It is recommended that classroom modelling is best managed by having the teacher as guide, working with those student subjects who are most comfortable and articulate to talk about their practice. This conclusion is supported by classroom observation and action research reflection on practice, and end-of-course questionnaire responses and interviews, in which some students express a variety of concerns about being interviewed (Student 3 in Psychology, for example, in a questionnaire response to being a subject: “Not very enjoyable. Invasion of privacy. Also found it least useful [of the three roles] ‘cos I didn’t learn anything new. Hard to answer the questions as I don’t think about how I write essays when I do them.”).
There were marked differences between the Biology and Psychology classes in reported usefulness of the different roles. Biology students reported the observer role as being most useful (5 of 9, or 56%), with fewer responding positively to the usefulness of subject and guide roles – 3 of 12 (25%) and 2 of 11 (18%) respectively (see Table 4). Such responses, taken together with the ease and enjoyment of taking on different roles, could be interpreted as a high proportion of students being outside their “comfort zone” when in subject or guide roles, which may be related to the roles they usually adopt in Biology lessons. Among Psychology students, responses as to usefulness were much more evenly split between the subject, guide and observer roles – 8 of 13 (62%), 6 of 11 (55%) and 6 of 12 (50%) respectively. Positive responses overall (for ease, enjoyment or usefulness) were also markedly higher in the Psychology class than in Biology.
Table 4. Experiencing different roles in modelling. A summary of student end-of-course questionnaire responses:
0 = no comment
Informed by such findings, particularly the lack of support for subject and guide roles among Biology students, a recommended generic approach to classroom modelling is having the teacher as guide interviewing a subject and the rest of the class as observers with different groups primed to notice distinct elements of the subject’s strategy for a particular process. Such elements might include the individual’s described behaviour, aspects of her mental strategy, relevant values and attitudes, and her approaches to time management and environmental management. The groups could compile their findings separately and then come together to produce an overall model of the subject’s strategy while highlighting the most important elements. This could be checked against the subject’s own understanding of her approach. By modelling, say, three successful students from a class, class members could discover those elements that are common to all three as well as those that are distinctive for a given individual. This approach offers students a repertoire of elements from which they can pick and choose according to their personal preference and need, while recognising key elements that appear to be common across successful strategies. The whole exercise, from briefing and set up to classroom investigation and compilation and discussion of findings, is likely to take 1.5 to 2 hours of class time and 1 hour of home study when investigating a single person, or 3 hours of class time and 2 hours of home study when researching three people. It needs to be made clear that classroom modelling does not pretend to seek the sophistication of formal NLP modelling in fine-tuning “the difference that makes the difference”. However, experience to date suggests that gains from classroom modelling come early and are sufficient to make such investigation of good practice worthwhile.
Predispositions for benefiting from NLP courses The epistemological approach of NLP (St. Clair and Grinder, 2001; Tosey and Mathison, 2003a, 2003b), or how we know what we know using NLP, presupposes that individual learners respond uniquely to the facilitator’s style of interaction with learners as well as being influenced by numerous other factors, including the social interactions and environmental conditions within the learning group, the nature of the subject material, and the previous experience of the learner. Factors that might predispose individuals to benefit from NLP approaches also depend on the nature of the NLP intervention. Is it concerned with generating new patterns of successful practice (NLPmodelling), facilitating change in a client (NLPapplication) or about learning to use NLP (NLPtraining)? The 6-hour Learning Toolkit course includes largely elements of NLPmodelling and NLPtraining.
With the above very great provisos in mind, it is nevertheless worth considering which students in a group are more likely to benefit from an NLP-influenced short course and in particular, might benefit from NLP classroom modelling. After all, for an educational innovation to be deemed worthwhile for use with mainstream classes it needs to be demonstrably effective for an appreciable proportion of the class, and it is worth considering how large this proportion might be. John Grinder, one of the two originators of NLP, writing in Bostic St. Clair and Grinder (2001, pp. 121–122), suggested that the following characteristics were shared by himself and the other NLP co-originator, Richard Bandler, and by implication, might have predisposed them in shaping NLP the way they did, namely:
“arrogant, curious, unimpressed by authority or tradition, strong personal boundaries – well-defined sense of personal responsibility for their own experiences and an insistence that others do likewise, willingness to try nearly anything rather than be bored (or boring), utterly lacking in self doubt – egotistical, playful, full capability as players in the ‘Acting As If’ game, and full behavioural appreciation of difference between form and content.”
