NLP, Bloom and Claxton


This is a very brief attempt to cross reference NLP with two key models of learning from within the world of education.  It is my passionate belief that with flexibility, there is a wonderful practical synthesis between these two models (Bloom and Claxton) and NLP.  NLP is essentially a tool kit which used ethically and intelligently fosters the kind of learning and intelligent thinking, feeling and behaving which both Bloom and Claxton advocate, albeit in quite different ways.

Proposed Programme

What I am proposing to offer schools now is a reasonably structured, sufficiently practical and eclectic mix of these approaches in order to support continuing professional development for teachers and student support staff.

In addition I hope to continue to broaden the contexts in which I can provoke and elicit more understanding and practical improvements in the way we all prepare our children for a future that is, as ever, uncertain and unpredictable.

The programme itself can be cut in many different ways and I am more interested in developing and experimenting as we go than making any attempt to ‘get the right answer’ before we start’.

The fact is, I do not think there is a ‘right answer’.  In NLP terminology there is only what works with this child in this context.  If it works it is right; if it doesn’t then it is time to do something different.

I like Claxton’s notion of what education is for:

The purpose of education is to address the ultimate challenge facing human beings: how do we survive and thrive in a changing world?

The goal is to provide rich environments to grow better minds – minds better adapted to take on this challenge.

Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning

NLP is not simply analogous to Bloom’s taxonomy, it brings something additional and powerful to the party: the means of practical application.

Outlined below I have briefly referred to a range of NLP techniques and models which refer to each level of Bloom’s taxonomy. It is also worth mentioning that within the most fully developed domain of the taxonomy, Bloom defined specific question types and instructional verbs (e.g. list, consider, contrast, compare etc.) to foster cognitive processing at each level within the Cognitive Domain. The NLP approach to the use of language is complementary to this in that it emphasises and teaches practitioners how to use language with intense precision in order to stimulate specific types of thinking (and also affective and psychomotor) response patterns.

I have not gone into this in detail here, but in essence the two core processes NLP uses to achieve this kind of cognitive development are the Meta Model and the Milton Model. The first is designed to elicit and constructively challenge existing modes of thinking; the second is designed to install and inculcate specific modes of thinking (and feeling/behaving). We do not just teach teachers and student support staff about these processes. We give them the skills to apply these models, for example, in the context of implementing Bloom’s taxonomy.

NB ‘TFB’s’ = Thinking Feeling Behaving

Cognitive Domain   (THINKING) How NLP and   associated disciplines address and develop each level
Evaluation In the NLP process of ‘Strategy Elicitation, Re-design   and Installation’, students evaluate sequences of TFB’s for efficacy in the   real world and then adapt their strategies accordingly.
Synthesis NLP encourages extensive use of metaphor, association   and juxtaposition to trigger synthesis of ideas and systems.  It also fosters meta cognition (thinking   about thinking) to help integrate new knowledge with overarching sets of   knowledge, beliefs and principles.
Analysis NLP emerged from an analogy with systems analysis in   computing.  The meta model analyses   cause-effect thinking in depth for veracity but also for usefulness.
Application ‘Future Pacing’ is a form of mental rehearsal designed   to check efficacy of application.  There   is no such thing as failure only feedback.
Comprehension NLP Meta Model analysis shows how we create meaning and   also challenges the meanings we create, especially through the exploration of   cause/effect and complex equivalence patterns
Knowledge Use of sensory rich learning strategies, anchoring and   memorisation techniques (including Dominic O’Brien and Tony Buzan)


Affective Domain   (ATTITUDES/BELIEFS) How NLP and   associated disciplines address and develop each level
Internalise Values System NLP allows students and teachers to explore how their   unconscious and conscious minds relate to one another, the difference in the   functionality of each, and ways of revisiting internalised (unconscious)   value systems when they prove to be inadequate.  The process of internalisation (and   naturalisation, see below) is key to effective learning. NLP not only   explains how this works, it provides ways of making it work faster, more   powerfully and also of being able to adapt internalised structures of values   and beliefs as experience of the real world develops.
Organise Ideas NLP Meta Programmes refer to and help us to define the   architecture of our ideas, beliefs and values.  We elicit and challenge self-limiting Meta   Programmes and support the extension of useful Meta Programmes with reference   to their usefulness, context and to ethical frameworks as appropriate.
Value Ideas NLP goes beyond simply looking at the ‘truth’ of ideas   to encourage a questioning mind-set which also asks, ‘is it useful to believe   this, to value this, to act as if this is true?’  This can be done within a defined ethical   framework.  NLP also teaches teachers   and student support staff how to manage the process of attribution positively.    This means being scrupulously positive   and artful in the way we encourage students to value and subsequently   internalise values and ideas.
Respond to ideas NLP stresses the importance when facilitating learning   (teaching) of paying close attention to the response patterns of students and   building on these response patterns to continue the process of opening up   their map of the world.  In particular   we teach teachers how to calibrate student responses so that they can enhance   engagement and rapport.
Receive Ideas (I am not sure if Bloom mentions that   students also ‘Generate Ideas’. I think this should be included.) A fundamental purpose of NLP is to open up students’   map of reality and possibility; to open them up to the receipt of more   enabling and liberating patterns of belief, value systems and TFB’s.


