Logical Levels

People often talk about responding to things on different “levels”. For instance, someone might say that some experience was negative on one level but positive on another level. In the way our brain works there are natural hierarchies or levels of experience. The effect of each level is to organise and control the information on the level below it. Changing something on an upper level would necessarily change things on the lower levels. Changing something on a lower level could, but would not necessarily, affect the upper levels.

Robert Dilts, a Californian psychologist, has built a simple elegant model for thinking about personal change, learning and communication that brings together these ideas of context, levels of learning and perceptual position. It gives a framework for organising and gathering information, so you can identify the best point to intervene to make any desired change.

The levels are:

Identity This answers the question: who am I? Identity gives me my basic sense of self and my core values. Identity has primarily to do with mission. It is the deepest (or highest) level.
Beliefs This level has to do with the values and beliefs of the individual. It answers the question: why am I doing this? Beliefs are the various ideas we think are true and use as a basis for daily action. Beliefs can be both permissive and limiting. Values are the concepts (like honesty, cleanliness, courage, humility, etc) we think are important to us.
Capability This level describes what we are capable of. They are the groups or sets of behaviours, general skills and strategies that we can use in our life. This level answers the question: how could I deal with this? At this level we use a variety of mental maps, plans or strategies to generate specific behaviour.
Behaviour  Behaviour is made up of the specific actions or reactions taken within our daily environment. Regardless of our capabilities, behaviour describes what we actually do. It answers the question: what am I doing?
Environment This has to do with the external context in which behaviour occurs. It answers the question: when and where does this behaviour occur?

Making an educational diagnosis based on logical levels

Logical levels trio work

This work in trios is an opportunity to use the “models” of Logical Levels to understand problems. What the problem is today doesn’t really matter, it is the process by which it is handled that is important. The following exercise gives each trio member the opportunity to describe a problem, to help someone else understand the problem and to observe the process, in turn.

  • A describes a problem relating to clinical medicine, medical education or personal life. Make it big enough that it is a problem, without making it so big that it would take more than 10 minutes to discuss and resolve.
  • B facilitates the exposition of the problem. B’s job is to help A understand the problem, its’ causes and effects. B then helps A work out which levels the problem is affecting. This can be done by talking, or you can try “stepping the levels” if you wish.
  • C observes the interaction between B and A, and reflects on the process by which B facilitates the exposition of A’s problem. C also keeps time.

The above process takes ten minutes.

  • B then describes what went well, what could have gone better. One minute.
  • A then describes what it was like for him/her. One minute.
  • C reflects back to B and A the process he/she observed – again, what went well, what could have gone better. Two minutes.

C, B and A then rotate places, one place to the right.

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