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Role Play Method of Teaching: Definition & Benefits

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Instructor: Della McGuire

Della has been teaching secondary and adult education for over 20 years. She holds a BS in Sociology, MEd in Reading, and is ABD on the MComm in Storytelling.

Role playing is a practice in which people rehearse a behavior they will take in a situation before actually facing the situation. Learn the definition and benefits of role playing, such as developing emotional connections, providing a safe space to learn, and developing empathy. Updated: 01/04/2022

Shakespeare's Spin

'All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances, and one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages.'

- William Shakespeare

We all play roles in our lives and those roles may change over time, in different company, or under various circumstances. This Shakespearean idea describes interpersonal interaction as a series of role-playing exercises, conscious or not, based on the expectations placed on us by ourselves, others, or society.

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  • 3:35 Helps Learners Develop Empathy
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What Is Role Playing?

Wesley wants to ask his sweetheart to marry him, so he has to talk to her father first. Nicole wants a raise after a great performance review, so she will need to talk to her boss. Shawn is worried about how he will approach awkward holiday conversations when his family has very different political views. Señora Lopez wants her Spanish class to practice their conversational skills in a variety of practical settings. Miss Hughes wants her literature students to understand the characters' perspectives in a story. Coach Henderson wants his team to work on their offense and get into the mind of the opposing team.

The people in each of these scenarios would benefit from a little practice with role playing. Role playing is a way of working through a situation, a scenario, or a problem by assuming roles and practicing what to say and do in a safe setting. This kind of learning experience has several benefits and advantages when it's implemented skillfully by a good trainer or teacher. Instructors can supplement their teaching methods with role playing in any context where it seems relevant. Even rehearsals of personal situations through role playing with a trusted friend can provide beneficial learning opportunities. Let's look at some of the benefits of adding role playing to other instructional methods

Helps Learners Develop Emotional Connections

When teachers use role playing as instruction, students have the capability of developing deeper involvement and knowledge about the issues at hand. For example, Miss Hughes may find her students are able to relate to characters when they assume those characters' roles.

Assessment and Application of Learning

Another benefit is that teachers can observe realistic behavior in role playing that can be used to assess and diagnose where students are in their skill level and development of knowledge. For example, Señora Lopez notices which students are struggling to order from the menu in a restaurant role-play exercise and determines which vocabulary words to emphasize with instruction.

These observation assessments built into role playing instruction can also show how well students can apply their learning. This means Coach Henderson can see if his team is able to apply the plan in the playbook while on the field playing against their teammates, who are role playing as the opposing team during practice.

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