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Sam Johnson, Bolton Institute of Higher Education
Themes: Skills development and lifelong learning
The broad aim of this research paper is to illustrate and analyse preliminary findings that have emerged from a recent skills-based project relating to the integration and implementation of Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) techniques and learning strategies within the undergraduate curriculum. In a recent article outlining the theoretical underpinnings of NLP, Tosey and Mathison (2003) indicate that "...[NLP] has achieved widespread popularity as a method of communication and personal development, and is a recognised mode of psychotherapy in the UK. It is also being applied widely, if often informally, in UK education. To date, however, the academic community has shown little interest." (p.371).This paper will propose that as the Higher Education student population becomes increasingly diverse, and academic institutions are challenged to create learning frameworks which fully support the varied academic and personal development needs of individual students, NLP needs to be further investigated as a potentially rich learning/teaching resource within the sector. In concurrence with pedagogical methods which advocate experiential learning, critical self-reflection and the acquisition of inter-personal or employability related skills (Bloxon 2004), this paper will argue that NLP can provide students with effective strategies to facilitate their progress in all of these inter-linked areas.
In endeavouring to foster a more "holistic" (Warren, 2002) student experience at Level 1, a 14 week personal development module entitled "Strategies for Success", revolving around several key activities from the NLP toolbox, was delivered to an inter-disciplinary student cohort in the first semester of 2003/4. The aims of the course can be divided into two categories: namely, those placing emphasis upon students acquiring and developing transferable and "strategic thinking" skills (as researched within the "Skills plus" project); and those geared towards raising student self-esteem and levels of self-motivation. For example, one core dimension of the module is to enable students to identify, re-evaluate and address negative self-beliefs that could potentially inhibit the growth of self-confidence and individual capability in their new educational setting. Clearly, negative self-efficacy beliefs can feature as a detrimental factor in any institution where a high percentage of non-traditional students begin their undergraduate degree programmes with non-standard entry qualifications (Miller and Sampbell, 2003: 16). In employing NLP belief-change techniques (Dilts 1990, 2000) students are swiftly introduced to a transformational process of analysing and redefining themselves as learners, a process that is furthered throughout the module by the use of the reflective portfolio as the main assessment method. By addressing the academic, social and personal challenges faced by many students within an increasingly socially-diverse and mixed ability learning context (Collins and Lim, 2002) it appears that Neuro Linguistic Programming can offer a student-friendly and multi-dimensional approach to skills development and simultaneously reinforces the ethos of lifelong learning.