This list begs many questions, not least, whether all these traits were particularly relevant to the original development of NLP, and even if they were, are they necessarily important for those NLP practitioners that have come after? This researcher’s own experience, that of a leading UK NLP trainer (Seymour, 2002–5), and the two teachers involved in the project, suggests that some of these traits are likely to be of much greater significance than others. For students engaged in an NLP course where there is an emphasis on NLPmodelling and NLPtraining, such traits might include curiosity about how other people organise their thoughts and behaviour to accomplish tasks, personal flexibility in thought and action around the tasks being investigated, and a willingness to suspend disbelief and “play” with possibilities concerning how individuals’ strategies might be investigated and described. Such traits might predispose individuals to explore their own and other people’s thoughts and behaviour in new ways within the context of NLP. The concept of emotional intelligence includes elements that seem to be relevant here (Bar-On and Parker, eds., 2000). The BarOn Emotional Quotient Inventory (EQ-iTM) (Bar-On, 1997) with its five composite scales – intra-personal, interpersonal, adaptability, stress management, and general mood – is regarded as an emotional intelligence inventory with high reliability and with good internal, external, content and construct validity for four of its five composite scales (Cohen, Manion and Morrison, 2000; Dawda and Hart, 2000; Impara and Plake Eds, 2001). High scores in two of the EQ-iTM composite scales – intra-personal (self-regard, emotional self awareness, assertiveness, independence, and self-actualization) and adaptability (reality testing, flexibility, problem solving) – would seem to be of greatest relevance in predisposing students to benefit from NLP interventions in the NLPmodelling and NLPtraining arenas. Such suppositions are worthy of further investigation.
The author would like to thank the staff and students of Havering Sixth Form College and Frome Community College for their time, energy and commitment in contributing to the research on which this paper is based.
Appendix 1. Course content for the Learning Toolkit courses at Frome Community College
Does the subject PLAN the revision? e.g. construct a revision timetable. How?
Makes sure files are in the ‘right’ order so he can revise ‘fluently’.
Tidies room if it’s really messy.
Revises subjects in order of importance.
2. SUMMARISING the material to revise from
• Folder of notes (highlighting, colour, annotation?)
• Lists and headings on A4 paper or similar?
• Index cards (Q cards)?
• Mind map, brainstorm, or similar. Poster?
• Using mnemonics (rhymes or sentences as memory aids e.g. DREAMS)
• Audiotape or digital recording?
• Using a computer?
Uses a computer.
Rewrites notes in shorthand. Key notes etc.
3. How, when and where does the subject REVIEW the material s/he is learning?
When? How often? How long is each session? What happens in a session? How does this change nearer the time of the mock exam?
Where does the subject revise? Is it always in the same place?
Starts revising about one month before.
Two hours a day if possible.
Sessions become longer and more intense nearer the exam.
Place: In the back room, near computer. Because it is quiet.
4. If the subject doesn’t understand something what do they do? How do they get HELP? From where?
(keep probing until you feel confident you know all the subject’s main strategies – these could include: using textbooks, revision guides, speaking to the teacher, asking other students, searching the web etc.)
• Talks to a friend or teacher if they’re available
• Uses textbooks and revision guides
5. How does the subject CHECK his/her understanding and recall?
Working with others? How?
How does s/he check his/her answers i.e. that they are correct?
Does s/he practice exam-type questions? How?
Headings for different parts of subjects. Writes as much as possible about each one.
Talks to parents about subjects. Doesn’t think working with other [students] works.
Looks back through notes and textbooks.
Does not practice exam-type questions unless teacher asks for answers to be handed in.
6. Try and work out what MOTIVATES the student to do the revision. Do they use carrot and/or stick strategies? Do they think about the benefits of revising and doing well in the exam (reward) and/or do they think about the consequences of not revising (punishment)?
Is motivated by punishment. As an exam gets closer, pressure increases revision and motivation.
Reward – goes out!
Knows revision equals better results.
7. If you have time, try to find out what the subject BELIEVES about his/her ability to revise.
Thinks he’s not good at revision but knows it increases confidence.
Should take it more seriously.
Identity: Academic. Writes to make himself seem more intelligent.