - it's a simple as ABC. But can you really become smarter or learn more quickly with the same brain? And if you can, why don't schools employ the same techniques?

The fact is that more and more schools are using accelerated learning approaches because the techniques can dramatically improve learning capability, based as they are on neurological and psychological research into how the brain works, how it acquires new knowledge, understanding and skills and how it recalls what it has learned.

Accelerated learning draws together the work of psychologists and educationists around the world, most of whom start from the frightening conviction that almost all children in school, from the brightest to those with learning difficulties, seriously underperform.

American research suggests that early intensive education can improve IQ scores by up to 30 points.

Accelerated learning does not mean fast-tracking very bright pupils. It is an approach to learning that quickens the pace and absorption of learning for all abilities. Accelerated learning methods are not difficult or expensive and can be used in any classroom.

Alastair Smith, an education adviser in Avon and an enthusiast for the accelerated approach, published a book about accelerated learning yesterday. He says: "This is all about raising pupil motivation and making use of what is now understood about learning and memory. It has to start with self-esteem and self-belief to prevent children from simply switching off. Under stress we know that the brain simply downloads and nothing can be learnt at all."

The human brain is segmented. There is a section concerned with survival, which can override everything else if it is stimulated, and another concerned with emotion. If you panic, or are under stress, you do not have any capacity to learn at the same time. So accelerated learning techniques put a lot of emphasis on creating a pleasant, non-threatening environment for students.

Another part of the brain deals with long-term memory. If learning is to last longer than the next test or exam, it has to be transferred to the long-term memory. Visual and musical clues can help. Many people find it easier to recall a song or a poem, a picture or a diagram than a chunk of prose.

Another two segments of the brain, commonly known as the left-hand and the right-hand brain, deal with the mechanics of learning. The left deals with language, mathematics, logic and linearity, and it tends to learn bottom up. In other words, if it were learning about the human body in biology it would prefer to start with the constituent parts, like the lungs and the liver, and build up to the whole organism.

Meanwhile the right-hand brain deals with spatial concepts, music, images, imagination. It prefers to learn by moving from the overview to the constituent parts.

Professor Howard Gardner, of Harvard University, is convinced that traditional concepts of "intelligence" as measured by IQ tests are far too narrow. He defines seven human "intelligences" - the linguistic, the mathematical and logical, the visual and spatial, the musical, the interpersonal and intrapersonal (the latter concerned with self-awareness), and the kinesthetic (concerned with touch and action).

As children get older, they are expected to concentrate more and more on the first two intelligences, neglecting the rest. Boys in particular have little opportunity to develop their self-reflective side. But Gardner argues that each intelligence is modifiable and can be expanded, and that success in one area tends to strengthen the others.

According to Gardner, there are three ways of learning - the visual, the auditory and the kinesthetic - and you achieve your maximum potential by using all three. Sesame Street, the television programme for pre-schoolers, used a brilliant mix of the visual and the auditory in cartoons and sketches, to teach basic language and number.

Traditionally, particularly in secondary schools, the emphasis has been on listening, reading and making notes. But in an average class, many children will be seriously disadvantaged if their preferred visual and kinesthetic approach is ignored.

There is a tendency in the UK to distrust educational theory, particularly when it touches on the suspect territory of "improve your memory" commerce. But accelerated learning projects have been tried out extensively in the United States, New Zealand and some European countries. Accelerated methods for learning languages have been particularly successful and are widely used in industry and in universities. Increasingly schools in the UK are finding that they, too, can learn from the accelerated approach.

'Accelerated Learning in the Classroom', by Alastair Smith, was published on 1 May by Network Educational Press, price pounds 15.95.

Sport
Brazilian fans watch the match for third place between Brazil and Netherlands
world cup 2014Brazil 0 Netherlands 3: Dutch pile on the misery in third place playoff
Sport
Robin van Persie hands his third-place medal to a supporter
Van Persie gives bronze medal to eccentric fan moments after being handed it by Blatter
News
Ian Thorpe had Rio 2016 in his sights
people
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
scienceScientists have developed a material so dark you can't see it...
News
Monkey business: Serkis is the king of the non-human character performance
peopleFirst Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Arts and Entertainment
Blackman: Landscape of children’s literature does not reflect the cultural diversity of young people
booksMalorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Voices
Mrs Brown's Boy: D'Movie has been a huge commercial success
voicesWhen it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Curtain calls: Madani Younis
theatreMadani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Life and Style
Douglas McMaster says the food industry is ‘traumatised’
food + drinkSilo in Brighton will have just six staple dishes on the menu every day, including one meat option, one fish, one vegan, and one 'wild card'
Life and Style
Once a month, waistline watcher Suran steps into a 3D body scanner that maps his body shape and records measurements with pinpoint accuracy
techFrom heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Sport
Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
News
Soft power: Matthew Barzun
peopleThe US Ambassador to London, Matthew Barzun, holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence. He says it's all part of the job
Sport
Joe Root and James Anderson celebrate their record-beaking partnership
cricketEngland's last-wicket stand against India rewrites the history books
News
Gavin Maxwell in Sandaig with one of his pet otters
peopleWas the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?
News
Rowsell says: 'Wearing wigs is a way of looking normal. I pick a style and colour and stick to it because I don't want to keep wearing different styles'
peopleThe World Champion cyclist Joanna Rowsell on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Linux Systems Administrator

£33000 per annum + pension, 25 days holiday: Ashdown Group: A highly successfu...

SEN Teacher, Permanent Role in Ashford

Competitive Salary: Randstad Education Group: Randstad urgently seeks a qualif...

Drama Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Liverpool: We are looking for someone who can t...

**Science Teacher Urgently Required for September**

£120 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Liverpool: **Science Teacher Urgently ...

Day In a Page

Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

The Open 2014

Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?