Roleplays Can Be Your Best Choice
Roleplays (Part 1)
Roleplays are a great way to safely simulate the interpersonal aspects
of a job. I was once teaching the learning activities lessons in The
Instructional Developer Workshop to a group of all technical trainers
who expressed that they didn’t need a lesson on roleplays because
roleplays were not appropriate for technical training. These people
were training the people who were going out to repair mainframe computers
that were not functioning properly. I asked the simple question: Do
these technical people ever run into a customer who is upset because
the mainframe computer is down and they are losing thousands of dollars?
The resounding answer was YES!
I then asked if it might be helpful for these people to gain some skills
at interacting with upset customers. My audience then said, ok, show
us how roleplays can help.
In Part 1 of this Tips article,
let’s look at the purpose of
roleplays, different kinds of roleplays you might consider using, and
some final thoughts on what roleplays are good for.
In Part 2, we’ll provide
a strategy and some tips on how to design/develop structured
The primary purpose of roleplays is to help learners practice
interpersonal skills and rehearse specific behaviors. The key characteristics of
a roleplay include:
description of the situation and characters
- Choices for
the learners to make
resulting from those choices
Here are 5 different kinds of roleplays you might consider:
Two characters confront each other. This type can be conducted
simultaneously throughout a class room.
I have used a paired roleplay to explore how to interview a subject
expert. The expert and the instructional designer each have an identical
set of colored blocks. The subject expert arranges the blocks and
the instructional designer interviews the subject expert to arrange
blocks as the subject expert has them without either person looking
at the other persons’ blocks. They then switch and do it again.
Debriefing then occurs.
Two people roleplay, one person acts as an observer with a checklist.
It can be conducted simultaneously throughout the room.
A small group roleplays while the audience observes them. The audience
can be given a task to do, perhaps with paper and pencil, to play
along with the roleplayers.
An individual roleplay is ideal for self-instruction.
It can take place anywhere, at any time. It usually involves putting
yourself in someone else’s shoes, or rehearsing a situation such
as a sales presentation.
Assign teams to play each role. Teams should discuss and reach a consensus
on what they will say and do. This allows novice members to tap into
the experience that may already exist in the group. This is a good
introduction before breaking students into pairs or triads.
What Good are Roleplays?
- Roleplays enable
the learner to experience aspects of a situation without being thrown
into the complexities of a situation all at once.
- Roleplays are useful in preparing people to make complex decisions
- Roleplays encourage people to learn from each other in a cooperative
Next time, in Part
explain the importance of structured roleplays and give you a step-by-step
process for creating a roleplay.
Until next time,
Article © 2006
Darryl Sink & Associates, Inc