NLP and the Classroom

Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) first burst upon the psychological therapy scene in 1975 with the release of Richard Bandler and John Grinder’s written work, The Structure of Magic. At the time, Grinder was mostly involved in transformational grammar which was created by Noam Chomsky during the 1960s, and Richard Bandler was heavily involved in the study of mathematics with special attention to statistics. Transformational grammar is a systemic approach to uncovering the “deeper” meanings of communication by way of creating models of how grammatical knowledge is both represented and eventually processed by the brain prior to being articulated.


What Bandler and Grinder did was to apply their separate disciplines to the psychological counseling techniques of Fitz Perls, Virginia Satir and Milton Erickson.  For those not in the know, Fitz, Virginia and Erickson are absolute Titans in the field of talk therapy. The ultimate outcome of Bandler and Grinder’s efforts is that they were able to identify and quantify the specific patterns present in the practices of Perls, Satir and Erickson. Arguably for the first time, the mastery of psychological counseling was revealed in a very exacting and distinct series of concrete processes … the “how do they do that” puzzle was solved.


Okay, now that your eyes are glazed over from having read the above I suppose you are saying to yourself “Gee, Frank, that’s just swell, but what does any of this have to do with my being a successful classroom teacher?” I’m absolutely delighted you asked that question, gentle readers, and the answer begins below.


In the present form, NLP provides a highly refined matrix by which a person can capture the sensory input preference(s) of any individual. Huh? Okay, try this, we have all heard and probably read a great deal about “learning styles” and the importance of employing classroom instructional techniques that take into account a student’s preferred way of learning. When we say “learning style” we are actually addressing the preferred process, and not the content proper. We can know how a person is processing information but we cannot know the actual content, e.g., we cannot read their mind. One of the major criticisms, and justifiably so, that is leveled at proponents of learning styles is that the data substantiating claims of learning style are derived from self report forms. With NLP, we avoid the whole controversy by way of directly observing a person (student) process information … we ask them nothing and they tell us everything.


There are several ways, or active systems, for identifying how a person is processing information with regard to sensory input channel selection, e.g., up inside their head making pictures (Visual Learner), listening to their inner voice run a monologue (Auditory Learning), and so on. Please keep the context of NLP’s birth and development in mind as it is crucial to understanding what you can and what you cannot use in the NLP tool box. For example, while conversing with a person I can observe their breathing and have a decent understanding of what sensory channels they are engaging at that moment. That’s all well and fine in certain settings, however, a classroom filled with students and a busy schedule to maintain is not the right time or place for such a thing.  Ideally, we would all have the opportunity to create our capture – identify matrix out of several observation systems. The truth of the matter is we as teachers do not have that luxury. So what is our best course of action given that we want to add NLP to our teaching repertoire? We go with auditory cues and by this I mean we engage in active listening with a very specific purpose.


To get a feel for how NLP might benefit you as a teacher try the following experiment for an hour or so every day for the next 3 days. Listen carefully to the person you are conversing with and keep a mental tally of the times they used words like “feel” “hear” and “see”. You are listening for patterns to emerge and here is a hypothetical conversation taking place in which you are the listener as an example: “You know, I feel real bad about the state of the economy today. I mean, it hurts me to think of all the people who lost their jobs right before the holidays. I can’t begin to imagine how painful it must have been for them to tell their Children that the holidays were going to be slim this year. Whenever I think of this mess we are in I just feel so bad inside …” Okay, now I know you are all quick studies, have all ready analyzed the hypothetical above, and properly concluded … “Aha, Kinesthetic Learner!”  Congratulations, without any fuss or muss you have just correctly identified the imaginary person’s sensory input preference and you immediately converted this knowledge into a learning style label. What is more important is that you did it without them even knowing and you did it without subjecting them to some “fill in the bubble” questionnaire. You actively listened, and they told you everything you need to know in order to quickly and deeply connect with them, namely, you frame your part of the continuing conversation by using words that are kinesthetic in nature.


