Content-Free Microteaching ®

Instructional skills courses consist of students teaching other students. In a typical instructional-skills course, the learners usually already know the content used in the practice lessons because both the student instructors andiStock_000008107301XSmall.jpg student audience have the same backgrounds and similar experiences. This “role playing” does not provide the opportunity for student-instructors to actually cause learning, nor for their student audiences to actually learn.

However, CFM is unique in that it provides a form of “transparent” content that is not known by the other students, thereby providing the opportunity to actually cause learning and to see that it is working. In CFM, students learn to explain ideas, rules, processes, and procedures clearly and accurately, and to focus on the process and the outcome—causing learning—not on the content.

They learn the following skills necessary to cause error-free learning:

  • Planning the teaching process—introduction, body, summary, feedback.
  • Selecting the most effective words to use with specific types of their students.
  • Organizing their explanations using the most effective patterns.
  • Chunking the content into the most understandable units for easy comprehension.
  • Explaining the message clearly using appropriate comparisons and examples.
  • Pacing the message so the listeners aren't overloaded, confused, or bored.
  • Focusing on non-verbal feedback to know whether their students are thinking or listening. Summarizing the message as often as necessary.
  • Seeking feedback to verify the accuracy of their communications.
  • Giving feedback after analyzing another's explanation so that it is both accepted by and usable.
  • Using peer coaching skills to teach with structured questioning.



A basic component of CFM is using the right organizational pattern when explaining. The content is presented with specific organization patterns such as sequential, overlay, simple-to-complex, viewpoints, and whole-part-whole. By learning to use appropriate patterns, the students develop the planning and delivery techniques that are essential to clear and accurate communication. Examples of lessons and their organization patterns learned in the initial CFM lessons are:



Simple to Complex





iStock_000002914896Small.jpgThe Sequential pattern is used to teach simple procedures, such as assembly, in order to perform a sequence of steps to perform a task.

The Overlay pattern is used to explain business or machine processes, by laying out the basic structure and then adding details in layers so as not to lose the basic logic of the process. All tasks are parts of processes.

The Simple-to-Complex pattern is used to teach complicated procedures, such as computer skills, where the student must learn basic steps (writing a letter), then additional steps (downloading, editing, printing, etc.) until complex job tasks can be performed.

After learning the essential teaching skills, the instructor-trainees practice teaching real content in later lessons in the course. CFM provides the foundation for Content-Free Coaching, Real-Content Coaching and Real-Content Microteaching that follow. The clear ties between planning, teaching, and testing can be referred to at all stages of the students’ practice teaching activities. Thus, those who complete the course are both effective and efficient—they do the right things (perform appropriately while teaching) and do things right (cause learning as planned). The transfer of these new teaching skills to the real world of training is automatic and complete.

CFM consists of an initial 4½ -hour lesson followed by a series of skill-building lessons. During the lessons, one student explains to another student how to construct a drawing. A third student takes notes and facilitates the critique process. Students learn to use a structured process when explaining and to verify that their students actually learned. The primary process is learned during the initial lesson and increased skill in causing learning is gained in the series of practice lessons that follow. As with any skill, the more practice the better. This diagram illustrates how the initial lesson is set up:


   I - instructor    S - student    C - critiquer 



  • The instructor explains how to draw a figure; the student cannot see the instructor's picture of the drawing and cannot ask questions.
  • The critiquer observes while looking at a copy of the student's drawing and the instructor's lesson plan, and thus understands what was said and what was heard and understood.
  • The critique process reviews what worked and what didn’t, and how to do it better.


Content Free Micro Teaching® is a registered trademark of Paradigm Training Systems, Inc.