Experiential Learning Strategies

Experiential learning strategies emphasize the role of hands-on, personal experience in constructing knowledge. In Lewin’s model of experiential learning, illustrated in the figure below, the process begins with having personal, concrete experiences. From these experiences, individuals make observations and reflect on those observations. Next, the individual constructs abstract concepts and generalizations based on their observations and interpretations. These concepts and generalizations can then be tested in novel situations. Experiential learning methods are particularly useful for skill development because they provide learners with an opportunity to practice their skills and reflect on the experience. Thus, experiential learning methods are well-suited for working with teachers as teaching requires automating teaching skills, or the ability to engage in practiced behaviors with minimal cognitive processing.1 This section provides examples of experiential learning techniques that you can use in your pedagogy class to help your students become better teachers.

The Lewinian Experiential Learning Model2




Microteaching is a method for providing pre-service or beginning teachers with teaching experience targeted at developing specific behaviors or skills. It is particularly useful for this purpose because it is conducted in a low-risk environment. It is a simulated teaching experience in that the size of the class is typically smaller and the length of instruction is abbreviated. Generally, microteaching involves teaching to one’s peers. It also differs from traditional field-based teaching experience in that it includes intensive planning, support, and feedback. Previous research provides strong support for using microteaching to prepare future teachers.3

Microteaching models typically involve four steps.4 In the first step, the student teacher studies a specific teaching skill. Next, the student teacher applies this skill typically through teaching 4-5 peers a short lesson, often about 10 minutes in length. It is recommended that the lesson be videotaped for subsequent analysis and reflection.5

Allen and colleagues suggest having a number of micro-teaching sessions during the semester, each geared toward a different aspect of teaching.6 For instance, one session might focus on lecturing, with feedback evaluating both the communication of content and the instructor’s classroom presence, rapport with students, etc. Another very short session might be geared toward having an instructor prepare students to do readings for the following week.

Following presentation of the lesson, the debriefing session occurs in which the student teacher is provided with feedback.  We suggest you involve other graduate students in your pedagogy class in debriefing. Peer debriefing helps teachers develop reflective practices and increases their confidence in their teaching abilities.7,8 However, peer groups may not truly engage in collaborative interactions if they are not scaffolded, or provided with individual support based on their prior knowledge or existing skills.9 Some suggestions for providing peer feedback that you may share with your students include:

  1. Share an equal amount of positive feedback and constructive criticism.
  2. Remember that information you learn about each other should remain confidential.
  3. Show respect for your peers, in part, by listening to others as they speak and providing everyone time to share their thoughts.
  4. Base your feedback on observations rather than your interpretations or judgments. For example, sharing that “you did not allow adequate time for learners to respond to your questions” is recommended rather than “you seemed impatient.”
  5.  “Own” your reactions.  Say “I appreciated the way you explained X” rather than “You explained X very well.” This clarifies that this was one person’s observation, rather than a generalizable fact.
  6. Focus negative comments on behavior that the presenter can change.10,11

The kinds of feedback that are appropriate during the microteach debriefing will depend on the purpose of microteaching, the graduate student’s goals and objectives for that session, and the instructional techniques employed (e.g., lecturing, discussion). Thus, presenters should articulate their goals to observers before they begin the microteaching session. Although the structure and focus of debriefing will be somewhat dependent on the purpose of the microteach, members of the class (and the professor) might focus on some of the following points:12

  • Structure:
    • Set up and development of problem or topic
    • Use of transitions
    • Use of examples
    • Use of graphics
    • Periodic checks of students’ understanding
    • Lesson conclusion
  • Delivery of instruction:
  • Classroom Interaction:
  • Participation is encouraged
  • Appropriate use of technology
  • Technology engages learners
  • Increases student understanding
  • Effective oral communication (e.g., volume, rate, pitch, and fluency)
  • Technology Use:
  • Appearance (e.g., legibility, use of color)
  • Arrangement of material (e.g., logical order, appropriate amount of information noted)
  • Questions are appropriately addressed
  • Use of nonverbal gestures (e.g., hand and facial, eye contact, use of space, and poise)
  • Board work:

If the session is videotaped, the student teacher might also watch the microteach privately and assess their teaching experience and then watch it again with you, the pedagogy professor to discuss the session. You may choose to use the rubric developed by Center for Teaching and Learning staff to grade graduate students' microteaching or you might grade students based on a written reflection following the microteach. Either way, provide the rubric to your graduate students prior to microteaching so that they can be aware of expectations and can use it for self-assessment. The student teacher may use feedback to re-teach the lesson to another small group of students or peers.

