Strategic communication at school at the service of teachers and students

Children in elementary school are raised hand in clasroom

"There is nothing nobler than being able to capture people's attention with words, direct their opinions, divert them from what we consider wrong and lead them towards what we appreciate" (Cicero, de Oratore, 55 BC)

Is it possible that evocative language could be the lever to induce greater passion and curiosity in young people towards culture and knowledge? It is from communication that we must start, or perhaps start in a different way. The word communication sounds very current and reminds us of the contemporary cultural system: theories have been developed around it and university courses have also been instituted, to the point that the term is now even abused.

The theme is certainly one of the most debated and communication skills seem to be the essential requirement to orient oneself and emerge in today's world. Yet there is a paradox: in the age of global and technological information, the ability to express oneself clearly and correctly is increasingly diminishing. It is not difficult to ascertain that the level of linguistic and expressive competence of today's “standard” graduate in Italy substantially coincides with that of those who yesterday left compulsory school (return and functional illiteracy). The art of communicating perhaps it should be put back at the service of the community, therefore also of the School; just as the effectiveness of the speaker-teacher must be rethought, whose judge is the audience: the students.

And the effects to be re-aroused are at least three: that the listener is convinced by the words; that he is delighted by it, feeling a musicality similar to poetry; that he is emotionally involved, thanks also to clearly highlighting what the speaker feels. Among the many linguistic formulas that we find described in the literature, only a few are those capable of producing analogical and emotional immediacy. Metaphor, narration and aphorism, all communicative tools already widely used in Greek writings, as well as in ancient Chinese wisdom.

Among these, the aphorism appears to be the most effective: it disarms, circumvents resistance, provokes what prof. Giorgio Nardone in his Strategic Therapy, calls "corrective perceptual and emotional experience". If we try to transfer this operational construct to the school world, the objectives become: to capture and train the children; making the teachings indelible and therefore gratifying, with the proper use of aphorisms.

Their constitutive formula, in fact, not being based on the more traditional linear logic, can constitute a new and effective picklock available to the teacher, who finds himself having to open the mental door of a young person every day (who in terms of distraction would know how to write a book!). Frustrating feelings of fatigue and difficulty in best transmitting knowledge and skills to adolescents in the midst of hormonal development and the spasmodic search to understand the world outside the family / school: this is what the teacher often experiences.

Some are the key ingredients to be able to produce an "almost perfect" lesson, as Alfred de Musset called it: to capture attention and interest; gradually build an intense relationship that knows how to touch other strings of theirs, in addition to that of cognition; create and maintain the motivation to “learn to learn”; to stimulate the person-student to make those teachings, to know Useful.

From a strategic point of view, a wise and measured use of aphorisms cut out and distributed ad hoc in the initial, central and final phase of the knowledge expressed, facilitates meaningful learning, that is the type of learning that allows you to make sense of knowledge, '' integration of new information with those already possessed and the use of the same in different contexts and situations (problem solving skills, critical thinking, meta-reflection). In fact, the right “timing” is essential, ie aimed at an objective, in turn calibrated on the specific type of class.

Another important criterion: the type of effect that one wishes to provoke, that is, making the student feel the attunement of the adult, creating a disruptive effect of discovery, evoking aversive feelings towards ways of seeing things and reacting to them; amplify pleasant sensations towards an attitude / cognition / behavior to be increased, frame the achievements made.

A research-intervention that I conducted in this sense in 10 high schools of Trentino (40 classes in total), recorded as indicators of effectiveness (the concrete and positive impact on teachers and students given by the strategic introduction of aphorisms in different types of lessons and subjects) and efficiency (how much and what is the effort made by the teacher in the preparation of the teaching unit and during the lesson), the following operational results.

For teachers (Self-Assessment Questionnaire and Observation in the classroom), a high level of satisfaction at the end of 10 lessons, compared to the frontal lesson; high degree of attention and participation of students in the two different learning situations (with and without aphorisms) and a significant increase in the marks obtained by the students during two tests (written / computer and oral); preparation of the didactic units is more complex only in the initial stages, gradually becoming more natural and automatic; high pleasantness of the relational quality of the classroom climate, with a reduction in perceived stress. For students (Self-Assessment and Learning Questionnaire), an increase in attentional capacity and active participation, improved performance, a high degree of satisfaction compared to traditional lessons, a greater propensity to commit to studying at home.

It is true that, as Cicero reminds us, an inseparable link is present between morality and eloquence, between thinking well and speaking well, and perhaps the strongest, perhaps today most transgressive, message of his thought lies precisely in this identification. The art of communicating cannot be separated from extensive knowledge and an ethical rethinking: in fact, it is by definition a virtue that cannot be enjoyed in isolation, but must be placed at the service of society and in particular of young people, who constitute it. future evolution.

"A truth said in a nutshell, but said in a way that astonishes more than a lie, is an aphorism"(Papini).

Dr. Marisa Ciola (Official Psychotherapist of the Strategic Therapy Center)


Nardone G., Watzlawick P., "The art of change", Ponte alle Grazie, Florence, 1990.
Nardone G., Watzlawick P., "Brief Strategic Therapy", Raffaello Cortina Editore, Milan, 1997.
Nardone G., Salvini A., "International Dictionary of Psychotherapy", Garzanti, Milan, 2013.
Nardone G., "Pocket Strategic Problem Solving", Ponte alle Grazie, Milan, 2009.
Nardone G., "Change eyes, touch the heart", Ponte alle Grazie, 2007.
Nardone G., "The noble art of persuasion", Ponte alle Grazie, Milan, 2015.
Bortolotti A., “Clap”, Ec Creativa, Trento, 2015.

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