Milgram’s Obedience Experiment (Intermediate Lesson)

ESL/EFL Level: Intermediate (B2/C1)
Lesson Topics: Obedience, Authority, Ethics
Skill Focus: Reading, Speaking, Vocabulary
Approximate Class Time: 1.5 hours
Lesson Plan Download: milgram-experiment-intermediate-lesson-032024.docx
Lesson Overview:

  • After warm-up questions, students read a 225-word passage. The passage is a simplified (B1/B2) version of the commentary from a short video (2:17 m) on Stanley Milgram's famous experiment on obedience. After reading the passage, watch the short video so your students can get a better sense of how the experiment was conducted. The video outlines a fascinating study from the 1960s that shows that regular people, when under pressure, will obey authority instead of their own conscience.
  • After comprehension questions, students match vocabulary from the video to definitions and then  form discussion questions using the target vocabulary.
  • There is one debate topic about the value of such psychological studies that would be deemed unethical today due to the stress they put on participants.
  • The role-play is a discussion between two parents about giving their child immunizations/vaccinations. Teachers, please pre-read this section and ensure it is appropriate for your class.
  • Next is a list of five scenarios (some light-hearted) designed to measure a person's level of obedience in different situations.
  • The lesson ends with a review of vocabulary and collocations before presenting some final discussion questions.

An authority figure in a white coat talking to a seated study participant

INTERMEDIATE (B1/B2) Lesson Plan on Milgram’s Experiment


  1. Did you listen to your parents when you were a child?
  2. Describe a time when you did not listen to a boss, a teacher, or a parent.
  3. Do you think generally that people are good or bad?

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This lesson plan was created by Matthew Barton of (copyright). Site members may photocopy and edit the file for their classes. Permission is not given to rebrand the lesson, redistribute it on another platform, or sell it as part of commercial course curriculum. ChatGPT was used to generate answer keys and some famous quotations. For questions, contact the author. 

Vocabulary Answer key: 1-c 2-i, 3-a, 4-h, 5-j, 6-d, 7-g, 8-b, 9-f, 10-e

Comprehension Question Answer Key

  1. Stanley Milgram was a psychologist who wanted to study how people react to those in charge and why they follow orders to commit acts that could hurt others.
  2. Volunteers were told that the purpose of the study was to examine memory. Its real purpose was to see how far people would go in obeying an instruction if it involved harming another person.
  3. The 'teachers' were supposed to give the 'learner' an electric shock, increasing the shock's strength with each wrong answer.
  4. The study showed that a significant number of people (two-thirds) were willing to administer strong shocks to another person just because they were told to do so by a person in charge.
  5. Milgram was interested in studying obedience to those in charge at that time in history because of the Holocaust, where individuals committed atrocities simply because they were ordered to.

Collocations 1-e, 2-a, 3-d, 4-c, 5-b

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