How Superlearning Works in Practice
The concept of suggestopedia is based on the idea that all forms of learning involve our subconscious mind. The word is a combination of ‘suggestion’ and ‘pedagogy’—so it could also be called ‘A pedagogy of suggestion.’ Which role does suggestion play in learning? That’s certainly a good question to begin with.
Suggestion facilitates the spontaneous absorption of information by the student through peripheral perceptions, in a directed, non-manipulative communicative process, and in opposition to hypnotic and clinical suggestion. It is a teaching method that makes use of all the possibilities that suggestion can offer. Its application in learning and teaching has led its founder, Dr. Georgi Lozanov (1926-2012), a psychiatrist from Bulgaria, to formulate the following seven laws, which form the basis of the method. Dr. Lozanov insisted that they are so closely intertwined that they must also be simultaneously respected at all times during the teaching process.
However, these conditions can lead to liberating the hidden reserves of the mind only when the teacher has a high personal and professional prestige.
Prestige, according to Dr. Lozanov, can create prestige. Studying in the class of a prestigious professor creates prestige for the pupil. Studying at a prestigious university creates prestige for the student, which will later ensure higher effectiveness in his/her work. This is why suggestopedia or superlearning, created in the course of many years of labor, has gained prestige everywhere in the world. The professionally trained and certified teachers thus share the prestige of the methodology.
Law #1: Love
Dr. Lozanov believed that no fine accomplishments have been made in the world without love, and that love is an essential condition for accessing the hidden reserves of the mind. Love creates serenity and trust, and contributes to the prestige of the teacher in the eyes of the students, thereby facilitating the involvement of the subconscious mind.
Love cannot be played as the students will feel that. But it should not be understood as some sentimental, soft mood, since this attitude brings about negative reactions. Love should be experienced as genuine love for the human being. The teacher’s love for the learners can be best illustrated by means of the metaphor of a mother or father teaching their children how to ride a bicycle without the child being able to tell at each moment whether the parent is holding the bicycle from behind or not.
Students should be rather unaware of their teacher’s support. For example, during all productive stages in the suggestopedic cycle in foreign language acquisition—the stages at which learners produce speech, namely the introduction, the elaboration and the last stage of performance when learners express themselves more freely and creatively—the teacher provides an unobtrusive guidance. Correction of mistakes is done in an implicit and tactful manner, so that students are not consciously made aware of it. The teacher provides the correct version of the learners’ utterances in such a tenderly suggestive way that the learners do not even feel that they have committed an error. Errors are not analyzed on the spot and teachers do not suggest that learners should try harder.
Love, together with the other laws, creates the necessary cheerful, genuine and highly stimulating concentrative relaxation. This presupposes mental relaxation and non-strained concentration. It calls for calmness, steadiness, inner confidence and trust. Under these conditions of positive emotions, creative mental activity and the global learning process are characterized by an absence of fatigue. The principle of joy and concentrative calmness is realized through a system that involves games and humor, and, through visual materials which are not illustrative, but rather stimulating in character, as well as through the overall communicative interaction.
Law #2: Freedom
Love is freedom. Where there is love, there is freedom. Freedom empowers the teacher to exercise his or her judgment and personal decisions within the main framework of the lesson to adapt it to the traits of each group. It also allows the students to choose whether to take part in some activities such as a game, a song or else anything that might not be in harmony with their disposition. They are also absolutely free at any moment to go out of the classroom without, if done without disturbing the work of the group. The principle of freedom is one of the most basic elements which distinguishes suggestopedia from hypnosis. In hypnosis, the hypnotized subject is unable to choose, to act freely, spontaneously, to interrupt the process or do anything unless the hypnotizer has ordered so.
Freedom gives the opportunity to the student to listen to their inner voice and to choose their way to the reserves of the mind at different moments of the process of instruction. Freedom is not being dictated by the teacher, it is a spontaneous feeling in the student that they do not obey the methodology but are free to enjoy it and give personal expression in accordance with their personal character. In this respect, suggestopedia facilitates personal expression.
