To describe Superlearning accurately as a method is not easy. There are problems in organising the material since Superlearning is often used simply as a synonym for either Suggestopedia or SALT or for a combination of both. Hinkelmann (1986) deplores the fact that the only attempt made at a distinction between the two is the labelling of Superlearning as the commercial product of the more scientifically valid and serious Suggestopedia. While this distinction may hold true when comparing Superlearning courses which boldly advertise their product with the help of unsubstantiated claims (such as those pointed out by Gassner-Roberts 1987 and Schiffler 1987), this is not always the case with well researched Suggestopedia courses. Undoubtedly there are good and bad examples of all versions of Accelerative Learning. The concern in this chapter is not to compare the different versions in terms of their efficacy, but to identify distinguishing features between each version in order to clarify what has so far been a confused situation for users and researchers alike.
The term Superlearning was introduced by two American researchers (Ostrander & Schroeder 1979). They define it thus:
This definition suggests that Superlearning was designed using some elements of Suggestopedia and some elements of the American version which became SALT. Superlearning differs from Lozanov's Suggestopedia in several ways.
Relaxation. Although Ostrander and Schroeder were aware of the fact that Lozanov had dropped specific relaxation from his programme, they were in agreement with the Western rationale for retaining relaxation and for using special visualisation techniques, and therefore included both in Superlearning. Since these elements were introduced by the American researchers responsible for SALT, they will be discussed in the relevant section below.
Synchronisation. Following Bancroft's (1976) observations, Ostrander and Schroeder (1979) interpreted Lozanov's method as including synchronisation of the students' breathing and the presentation of materials. There is no evidence of this in any of Lozanov's publications, yet Bancroft (1976) felt that this was the vital element withheld from explanations about the method when visiting Bulgaria.
It is possible that Bancroft observed classes during the period when Lozanov was experimenting with presenting materials at different intervals. Jänicke (1982) and Baur (1980) report such experiments, although no exact data is given. Apparently Lozanov experimented with presenting words via tape recordings in one second, five second and ten second intervals and found significant differences in retention rate. Reports of the magnitude of these differences vary, however. Ostrander and Schroeder (1979) report that in the one second condition students learnt about 20% of the words, in the five second condition 30%, and in the ten second condition 40%, while Baur (1980) writes that the ten second condition increased retention rate by 10% when compared to the other two. Jänicke (1982) reports that twice as many words were retained in the five second condition and three times as many in the ten second condition when compared to the control groups. Ostrander and Schroeder and Baur do not mention control groups; it is therefore possible that either different experiments were quoted or that the one second condition functioned as the control. Only Baur gives an exact source for the study, Lozanov's Suggestologija, 1971:244, which is not officially available in English. This is just a small example of the inconsistency of reports about research on Suggestopedia. More will be discussed in chapter 4.
On the basis of Bancroft's observations in Bulgaria, Ostrander and Schroeder (1979:115) placed a great deal of importance on correct rhythmical presentation of materials in Superlearning. They suggest the following cycle for the presentation of materials and the students' breathing: "All the materials spoken are precisely timed on an 8-second cycle so breathing will naturally fall into a rhythmic pattern of: hold 4; out 2; in 2." This means that the material to be learnt is presented in small chunks during the four seconds in which the students hold their breath.
Students are extensively coached in the correct breathing procedure and encouraged to practise several cadences of this breathing before a concert session. Ostrander and Schroeder point out that some students, especially children, have difficulties learning or sustaining the rhythmical breathing; they suggest therefore that taped material could contain a metronome 'tick' to aid with timing. It is not clear why materials are presented in an eight second cycle. Ostrander and Schroeder claim that this was the precise cycle observed by Bancroft in Bulgaria. However, if Lozanov had found the best results with presenting words every ten seconds, why would he have used a rhythm in which words are presented every four seconds? Bancroft (1978a) speculates that he may have switched to this presentation because of the rhythms of the baroque music but does not give any further explanation.
Research on synchronisation is minimal and does not consistently show that it is beneficial to the students' learning. Bordon and Schuster (1976) found a significantly positive effect on retention of vocabulary, while Renigers (1981) speculates in his conclusions that the students' efforts to concentrate on synchronisation may have hampered their relaxation and consequently their performance. For similar reasons almost all practitioners have now dropped synchronisation from their programmes. Renigers' (1981) speculations are supported by Fassihiyan (1981) who reports unfavourable results in Iranian experiments based on Yoga exercises and rhythmic breathing when comparing these to experiments based on music in Canada (Racle 1975). Ostrander and Schroeder (1979) give Shaffer (1979) as one of their sources for the efficacy of breathing techniques in Superlearning. Shaffer claims that the Yoga breathing techniques are the most responsible for rapid learning. He asserts that Lozanov himself was "totally unaware of the key mechanisms responsible for accelerated learning in his method" (p.180) and offers the following scientific explanation of the 'Lozanov Effect':
No empirical evidence of how this effect is achieved in Suggestopedia or Superlearning is given. The assertion that breathing is the single most important element in improved learning is strongly refuted by the fact that the majority of studies which report such improvement (see chapter 4) do not use synchronised breathing. Schiffler (1986b) indicates his intentions to investigate the effectiveness of synchronisation following his findings of a positive effect of music as a variable in the intensive language learning environment.
