Role play exercises give students the opportunity to assume the role of a person or act out a given situation. These roles can be performed by individual students, in pairs, or in groups which can play out a more complex scenario. Role plays engage students in real-life situations or scenarios that can be “stressful, unfamiliar, complex, or controversial” which requires them to examine personal feelings toward others and their circumstances (Bonwell & Eison, 1991, p.47).
Unlike simulations and games which often are planned, structured activities and can last over a long period of time, role play exercises “are usually short, spontaneous presentations” but also can be prearranged research assignments (Bonwell & Eison, 1991, p.47).
Role playing can be effectively used in the classroom to:
Role plays can be effectively used in the classroom to provide real-world scenarios to help students learn.
Using a set of guidelines can be helpful in planning role playing exercise. Harbour and Connick (2005) offer the following:
Students can gain additional (and alternative) meaning from the context of role playing than from non-context specific book learning and lectures. By means of guidance from clearly developed objectives and instructions, role plays can help students gain knowledge and skills from a variety of learning situations:
Role plays provide students with the opportunity to take part in activities which mirror career-related scenarios.
Role plays provide students with the opportunity to take part in activities which mirror career-related scenarios. To help students understand the use of role playing sessions, role plays should be content-focused, match learning objectives, and be relevant to real-world situations. Role playing exercises encourage students to think more critically about complex and controversial subjects and to see situations from a different perspective. When properly employed, role plays can motivate students in a fun and engaging way.
Bonwell, C. C., & Eison, J. A. (1991). Active learning: Creating excitement in the classroom. Washington, DC: The George Washington University.
Harbour, E., & Connick, J. (2005). Role playing games and activities rules and tips. http://www.businessballs.com/roleplayinggames.htm
Lebaron, J., & Miller, D. (2005). The potential of jigsaw role playing to promote the social construction of knowledge in an online graduate education course. http://paws.wcu.edu/jlebaron/Jigsaw-FnlTCRpdf_050812.pdf
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Northern Illinois University Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning. (2012). Role playing. In Instructional guide for university faculty and teaching assistants. Retrieved from https://www.niu.edu/citl/resources/guides/instructional-guide