Law #3: An Unusual Event
The teacher must have the conviction that something extraordinary and different from the social norm is taking place. Each session must be started in the excitement of an unusual event taking place. Such a mindset leads to inspiring both teacher and students. This inner jubilation, as Dr. Lozanov called it, is reflected in the peripheral perceptions of the teacher and perceived by and created in the students. What is particularly important is that this setup is spontaneously created by the teacher’s state of mind and the students happily resonating with it, most often subconsciously.
This is how the so suggestive relationship is created at the level of the reserve complex, the part of the mind that bears our as yet untapped resources. The teacher’s mastery is in facilitating this teaching-learning communication process of resonance. Naturally, certain suggestive influences are unavoidable in any communicative process. Even the faintest pressure or insistence on part of the teacher is a hindrance to this process of creative unfoldment.
The teacher communicates at the edge of the unused reserves of the brain in keeping with the seven laws outlined here. Thus, the students have the feeling that they achieve everything on their own; the help provided by the teacher will be felt like the extended hand of a friend.
Suggestopedia is based upon high and very high learning input. Usually, this input or volume of the study material is up to five times higher than in conventional learning institutions. Despite that, health benefits have been registered as a result of this methodology.
Not only suggestopedia but also more conventional learning methodologies have led to the insight that the teacher’s expectations of the students are very important elements in learning effectiveness. These expectations can be felt by the learners through the peripheral perceptions and unconscious signals arising from the teacher’s voice, facial expression and body language.
Law #4: Increasing Input Volume
The study material presented to students in a specific time frame must be at least three times larger in volume than the existing norm by established by other methodologies. For example, the study material in a one month course of foreign language teaching must always be at least two times more voluminous than a typical similar language course.
This proportion holds good for the other subjects too. If the traditional norm changes with time, in a few years or generations, the suggestopedic course must also be modified for the constant stimulation of the evolution.
Taking into consideration that a number of national and international expert commissions have confirmed that the methodology has a psychotherapeutic, psychohygienic, educational effect, it is more likely than not that the volume of the study material will be constantly increased.
Law #5: A Systemic Approach
In all subjects, when the new study material is taught, there must not be a separation between the element and the whole. Suggestopedia thus takes a systems approach to learning. There are no learning elements that are taught and learned in isolation. For example, vocabulary or grammar do not exist apart from the language; they are part of the discourse, and they are taught in context.
On the one hand, this concept is based on some investigations on brain functioning where the parts of the brain contain information about the whole brain. In addition, in exposing the brain/mind functions of suggestopedia, it is said that the human being reacts as a whole and that the stimuli are accepted in a complex way.
Systems theory teaches that the whole is in the part and that the part is in the whole; they are indivisible; thus there are no isolated entities.
Law #6: The Golden Proportion
The golden proportion is a concept that dates back to ancient times. It has also been called ‘the divine proportion.’ It has been a secret in olden times but today has been investigated by serious researchers, mathematicians, architects and interior designers. It is based upon the insight that all in nature functions without strife, but as a result of harmony.
Harmony inspires harmony and overcomes the psychic fragmentation that is the typical result of conventional pedagogy. Harmony is essential in activating the subconscious mind of the learners and to trigger their mental reserves. The relations among the parts and the whole are in a golden proportion in the suggestopedic process of communication. Learning capacity is enhanced when the teaching process artfully finds the proper balance with respect to rhythms, intonations, emotional stimuli, and other decisive parameters of the learning process.
Law #7: Art and Aesthetics
Classical art and aesthetics are used in suggestopedia as effective mediators of non-manipulative communicative suggestion because of their capacity to emit an indefinite number of non-specific stimuli which nourish the abundance of peripheral perceptions unnoticeable to the senses functioning through conscious awareness.
Suggestopedic art creates conditions for optimal psychosomatic relaxation and harmonious states which help create a spontaneously increased acquisition state and enhance the capacity to tap the reserves of the mind in a pleasant atmosphere. It aids reaching the state of inspiration, thereby facilitating a learning process without anxiety.
Classical art is introduced through specially selected works of classical music, through songs and arias, literary selections, reproductions of masterpieces, and related media.