NLP and Teacher Training

Ron Piper explores how NLP can be positively applied to the emotional roller coaster that can be teacher training.

Back to knowledge base

NLP and Teacher Training

Training to be a teacher can be an emotional roller coaster: lesson triumphs can quickly melt away following classroom car crashes and vice-versa. And of course, a persistent flow of well-intentioned advice from seasoned colleagues can sometimes add to a disintegrating sense of self based on thoughts such as, Now why didn’t I think of that? and Why didn’t I see that? Advice implies a better way, a way that in many trainee teachers’ experience, is absent from their practice. So, what is the alternative?

NLP assumes that we have all the resources we need. With this thought in mind and after observing trainee teachers, I would always invite trainees to compare the lesson they taught with the lesson they had in mind and to think about the changes that would be necessary to get both of the lessons to match up. In my experience, trainees are very adept at realising what needs to change. Or put another way, understanding the differences that make the difference.

Yes, this is a variation of watching oneself in a movie and then thinking about what needs to change. But the central cognitive principle here, and indeed in the movie watching, is contrastive analysis: how is the idealised (planned lesson) different from the reality of the delivered one? Teachers of all stripes are very familiar with AoL (assessment of learning) and AfL (assessment for learning). Now it strikes me that the thinking processes involved in contrastive analysis exactly correlate with AoL and AfL: this is where I am, and this is what I need to do to change. And isn’t this, after all, one of the primary areas of enquiry in coaching?

The great benefit for trainee teachers in offering feedback like this is that they have ownership of their future pedagogical goals. Yes, I could tell a trainee how they could improve, but the advice would be coming from my model, my subjective understanding of the classroom. Trainees, like the rest us, know when a lesson is not going well: they process the somatic information, they engage emotionally. Using the movie/contrastive analysis approach enables trainees to turn these experiences into goals. They are the experts on themselves.

Again, in my experience, trainee teachers are quite expert in telling observers what needs to change, and they do it often with complete disregard of their egos. The difficulty is getting the trainees to limit their self-criticism to just several key points. But taking a quasi meta approach - And thinking about the observations you have made, which of them would you act upon? And if you acted upon just one, what do you think the impact would be? And is it possible to take this action immediately? – can help to identify the best actions for them.  

Putting trainee teachers in the driving seat and providing them with an opportunity to author their own successes builds self-esteem and lays the foundations for producing a teacher who has a capacity for reflection and self-leadership. And aren’t these the very teachers we want in our classrooms?

Ron Piper
Ron Piper (member article)

trainer, coach, education