Self-instruction. Superlearning is presented as a self-study procedure where materials can be prepared on audio tapes. This is the greatest element of distinction between Lozanov's Suggestopedia and Superlearning. Three very important aspects of Suggestopedia are ignored: the vital role of the teacher, the extensive review and elaboration periods and group dynamics. In Superlearning students are being told that all they need is a tape-recording and a set of instructions in order to accelerate their learning by astounding rates. (Claims made are discussed in chapter 4). The focal part of the method is the supermemory session, which corresponds to the first model of the suggestopedic session described above. The decoding and activation of the materials are left to the students themselves. The passive state of the student is promoted while the active state is largely ignored. Emphasis is given to lowering body rhythms through relaxation and breathing, yet little consideration is given to the fact that, especially in language learning, students need to engage in meaningful communication in order to assimilate the materials given in the concert sessions in terms of functional use.
The structure of a Superlearning programme, as described by Ostrander and Schroeder (1979) is as follows:
1. P R E P A R A T I O N. In order to prepare for the supermemory session, students are encouraged to practise relaxation, either in the form of Jacobson's (1938) progressive relaxation exercises or through visualisation. Many examples are given. They are further instructed to practise the correct breathing procedure and to give themselves affirmations such as Learning and remembering are easy for me.
2. P R E S E N T A T I O N. Before beginning the supermemory session students are instructed to 'review' the materials they wish to learn as vividly as possible. It is suggested that they try to do this in the form of a game, a play or a dialogue. It is difficult to work out how this is done when the materials are completely unknown to the students but no further suggestions are given.
Then follows the supermemory session. In the first part, students are instructed to read silently through the materials while the materials are recited either by a person present or on tape. (Extensive instructions for the preparation of tapes are given). In the second part, students are asked to close their eyes and listen to the materials again, this time with the slow baroque movements playing in the background. In contrast to Lozanov's instructions above, students are told to pay attention to what is being said, to breathe in synchronisation with the presentation of the materials, and to visualise the materials. The combination of attention on three complex processes is far removed from Lozanov's original intentions of 'concert pseudo-passivity'. How effective imagery would be in this context, when students are already concentrating on their breathing, is also questionable. Schuster and Wardel (1978) found that imagery as a variable of instruction for vocabulary learning was very effective on its own, but less effective when coupled with other variables.
3. R E V I E W A N D E L A B O R A T I O N. This is the part that is conspicuously missing from Superlearning. Students are simply instructed to give themselves a quiz after the supermemory session and to 'use' the materials they have studied within the next few days.
From the point of view of language learning Superlearning in this form has more in common with audio-lingual courses than with Suggestopedia. The addition of music, relaxation and imagery may produce a more efficient and enjoyable audio-lingual course, although no comparative studies are known to this author. The addition of synchronised breathing, however, may hamper students' learning. Superlearning in this form cannot be compared to Suggestopedia which can in essence be described as creative communicative teaching with the addition of music and suggestion.
Linguists, notably Baur (1984:292) have criticised Superlearning for the following:
While Baur's criticism is perfectly valid when referring to Superlearning as described above, it does not hold true when referring to Suggestopedia, although some linguists (Scovel 1979, Brown 1987) appear not to distinguish between the two. Scovel (1979), reviewing Lozanov's Suggestology and Outlines of Suggestopedy, believes that "suggestopedy ...is an attempt to teach memorisation techniques and is not devoted to the far more comprehensive enterprise of language acquisition". (p.260) Given the nature of Lozanov's presentation of Suggestopedia in this book, it is not surprising that Scovel came to this conclusion. Lozanov does speak predominantly of hypermnesia, and he does not describe in detail the entire suggestopedic cycle which includes the extensive review and elaboration session described above. Lozanov is not a linguist, and in this publication he was concerned with the effect of suggestion as related to hypermnesia. To make a valid criticism of Suggestopedia used for language teaching, it is more appropriate to look at courses designed by linguists. The Lozanov cycle described above was designed in collaboration with Novakov and Gateva, both notable linguists, and it includes elements that specifically address the complexity of language learning, long before the advent of Communicative Teaching and the Natural Approach which are generally well received by linguists and with which Suggestopedia has much in common.
