Enabling students to understand and analyse contemporary issues in science and technology

Role play

Some basics of role play and timing and structure

It is important when using role play to include each of the following elements unless there is a VERY good reason not. You must make very clear to the students where the transition points are so that they know when they are supposed to be acting in role and when they are themselves. Role play is a very good way to explore other viewpoints but it can be difficult for students if others associate attitudes or behaviour in role with their own opinions.

If you are asking students to act in an unfamiliar way or follow an initially alien line of thought and behaviour it is important to ease in to the situation. If students are following an emotional line in role it can take a little time to bring themselves back.

  • preparation
  • set up (transition into role)
  • action in role
  • return (transition out of role)
  • debrief

Debriefing is a (usually structured) way of recalling/rehearsing and consolidating what has been learnt in the experience of the role play.

As a general rule of thumb set up should be at least as long as the action in role. Transitions need time. Allow at least four or five times the length of time in role for debriefing.

A two minute role play might take ten minutes of furniture moving and general introduction, including allocation of role (preparation), four minutes setting up the situation, two minutes of action role, two minutes coming out of role, ten minutes debriefing. Half an hour for a two-minute role play.

Suggested activities
1.2 Antibiotic role play
1.4 Wellcome Big Picture Drug development
1.4 Stem cells Scottish Institute for Biotechnology Education
1.6 Genetic counselling