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LearningWire #83 – role play methods, tenders 2000 challenge


LearningWIRE #83 10 January 2000 Learning Community

- Special feature on role play methods
- Don Clark's time capsule of training and development
- Creating a culture of lifelong learning at work
- Online Workshop: Organisations and the 'New Science'

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Special feature: Role play methods in training and development
Why are so many participants resistant to using role play methods in their learning? We know from the work of Dale and others that role plays and simulations can be incredibly helpful ways of experiencing behaviour and skills and of learning from the insights derived. As a method, role play draws on at least three of our human senses - seeing, hearing, touching - and uses a fourth quality - doing - to engage us at many levels. With this level of engagement, it is no surprise that the resulting experiences offer powerful rehearsal and learning. And yet, when asked to use the method, so many participants still say 'I'd rather watch' or 'I'll do anything except role play'.

The reasons for this resistance include not wanting to 'perform' in front of others, fear of 'getting it wrong' and 'not being able to find the right words'. The vast majority of reluctant participants whom I have encountered have had bad experiences of role play methods in practice and more than anything else, this has contributed to their fear and avoidance.

So, how should trainers use role play techniques in a way which is acceptable, fun, engaging and full of learning? Most trainers have their own ideas, but here are a selection to get you going.

Generating the script:- Not understanding the context, being unfamiliar with the roles, not identifying with the situation are all factors which limit the value of a role play. These factors are most likely to occur where the role play situation is created or pre-prepared by the trainer and given to the participants. It's more engaging to work with the participants in creating the role play situation and script. Ask for typical situation which they have encountered or visualise occurring. Ask them to define the main characters and their personalities. Invite them to suggest some of the events likely to be happening. By working as a large group together in this way, and brainstorming their ideas for the situation, everyone is able to generate an identify for the role play whilst thinking their way into it. Drawing out the role play as a story board using a series of simple cartoons can be a further way of developing the storyline, particularly with less confident players.

Volunteer participants, don't coerce them:- People need to choose their level of engagement. If they are forced to take on a role, the activity is unlikely to go well. Many trainers find it helpful not to schedule a role play type activity until the second half of an event. This gives them time to assess whether the activity is likely to work with the group, and if it's not, to substitute it with something else. When asking for volunteers to take on roles, always recruit people to the most difficult role(s) first, then work backwards to the less threatening roles. If you fill the easy roles first, the most assertive people quickly occupy the least difficult roles, leaving the least confident to take on the most difficult.

Using multiple people in each role:- Instead of recruiting just one person for each role, why not recruit two or three who can then 'shadow' each other: one person takes on the role until they become stuck, at which point another person from their shadow team takes over. This reduces the sense of being 'stuck in the hot seat'. It also ensures that more people are involved in the role play and actively learning.

Let participants have time-outs:- Stopping the action - pausing it for a few minutes - allows people to return to a support group and decide what to do next. It's possible to break up a role play into several short episodes, each of which will have many learning points. Rarely does a role play lead to a successful outcome to the event under observation; rather, there are a series of micro-level behaviours and actions which influence the course of events. Spotting and understanding these individual contributing factors is the key to learning from the role play.

Allow plenty of time:- A good role play or simulation takes a lot of time. A rule of thumb created by one group of trainers recently suggested the following division of time: setting up, scene setting, preparation (35% time); running the role play itself (20% time); de-roling and de-briefing the whole event (45% time). They suggested a minimum time allowance for any good role play of 150 minutes which equates to half a day. How often have you witnessed (or tutored?) a role play where far too little time was allowed for de-briefing - even though this is the key to unlocking insights and learning from the event.

Done well, role plays and simulations can be a great way to learn. It's a shame that so many participants have had bad experiences, and too many trainers are unwilling to use the techniques. These ideas are developed from the extensive practical chapter on using role play methods in the best-selling 'Toolkit for Trainers' which is available from the Pavilion catalogue in the TrainingZone shopping Mall

Searching the Internet for other helpful resource material on role play methods is a somewhat frustrating experience. All too often you end up at one of the myriad of sites devoted to games playing of a fantasy kind, or alternatively to a site about better dog training. Here are a few of the more relevant ones if you want to follow up on this topic:

BV Marten at Syracuse University offers a simple taxonomy of different games and role plays with straightforward instructions for running them. Called 'From Role Play to Intelligent Agents', he explores four different uses of role play.

This site offers various papers and resource publications on the use of role play available for sale

The TrainingZone Toolkit offers an introduction to the use of role plays and simulations, particularly within youth programmes and other gaming contexts, but with some thoughts about wider usage. It's drawn from 'The New Youth Games Book' by Alan Dearling and Howie Armstrong.

