What are the benefits of role-play?

Information alone rarely leads to changes in behavior, but personal experience often does. That said, the best way to learn new behaviors or skills is to experience them first. Role-playing transforms the content of information into experience (Havholm, 1998).

Role-play is a form of active learning that is driven by participant interaction. Participants are more likely to retain knowledge that they have constructed themselves versus information that is given to them in a lecture (Duveen & Solomon, 1994). Through role-play, abstract subject matters, such as communication, become more concrete by way of personal interaction and feedback (Errington, 2008). Thus, role-playing is an ideal approach to teaching and developing skills that cannot be learnt through traditional methods of instruction (Blatner, 2006).

Role-play encourages participants to expand their understanding and perception of challenges (Erringotn, 2008). Including role-playing exercises in the learning process brings to light the fact that most challenges are complicated and multi-faceted, and can rarely be solved by one answer (Cage, 1997). Participants learn that using separate skills or techniques collectively is often required to accomplish tasks (Bair, 2000). Additionally, during role-play exercises, participants are faced with the same pressures to approach a challenge or resolve a conflict that is experienced in real life. By incorporating this human element, role-playing emphasizes the value of emotions as well as knowledge in communication challenges (Dallmann-Jones, 1994).

Through its practical integration of knowledge, skills, and abilities, role-play serves as a platform for lifelong learning by allowing participants to manipulate their knowledge in new ways.

Bair, E. S. (2000). Developing analytical and communication skills in a mock-trial course based on the famous Woburn, Massachusetts case. Journal of Geoscience Education, 48 (4), 450-454.

Blatner, A. (2006). Enacting the new academy: Sociodrama as a powerful tool in higher education. ReVision: A Journal of Consciousness and Transformation, 29 (3), 30-35.

Bonnet, C. (2000). The relevance of role playing in environmental education. Proceedings of the International Union on Biological Sciences Commission for Biological Education (IUBS-CBE): International Symposium on Biological Education, IUFM Versailles, Centre de Cergy, France 15-18 May.

Cage, M. C. (1997). Role-playing replaces spreadsheets in college accounting courses. The Chronicle of Higher Education, 42 (21), A10.

Dallmann-Jones, A. S. (1994). The Expert Educator: A Reference Manual for Teaching Strategies for Quality Education, Three Blue Herons Publishing, Inc., Fond du Lac, WI.

Duveen, J., & Solomon, J. (1994). The great evolution trial: Use of role-play in the classroom. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 32 (5), 575-582.

Errington, E. (2008). Exploring real-world scenarios as vehicles for authentic learning. Third International Conference on Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, Monash University Centre, Prato,Tuscany, Italy, 22-25 July.

Havholm, (1998). An activity to introduce the geoscience perspective. Journal of Geoscience Education, 46 (2), 137-140.

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