Psychomotor   Domain (Skills) How NLP and   associated disciplines address and develop each level
Naturalisation Through the use of processes such as fractionation and   altered states of mind, NLP facilitates much faster integration and   naturalisation of newly acquired skills.  Based on the principle that the unconscious   mind does not discriminate between what is really happening and what we   imagine is happening, this form of trance work not only speeds up the process   of naturalisation in conjunction with more conventional practice, it also   builds the individual’s commitment and total belief in their newly acquired abilities.
Articulation Strategy elicitation is the NLP process of articulating   hitherto unconscious processes so that they can be adapted, re-designed and   re-installed into the unconscious.
Develop Precision NLP emphasises precision in imitation and replication   before encouraging students to then adapt and improve upon the strategies and   skill models they have acquired.  NLP   also recognises and inculcates the precise forms of practice which underpin   the belief that anyone can learn to do anything.
Manipulate A key practical component of NLP is the process of   rehearsal.  Rehearsal can be done   physiologically and cognitively (consciously and also through utilisation of   unconscious processing).
Imitate NLP grew up out of the process of modelling; imitating   with minute precision the successful strategies of leading experts in any   given specialism.  NLP modelling does   not just include physiological imitation but also the elicitation and   adoption and critical adaptation of cognitive and affective strategies.  NLP practitioners and leaders often deploy ‘modelling’   within sports and the performing arts as well as within more academic   disciplines.

Guy Claxton’s ‘Real World Intelligence’.

This is an especially exciting field of research and practice which is based on a much broader notion of what it means to be intelligent in the real world in the 21st Century and what kinds of skills and dispositions our children are likely to need as the century unfolds.  The key reality underpinning this approach is that we do not know what specific knowledge or skills our students are going to need because of the ever increasing pace of change.

Therefore it makes sense to focus more upon how we can create ever adaptable, flexible human beings who have deep and constantly improving expertise in how to learn and adapt to meet the unforeseeable challenges.

This is just a brief outline of the approach and of how NLP fits Claxton’s model and aspirations for Real World Intelligence, like a glove.

Intelligence is Composite This goes beyond Howard Gardener’s multiple   intelligence model (verbal, mathematical/logical, spatial, musical etc.)   which tends to assume individual children have unique but limited   talents.  Claxton suggests intelligence   is a set of strategies and skills that we can all acquire and that these are   tied to ways of thinking, learning and being (practical, intuitive, strategic,   etc.) rather than to subject-specific disciplines.  This is very different say from the notion   upon which grammar school entrance tests are still being conducted – that   there is something called G (general intelligence) and that it is essentially   about logic.  Without enough of it, you   will always struggle to grow beyond your own genetic ceiling.
Intelligence is Expandable Claxton largely dismisses the idea of ‘fixed   intelligence’ citing neuro-scientific advances and real world evidence (for   example bookies using complex analytical techniques to accurately set odds   despite poor performance in ‘IQ’ tests).  One key element of his argument is Dweck’s evidence   that ‘believing you are intelligent actually makes you behave in more   intelligent ways’!
Intelligence is Practical This is the kind of intelligent behaviour and mind-set   that is fostered through tuning into the world physically, using the hands as   an extension of the brain and tinkering/experimenting.  Claxton suggests that a key challenge for   teenagers is in learning how to tune their physiological and emotional   orchestra to achieve real world results.  He refers to Gever Tulley’s tinkering school   and ‘5 dangerous things you should let your kids do’ (see TED video).  He also refers to the ‘pause button’   (Stephen Covey – see below).
Intelligence is Intuitive Claxton illustrates how our brains go faster than we   think.  In other words, he shows how   the use of apparently unconscious processes often leads to better real world   results in contexts where there are complex and numerous variables.  He is not against traditional   logical/analytical cognition but says that there has to be an understanding   about when to deploy rational, evaluative logic and when to give freer rein   to intuition.  By the way this fits   neatly with McGilchrist’s brilliant summation of the function of Left and   Right brain hemispheres and his views on the malaise of over-emphasis in   Western culture on Left Brain thinking.
Intelligence is Distributed This is about the way in which we use tools and   resources.  Contrary to fears that our   children are becoming digitally dependent, Claxton shows how using the   correct tools, having the ability to deploy resources from an ever deepening   pool of technologies and hands-on learning are key to real world success.  People are smart in large measure because   they have invented and learnt to make use of smart tools.
Intelligence is Social Claxton cites evidence of high statistical correlations   between frequency of social contact and evidence of real world intelligence.   He also emphasises the overarching   significance of role models and peer modelling in subsequent real world   intelligent behaviour (or the absence of it).  Evidence from within the business community   strongly underpins Claxton’s belief that social interaction is a fundamental   cornerstone of real world intelligence.  The small businesses which are currently   thriving in the recession tend to be the most collaborative and   well-connected ones engaged in networking and strategic partnering.
Intelligence is Strategic Claxton refers here to the process of Meta-Cognition –   thinking about thinking.  Conscious   cognition is making a cavalry charge.  Strategic cognition is knowing when and   where to make the charge.  Strategic   intelligence is also about acquiring the facility to transfer learning in one   context to other real world contexts, making appropriate adaptions as you do   so.  Students, in Claxton’s view, can   and should be encouraged to develop their own internal coach – a   semi-detached entity within their own minds that reflects, comments and   advises upon the generation and selection of appropriate options.
Intelligence is Ethical A key component of Claxton’s thinking on this is that   talking about good behaviour does not result in ethical behaviour (see The   Good Samaritan experiment).  Claxton’s   view is that ethical behaviour grows out of advanced empathy.  He cites Goleman, Seligman and Covey amongst   others arguing that without an understanding of what it is like to be in   someone else’s shoes, students cannot really know what it means to apply   ethics in the real world.  Positive   role modelling clearly plays a major role in this. Claxton’s views here are   somewhat more ‘political’ but it is impossible to talk about ethics without   straying into this domain.  I am   reminded of Dr Spock’s comment in a Star Trek movie when talking about   whales, ‘Hunting a species to extinction is illogical, Captain’.  For me, this sums up what Claxton means by   ethical intelligence.  Destroying other   cultures, triggering global financial meltdown and plundering resources   unsustainably, driven by fear and greed, is illogical and unintelligent.

