Roleplays Can Be Your Best Choice (Part 2): Developing a Structured Roleplay

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Darryl L. Sink and Associates, Inc. (DSA) helps organizations design and develop learning and performance solutions that get results. DSA works cooperatively with organizations to:

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In part 1 of this Tips article, I explored with you the purposes of roleplays, and some different kinds of role plays you might consider using. In part 2, I want to share the steps for developing a structured roleplay.

What is a structured roleplay? A structured roleplay is one that has enough structure (directions, standard materials, etc.) that it can be repeated while achieving very similar results. Structured roleplays are tested and revised until they work as intended. This provides for predictable scheduling and predictable results.

Structured roleplays are designed to be self-contained so others can facilitate them with minimal required skills . This increases the scalability of the roleplay, that is, many different instructors may use the roleplay and achieve very similar results.

I once worked with a career education course that needed such an approach, given that there were several part time instructors for the course and the turn-over rate was high for the part time instructors. While roleplaying, one of the participants learned to recognize and experience six different personality types. The roleplay involved six students, each playing one of the six different personality types. To give the role play context, the scenario for the roleplay was set around a family member discussing the issue of whether to return to college or not. Each of the six roleplay participants argued for or against going back to college roleplaying one of the six personality types. These personality types were tied to the Dictionary of Occupational Titles. This roleplay provided one decision-making point in the career education course to help them decide on occupational areas for which they might be well suited.

Here are the steps we followed to develop the role play:

  1. Select a topic appropriate for the structured roleplay format. Topics that involve practicing interpersonal skills or rehearsing specific behaviors are best suited.
  2. Specify the learning outcomes, including experiential objectives.
  3. Select a critical issue and analyze its pros and cons.
  4. Sketch a story line for the natural events for a story on your issue.
  5. Create a cast of characters.
  6. Select the critical junctures (for example, providing input during the roleplay that provides additional information.)
  7. Assemble the scenario.
  8. Devise roleplay materials.
  9. Prepare a prototype, complete with instructions and debriefing questions.
  10. Try out and modify.

Roleplays focus on the interpersonal interactions people need to have in the work place. Developing structured tested roleplays should be a part of the repertoire of master instructional designers. Give a structured roleplay a try on something really important to your learning audience.

See you next time,