NLP and Education

Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) and related applications can be effectively applied to improving the educational outcomes for students, teachers, administrators, and the community. Blackerby (2002) believes we have presupposed that students know how to learn in the classroom and perform the academic tasks we assign to them and often they do not; and a large number of students have been traumatized by their inability to succeed in school. Craft (2001) believes that NLP offers a positive, practical view of learning as a way of becoming consciously more effective in the world, as a learner of whatever age. Using NLP principles we can utilize behavioral flexibility to approach the educational process in new and exciting directions.

The overall goal of NLP applied to education is to provide a basic framework that is aligned with the empirical experience of learning and training situations for the purpose of improving the effectiveness and speed with which goal oriented learning can take place (Dilts & Epstein, 1995). NLP relates words, thoughts, and behaviors to goals and purposes by focusing on effective communication with tools for taking perspectives on issues (Craft, 2001). NLP views education from the relationship of the fundamental processes through which we acquire new skills and achieve personal competence and excellence. This involves utilizing skills for developing conscious and unconscious competence through the establishment of new programs and strategies (James, 1996). This covers a spectrum from learning disabilities and problems to exceptional and accelerated learning programs. The content of learning is constantly changing and it is important to develop skills that build on the how and why of learning to start developing such skills as early in life as possible. Dilts & Epstein (1995) suggest the following areas are covered by the application of NLP to education:

  • Basic principles of learning
  • Fundamental Neuro-linguistic processes involved in learning
  • Dynamic assessment and self-assessment processes
  • Levels of learning and learning strategies
  • Interactive learning and cooperative learning processes
  • Types of skills and learning styles Learning tools and teaching tools

NLP applications in education provide fundamental tools and strategies to help people to update, acquire, filter, and retain new information as a constant, ongoing process (James, 1996). The basic applications of NLP to education revolve around the principles of dynamic learning (Dilts & Epstein, 1995). Dynamic learning is about learning through experience. The process of dynamic learning involves learning by doing, exploring different methods of thinking, and acknowledges that the relationships between people are a key factor in learning (Dilts & Epstein, 1995). If you want to understand then act, as the learning is in the doing (Craft, 2001). Dynamic learning tools emphasize the skills of cooperative learning, co-coaching, and mentoring. Dynamic learning methods use the modeling principles and tools of NLP to release natural learning capabilities through awareness, exploration, and discovery (James, 1996). The widening of choice is an important goal and the act of choice as necessary to action is emphasized (Craft, 2001). Dilts & Epstein (1995) list the following outcomes of application of NLP to education:

  • Identifying and enriching personal strengths
  • Enhancing memory and imagination
  • Developing optimal learning states and strategies
  • Dealing with resistances to learning
  • Establishing beliefs that support learning
  • Identify and reframe limiting beliefs relating to learning
  • Management of multi-level learning interventions
  • Transforming perceived failures into positive feedback
  • Exploring interactive learning processes

Learning Strategies

Effective learning is seen to be largely the result of the cognitive strategies a person employs in the process of acquiring a new mental or behavioral skill. Learning strategies are one of the seven basic classes of strategies identified by NLP (along with memory, decision making, creativity, motivation, reality, and belief) (James, 1996). Learning strategies relate to the sequence of cognitive steps of operations the people go through an order to develop new thinking skills and behavioral capabilities. Like all successful strategies, effective learning is seen to take place through the Test-Operate-Test-Exit (T.O.T.E) feedback loop that is based on computer modeling (James, 1996). In the model of NLP defining a learning strategy involves identifying the particular sequence of representational systems a person uses within this feedback loop in order to acquire a mental or behavioral skill. Of particular significance in eliciting a learning strategy is defining the specific sensory modalities (visual, auditory, kinesthetic) a person uses during the process of acquiring a certain ability or competency. Helm (1990) experimentally has found no discernable differences between sexes or races as to the distribution of visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learning modalities. The sense modalities are seen as the key to processing information and the mind and body are seen as mutually influencing each other (Craft, 2001). Related to this NLP strategy concept is research conducted by Gardner (1993) to document that each person possesses at least seven different types of intelligence: linguistic intelligence, logical-mathematical intelligence, visual-spatial intelligence, bodily-kinesthetic intelligence, musical intelligence, interpersonal intelligence, and interpersonal intelligence. Gardener sees that individuals can excel in one area but not the others and that other types of intelligence can also exist.


Neuro-Linguistic Programming has demonstrated an excellent potential for improving educational approaches. The positive and practical viewpoint of NLP makes it a desirable framework from which to approach educational activities. Although NLP is still a very young approach it has had a powerful impact in its short life. Researchers outside the NLP community continue to validate the wisdom of the basic concepts of the theory, such as auditory, visual, and kinesthetic learning styles. Further research needs to be conducted to validate the more controversial views of NLP such as its view of learning disabilities and NLP interventions for changing these ineffective learning strategies. NLP provides the tools and techniques with which educational excellence can be achieved and maintained.

Extratcs from : Shannon Sumrall - NLP and Education