Neuro-Linguistic Programming In Learning And Education

Neuro-Linguistic Programming In Learning And Education
Summary: What is neuro-linguistic programming (NLP)? How helpful is neuro-linguistic programming in learning? This article explores the topic and provides information on how it applies to education.

What Are The Practical Uses Of Neuro-Linguistic Programming In Learning?

Yann Teyssier’s Training Simulations: 6 Truths You Need to Know touched briefly on a phenomenon called neuro-linguistic programming (NLP). In this article, I’d like to expound on the topic and discuss the practical uses of neuro-linguistic programming in learning and education.

Harnessing the power of the mind has led to the popularity of alternative approaches to personal development and communication. One of these methods is neuro-linguistic programming, which originated as a self-help process rooted in psychotherapy.

Although its scientific basis is often discredited, neuro-linguistic programming covers a broad spectrum of uses. In psychotherapy, it is used to treat a wide range of phobias and schizophrenia. Some corporations encourage their members to join neuro-linguistic programming training to achieve maximum potential and great success.

And now, neuro-linguistic programming advocates are attempting to bridge the gap between neuro-linguistic programming and the academic community.

Neuro-Linguistic Programming, Its History And Founding Theories 

Richard Bandler and John Grinder developed neuro-linguistic programming in the 1970s as a result of their analysis of the success of therapists Virginia Satir, Fritz Perls, and Milton Erickson.

Predicated on the belief that all behavior is structured, the neuro-linguistic programming methodology relies heavily on the notion that the unconscious mind constantly affects conscious thoughts, and that language and behavior can be modeled or copied to acquire the skills of successful people.

There are two foundational presuppositions that neuro-linguistic programming is based on. The first one, the map is not the territory, presupposes that human beings only have perceptions of reality, not reality per se. It means that the way we behave is based on our individual understanding of the world, and what gives those behaviors meaning is our neuro-linguistic map or repository of life experiences.

Mike Bundrant, founder of iNLP Center, describes the second presupposition, life and mind are systemic processes, as:

“The human mind and the external world are intricately connected. In other words, NLP subscribes to the age-old principle that we don't see the world as it is, but as we are. Therefore, understanding your own subjective experience gives significant advantages in understanding the world.”

NLP, A Pseudoscience? 

Neuro-linguistic programming has gained quite a mixed reputation over the years. It has been labeled to have a “quack factor” due to its roots in psychotherapy and hypnosis. Critics question several assumptions upon which neuro-linguistic programming is based, saying its claims about thinking and perception are not supported by neuroscience, hence a pseudoscience. They insist that the beliefs about hypnosis, the unconscious mind, and the subconscious are also unsubstantiated.

Because neuro-linguistic programming cannot be used as a diagnostic tool and can only be taught experientially, neuro-linguistic programming has been slammed for lacking credible theoretical basis, and there is also no way to measure its efficacy except through the testimonials of those who have experienced it.

Bandler has been called a hermit scientist in this paper, stating he continuously fabricates his own terms and ideas despite lacking accreditation from the scientific community. This is due to the fact that Bandler’s claim that word choice affects behavior has not been formally analyzed through accepted scientific methods.

The paper says that the positive outcomes of Bandler’s practice all relate to the will and experience of the subject, not the specific language used.

Benefits Of Neuro-Linguistic Programming 

The success principle of NLP is based on the concept that your mind and body are all the resources you need to effect change in your life and of those around you. It can help you define precise goals and take action. And through evaluation of the changes resulting from your actions, you can modify accordingly to achieve better results.

Some clinical studies suggest positive benefits of neuro-linguistic programming on weight loss, reduction of anxiety, and a healthy mood. A particular research also relays that it can positively impact the learning capabilities of children with dyslexia, helping them improve self-esteem by lowering their level of anxiety.

Neuro-Linguistic Programming In Learning  

neuro-linguistic programming is popular in the field of personal development and self-motivation, and its potential for teaching and learning is gaining recognition, too.

Said to be highly congruent to Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences, two neuro-linguistic programming techniques, perceptual positioning and presupposition, are deemed useful in solving problems encountered in teaching.

Perceptual positioning is the ability to see things from the point of view of another, a way to understand people better. This process can be used in negotiation and interviewing, as well as to promote healthy boundaries and self-concept. It encourages “putting oneself in another’s shoes”, and thus can be applied to help with bullying and behavioral problems.

Presupposition relates to unspoken meanings in conversation. For example, when a teacher offers the learner a choice between taking a quiz now or finishing the lecture first, the message that both tasks must be done is clear although not directly uttered that way. Giving the learner this ability to make a choice allows them to focus on their decision “rather than challenging the teacher’s instructions”.

A paper submitted at the European Conference on Educational Research presents a discussion on how the neuro-linguistic programming approach is useful to teaching and learning. Among the many parallels mentioned between teaching and neuro-linguistic programming techniques are the following:

  • In a dynamic teacher-learner relationship, meaning is achieved through mutual feedback.
  • All communication potentially influences learning. Teachers’ language and behavior crucially influence learners on at least two levels: Their understanding of the topic in question and their beliefs about the world, including about learning.
  • Teachers’ awareness of their behavior and choice of words, and how sensitive they are to the influence of such words and behavior on learners, are vital to making the teaching and learning processes effective.

According to this helpful article from the British Council website, the state of congruence in neuro-linguistic programming is believed to help with language fluency, as it suggests that teaching non-verbal communication in conjunction with phonology and functional language produces better language learning results.

In language teaching, the ways students learn and better process information (visual, auditory, or kinesthetic) are affected by elements that find practical uses in learning in general:

1. Deletion.

As learners deal with a barrage of information, they omit some information to manage input better.

2. Distortion.

Language learners distort new information into easily understandable forms. Albeit prone to errors and misunderstandings, this process enables students to devise their own unique way to absorb the lessons.

3. Generalization.

Drawing broad conclusions from the information at hand is also one way to learn, as long as over-generalizations that result in the misapplication of certain rules are dealt with accordingly.

Aside from techniques that include storytelling, simulation, and role plays, the following neuro-linguistic programming methodologies are now being employed loosely in different learning environments:

1. Anchoring.

This method focuses on an external trigger or stimulus that elicits a positive emotional response. Teachers use this technique through the introduction of keywords or sounds to create an anchor that, consciously or subconsciously, helps students subsequently recall the material.

2. Maintaining Flow.

This technique indicates that "best learning takes place when uninterrupted". The teacher creates competitive and collaborative challenges, and customizes them according to a learner’s personality to bridge information gap and maintain flow.

3. Pacing And Leading.

This technique is a powerful communication and persuasion tool that uses strategies such as mirroring and stating facts to build rapport and get students to agree with the teacher.

Final Word 

Whether you believe using neuro-linguistic programming in learning is valuable or not, a more thorough understanding of the method allows you to make informed decisions about the approach you’ll take with students.


* Jasmin Kabigting helped with the research on this article.