There are some interesting visual and auditory cues that tend to present in all sensory input preference systems.  A such consideration is that of mental processing intervals. One of the really “nice” things about KLs is they will tell you when they are actively processing and when they have completed processing.


Let’s take the example of the ever present pen or pencil. KLs don’t just hold the writing instrument; they are near constantly manipulating it in some fashion. If we key in on their prop during instruction we find that the speed – tempo and magnitude of twirling (example) changes frequently. What we are seeing is a metronome of sorts and it defines (can) where the KL is with regard to mental processing.


What we want to do is watch for the lulls in manipulation and the times where the rhythm and speed of movement slips into a leisurely, even cadence. That tells us the student has absorbed what was presented and processed the newly acquired information to some degree. This is a key time to ask a follow on question or do something that leads them to use what they have processed in order to create deeper – further understanding.


I hope you not only enjoyed the post, but come away with at least a glimpse of what could be a useful tool to you in teaching.




  1. Nick Kemp said,

    February 2, 2009 at 10:46 pm

    I work using NLP in the educational sector and have writen a number of articles internationally published on this if interested at

    • intellteacher said,

      February 8, 2009 at 5:06 pm

      Hello Nick and welcome to the Blog. Kindly read through some of the stuff all ready up and post your comments regarding same. I will check out your site a bit later today. Perhaps we can link to our sites in mutual support.

  2. Noel Lackey said,

    February 7, 2009 at 9:47 pm

    great article , I am sure a lot of people who currently use accelerated Learning techniques would have a lot to add to this article not only on their use of accelerated learning but how NLP fits into the learning plan, and more specifically what NLP techniques they find work best.
    Noel LAckey.

    • intellteacher said,

      February 8, 2009 at 5:02 pm

      Hello Noel and welcome to the Blog. I am preparing a series of article re: NLP in the classroom for teachers and will begin posting them up in the near future. NLP really does address the “how to capture – key in on sensory processing modes of choice” issue quite well. With Win’s Accelerated Learning and Creative Problem Solving strategies I “think” a fairly comprehensive model for moving forward in the classroom emerges. Your thoughts?

      For those all ready proficient in NLP techniques the above referenced articles will serve as a review – over view of sorts. I’m planning on doing my Dissertation on NLP in the classroom setting as the relevant literature is silent on this matter. Lots of stuff on the manipulative, corporate backroom, power play, negotiating thing; nothing on a formal educational setting Grades K-12. The articles will also provide people unaware of NLP with a decent “how to” plan of action. For someone such as yourself there might not be much there in terms of new material and I would be deeply appreciative of your future comments in this matter.

  3. Nick Kemp said,

    February 8, 2009 at 7:48 pm

    I have had a number of articles internationally published on the use of NLP in education. Some of these can be found here

  4. Dennis Welka said,

    February 10, 2009 at 2:21 pm

    I also enjoyed your article and have some expertise in introducing accelerated learning and creative problem solving in the classroom. Our school has piloted Modern Socratic Teaching as part of the Renaissance Project of Dr. Win Wenger ( Our initial findings have been very enouraging in terms of measuring accelerated learning. We are in the process of adapting techniques heretofore only utilized with adults. Our intent is to create a culture of educated children who will continue to use what they have learned as they grow older and in turn become creative problem solving adults. In this way, we feel that the condition of society as a whole will be improved. If I may use an analogy, it is much like a coach teaching his players HOW to play basketball as opposed to a coach simply teaching plays. It is the deeper understanding of the HOW that will serve the student in any situation. More information may be gleaned at or

    • intellteacher said,

      February 10, 2009 at 5:07 pm

      Hello Dennis and welcome to the Blog. Excellent post regarding the “how to” part of the learning equation. It seems that all too often instructional guidance is restricted to reciting clichés, e.g., “You have to concentrate.” and “You must apply yourself.” as if they were magical mantras. The “what” and “why” parts of learning frequently appear, albeit in distorted form, yet the “how to” part is many times absent.