If you want other people to actually perform the role play or simulation for you, there are several training companies which offer this service. Have a look at Actors in Management:

Steve Finkel has an excellent online guide entitled 'From Knowing to Doing' which offers some great tips and ideas for making role play actually work.

Thanks to Don Clark for pointing out several web resources; if you've not yet looked at his excellent training guide, take a good browse through

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Online Workshop: Organisations and the 'New Science'
The first in the series of weekly online workshops for this year takes places on Wednesday at 12:00 noon. Penny Sharland is a highly experienced consultant working with organisational development issues. She is particularly interested in new management models about what enables staff and organisations to function effectively. Much of this work has been academic in the past. Through acclaimed publications such as 'Toolkit for Managers', Penny is making these approaches accessible and practical. Anyone can participate in this fascinating free workshop. On Wednesday at 12:00 noon GMT just go to

TrainingZone's Day at the Dome
Come and join us on Friday 17 March on a day out to the Dome. We'll review the future of Learning and Work in their respective Zones. You can win free tickets in our easy-to-enter Draw.

Any Answers?
Post your own question direct to Any Answers? by clicking the Post a Question button on the page. All replies are automatically emailed to you. You're virtually guaranteed a reply!.

Here are a selection of new or recent questions:

**Work or study in the USA
06-Jan-2000 - I am moving with my partner to Seattle & require information/contacts for work or study or research into learning methods, possibly psycology related.I am an IPD Certificated Trainer and have worked in Customer Service industries for around 20 years! Help!
Ann Campbell

**Improving Literacy
06-Jan-2000 - Adult literacy in a business context
Jane Creaton

**Do you Know of Master degree programs for business communication
05-Jan-2000 - I am looking for a well repected university, in the USA, who offeres a graduate program for business communication or related fields. Thank you. Kelly
Kelly Davenport

All the questions and all the answers can be found at

Tenders 2000 Challenge
Our Challenge is to promote open and competitive tendering for training and consultancy work. You can publish your contract opportunities completely free of charge. Recently posted opportunities include:

**Generic Trainer vacancy - Liverpool

Salary range: GBP 18-24K, plus benefits dependent upon experience

This represents a great opportunity for an experienced Training professional to join a growing firm of Liverpool based Solicitors.

**Opportunity to train employees in personnel procedures with Interaction

24-12-1999 - Interaction are a growing management development consultancy based in the South West. We are currently tendering for a contract to research, design and deliver a set of pilot programmes to train employees in basic personnel procedures.

Check out the latest opportunities and invitations to tender at

ADVERTISMENT: Tenders 2000 Challenge
Publish your training and consultancy tenders, contracts and jobs openly, online. Search for new work opportunities. No charge!

The best training and HR resources from website around the world are featured at

TrainingZone is a free community - please help us keep it that way. If you like LearningWire and the website please forward this newswire to a friend and suggest they register for their own copy.

A time capsule of training and development
If you visit no other website this week, go to this one! Don Clark already runs one of the most comprehensive websites for training resources; now he's added a truly remarkable single page offering a detailed, researched, succinct summary of all the key advances and trends in this professional field over the last five millennia. Illustrated with relevant graphics (which do add to the download time, so be patient), you'll find excellent synopses and pointers to all the most important people and ideas in our area of work. Please don't take our word for it - go visit!

Creating a culture of lifelong learning at work
An article in the current (but undated) page of Continuing Professional Development discusses and explores the main points from the Internet conference, "Attitudes to CPD: Establishing a Culture of Life-Long Learning at Work". Its final sentence poses an intriguing question!

Graduates expect to move early and often
New employees no longer believe that they will stay with an employer for more than three years. Instead, according to a new US survey, they will build up their CVs with multiple employers and a variety of positions.

Partners' job demands affect men more than women
The annual occupational psychology conference of the British Psychological Society in Brighton heard that men were more than twice as likely as women to feel depressed about the demands of their partner's job.

New Deal 'failing neediest'
Labour's New Deal for the unemployed 'works best where it is needed least', according to the first proper study of the scheme's effectiveness. In the South (but not London) the New Deal has worked reasonably well. But in the North and inner cities it is not getting people into jobs.

International study of training practice
The Centre for Labour Market Studies at the University of Leicester is moving towards publication of an international survey of training practices. Participants from countries at present not in the survey will still be welcomed; interested readers can find out how to be kept informed of the results.

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