Time requirements: 20-30 minutes

Special features: Role-plays can be used to allow students to experiment with different styles of interaction, practice new communication techniques or explore complex issues. They are generally used in classes dealing with social issues (social sciences, management sciences, etc.) or communication strategies (interviewing techniques, conflict management, etc.). If possible, participate in a role-play yourself before trying one in class. Essentially, a role-play is a form of interactive case study where the experience of participating in the role-play is the basis for further discussion.

How: Role plays should give the students an opportunity to practice what they have learned and should interest the students. Provide concrete information and clear role descriptions so that students can play their roles with confidence. Once the role play is finished, spend some time on debriefing.


  1. Get scenarios and characters for role-plays from news stories, history books, generic business situations, or by writing them yourself from scratch.
  2. Explain why you are using a role-play to cover course material.
  3. Describe the background context or setting to the role-play.
  4. Give roles to “players”: hand them a card with a brief description of the character they’re playing, their point of view, characteristics, etc.
  5. For groups with more students than possible roles, you can either assign “observer” tasks to non-players (e.g., taking notes on a particular player), or assign identical roles to sub­groups of students (e.g., one student can play a city council member, and a sub-group of four or five students can play a homeowners’ coalition).
  6. Ask for volunteers for certain roles or observers: you may use this as one way to allot bonus points to students.
  7. Allow a few minutes for students to prepare for their roles.
  8. After 10-15 minutes, end the role-play.

Function in the class: Debrief and discuss the role-play. Use players’ perceptions and observers’ notes to lead into discussion of course material. Pay special attention to conflicts, ambiguities, etc.