Learning & Development Blog

being savvy about savi

Being Savvy About SAVI (and Accelerated Learning)

A couple of months ago I posted a blog about Accelerated Learning and my experiences with it before I even knew such a thing as Accelerated Learning existed.

I had participated in a program on Accelerated Learning, or Whole Brain Learning, at the Minnesota Chapter of the International Society of Performance Improvement (MNISPI). Mike Willis, Training Director at Andersen Windows, and his staff presented a program on Dave Meier’s Accelerated Learning Handbook.

The Anderson people talked mostly about collaborative learning. They had posters placed around the room and had us create diagrams, place name tags on different parts of a window, repeat what we learned, and team problem solve. They talked about the SAVI Approach to Learning.

The idea of collaborative learning was very intriguing to me. So much of instructor-led training involves a facilitator in an educational setting presenting information to learners with little concern for social bonding and little effort for teaching them how to create, problem solve, and think on their own. And the eLearning designed for learners exhibits even less concern with social bonding, creating, or problem solving.

I found very little about collaborative learning using Google. So I did something I hardly ever do: I bought The Accelerated Learning Handbook from Amazon. It turns out that Meier realized a distinctive feature of Accelerated Learning― it is social in nature. He was the one who came up with the theory of “collaborative learning.”

Collaborative learning provides a community of support for each and every individual engaged in learning. It involves the collective sharing of individual knowledge. It draws on the variety of intelligences and learning styles in a group and engages all aspects of the brain-mind-body connection.

Meier says that the best learning occurs when all parts of the brain-mind-body connection are used simultaneously. That is where SAVI comes in. SAVI combines the different kinds of intelligences and learning styles:

  • S stands for Somatic learning, or learning by moving and doing. Somatic learning involves getting active from time to time, for example, while building a model of a process or procedure, doing active learning exercises (simulations, learning games), or creating large pictograms or peripherals.
  • A is Auditory, which is learning by talking and hearing. Auditory learning is getting the learners to translate their experience into sound by talking about what they are learning. Auditory learners like to read out loud, talk while solving problems, and review learning experiences.
  • V is for Visual and is learning by observing and picturing. Visual learners learn best when they can see real-world examples, icons, pictures, and various kinds of images while they are learning. Sometimes visual learners do even better when they create idea maps and diagrams out of what they are learning.
  • I stands for Intellectual, or learning by problem solving and reflecting. Intellectual learners like to engage in activities such as solving problems, analyzing experiences, doing strategic planning, generating creative ideas, accessing and distilling information, and creating mental models.

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Meier says that when all four SAVI components are present in a single learning event, learning is optimized:

  • People can learn something by watching a presentation (V)
  • But they can learn much more if they can do something while it is going on (S),
  • Talk about what they are learning (A), and
  • Think through how to apply the information being presented to their job (I).


  • They can enhance their problem-solving skills (I)
  • If they are simultaneously manipulating something (S)
  • To produce a pictogram or three-dimensional display (V)
  • While they talk out loud about what they are doing (A).

I question whether people can learn better if they combine all the different learning styles if some people learn somatically, some learn visually, some aurally, and some intellectually. My experience is that people tend to look wall-eyed when they make forays into the realm of an unfamiliar learning style.

  • I have been in classes in which people needed to move from group to group. Non-somatic learners were extremely hostile about even standing up.
  • I have been seated next to visual learners who were supposed to paraphrase something back to a fellow learner. Do you think they could remember what they heard?
  • And think about a somatic learner who needs to interact physically with the content trying to come up with mental models.

I actually like the idea of assigning learners to groups according to their learning style. That way people can function within the learning style they like best. Auditory learners gain confidence from being around other auditory learners. Somatic learners gain confidence from being around other somatic learners.

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I also like the idea of learners participating in activities that reflect the different learning styles in sequence. In the MNISPI program, the Anderson people had us taking part in activities that represented each of the SAVI learning styles. Creating diagrams was visual, placing name tags on different parts of a window was somatic, repeating what we learned was auditory, and team problem solving was intellectual.

I thought it was very creative and engaging. But I must say that as a visual learner, even though I personally like to stand up and move around, I do not remember one thing about the part of a window on which I placed a name tag.

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