Rapid‌ ‌Evidence‌ ‌Review:‌ ‌Accelerated‌ ‌Learning‌ ‌and‌ ‌EdTech‌

A schoolgirl looking up from her writing pad
Photo credit: UNICEF

Key Findings

  1. Accelerated learning programmes focus on speeding up learning. They commonly do so by focusing on cognitive development, social and emotional learning, interactive pedagogy and community support.
  2. These programmes further commonly use diagnostic needs assessment and flexible approaches to education, to help children to catch up on missed learning.
  3. When designing an accelerated learning programme, how much education children have missed, the children’s age, the safety of the environment, the level of teacher professional development in accelerated learning, available EdTech, among other factors need to be considered. Different types of accelerated learning programmes are recommended based on those and other factors.
  4. Whilst there is evidence to support the efficacy of accelerated learning programmes, for overage and out-of-school children, in low and middle income countries, there is very limited research into how accelerated learning programmes in those contexts might benefit from the use of educational technology.
  5. However, EdTech may play a important role in accelerating learning by facilitating interactive learning, social and emotional development, giving access to education when there otherwise would be none and as a tool to enhance the assessment of and support for learners.
More details on what we found

Characteristics of accelerated learning

Conceptualisations of accelerated learning vary across the literature. They vary in pedagogical approaches, duration, target populations and other characteristics. However, common to many accelerated learning programmes are focuses on cognitive development, social and emotional learning, a safe learning environment, interactive and learner-centred pedagogy and a strong community, teacher and parental support system.

Approaches to accelerated learning

Accelerated learning programmes also commonly rely on flexible approaches to education. This flexibility can relate to a programme’s curriculum, time of schooling, age of children admitted, delivery of education in local languages, amongst other factors. Programmes are also often reliant on diagnostic needs assessment so that children’s unique educational needs might be most appropriately addressed.

Designing an accelerated learning programme 

When designing an accelerated learning programme, appropriately addressing children’s specific needs, as well as providing safe learning environments are key.  It is therefore important to accurately assess how much education children have missed and consider children’s age and gender, safeguarding issues that may come if children of different age and gender groups are to be learning together and the physical safety of the environment.

The level of teacher professional development in accelerated learning characteristics and approaches is also important to consider. Different types of accelerated learning programmes are recommended based on those and other factors.

There is limited evidence on EdTech and Accelerated learning

Accelerated learning programmes for overage and out-of-school children are fairly commonly, and are well evidenced, in low and middle income countries. There is also a fair amount of evidence on the use of EdTech in accelerated learning programmes for adults, especially in high-income countries. However, there is a dearth of published research into how accelerated learning programmes in low- and middle- income countries might be supported by EdTech. More research is therefore needed to explore the ways in which accelerated learning programmes might best benefit from technology incorporation.

EdTech does, however, have potential for accelerating learning

There is limited research directly exploring how accelerated learning programmes might benefit from EdTech. However, previous research exploring how EdTech might facilitate remedial learning, and has been used to facilitate the individual characteristics of, and approaches to accelerated learning, shed light on EdTech’s potential.

EdTech may help  accelerate learning by facilitating interactive learning through adaptive technology and interactive programmes on radio and television. Some of these interactive programmes have been shown to improve social and emotional learning. Further, and particularly through low-tech (radio and television), EdTech might give access to accelerated learning programmes when there otherwise would be none. Finally, computer adaptive testing may be a useful tool to enhance needs-assessment and support the adults who support learners.

Limitations of the review

The review has some limitations. The search and inclusion strategy was not exhaustive, and so all relevant literature was not included. The searches were also conducted in English, meaning that other literature that might exist in other languages was ignored.

There is limited empirical evidence on EdTech and accelerated learning, especially as it relates to children. Further research needs to be conducted to derive more concrete conclusions on the efficacy of EdTech for accelerating learning.

There was also limited comparative analysis. Another limitation is that the RER does not rely on comparative analysis to draw insights, but largely on narrative summaries.

A final limitation relates to our positionality. While the EdTech Hub aims to facilitate and encourage global partnerships as they relate to the use of technology in education in LMICs, it is primarily led, funded and based, in HICs of the Global North. It is recognised that we have shortcomings in the linguistic, and other expertise, relevant for conducting research in various LMICs.

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