12.   Can NLP be used in education?


Yes it can, and in my opinion all teachers (at Primary, Secondary and FE levels) should be given in depth training in NLP.

Used in schools NLP would help to increase academic achievement, reduce (and eventually eliminate) disruption in the classroom, and generally make school a place that both teachers and students enjoy going to!

Here's an example of how simply understanding the NLP concept called nominalisation can help to give us a whole new understanding of whatever it is we mean when we talk about "education".

Nominalisation is how we take the "movement" out of a process so as to create the illusion that we're talking about some thing rather some action.  For example, consider the statement: "I had a good education."
This may look simple and straightforward - until we look at what kind of thinking go into its construction:

  1. "I had ..."
    implies that the education process has not only stopped but is actually over and done with, as far as the speaker is concerned.  It's as though they are saying, "Well, I got my slice of the education cake, and now I have to live off that for the rest of my life."
    Someone who thinks this way may be seriously impeded whenever they need to learn new information, new skills and/or new behaviour.  They may very well regard ideas of "lifelong learning", etc. as nonsensical hype, not only for themselves but also for anyone else.  Thus a manager who constantly turns down requests from his subordinates for training may have the unspoken, maybe even unconscious, attitude that, "They have their qualifications already or they wouldn't have the job.  That's the resource they should be drawing on, so why should I spend my budget on more training when they aren't make the best use of what they've got already?"
  2. "... a good education"
    implies that the speaker sees him/herself as being well-equipped to deal with whatever they come up against in life.  Indeed, they may also think that they are somehow inherently superior to anyone who had a "not so good" or "poor" education.  Again, someone who thinks this way may think that education finishes at a certain point in life and therefore cannot be improved up thereafter.  There is a clear disincentive to learn new things, update old information and skillsm etc., etc.

In practice the current education processes in use in most schools still have a number of areas where they could be improved.
For example, much has been done to try to give attention to individual students rather than treating classes as though they were a single, albeit multi-headed, vessel into which knowledge could be poured, at a rate determined by the teacher.  One of the reasons why this very good intention has been less than universally successful is because teachers themselves have not been trained in the kind of techniques needed to assess individual student actvity "on the hoof".

The notion that people might have individual preferences in the way they collect and process information (known in NLP as "representational systems", also known as the five senses, especially sight, sound and feeling) is now widely recognised as being a valuable aid to better understanding and communication.  And many teachers who have absorbed this knowledge into their own skill set, report that this has improved their relationships with their students and has thereby enhanced the students' learning performance, satisfaction, self-image, etc.

Literacy, or rather the lack of it, is still a big problem, even in the most developed countries, and one which conventional techniques do not seem to cope with particularly well.  In primarily English-speaking countries the problem is often exacerbated by an insistence on using the "phonetic" system of sounding out words.  This despite the fact that English is most definitely not a phonetic language - in fact even the word "phonetic" isn't spelt phonetically!

NLP, on the other hand, offers a technique, developed and refined by early NLPer Terrence McClendon, which makes use of the discovery that the best spellers do NOT sound out words to spell them, but visualize whole word and then write what they see, or compare what they've written with their visual image.  Likewise reading, for most people, is down to learning to recognise whole words on sight, not on mentally spelling them out, a highly unreliable, not to say painfully lengthy, process.

In other words, NLP most certainly does have ideas to offer which complement and expand on teachers' existing skills.  And it is good to know that the people who oversee the education system are now beginning to at least consider the relevant of these techniques.

Recommended reading: Righting the Educational Conveyor Belt and Super-Teaching