NLP in Education

Neuro Linguistic Programming, or NLP, is a self-development technique developed in the 1970s by Richard Bandler and John Grinder. Its purpose is to help individuals understand and take control of their thought processes and feelings and use them to bring about positive change in their lives. It’s frequently used in business to help people build better relationships, develop leadership skills and overcome thinking which hampers their professional development, but in recent years it has gained momentum in the sphere of education due to its effectiveness in helping students gain a better understanding of the way they learn. In 1983, Howard Gardner put forward his theory of multiple intelligences which puts learning styles into three main categories: visual learning, in which the student responds best to visual stimuli such as videos, demonstration, reading and charts; auditory learning where the student prefers to have things explained to them and kinesthetic learning where students learn best when they perform an activity themselves, such as doing experiments and taking part in practical lessons. Teachers are now increasingly applying NLP techniques in the classroom for the benefit of each type of learner, and it’s even being adopted as part of the curriculum in some universities.

NLP in the classroomChildren's education using NLP

Learning is defined as the process of obtaining knowledge. In order to obtain knowledge, we have to process information, and NLP deals specifically with the various ways in which we do that. The ‘representational systems’ of NLP – that is, the way the mind processes and stores information – broadly correspond to the main learning styles identified by the theory of multiple intelligences, so the transfer of NLP to the classroom is actually quite logical. NLP gives teachers an additional tool with which to identify the learning styles of their students, and helps them to understand how the language and materials they use can influence students. This enables them to develop clearer communication techniques which ensure that each type of learner has the best possible opportunity to take in information. Today’s multimedia classroom, with tools such as the interactive whiteboard, provides an environment conducive to every learning style as it actively encourages use of all three senses.

Pip Thomas from Edge NLP helps teachers to use NLP in the classroom. She says, “By understanding NLP, teachers can build on the tools available to them by structuring lessons so that they work for all students and help them to develop their ability to learn from various stimuli at an early age. This allows students to develop a well-rounded representational system which will stand them in good stead later in life.”

NLP learning strategies

NLP techniques shift the focus from simply memorising information to using and developing fundamental sensory processes. A simple example of this is teaching spelling: rather than just learning how to spell a word using a conventional mnemonic technique, the student is encouraged to look at the word from right to left as well as left to right. This takes the focus off the words themselves and places it on the process of learning instead, allowing the student to understand rather than just remember how the word is spelt. This method is shown to give students more confidence in their ability to learn, which in turn generates better results.

Visualization and metaphors

These NLP techniques give teachers an alternative way of handling situations. The technique of visualization is widely used by sports psychologists to improve athletic performance, but it is equally useful as a tool to help achieve specific learning outcomes; the use of metaphors encourages pupils to think differently. Both techniques are a powerful means of providing positive messages which can change a student’s mind-set, so they can be very useful way of replacing limiting beliefs, engendered by lack of confidence or external factors such as bullying, with positive messages and suggestions.


Reframing is an NLP technique which develops ownership, empowerment and flexibility in behaviour. In its most basic form it could change a negative idea like, “It’s horrible when it rains as I can’t play football at lunchtime,” into a positive one such as, “When it rains it means I can make the most of the indoor equipment and play volleyball with my friends in the hall.”


Anchoring is one of NLP’s most powerful techniques which can be used for any number of states and contexts. It works by focusing on an external trigger which elicits a positive emotional response. So, if a child is in a situation where they need to change their emotional state, anchoring can quickly access the required emotion. For example, a pupil who suffers from exam nerves can use an anchor to replace their fear with calm. Teachers too can utilise this technique in the presentation of learning material, introducing key words or other stimuli when students are at their most receptive to create an anchor that, consciously or subconsciously, will aid students’ subsequent recall of the material.
NLP for children using kinesthetic learning tecniquePip says, “Technology such as the interactive white board is just one example of how the classroom is changing. The language we use in school needs to resonate with everyone. How we communicate and the specific language we use is a key element of NLP, one which can be applied both in conventional teaching but which also works brilliantly with the new technology now available to teachers.

 “The benefits of understanding and utilising sensory-based learning and representational systems in the classroom will change the face of education. The knowledge of NLP allows the teacher to have an amazing set of tools to get the best out of their class.”

Take a look at our What are the Best Educational Apps article.