Special Skills for Classroom Management
by Stelios Perdios
Many teachers are unaware of the powerful techniques of persuasion and influence which are used by expert communicators from the educational, political, sales, advertising, and military and intelligence fields. Many teachers are unaware that the same profoundly powerful techniques of persuasion and influence, are available, to be learned and practiced in a classroom context. This lack of awareness of essential tools for teaching and learning is a serious disadvantage.
Rudyard Kipling once said, "Words are the most powerful drug used by mankind." The use of artful language however, is in itself not powerful enough to induce rapid behavioural change in pupils. The idea that words can bring about behavioural change becomes very powerful however, when the importance of communication physiology is acknowledged and incorporated into a communication for compliance strategy.
Studies have shown that only 7% of what is communicated between people is transmitted through the words themselves. 38% comes through the tone of voice and 55% is a result of body language or physiology. The facial expressions, the gestures, the quality and type of movements of the person delivering a communication provide much more information about what they're saying than the words do themselves.
Powerful techniques of persuasion and influence have developed from within the fields of Behavioural Psychology, Neurolinguistic Programming and Ericksonian Hypnosis. The science of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) is concerned with the study of how verbal and nonverbal language affects a person's nervous system. The name comes from "neuro", referring to the central nervous system and "linguistic", referring to language. Programming refers to the installation of a procedure or set of instructions. The NLP framework can teach anyone how to direct their own mind-body state and behaviour and also the state and behaviour of others. Two men are primarily responsible for initially creating NLP. They are Richard Bandler and John Grinder. Grinder is a linguist. Bandler is a mathematician, computer expert and Gestalt therapist. These NLP pioneers modelled professional people who were the most skilled at rapidly creating behavioural change in others. Modelling is the NLP process of discovering exactly how people produce a specific outcome. One of the presuppositions of NLP is that anything a person does can be modelled and because we all have the same neurology, any other individual can learn how to reproduce the same outcome. A person may have invested years of trial and error to find the specific way to use his mind and body to create an outcome. Fortunately anyone can learn to model the actions that took years to perfect and produce similar results in much less time. Bandler and Grinder are best known for a number of effective behavioural change processes that they developed through their modelling of Dr. Milton Erickson, Virginia Satir and Gregory Bateson. Using the basic patterns they modelled from these three masters of persuasion and influence, Bandler and Grinder created and refined their own patterns and taught them to others. These patterns are generally known as NLP. Other practitioners of NLP, such as Tony Robbins, Paul McKenna and Michael Breen have been instrumental in the popularisation and further development of NLP. When Bandler and Grinder studied successful people, they found many common attributes. One of the most important was the possession and use of precise communication skills. They tended to use key phrases and words that conveyed their most important ideas with great precision. Precise language can move people in the right direction. The converse is also true. Imprecise language can misdirect people.
"If thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought..."
George Orwell, 1984.
Great leaders and communicators know this truth and so they pay close attention to the words they use and the effect this has on their audience. In order to generate compliant behaviour, there are certain words and phrases which should be used. There are however, other words and phrases which should be avoided because these create the opposite effect of generating resistance in the listener. The use of precise language can move pupils in the right direction.
Studies of successful people have shown that they also share a great talent for creating rapport. Those who are skilled at creating rapport can influence large numbers of people whether as a teacher, a businessman, or a political or religious leader. Rapport is the ability to stand in someone else's shoes, to think and behave like they do. When people think they are alike, they will like each other, support each other and exhibit compliant behaviour. Teachers can learn how to establish enough rapport with pupils, in order to change their behaviour. Teachers can learn the powerful rapport-building methods of NLP.
Anchoring is a powerful NLP technique for ensuring access to personal resources. Anchoring refers to the linking of a specific mind-body state with a specific stimulus. The use of NLP can create anchors for resourceful mind-body states such as confidence, intense motivation and exuberance. Engaging and motivating pupils is a major concern of most teachers.
The late Dr Milton Erickson is widely recognised as the best clinical hypnotist of all time and the methods which he developed are very powerful tools of communication, persuasion and influence. Dr. Erickson could bring about behavioural change easily, by establishing rapport and by talking to his subjects using an artfully vague, powerful language of influence. One of the best ways to achieve rapport is through matching or creating a common physiology with that person. That's what Milton Erickson did so well. He learned to match the breathing patterns, posture, tonality and gestures of other people. By doing that he could achieve a totally binding rapport in minutes. People, who did not know him at all, suddenly trusted him without question. Powerful communicators use a process called tonal marking. Milton Erickson would mark out sections of his spoken communication by changing his voice pitch or through subtle hesitations in key areas within the sentence structure. For example he would say "I don't want you to go into a trance until you want to." He would lower the pitch of his voice and hesitate ever so slightly, almost imperceptibly before speaking the key words in bold type. To the listener, it seems he is offering a choice but really it's a disguised instruction that goes straight into the unconscious mind, without resistance from the conscious mind. It is in fact an Ericksonian embedded command, which is delivered using command tonality. Spoken and written sentences can be structured to avoid resistance from the conscious mind.
Dr. Erickson was also highly skilled in the use of metaphor. Metaphor as indirect communication is very powerful. The message is offered by likening it to something else. Metaphor can be a symbolic story which creates emotional involvement while the message gets in through the path of least resistance from the conscious mind.
As well as using artful language, Milton Erickson would also ask his clients to comply with several small requests before he attempted to put them into a trance. He might ask them to close the door, and then sit back, and then relax and after he had obtained their agreement to comply with these small requests, he'd ask them to go into a trance. By securing their previous agreement, he had made it easier for them to comply with his later requests. Research shows that after making an initial commitment, people are more likely to agree with requests that are in line with the prior commitment. The power of this simple idea is very important in classroom management.
Luckily for teachers, there are powerful internal conditioned mechanisms which cause regular and predictable behaviour in human beings and pupils. Teachers could learn how to exploit these patterns of behaviour. Professor Robert Cialdini (University of Arizona) has studied such mechanisms to explain how and why people become compliant. He has developed a model of influence which is based on the presence of unconscious habitual patterns of behaviour which he refers to as fixed action patterns. In his book "Influence. Science and Practice", Professor Cialdini has identified six patterns which human beings follow automatically. These fixed action patterns are interesting because their mechanisms operate outside of the conscious awareness of those involved and can involve elaborate and intricate behavioural events. Usefully, these automatic behaviour patterns have a trigger, like a software application waiting to be launched by clicking the right button. Understanding the Cialdini principals would give teachers an immensely powerful tool of influence.
We all have different strategies for learning yet many teachers wrongly assume every pupil learns the same way. Teachers usually don't have any accurate idea of how different pupils learn. If teachers don't know anything about a pupil's learning strategy they're seriously limiting the effectiveness of their teaching. By finding out a pupil's learning strategy teachers could place themselves in a much better position for building a relationship, for building rapport and for influencing and teaching that individual. How can anyone find out how an individual is processing information and learning? How can anyone determine a pupils learning strategy? NLP uses specific indicators of what's going on in a person's mind in order to answer such questions.
Teachers will in time acquire these extra special skills to supplement and enhance the management skills they already possess. The techniques are not a substitute for interesting lessons. The techniques are not a substitute for any of the basic classroom management skills which teachers use daily. The techniques are not a substitute for establishing a good relationship with a class. Maintaining a good relationship is of great importance. Indeed these special methods can help significantly in the process of building a good relationship with pupils.
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