This is an article by Michael C. Loui discussing role playing as an educational tool.
Author: Michael C. Loui
Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Coordinated Science Laboratory, and Graduate College, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
February 28, 1999
Presented at the OEC International Conference on Ethics in Engineering and Computer Science, March 1999
Role playing is an active learning technique in which students assume the roles of participants in a case. The case may be fictional or based on an actual incident. The goal of the role playing exercise is to engage the students in the perspectives of the participants to understand their motivations, interests, and responsibilities. Through the exercise, students learn to collaborate with others to achieve wise solutions to difficult problems.
Almost any case can serve as the basis for a role playing exercise during a class period. Here are the steps that I take:
Rather than require every student to play a role, I ask for volunteers. I have learned that only a few volunteer: most students are reluctant to take speaking roles. To ensure that all students are actively involved in the class period, I require that those who do not have speaking roles serve as coaches for speakers.
For a fifty-minute period, I allocate twenty minutes for the preparation in Step 4, fifteen minutes for the role playing session in Step 5, and the remaining time for the discussion in Step 6. For an eighty-minute period, I run role plays of two cases in succession: I allocate the first twenty minutes for preparation for both cases, then run and discuss the first case, and finally run and discuss the second case.
If there are many students in the class and time for only one case, I would divide the class in half and run two role playing sessions for the same case simultaneously (Step 5). If possible, half of the students would go to a nearby classroom to run the role playing session, and then they would return for the general discussion.
I feel that in the general discussion (Step 6), students who have served as speakers should have an opportunity to say what they really believe, to be honest to themselves and to other students.
For the conference demonstration, I shall use the "Parkville" case in Harris et al. [1995, pp. 344-345]. There will be three or four speaking parts for the following characters: Elizabeth, an environmental engineer; David, her manager; the chair of the Committee for Environmental Quality; and possibly the mayor of Parkville.