Blog Reviews

Review: Dynamic Learning

Dynamic Learning
by Robert B. Dilts & Todd A. Epstein
Dynamic Learning CoverBecause I have been a teacher for almost 20 years, Dynamic Learning is an NLP book that I have been meaning to read for a long time. Such a great title! That’s exactly what every teacher wants to see in their own classroom – dynamic learning happening as the students are engaged and learning content and strategies that will enrich their lives. Like many NLP books, Dynamic Learning is the transcript of a seminar and while this does add a certain sense that the reader can experience the ‘feeling’ of the seminar, this is one book that I felt could have done with a lot of editing. In some sections, the demonstrations seem to go on far longer than useful and they were clearly more useful in the shared physical space than they appear on the written page.
The blurb on the back of the book says that “The authors describe a multitude of ways to make learning fun, easy, and effective.”  That’s a big goal and while the authors have provided some extremely useful advice in some areas, the book would have benefited from some more background information and statistical support as well as cutting down of the long demonstration transcripts.
Chapter 1 (The Fundamentals of Dynamic Learning) is essentially a short summary of NLP from the authors’ perspective including Dilts’ neurological levels model, a good introduction to strategies, and a kinesthetic approach to creating good learning states in the classroom through posture, gestures, and eye movements. For people already familiar with NLP, it seems brief, but undoubtedly it will be not enough for people who are not familiar with NLP, highlighting one of the difficulties of targeting an NLP-based book at a more generally area such as education.
Chapter 2 (Remembering Names) and Chapter 3 (Memory Strategies) offer some useful strategies, but they could have been greatly reduced in length. On the other hand, the long elicitation of these strategies given in the transcripts of the demonstrations may be interesting to NLP modellers or even teachers who are interested in modelling other skills important in learning. Chapter 4 explores how people can improve their senses (Visual, auditory, and kinesthetic) through simple exercises and also briefly examines submodalities.
Chapter 5 provides one of the better ideas in this book. It details how effective strategies can be transferred between two people. For example, two teachers or two students may have different strategies for achieving a task. By eliciting and sharing the goals of each person, and looking at their evidence procedures and operations, it potentially becomes possible to learn a strategy from a more effective learner. Combined with the sensory distinctions of NLP, this simple idea is very powerful.
Chapter 6 is an overly long account of the spelling strategy. The long transcriptions which bring the chapter to 57 pages (!) would have been better presented in the form of standard prose. Perhaps the core question that I kept asking myself is whether this book is about modelling or about the sharing of the results of modelling. From the point of view of the teacher who wants to use the spelling strategy, all the detail is unnecessary. For the dedicated NLP modeller, it certainly provides insight, but still seems far overpresented. The book seems to wander between modelling (which can be seen to be the core of NLP) and presenting useful things for teachers (the trail of techniques which results from this modelling).
As a language teacher and language learner, I was particularly interested in Chapter 7 (Learning Language). It introduces the NLP idea of second position modelling, stepping into the shoes of an expert speaker of the language and beginning to take on their gestures, beliefs and eventually language. In my own classrooms in Japan, this is something that would be very beneficial to students since their own highly-defined (if unconscious) Japanese identity is so strong that it tends to stop students from modelling non-Japanese. I found the rest of the chapter to be less useful. The obstacle course and other activities can be viewed as a repackaging of the classic TPR (total physical response) methodology introduced by Asher in the 1970s. The activities are useful, but this chapter adds little new to language teaching.
Chapter 8 provides some useful tips for increasing reading speed including the use of peripheral vision and the reduction of subvocalization.
Chapter 9 (Creative Writing) was my favourite in the book, and it provides some excellent ideas for using connectives (e.g. because, therefore, after, while …) as prompts for writing. On page 308, the authors do something that I always see as one of Robert Dilts’ great strengths – they combine several tools to create a more powerful tool or model. In the table below, they combine connectives with perceptual positions, representational systems and time frames to create a series of prompts that will help any stalled creative writer, or even an already active writer!

Connective Perspective Representational System & Time Frame
because I see – saw – will see that
therefore we hear – heard- will hear like
after you feel – felt – will feel how
so that They touch – touched – will touch as if

Chapter 10 offers some useful tips on assessment and how to deal with ‘resistance to learning’. The book also has some appendices which offer worksheets and some more background on Dilts’ neurological levels model and how it relates to Batesons’ levels of learning. This latter material could probably have been usefully presented at the beginning of the book to frame the authors’ important underlying idea that the most important thing is to learn is ‘how to learn’. When students can learn to learn and to take control of that learning, that is when we could truly get Dynamic Learning. While this book has some good ideas, there may be too much unessential material and too little signalling for the average busy teacher to get much out of it, and someday I would like to see a new Robert Dilts book where he refines the ideas of this book for an audience of teachers who could really use it to create dynamic learning in their classrooms and beyond.

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