The Benefits of Accelerated Learning

accelerated learning

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As the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic start to diminish, school systems are looking for ways to help their students recover from the largest disruption to K-12 education in history. Until more recently, the most common approach to addressing unfinished learning was remediation. Remediation requires students master missing skills and concepts before they can move ahead. However, more recent research suggests the remediation method can do more harm to a student’s learning.

“Denying students access to grade-level content is counterproductive and further widens achievement gaps. Accelerating student learning requires providing just-in-time support to students that is planned in intentional and practical ways,” says Ryan Colón, director of math content design for Teaching Lab.

Fortunately, an innovative approach to addressing learning loss has started to gain more traction: accelerated learning. Keep reading to learn more about its benefits, and how school systems can implement it successfully.

What is Accelerated Learning?

Although it seems to be implied by its name, accelerated learning does not mean rushing or speeding through content. Instead, it means providing students with support, like tutoring or small group instruction, so they can continue with grade-level work.

“Rather than concentrating on a litany of items that students have failed to master, acceleration readies students for new learning. Past concepts and skills are addressed, but always in the purposeful context of future learning.” – Learning in the Fast Lane: 8 Ways to Put ALL Students on the Road to Academic Success, by Suzy Pepper Rollins

Remediation isolates a student from grade-appropriate learning, while accelerated learning connects unfinished learning into the context of new learning, also known as scaffolding. By spending more time on their grade-level work, with missing concepts strategically built in, students catch up faster.

The Benefits of Accelerated Learning

There are many benefits to moving toward accelerated learning for both students and teachers. A study conducted by TNTP in partnership with ZEARN analyzed data from over two million students in over 100,000 elementary math classrooms. It found:

  • Students who experienced learning acceleration struggled less and learned more, completing 27% more lessons than students who started at the same level but experienced remediation instead.
  • Students of color and those from low-income backgrounds were more likely than their white, wealthier peers to experience remediation—even when they had already demonstrated success on grade-level content.
  • Learning acceleration was particularly effective for students of color and those from low-income families, completing 49% more grade-level lessons than those who experienced remediation.

Current-level learning focuses on connecting missing skills. This results in more time spent on grade-level content. Remediation focuses on below-grade-level content before moving on to new concepts. Current-level learning gives students a deeper understanding of concepts and enables them to recall information more easily.

How Will You Address Learning Loss?

Although COVID-19 certainly affected learning, learning gaps and inequitable education systems existed before the pandemic. The pandemic simply exasperated challenges that many teachers and students were already facing. All students deserve effective and engaging teaching strategies. Accelerated learning can help underperforming students with its high-impact, research-based approach.

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