Role Play

This instructional technique comes from CTLT’s Instructional Skills Workshop materials. How do you think this technique can and should be adapted to interdisciplinary learning contexts and content?

Role Play

Role play is a process where problems are dealt with through action. A problem is outlined, acted out, and then discussed. The essence of role playing is participation in a real problem and the desire for resolution and understanding that the participation brings about. Some learners are players, others are observers. Role playing provides a vehicle for people to explore feelings and gain insight into their attitudes, values, and perceptions.

Instructor’s and Learners’ Roles

Effective role playing involve the entire group. The instructor must know each of the eight phases but only facilitates the event. The participants are active in phases 2, 5, 6, 7, and 8.

Phase 1: The Warm-up. Introducting and identifying the problem and creating an atmosphere of acceptance where all feelings, views, and behaviours can be explored. Examples from real life, television, books, etc. are provided to illustrate the situation.

  • Identify or introduce a problem
  • Make problem explicit
  • Interpret problem story, explore issues
  • Explain role playing as an instructional strategy

Phase 2: Selecting roles and players. Individuals involved with the problem or who have strong feelings about the situation may volunteer. You might suggest people who you think will be best able to present or typify the problem.

  • Analyse roles
  • Assist selection of role players

Phase 3: Sketching the setting. Keep it simple so participants will feel secure. Repeat the roles and the decide where to begin.

  • Set line of action
  • Assist selection of role players

Phase 4: Providing guidelines for observers for measuring effectiveness.

Phase 5: Beginning the role play. The action should be kept fairly short: until a proposed role is clear, a character has developed, the action has expressed a viewpoint or idea, or perhaps an impasse has been reached.

  • Begin role play
  • Maintain role play
  • Break role play

Phase 6: Briefly reviewing the action. An exploration of the motivations and the consequences of actions is important.

  • Review action of role play (events, positions, realism)
  • Discuss major focus
  • Develop next enactment

Phase 7: Re-enacting

  • Play revised roles, suggest next steps or behavioural alternatives
  • Substitute participants if desired

Phase 8: Sharing experience and generalizing

  • Relate problem situation to real experience and current problems
  • Explore general principles of behaviour identified through an analysis of the role play

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