      Your basketball analogy is well taken and it really is a matter much deeper than mere fundamentals. Even before introducing the fundamentals of a discipline and or activity it is of vital importance to have a foundation laid out and ready for construction. People tend to start with the foundation and this misses a critical step, namely, prepping the ground in anticipation of building fundamentals.

      I’m a huge fan of Dr. Wenger and it gives me a real sense of hope and satisfaction to read that your school is making good use of his many brilliant accelerated learning and creative problem solving techniques. Now, if we could just get those dullards in Congress on board the World would be a much better place.

      Journey well, IntellTeacher

  5. Noel Lackey said,

    February 10, 2009 at 6:17 pm

    Hi Guys,
    this conversation is very encouraging, my background is in Telecoms and I worked as a trainer in the Telecoms industry for 10 years, I have been using Win Wengers techniques for years and have been trying to spread the word through the students in the classes that i have presented around the world, my information in NLP is very limited and I would like to rectify this as it is something i would be very interested in

    • intellteacher said,

      February 11, 2009 at 2:15 am

      Hello Noel:

      I’ve been studying and practicing NLP for some 18 years now. My Mentor is Richard McHugh, Ph.D., who is probably the first “pure” NLP based Psychologist. In the near future I’ll be posting up some articles addressing the salient features of NLP, techniques to develop skill in same, and this will be accomplished from the perspective of a classroom teacher. I complete all course work for my M.A. in Education – Secondary degree come this August and intend to teach in a Title I inner city school. Time to walk through the fire I do believe.

      If you are interested in learning NLP I would be delighted to assist you. A caveat of sorts if you will; NLP is “doing” based. I think that a person could acquire a decent academic overview of the system by investing all of about 5 hours in reading a couple of authoritative written works. As a logical start point, check your local public library for “Frogs Into Princes” by Bandler and Grinder. It’s a short read and it will give you a good generalist feel for NLP in action and action is really what it’s all about.

  6. Noel Lackey said,

    February 11, 2009 at 8:39 am

    thanks for the reply, I will order “Frogs into Princes” immediately, I doubt if my local library would have it,

    • intellteacher said,

      February 13, 2009 at 7:20 pm

      Hello Noel:

      Don’t be surprised if your local library does have “Frogs to Princes” … it is small, paperback book and fairly cheap to buy on Amazon or other online book vendors, usually no more than $14 or so.

  7. Nick Kemp said,

    February 11, 2009 at 8:49 am

    I also added an interview with Alison Hirons, a longstanding teacher to Alison has trained extensively in NLP and uses her skills in the classrom. I am also piloting another project with a sample group with an online training system that uses some NLP insights. This will be unveiled later in 2009 once we have concluded the initial pilot. My colleague in this project has three decades of working in the profession.

    In recent tmes NLP has in some instances been IMO over hyped and this has done little to enhance credibility in the public domain. My advise is to attend a skils based training in a small group to develop useful insights.

    • intellteacher said,

      February 11, 2009 at 7:55 pm

      Alison apparently has the background to bring NLP to educators and she reads like a bright, energetic, and sincere professional. Nick, if you know her personally please invite her to stop by the Blog and add to the conversation if she so desires. Given her current activities in working with school Children I am certain Dr. Wenger’s articles and techniques would interest her.

    • intellteacher said,

      February 13, 2009 at 7:28 pm

      Good advice, Nick, and agreed on the over-hyped end of it as well. Mis-represented is another thing that has haunted NLP, e.g., “Speed Seduction” and garbage of that sort. Then we have the whole corporate culture issue which has co-opted NLP and turned it into some smoke filled, back room, power negotiating monster. NLP has probably been corrupted by more entities seeking personal gain in terms of money than any other system in modern times. Pity when that sort of thing happens and yet in a certain perverse way a “left handed” compliment to the efficacy of NLP.

      As a quick follow on regarding your guidance of attending smallish NLP workshops, instructional seminars or study groups, I might add that NLP is all about “doing” and merely acquiring knowledge of the system is a small part of the equation. Doing and using NLP on a daily basis is the key to obtaining a level of useful skill.