How does NLP relate to Claxton’s model of Real World Intelligence?

Intelligence is Composite NLP presupposes that as human beings we can ‘programme’   ourselves to learn anything.  In NLP   ‘learning’ applies to all aspects of life, thinking, feeling and behaving   (TFB’s).  We learn sequences of TFB’s   and then proceed to execute these learnt patterns, largely outside of   conscious awareness.  If someone has   learnt to do something then it is de facto learnable and anyone can learn to   do it.
Intelligence is Expandable The whole purpose of the Meta Model in NLP is to expand   the student’s map of what is possible.  As teenagers develop they acquire limiting   beliefs, negative attributions and unhelpful notions of cause and effect.  The Meta Model allows us to subtly challenge   these limitations and provide alternative models.  And belief that you can achieve is a key   factor in the development of real world intelligence.
Intelligence is Practical NLP encourages experimentation in every conceivable   context.  A key NLP presupposition is   that if what you are doing is not working then it is time to do something   different.  NLP teaches us how to use   language and behaviour to inculcate these practical, ‘tinkering’ modes of   operation so that students develop the capacity and wit to adapt and to   explore.  The problem with the   traditional notion of factor G (generalised intelligence) is that it often   fosters the belief ‘I’m not the kind of person who can do this’.
Intelligence is Intuitive This is where NLP is perhaps uniquely placed to add   massive value.  NLP fosters the ability   to alter our state of mind, irrespective of context and circumstances.  It allows us to access and interact with   our unconscious in order to set up intuitive response patterns that are ever   more efficacious as we continue to learn from experience in the real world.
Intelligence is Distributed NLP assumes that we all already have all the internal   resources we need.  Specifically this   means that we are born knowing how to learn.  Babies are not instructed in how to walk or   talk (highly complex processes); they just do it naturally.  Therefore, if we all have this innate   ability to learn then judicious use of language, attribution and   reinforcement can facilitate the application of learning in connection not   just with our internal resources but also with any form of technology.  By fostering curiosity, experimentation and belief   in our capacity to learn our intelligence is more widely distributed and we make   use of a wider distribution of resources.
Intelligence is Social NLP focuses on the development of deep rapport.  We teach how to calibrate, pace, match and   lead individuals through intense and intuitive observation and attention to   others.  The NLP model of Perceptual Positions   allows students to virtually step into the experience of being another   person, of seeing through the eyes of the group, the eyes of society at large   and through any other perspective imaginable.
Intelligence is Strategic NLP starts with the question, ‘how do you know you are   thinking what you are thinking?’  This   is designed to trigger meta cognition.  This is the basis for developing more strategic   thinking in the real world. NLP also provides a practical technique   (anchoring) to create and use the ‘pause’ button, allowing us to step back   and think about how we are thinking and behaving and consequently to make   more better choices.
Intelligence is Ethical The reputation of NLP has sometimes suffered because there   has been a trend of not addressing ethics within NLP training.  We are adamant that teaching NLP with   constant reference to good ethical practice is essential. There is little   point in developing all of these composite intelligences if they are applied   to selfish and ultimately self-destructive purposes.


The above is merely a sketch of how these two approaches to education can be supported by judicious application of NLP techniques in the classroom and beyond. Ultimately, NLP is more than just a set of techniques; it is a way of being.

Everyone knows that the way we behave is the biggest determinant of how much influence and what kind of influence we have. Aligning NLP to specific educational models and theories about learning is the intelligent way to make best use of this powerful approach.

I hope that if you have read this you are as excited as I am about the prospect of introducing NLP based CPD into schools, supporting teachers and student support staff to experiment with and adopt ever more flexible teaching and facilitation methods that ultimately enhance the real world intelligence of our children.

For more information and to discuss programmes without obligation, please call Harvey Taylor on 07974 228396 or e mail

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