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The Missing Piece in our Educational System

April 11th, 2013 by Tony Barlow

missingThere is a missing piece in our educational system. We do not teach students HOW TO LEARN in the classroom !

Specifically, we do not teach them what to do INSIDE their mind.

This missing piece is the number #1 reason I’ve found why some students struggle in school.



To simplify things lets think of learning as a 3 step process.

steps to learning

Step 1) The information to be learned is presented to the student. The teacher explains or shows the information to be learned, we watch a video, we read from a book, we do a hands on task.

Step 2) While listening to the teacher or reading from the book the students are doing SOMETHING inside their thinking process in order to understand and memorize the information.

Step 3) The school will then evaluate the student with an exam or test or some other way to determine how much of the information the student has understood and remembered.


There are lots of great teachers and wonderful teaching methods out there to present the information and there are many ways to evaluate the students to see how much they have learned.

But what about the part in between when the student is thinking, processing, memorizing the information !! WE DON’T TEACH THE STUDENTS WHAT TO DO INSIDE THEIR MIND, WE JUST ASSUME THEY WILL LEARN IF WE TEACH IN ENOUGH DIFFERENT WAYS.

Some students pick up effective ‘mental strategies’ for learning & memorizing and others don’t. Learning in school is an unnatural way to learn about the world !

Instead of having real experiences we are trying to learn about the world from a book. Learning in school is a mental skill that needs to be taught to some students.


What do I mean when I say that we need to teach students what to do INSIDE their mind ? I’m talking about the thinking process a person goes through when they are learning something. 

Let’s take spelling as a simple example. The teacher gives you a learning task such as “Learn this list of 10 spelling words, there is a test next week”. 

When the student studies the list of words what do they do in their thinking process specifically ? Some students will say the letters to themselves over and over, some students will write them out, some students will visualize the words in their mind, some students will just look at the list a few times.

The key to effective learning, understanding and memory is the specific thought process you go through when you are studying. In NLP speak this is known as a ‘Mental Strategy’.


Typically, if a student is really struggling, the school may ask you to take your child to an specialist for a ‘Learning Difficulties’ assessment. Having worked in one of the leading psychology centers in Dubai I am very familiar with these assessments. The specialist will evaluate the student based on an interview plus set of questions and tests normally a few hours in duration.

The evaluation may result in a diagnosis such as dyslexia, mild dyslexia, dyscalculia, ADHD etc.

For example, in one part of a Dyslexia test the student will be asked to write down the spelling of some words in line with their age level. If the student has a totally ineffective mental strategy for learning spelling words, of course they will not do well on this part of the test.

These assessments are not looking at what these students are doing INSIDE their thinking process they are primarily looking at the results on the OUTSIDE such as: miss-spelled words, difficulty reading. They then interpret the data compared to students of the same age.

The result of this is that students with ineffective mental strategies are put in the same category as students with genuine neurologically based learning difficulties as they can appear very similar.


After a ‘Learning Difficulties Assessment’ the student may be placed on some kind of tutoring program. If this tutoring program is simply more practice of the same thing, but the student still has ineffective mental strategies for learning, the program will have a minimal effect if anything. Again these programs are not teaching effective mental strategies or if they are its at a very basic level.

*If the student has been taught effective mental strategies then tutoring can be a big help especially if the student has fallen behind and needs to catch up quickly in a subject.


Until NLP came along and gave us a precise way to uncover a persons thinking process, what people did specifically inside their thought process was a mystery.

Teachers can’t see inside a students mind so how can they know what the person is thinking or what the good students are doing compared to the struggling ones.

Until now the thought process a person goes through to get a particular result was an unknown factor. Some schools and school systems have adopted NLP and are now teaching students how to learn but its still a very small number.


On the FREE Tips page on this website are lots of mental strategies that have been modeled from top students. Most of the skills you need to do well in school are there. Go there now and find what you are looking for and get started.

Thank you for reading this article, I really appreciate you coming to my site, I hope you are enjoying and benefiting from the information here. This site is designed to be the ultimate free resource for students / parents of struggling students.

Please leave a comment below because I’d love to hear what you think!
Thanks again, and good luck!

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