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Neuro-Linguistic Programming

In the early 1970s, an American professor of linguistics, John Grinder, and a psychology student, RichardBandler, wanted to find ‘the difference that makes the difference’ between mere mortals and people who excel. They studied some amazingly successful therapists and found that they all followed similar patterns in relating to their clients and in the language they used, and that they all held similar beliefs about themselves and about what they were doing. It was particularly interesting that these experts appeared to be unaware of the existence of these patterns and beliefs. Bandler and Grinder decided to find out what the specific patterns and beliefs were and to see if they could be learnt by other people. Together with co-workers (Leslie Cameron-Bandler, Judith DeLozierand Robert Dilts, among others), they developed these patterns and beliefs into something they called Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP).

NLP has relevance far beyond the field of psychotherapy where it originated. Its central ideas are now being incorporated into many approaches to communication and change: personal development, management, sales and marketing and – significantly for us – education, learning and teaching. NLP does not pretend to be a scientific theory of behaviour. It is based on observation and experience.

NLP is a collection of techniques, patterns and strategies for assisting effective communication, personal growth and change, and learning. It is based on a series of underlying assumptions about how the mind works and how people act and interact. The neuro part of NLP is concerned with how we experience the world through our five senses and represent it in our minds through our neurological processes. The linguistic part of NLP is concerned with the way the language we use shapes, as well as reflects, our experience of the world. The programming part of NLP is concerned with training ourselves to think, speak and act in new and positive ways, in order to release our potential and reach those heights of achievement which we previously only dreamt of.

The ten teaching/learning principles of NLP lie within humanistic approach to teaching:

1. The most important person in the classroom is the student (The teacher is important too, as respect and consideration for and from everybody in the classroom is essential).

2. Learning is a shared responsibility and depends on co-operation between students and teacher. (Learning to learn is an essential component of any lesson).

3. There is no one right way to teach or learn anything. (Anything that works is suitable. What is important is to find the right way for each individual and to be flexible in your approach).

4. Learning is a serious business. (That’s why it is crucially important to laugh about it, have fun and enjoy it. People learn best when they are enjoying themselves).

5. Mistakes are good. (Students should not it’s OK to make mistakes and so be happy to take risks and experiment while they’re learning).

6. The teacher’s job is to teach the subject. (But it is also to help students learn and to communicate the teacher’s values and beliefs).

7. You should not leave your private life outside the classroom. (Use your humanity, your experience – as well as the students’. Nevertheless, encourage the students to put their problems aside and use the time for learning).

8. It is essential to teach students anything to help them learn to use the language better. (It is not either/or. It is and/also).

9. Engaging the learners’ intelligence and emotions through a multi-sensory approach and learning through activity. (Eliciting is preferable to telling).

10. Teaching is an excellent way of finding out exactly what we know and of learning more.

From the point of view of TEFL methodology, NLP is eclectic, since it adopts any techniques or procedure, so long that it can be shown that it results in successful learning. Psychologically, it is close to learner-centred methodology, creating maximum comfort for the learner and placing demanding responsibility on the EFL teacher who is seen rather as a psychotherapist.