If it is impractical because of the class size or time constraints, to have many short micro-teaching sessions, have each student in the class lead approximately one hour of the course discussion (over the course of the semester), which can also be followed by feedback/debriefing along the lines described below.

Role Playing

Role playing provides an opportunity for learners to execute behaviors in a risk-free environment.  In role playing, students assume roles and engage in hypothetical situations.  Moses argues that there is not enough training for pre-service teachers in terms of developing interpersonal skills and that role playing is a useful instructional strategy for developing these skills.13 Errington indicates that role playing is useful because it draws attention to students’ values, beliefs, and attitudes.14

Manorom and Pollock identify several steps in implementing role playing in the classroom.15 The first step is to identify an important course objective that you would like to teach using role playing. When working with future teachers, often this objective will include the development of a teaching skill. Next, you should find or develop a real-life scenario or situation that provides an opportunity to enact the desired teaching skill. As an example, Moses provides five role-playing scenarios targeted at helping pre-service teachers become more knowledgeable about the teaching role and the importance of interpersonal relationships.13 Within this scenario, you will want to identify the roles/stakeholders involved (such as students, administrators, etc.) and their perspectives. Students should be given time to examine this scenario and should select or be assigned roles.

After developing the role-playing scenario, provide classroom time for your pedagogy students to complete the role-play, or enact behaviors that will allow them to achieve the goals specified within the scenario. As an instructor, you will not generally participate in the role-playing exercise; however, you may wish to intervene if students are not actively participating. You may also want to have students switch roles at some point during the exercise.

Following the role play, students should engage in debriefing in which they reflect on how they felt and behaved during the experience, how their behaviors impacted others, what they learned, and the knowledge or skills which they would like to further develop. 


(1) Feldon, D. F.  (2007). Cognitive load in the classroom:  The double-edged sword of automaticity.   Educational Psychologist, 42(3), 123-137.

(2) Kolb, D.A. (1984). Experiential learning: Experience as the source of learning and development. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

(3) Metcalf, K. K., Ronen Hammer, M. A., & Kahlich, P. A. (1996). Alternatives to field-based experiences: The comparative effects of on-campus laboratories. Teaching and Teacher Education, 12, 271–283.

(4) Kallenbach, W. W, & Gall, M.D. (1969). Microteaching versus conventional methods in training elementary intern teachers. The Journal of Educational Research, 63(3), 136-141.

(5) Kpanja, E. (2001). A study of the effects of videotape recording in microteaching training. The British Journal of Educational Technology. 32(4), 483-486.

(6) Allen, D. W. (1967). Micro-teaching: a description. Stanford University, Teacher Education Program.

(7) Doyle, M. (1992). Learning to teach; Case studies of elementary pre-service teachers’ reflective thinking about early field experiences. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Northern Colorado. Retrieved from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses.

(8) Nierstheimer, S. L., Hopkins, C. J., Dillon, D. R., & Schmitt, M. C. (2000). Preservice teachers’ shifting beliefs about struggling literacy learners. Reading Research & Instruction, 40, 1–16.

(9) Zhang, K. & Carr-Chellman, A. (2001). Peer online discourse analysis. Paper presented at the national conference of the association for educational communications and technology. Atlanta, GA. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 470 141).

(10) Harriet W. Sheridan Center for Teaching and Learning, Brown University (n.d.). Micro-teaching group session guidelines. Retrieved from brown.edu/Administration/Sheridan_Center/docs/Micro_teaching.pdf

(11) Northern Illinois University Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center. Microteaching (2009). Retrieved from http://www.niu.edu/spectrum/2009/spring/microteaching.shtml

(12) Teaching and Learning Laboratory, M.I.T. What to Observe During Micro-teaching. Retrieved from http://web.mit.edu/tll/programs-services/microteaching/observe.html

(13) Moses, J.R. (1995). Roles and relationships in student teaching: A role-play activity. Paper presented at American Educational Research Association, Detriot, MI.

(14) Errington, E. P. (1996). Exploring gender perceptions of student teachers using role-play. In: Second International Conference of Teacher Education: stability, evolution and revolution

(15) Manorom, K., & Pollock, Z. (2006). Role playing as a teaching method: A practical guide. Retrieved from http://www.scribd.com/doc/26109576/Role-Play-As-A-Teaching-Method-A-Practical-Guide