AND TEACHING (SALT)
This version of Suggestopedia was developed by a group of American teachers and college professors (Schuster, Benitez-Bordon & Gritton 1976, Schuster & Gritton 1985). Their first version in the mid 1970s followed essentially Lozanov's second model but retained Yoga breathing and exercises and, following Bancroft's (1976) suggestions, included synchronised breathing during the concert sessions. The Americans believed that specific relaxation was beneficial to students in the Western world, especially in the school environment where students can be hyperactive, badly disciplined and lacking in concentration. While Lozanov (1978) claimed that in Suggestopedia relaxation is naturally produced in the concert sessions and therefore does not need special attention, the Americans reintroduced relaxation, both physical and mental. They believed that the cultural differences between Bulgaria and America (pointed out at length by Barzakov 1982 and Bayuk 1983) were such that Lozanov's model needed to be adapted for American conditions. This adaptation was mainly reflected in the introduction of relaxation and visualisation techniques.
In their second version, therefore, the Americans favoured a technique called mind-calming over Yoga breathing and exercises, although some practitioners (Held 1978) used both. Synchronisation was eventually dropped by most practitioners but not by all. The reasons for dropping synchronisation were largely the same as those mentioned above. Prichard and Taylor (1976), for example, report that some learning disabled children had difficulties relaxing while concentrating on the synchronised breathing.
Mind-calming consists essentially of visualisation exercises related or unrelated to the subject taught. Its purpose is to focus the students' concentration and attention on the task, to create a positive learning environment and to clear students' minds of all irrelevant information to do with their personal lives (Schuster 1976a). Stricherz (1979) who compared the effectiveness of several physical and mental relaxation techniques, reports that the technique similar to mind-calming as described here "affected blood pressure the least, but provided the greatest self-reported sense of relaxation and well-being". (p.189) This suggests that although physical relaxation may be more effective on a physiological basis, mind-calming may produce greater psychological effects.
How visualisation can be used to affect the psychological state of the students is extensively outlined in Schuster and Gritton (1985). Nervous or hyperactive students might be calmed through a "walk in the forest", tired students given new energy through "soaking up the sun on the beach" and negative students made more cheerful and positive through recalling a positive learning experience from their past.
Schuster (1976a) describes this last technique of restimulation as a Gestalt procedure which involves not only visualisation but also the students' emotions. He claims that this element alone may be effective in increased learning in SALT but gives no further details. He may be referring to early experiments such as Gritton and Benitez-Bordon (1976) who taught mathematics, science and spelling to school children in large classes using restimulation and other forms of mind-calming only. Since there was no control group, Gritton and Benitez-Bordon (1976) report the results on a naturalistic basis: students worked better, were more interested in the subject, were more confident and had fewer discipline problems. Gritton as the teacher felt more relaxed which renewed his interest in teaching. Achievement was not tested experimentally but he reports that "the children went from saying that they could not spell five words a day to fifty" (p.333).
Mind-calming can also be used for subject specific activities. Herr (1981) suggests an interesting visualisation technique related to language learning. Here the students are encouraged to imagine themselves in the environment of the language they are studying, hearing the sounds, seeing the language written on signs, literally experiencing the language. With some imagination this could be transferred to other subjects. Similar techniques have been successfully demonstrated by Swart (1987) in the teaching of a Shakespeare text.
Visualisation during mind-calming can also be used for goal oriented purposes, such as students seeing themselves as having successfully completed the course, or at various successful stages along the course. It can further be used to reduce anxiety before tests by students calmly completing the test in their imagination. These techniques are extensively used in Sports psychology. Setterlind, Uneståhl and Kaill (1986) developed a systematic relaxation training for youth, based on visualisation of this kind which was introduced to all Swedish schools and is now in the process of evaluation. Some results are reported in chapter 3.
Experimental research on the effects of mind-calming in education is not extensive but suggests a positive effect on learning and behaviour. Stricherz and Stein (1980) investigated the effect of four different relaxation techniques on students' ability to recognise words which had been presented audio-visually after induction to the different conditions. 112 adult students were the subjects in this well controlled experiment. The results showed a significant difference in the number of words recognised favouring the cognitive mind expansion procedure (similar to mind-calming) over the control group. No significant differences were found between any of the other conditions.
Galyean (1980) investigated the effect of guided imagery activity on various behaviours of low achieving students at a minority school in Los Angeles. Three independent observers recorded various positive and negative behaviours of students in two Spanish classes taught by the same teacher. Treatment in the experimental class consisted of visualisation sessions lasting five to seven minutes at the beginning of each class. Students were encouraged to a) focus on their inner strength, b) view themselves as potentially successful learners, and c) view the teacher and the others as helpers in their quest for success. Results after three months and 12 observations showed significantly fewer occurrences of negative and disruptive behaviour in the experimental class. It must be pointed out, however, that subjects were not assigned at random, and that the behavioral compatibility of the two classes was not checked before the introduction of the treatment. While Galyean herself realises these limitations, she was satisfied with the classes' compatibility on the basis of teacher reports prior to the experiment.
The positive effect of visualisation in the learning environment has further been shown by Kosslyn (1980,1983) and its powerful use in verbal learning by Paivio (1971). Although in SALT visualisation is rarely used for mnemonic purposes as in Paivio and Desrochers (1979), the range of uses is enormous and only limited by the expertise, enthusiasm and imagination of the teacher and the students.
The SALT version described by Schuster and Gritton (1985) is structured as follows:
1. P R E P A R A T I O N. This session starts with simple physical relaxation and stretching exercises followed by mind-calming exercises. The visualisation during the latter often takes the form of recalling a pleasant learning experience in the past. The session may include positive learning suggestions related to the ease of learning or to goal setting.
2. P R E S E N T A T I O N. This session is almost the same as that in Lozanov's third model. It begins with a review of previously learnt material, followed by a preview of the material to be studied. The two concert sessions, using Lozanov's early music suggestions, namely classical pieces for the active concert and slow baroque movements for the passive concert, conclude this session.
3. R E V I E W A N D E L A B O R A T I O N. This session follows to a large extent the format suggested by Lozanov's cycle above, but it may include self-corrected quizzes and a mind-calming session at the end of the class.
While this is the predominant version of SALT there are slightly altered versions within SALT. Some practitioners insert a mind-calming session immediately before the concert sessions and others practise the material between concert sessions.
SALT appears to be a sensible adaptation of Suggestopedia in the Western world. The chief difference between the two approaches is the retention of physical relaxation in the former and the inclusion of mind-calming for mental relaxation during the preparation session. Although research on the effects of mind-calming is limited, there is some indication of its benefits in terms of positively affecting the psychological state of the students as well as improving students' performance in recognition tasks. Mind-calming may therefore well be a valuable contribution to Suggestopedia which is reflected in the fact that it has been adopted by many practitioners of other versions of Accelerative Learning around the world.