Everyday Outstanding – The Take Away – Using Language to Motivate – #2 – @powerpsychology

What is your quick win?

Using language to motivate – How to connect students’ reality to their outcome? Big Picture in a small way.

Why do you need it?

Surely the promise of a great A-level should be enough to motivate students to attend and take part… surely!  We learn about our students and their needs so that we can we can create fun and engaging sessions that build on our students knowledge, understanding and skills to create permanent shifts in learning.  Why the lateness?  Why the lack of homework?  Why the blank faces?  Well research shows that often it is our student’s unconscious motivations that have the strongest impact on their motivation and performance.  It makes sense, therefore that we talk to the subconscious and more importantly that we plan to talk to the subconscious and practice doing it.


What is your solution?

To ensure that our students are motivated, it’s helpful for them to believe in advance that:

  • they can do it;
  • it’s worth doing and they want to do it;
  • it’s interesting;
  • it’s enjoyable.

Small changes in the language that we use can have profound effects in the classroom.

  • Use yes sets to introduce your objective “Yes sets”  three positive statements of undeniable truth that get the heads nodding, followed by what you want them to accept as true. Once you get the brain, conscious or otherwise to agree it is more likely to continue to agree.  Seeing a sea of nodding heads is reassuring.  It is useful for gauging who is engaged right from the start and who you need to do a bit of extra work on.  I will often move to who is not responding and my presence will act as a prompt for the brain to engage.
  1. “It’s Monday morning, the sun is shining and we are in Psychology and today you can learn about…” 
  2.  “This means that…”

By making a connection between two parts of a sentence so that the first part is equal or equivalent to the second part, we can take anything that is happening in the room or true for the student, and attach it to something that is useful for the student and the learning.  This allows us to pace the student’s experience and connect it to something we want them to experience by assuming a connection exists – even if it doesn’t:

I know some of you may have found equations boring in the past, thats OK because it means you like to be challenged with new learning and are a fast learner.

Some of you didnt get enough sleep last night but that just means you can relax more easily whilst learning new things.

  1.  Cause and effect

In a similar way, we can also pace what is happening and link it causally to what we want students to believe:

  • ‘The fact some of you are bursting with energy and making noise can cause you to really excel at taking part when you learn the new Spanish verbs today.’
  • ‘Sitting comfortably in your chair makes it easy to enjoy listening to Jackie’s presentation.’

As you use some of these patterns you can begin to construct introductions which directly impact on the students’ motivation and learning at both a conscious and unconscious level. This means you can presuppose success, fun, great learning and anything else that you want built in to a great learning experience.


Some planned intervention to your session introductions.  Why not script them first?  You might sound robotic to yourself when you start but with practice you can make these language patterns part of your everyday outstanding practice.

As an NLP in education practitioner I have been trained by META education and this Blog entry builds on their work.  I use “Words Work” by Terry Mahoney and “NLP for teachers” for other great ideas and practical strategies.

Outcomes and Evaluation

I have found that this works well overtime.  The more you use them and the more you see the students the more the culture of the classroom shifts.  It is subtle and accumulative.

Some have criticised NLP as lacking empirical evidence.  It is hard to get students to feedback on language patterns and once you share what you are doing it is no longer speaking to the unconscious so it isn’t as effective but, what have you got to lose?

After two sessions of maternity over the last five years thinking on this level takes me right back to basics and I find it useful to think on this macro level.  I use what works and if it isn’t working change it.  I love using my brain for a change.

What is your Twitter name and handle if you have one? Or do you already have a blog?

I have a page on face book – Psychology with Power and a Twitter feed @powerpsychology.


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