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What About Role Plays?

Role play is a learning activity in which participants play out roles in a simulated situation. Role plays provide a highly motivational climate because participants are actively involved in a realistic situation.

Advantages of role play include:

  1. Role play can create a highly motivational climate because participants are actively involved in a realistic situation.
  2. Participants can experience a real-life situation without having to take real-life risks.
  3. Role play gives participants an understanding of the client’s situation.

Developing a Role Play

To develop a role play, the instructional designer must:

Select an appropriate situation. It may be drawn from experiences or past records. The situation should be relevant and similar to situations that participants will encounter.

Ensure that there is a problem or point of conflict in the role play. This conflict is the focus of the role play and the resolution of the conflict is what the participants should gain from participating in or observing the role play.

Identify the roles that will be acted out during the role play. In most training courses, there will be a client/customer or a sales person/service provider.

Determine if the role play will be informal, formal or a demonstration. These are defined as:

Informal. The role players are given a general situation and asked to "act it out" with little or no preparation time. For example, if a question regarding a client comes up in class, the trainer may ask two participants to take a few minutes to plan and present a brief role play which addresses the situation. This type of role play is not prepared in advance and therefore is not developed by the instructional designer.

Formal. The role players are given a set of instructions which outlines the scope and sequence of the role play. Using the example, the participants would be given a situation with specific roles they are to act out. One would play a client and the other would play a service provider, for example. Both would have specific directions regarding the part each is to play and would be given time to prepare for the role play.

Following are hints for successful role plays:

  • Keep the role play brief. Make the point and then move on.
  • If you provide training for more than one method, you may want to consider developing some role plays that can be used in more than course. By keeping the role play as general as possible, it is more easily adapted to different topics.
  • Provide the participants with questions or activities that will help them to focus on the main concept(s) being presented.
  • Determine whether participants will report the results of their discussion of the role play in writing or orally to the entire group.

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