Role-play

Role-play is a technique that allows students to explore realistic situations by interacting with other people in a managed way in order to develop experience and trial different strategies in a supported environment. Depending on the intention of the activity, participants might be playing a role similar to their own (or their likely one in the future) or could play the opposite part of the conversation or interaction. Both options provide the possibility of significant learning, with the former allowing experience to be gained and the latter encouraging the student to develop an understanding of the situation from the ‘opposite’ point of view.

Suggested room configurations

The circle or square configuration everyone to get an unobstructed view of the role-play activity, allowing them to observe in greater detail. This layout is well suited for sessions where there will be several role-play activities, or a few longer ones, followed by class discussion. It is important to be mindful that with the complete circle or square layout, some students may not have a particularly good view of the activity and it may be better to use a horseshoe or ‘U’ configuration as this will leave one side open. Alternatively, the discussion could make use of the blocked view of some students by seeking to identify whether there were different impressions of the activity based on seating position.

The traditional classroom layout can be used for activities such as role-play, in addition to its more typical use for a formal information-dissemination or lecture session. With this configuration, the activity takes place at the front of the room, but it is important to consider that the students may not have a particularly good view of the action if they are towards the back rows. This layout is best suited to situations when the majority of the session will be in a presentation or lecture style with just a few short role-play activities and there is limited time to reconfigure the room.

Supporting technologies

Tools such as Twitter or Padlet can be used by the audience to record their thoughts during the role-play exercise. These can then be discussed by the whole group after the activity and the observations subsequently refined, possibly leading to another iteration of the activity that uses the observations to try alternative strategies. Similarly, an Electronic Voting System could be used by the participants as a non-intrusive method of recording their emotions and thought-process during the role-play. The information from this could be made available to the audience in real time or used to create a timeline for later analysis and reflection.

Recordings of the activity, whether audio or video, allow the audience and participants to review and analyse the role-play at a later time. This enables the participants to reflect on their actions and answer questions about why they acted in particular ways at specific points in the activity. Through this reflection, alternative strategies can be identified and discussed among the students.

Additional resources