“I experienced freedom within the frame of my own narrative”: The contribution of psychodrama techniques to experiential learning in teacher training

  • 30 January 2017

Volume 63, Issue 1, pp 71–86

Author: Ina ter Avest (Inholland University of Applied Sciences, Amstelveen & Vrije Universiteit (VU University), Amsterdam)


To prepare Dutch students in education for critical situations in their professional life as a teacher, part of their training is to ask them to reflect upon their own experiences in their life as a child, a pupil and a student – experiences of crucial moments or with significant others which are still of the utmost importance to them. This article underlines the significance of so-called “experiential learning” in student career counselling. In this context, experiential learning is understood as an extension of in-depth reflection on critical incidents and critical persons in the biography of pre-service teachers. This reflection – customary and effective in Dutch teacher training – is a verbal process. However, this technique does not seem to be adequate for many students from other cultural backgrounds (e.g. second-generation descendants of migrant workers). By consequence, some of these students are not able to take newly offered information on board, but remain imprisoned in their own culture-related narrative, their own ethnic society of mind. Research has shown that for these students, psychodrama techniques, focusing on non-verbal and playful aspects of reflection, seem to be more suitable. The author of this article presents a sample case from a pilot study which used one of the psychodrama techniques called the empty chair. The findings of the pilot study are promising in the sense that experiencing different I-positions does seem to help students from other cultural backgrounds to develop agency in responding to hitherto unfamiliar and confusing situations.

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