Laurel and Associates, Ltd. – Madison, WI

Tip #142: Accelerated Learning in Croatia #3

Tip #142: Accelerated Learning in Croatia #3

Accelerated learning techniques include involving as many senses as possible for whole brain learning and to meet the needs of different learning styles. Color, music, touch, movement, visual stimulation, and the use of metaphor and story are all very important ingredients in an accelerated learning classroom.

After my first trip to Croatia to train trainers for the small business development centers in 1998, I returned four more times in March and July of 2000 and March and May of 2001 to work with the School of Economics at JJ Strossmeyer University in Osijek.. My assignment was to help them design the first European student-centered MBA program in Entrepreneurship and train the faculty there. My son Seth accompanied me on the first two trips, becoming a world traveler at the ripe old age of 10!

I was very busy when I returned to Osijek in July of 2000:

  • meeting with Economics professors to design interactive curricula for core and elective courses in the second, third, and fourth semesters;
  • designing a 90-minute orientation session for incoming students;
  • auditing all first semester classes currently in session at least once;
  • creating coordinated course schedules for the first and second semesters;
  • advising professors with elective courses to develop marketing blurbs and making provision to have students rank their elective choices to ensure that all courses have sufficient attendance;
  • discussing the program web site and making plans to include information about adjunct professors;
  • planning to create consistent and reasonable student evaluation methodology;
  • planning to create a first semester progress report format to give students useful feedback about their performance; and
  • making provisions to provide ongoing e-mail assistance and support for the instructors as they continue to design their courses, as well as to review the marketing blurbs for the electives.

It was incredibly exciting to find that the students were enthusiastically and actively participating in all interactive activities, including case studies, mind mapping, group problem solving, group discussion, personal assessments, questionnaires, and role playing.

The students said that the assistant dean, Sanja and Ljerka had set a very high standard of teaching for the other professors to meet.

All of the first semester instructors were excited about their curricula and delighted with student interaction. Sanja mentioned that her lessons had exceeded her expectations.

It became apparent that the professors needed to learn techniques to manage class activities, including group work as well as guest lecturers, to maintain student enthusiasm yet exert necessary control to keep on schedule. In the meantime, a kitchen timer was suggested as a way to end group activities on time.

The work accomplished with the various professors ranged from the review of one lesson plan, to the creation of several plans, to the discussion of all content planned for the entire course. All were open to, and generated their own, very creative ideas, keeping in mind the need to ensure that the students receive practical tools to use in business.

All in all, it was extremely gratifying to see the interactive training techniques in successful use, both in the current sessions as well as the planned sessions.

If you are wondering how I managed to audit the courses, despite a lack of fluency in Croat or a translator, my secret is very simple. I used the Mastery Teaching Model to determine if learning was occurring. I watched for the content decisions (was there a clear and logical progression and were the students set up for success), the learner activity decisions (what was the ratio of lecture to interactive exercises that checked student comprehension and application of the content), and the trainer facilitation decisions (engaging the students in dialogue, coaching to correct answers, providing sufficient clarify when making assignments). Occasionally, I would ask a student fluent in English to explain anything that was unclear to me.

My son would explain that his mom spent the day sitting in classes where she didn’t understand the language. Perhaps I didn’t understand Croat, but I definitely could understand when learning was happening!

Also, as a wonderful side note, I also saw that these students, who had spent a lifetime in lecture classes without any interaction with the professor, were now unwilling to sit and be lectured to! When guest lecturers were brought in, they would sit patiently for about ten minutes and then raise their hands to make comments or ask questions. Once they had a taste of being an active partner in their own learning, they were eager for it to continue!

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