The Effects of
Music, Relaxation and Suggestion
in the learning environment.
The aim of this chapter is to investigate whether music, relaxation and suggestion, the three major elements present in most versions of Accelerative Learning, have indeed been shown to be effective in the learning process. For this purpose studies have been reviewed not only within the field of Accelerative Learning, but also outside it.
One of the interests in Accelerative Learning research has been to isolate individual elements involved in the method in order to determine their effect on a number of dependent variables. This has been particularly true for the element of music. Some studies have investigated the effect of background music on vocabulary learning, both in laboratory settings (Schuster & Mouzon 1982, Stein et al 1982, Schuster 1985) and in the normal teaching environment (Schiffler 1986b). Other studies, some independent of Accelerative Learning, have looked at the effect of background music on reading performance (Mullikin & Henk 1985), on students' on-task behaviour (Davidson & Powell 1986) and on context-dependent memory (Smith 1985).
While the majority of studies explored the effect of music on achievement, Lehmann (1982) investigated psycho-physiological responses to different types of music in order to determine which music may be most readily accepted by students in Accelerative Learning classes. His findings, together with those of Smith (1985), who included white noise as a background to learning, and those of Mullikin and Henk (1985), who investigated the effectiveness of easy-listening background music, are particularly interesting since they indicate that music selections other than those recommended by Lozanov (1978) and Lozanov and Gateva (1988) may be effective in the learning environment. Generally, the role of music in Accelerative Learning has been given more attention by researchers than either relaxation or suggestion.
Since Lozanov himself no longer recommends specific relaxation exercises, the question arises whether this element ought to be retained in Accelerative Learning on the basis of the Western research. There have been a number of studies investigating the effect of various forms of relaxation training on achievement (Biggers & Stricherz 1976, Stricherz 1980, Johnson 1982, Baur 1982), on creativity (Gamble et al 1982), and on physiological and psychological variables (Matthews 1983, Setterlind 1983).
The most extensive research on the effect of relaxation on achievement independent of Accelerative Learning has been carried out in the field of anxiety research. Since one of the principles of Accelerative Learning is that learning ought to be free from stress and tension, elements closely related to anxiety, the findings of this research were found to be relevant to this chapter and have therefore been included.
The least researched of the three major elements in Accelerative Learning is suggestion. One reason for this may be that this element is particularly difficult to isolate in any teaching environment. Results of studies in which the effect of suggestion in Accelerative Learning was investigated (Bordon & Schuster 1976, Biggers & Stricherz 1976, Schuster & Martin 1980, Renigers 1981) are conflicting. Another reason for the lack of research on suggestion may be its close association with hypnosis. The possible relationship or distinction between Accelerative Learning and hypnosis will therefore also be explored in this chapter.