  8. Noel Lackey said,

    February 17, 2009 at 11:25 am

    Hi Folks,
    been trying to get the book, Frogs into Princes, it is not available on, I have tried to buy it from some of the independant sellers who are listed on the amazon site, but none of them will send it to Ireland!!, on it is very expensive to buy and get it sent to Ireland, my local library never heard of it, any suggestions?

    • intellteacher said,

      February 17, 2009 at 2:09 pm

      Hey Noel, I’ll hunt around a bit and see if I can find my copy. I’ve moved several times over the last few years so it’s packed away … somewhere. I’ll send it on to you so that you can read it and then send it back to me. If I can’t find my copy I’ll pick up another in one of the used book stores around here and send it to you.

      In the mean time, from a practical learning and application perspective there will be more than enough information posted here in article format for you to begin exploring, putting into practice, and developing skill in NLP. Please notice that I typed “… putting into practice …” as “doing” NLP on a daily basis is really the key to acquiring skill in same. Intellectually, NLP is a relatively easy discipline to grasp … doing it with real skill is another matter.

      You might also start using Dr. Wenger’s “Image Stream” technique as it hits the biggest demands of several such systems bang on, namely, heightened and refined awareness. There is a lot of common ground in Dr. Win Wenger’s Accelerated Learning, Creative Problem Solving techniques and NLP. “Awareness” is key to getting anywhere with these methods.

      If you run into something that won’t decode for you in pursuit of any of the above feel free to send me an email and I’ll help you work through it.

  9. Noel Lackey said,

    February 17, 2009 at 2:12 pm

    Thanks very much for your offer to help, I look forward to receiving the book, I am a long term user of DR., Win Wengers techniques and it was he who lead me to this blog, I would be most grateful if you could direct me to articles on this blog that are relevant to a total newbie.
    Thanks again,

    • intellteacher said,

      February 17, 2009 at 4:14 pm

      You are most welcome, Noel. Send me a snail mail addy for mailing off the book. I’ll look around for it this weekend and mail it when found. is a good email addy for me. I’m preparing an overview of NLP article series right now and they should start to appear within the next week. The working title for the first article that might be of benefit to you is “NLP – What It Is & What It Is Not”. There is just so much crap on NLP with most of it coming from entrepreneurs with no appreciable formal education, a heavily pronounced marketing slant that caters to the money grubbing desires of corporate culture, and with the majority of “them” holding out some small amount of time with either Bandler or Grinder as the whole of their credentials.

      Although Bandler and Grinder are unquestionably the original architects, what they set in motion has grown far beyond their original model and today there are, IMO, more qualified Teachers – Mentors of NLP than either of these two gentlemen. I come to NLP with a background in education – formal curriculum & instruction and am most closely aligned with Richard McHugh, Ph.D., the quintessential NLP based Psychologist. Therefore, “manipulation” is restricted to assisting others in becoming the very best authentic Human Being possible … “actualized” in Maslow’s terminology. I leave “speed seduction” and “how to get whatever you want” stuff to the many charlatans and mal-intentioned individuals that have managed to infest, and subsequently pervert, NLP.

      As a blunt note with regard to the above, NLP was born from observing Clinical Psychology in action and the goal of such a practice is to help people … not sell them a bag full of “Brand X Widgets” or trick them into doing the Will of another person.

      On this Blog, we’re all about helping people with an emphasis on helping teachers via Dr. Wenger’s extraordinary Acceleration Learning & Creative Problem Solving techniques, augmented in part by NLP practices. Any and all can enjoy many benefits and forms of improvement (however defined) from practicing what is found here; we just happen to move forward through a classroom teacher’s perspective in some instances. The content, e.g., techniques, practices, can be applied in any fashion desired and are useful to all practitioners; it is just a matter of the general context being rooted in classroom instruction … the fundamental skill set remains the same.

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