Experiential Pedagogy

We use four different modes of experiential teaching.

(1) We have students in our courses consult with one another in small groups on their own past cases of leadership failure. We devote one full class sessions per week to analyzing one of these cases in depth, and students write extensive papers analyzing their own cases.

(2) We use the classroom dynamics as they unfold in real-time as a case-in-point to illustrate a variety of social dynamics.

(3) We provide structured exercises (e.g., small group exercises, improvisational musical performance and films).

(4) We supervise field work. The theory we present provides the interpretative framework for transforming these various experiences into lessons.

Students are engaged quite deeply and personally in an inquiry into the orienting values that guide their careers: the meshing of ambitions for power, wealth and recognition with aspirations to serve the larger community. If leadership entails gauging and engaging a sense of purposefulness in an organization and managing the process whereby a shared interpretation and understanding of key values emerge, then one who leas must also have the capacity to work with one’s own complex set of beliefs, values and ethics. This kind of learning and teaching requires the kind of internal re-structuring which comes only from struggling through fundamental issues of meaning, purpose, complexity, and paradox. This is the capacity Robert Bellah calls for when he speaks of the need for leaders who are able to “translate constantly between different scientific and imaginative vocabularies” (Bellah, Beyond Belief). It is a great challenge to leadership educators to devise a classroom environment which engages a sufficiently broad range of human capabilities to have this kind of transformative effect on students’ senses of self, to shape their identities in a lasting way by promoting the development of a distinctive character and value system which emphasizes meaning, purpose, generosity, authenticity, ethical behavior and initiative taking.