Understanding words - A tried and tested educational approach

The stress on meanings of words also came from Benjamin Franklin, one of the founding fathers of the United States. He said that one needs to define the words being used when learning a science. Malcolm X became literate while he was in prison just by studying the dictionary word by word and learning how to use each one.

Johnson O’Connor (one of the foremost authorities in the world on aptitude) did a study of corporate vice presidents in the United States to find out what factors made them successful. He found just one. It was not a university degree nor even finishing high school. It was this one point: they all had a large vocabulary with a precise understanding of the meanings of the words.

This makes learning how to learn a paramount subject in this new age and one of the key things that is taught at Laurel Academy.

Reading is an important subject, and one we stress very heavily in our program, as it opens the gates to any avenue of learning.

The Technology of Study

In order to overcome study barriers and ensure a student could truly put his or her education to use, we use a simple set of tools called Study Technology. With them, a student can learn to recognize the signs of study difficulty and, most importantly, what to do about them. Using this approach, our students become confident and enthusiastic learners.

At Laurel Academy, in the primary grades, teachers facilitate students with this process. Once their literacy level rises to the 4th grade level, students begin learning this technology themselves and how to avoid study pitfalls, and their remedies. This curriculum is based on the works of L. Ron Hubbard and is made available to public and private schools, groups, and tutors worldwide through a non-profit organization, Applied Scholastics International.

The ability to fully understand a text allows you to use what you have learned quickly and correctly. Sometimes the realization that one has run up against a study barrier and the immediate ability to get that remedied do not go hand in hand, both in conventional education and in life. 


Laurel Academy is licensed to use Study Technology by Applied Scholastics™ educational services, who makes Study Technology and additional programming available on a global scale, functioning through more than 760 affiliates to the benefit of some 100,000 educators and 28 million students. It serves every conceivable educational arena—public and private K–12 schools, community-based learning programs, state and local government education agencies, professional training, tutoring centers—across some 70 nations of the world. Applied Scholastics International is a not-for-profit educational organization based in Missouri, and was founded by a consortium of American educators in 1972.


There have been many recorded successes of Study Technology worldwide. In Mexico City, for example, Study Technology was introduced into a private high school in which one class had a 95% failure rate on their material. After the students learned to use Study Technology, the same class achieved a 90% passing rate.

A study undertaken in England found that students improved their reading levels by 1.3 years after only ten hours of study using Study Technology study procedures.

A literacy program in South Africa produced an average gain in reading level of 2.25 years. In the same country, the pass rate of students enrolled in 19 government schools increased from 43 to 78 percent after the Study Technology had been in use for only six months.

Also in Southern Africa, Education Alive, an Applied Scholastics affiliated organization, introduced Study Technology into a teacher’s college. The dropout rate for teacher trainees fell dramatically, to only 2 percent, as a direct and immediate result of the program.

In Los Angeles, California in the United States, students at a school which uses Study Technology throughout its curriculum regularly score 30% above the national average on pre-college aptitude tests. Their fourth grade students consistently score two or more grade levels above the norm in reading, math and language on standardized achievement tests.


The Importance of dictionaries

In 2008, we celebrated the 250th anniversary of the birth of  Noah Webster. He was the author of the first American Dictionary of the English Language. Noah Webster had strong moral principles and a love for the future of this country. Our modern Webster’s Dictionaries are derived from his first dictionary published in 1828, which is still available today from good bookstores. In that first edition Noah Webster stated that he wrote the dictionary for this reason: to preserve the freedom of the American people.

He foresaw a time when words could be mis-defined and misused to trick the people into believing something different. What Webster foresaw is something that is actually happening today; it is observable in some political speeches and even in the current practice of “labeling” children.  Today, by teaching the use of the dictionary along with the other tools of Study Technology, we will not only have literate children, but also have them armed with the tools to preserve their freedom. Today’s children will become tomorrow’s civilization, and we had better make sure our children are given the best opportunities we can afford them, right now.


True comprehension means true understanding, not guesswork

One of the aspects of education we pay a lot of attention to at our school is ensuring the words being used and read are understood. Our freedoms depend on our children’s ability to use a dictionary and on their understanding of words. That is a broad statement to make, which some might say is controversial. It is true that some teachers in other schools disagree with the idea that such importance is placed on the defining of words, especially if they follow the methodological idea that one can learn the meanings of words by the contextual clues. However, it is easy to point out the shortfalls of learning by context by just asking someone to work out the meaning of the word “on” from the sentence “I live in a house on the water.” This does not literally mean your house is floating on the water, but really means by the water or on the banks of the water. That tiny word “on” makes such a difference when you have the wrong meaning. How about the common word “run” as in “Does your car run?” This might make one conjure up images of cars with legs!

Extend this principle to flying an airplane. What if the pilot has a wrong meaning for some facet of flying (because he worked it out from the context rather than defining it in a dictionary)? If the pilot only has the concepts 95% right, is that enough for you to feel confident flying in that pilot’s plane?