Following the publication of Superlearning, two things happened. Teachers began using Superlearning in the classroom, and commercial courses, largely following the structure above, were offered. For the former, the model had to be expanded and tended to include Lozanov's review and elaboration sessions. In this form, the method became a combination of Suggestopedia, Superlearning and SALT. A typical example of this is Dröbner (1986). From now on labels were used almost at random, and if the treatment in experimental studies was not described in detail, it was impossible to know which elements had been included. It followed from this that Suggestopedia was sometimes judged by courses which had little in common with Lozanov's model.
The appearance of high profile commercial Superlearning courses contributed to the confusion. Furthermore, many courses of this nature use sensationalist research reports for advertising — such as the claim that language learning can be increased 50 times and more (a claim that Lozanov himself never made but that is attributed to him as a consequence of the confusion) — even though sound scientific data on Accelerative Learning which disputes such claims has become available. This practice did not enhance the credibility of Suggestopedia in the eyes of applied linguists. These courses are generally self-study courses produced on cassettes accompanied by a textbook. They enjoy varying degrees of success depending on how well they are designed and produced. While some courses are very poor in terms of content and structure, there are also some good ones.
An example of the latter is a course produced by a psychologist and a linguist in West Germany (Kelly & Hinkelmann 1986). An attempt has been made to include the entire suggestopedic cycle, synchronisation has been dropped and students' arousal level is monitored by alternating active and passive states guided by the appropriate musical backing. Materials are organised in dialogue form, with vocabulary lists and exercises following every chapter. A brief grammatical overview and a small dictionary for travelling purposes are also provided in the textbook. Students are informed about the nature of Superlearning in the introduction. It is suggested that students will learn in a relaxed atmosphere in which learning blocks are impossible. Research in which Superlearning students learnt three times as much as students in traditional courses (Dröbner 1986) is referred to. The term Superlearning is used as a synonym for both Suggestopedia and SALT. The course follows this structure:
COMMERCIAL SUPERLEARNING STRUCTURE
1. P R E P A R A T I O N. An audio cassette with relaxation exercises is provided. These range from systematic muscle relaxation to visualisation exercises such as mind-calming described below in the SALT section. They are accompanied by music such as the second movement from Beethoven's Emperor Concerto and Pachelbel's Canon finishing with a short piece of the faster third movement from the Emperor Concerto accompanied by wake-up suggestions.
2. P R E S E N T A T I O N. Materials are presented in two concert sessions. For the first concert the students are instructed to remain relaxed but to follow the text in their book. No translations are given during the reading and the target language is read rather slowly. This session is accompanied by the slow movement of Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony. Before the next session begins the visualisation exercise given on the preparation tape is repeated.
For the second concert students are instructed to remain completely passive and to enjoy the simultaneous presentation of music and language as if they were at a concert or at the opera. This session is accompanied by Bach's Air and the reading this time includes the translation of the materials which are now presented in short phrases and at normal speed. This session finishes with the same piece of music and wake-up suggestions that were given at the end of the preparation tape. In an accompanying brochure the suggestion is given that during these learning concerts a passive knowledge of the materials is acquired (Hinkelmann 1988:6).
3. R E V I E W A N D E L A B O R A T I O N. The students are now encouraged to practise these materials in a communicative fashion, presumably with a partner.
A variety of language games are provided for this purpose.
The designers of this course have attempted to include a more substantial activation period of the materials than was suggested by Ostrander and Schroeder (1979). How effective these practice sessions are, however, when students are left to their own devices, cannot be ascertained. Although this course may well be more effective and more interesting than a traditional audio-lingual course, it is far removed from Lozanov's Suggestopedia. The main difference between the two is still the physical presence of the teacher in Suggestopedia. It is the teacher who provides the suggestive atmosphere, creates positive group dynamics, guides the direction of the elaboration exercises and provides constant positive feedback. And even if students were able to conduct their own review and elaboration periods adequately, the cassette course still lacks the coherence of the Lozanov cycle and the positive reinforcement that is gained by the students witnessing each other's progress.
The main difference between Suggestopedia and Superlearning when used in the classroom is the latter's use of relaxation and visualisation exercises and the inclusion of synchronisation of students' breathing with the presentation of materials. It does not appear from the research that synchronisation is a beneficial addition to Suggestopedia, which is reflected in the fact that most practitioners of Superlearning and SALT have excluded this element from their teaching. The supposed benefits of visualisation will be discussed in the SALT section below. Since all Western versions of Suggestopedia include some form of relaxation, the effect of relaxation will be explored in chapter 3.