Role playing



"Tell me and I forget,
teach me and I may remember,
involve me and I learn”

Benjamin Franklin

Teaching by motivating, learning by playing

The objective of all educational action is to ensure that students assimilate new knowledge that allows them to develop skills and competencies related to the subjects read. The success of this process always depends on the quality and clarity of the contents, on the experts’ choice and definition of a good strategy and techniques to transmit these contents and on the interest and involvement of the student. Without all this, the success of the process is impossible.

Despite the fact that traditional education has always pursued the search and application of resources to motivate and involve, the truth is that the strategy of most of teaching programs, based on the use of traditional techniques such as the presentation of data and explanations provided by teachers and the reading of complementary references, followed by the typical test/exam that certifies the acquisition of knowledge, is not always enough to motivate and retain certain students.

That is why, in these cases, from a strategy focused on achieving an optimal teaching objective and following a predetermined pattern of action, it is necessary to analyze what other techniques, procedures, actions and rules may help us to improve our goal.

Among the different proposals of current educational theories, we will talk about role playing: a group dynamic that, combining the strategy of simulation and the technique of mixing roles, invites the participant to assume, based on predefined guidelines, a behavior profile that is usually not theirs. All this in order to discover their attitudes and reactions in a given situation, as well as their influence on its development and outcome.

A solution that, in our online training space, with the support of the resources offered by the LMS platform and the essential help of the group's expert tutor, will make it easier for the student to develop, through the pleasure of the playful challenge, a positive and motivating attitude towards learning.

Role playing
Different people, different realities

There are countless situations in professional activity where knowing how to handle different viewpoints is extraordinarily advantageous to easily solve critical situations, situations where the mastery of social skills and interpersonal relationships are core and essential.

We are talking, for example, about commercial or team management, customer service, services to people, etc. Activities that involve understanding and appreciating not only our view, but also that of those with whom we dialogue.

In these cases, it is where the use of role playing is very effective to simulate situations and learn to face and solve them. A space where the student gets involved and, comparing and analyzing the roles represented both by them and by their classmates, acquire the knowledge needed to improve their skills.

At this point, it should be noted that previously knowing and analyzing the profile of the participants is important for the proper functioning of this technique, so that the expert can adjust the tone and guidelines to be followed by the different roles in the staging of the activity.

We must also keep in mind that nowadays, in many companies and organizations, it is easy to find representatives of different generations (baby boomers, generation X, millennials or zoomers) who, increasingly, come from multiple backgrounds and different cultural realities. This leads us to a heterogeneous group of people of different ages, origins and customs that shares, within the framework of these continuous training programs, the same educational space; that makes it really difficult to choose a single model of speech and strategy that equally involves such a varied audience.

In this environment, it is easy for individualism to appear; that students entrench themselves in their corner and want to make their opinion prevail over that of others. This attitude causes the disappearance of the dialogue between participants, consequently losing that so important educational component that is the motivation of the student.

In this sense, the great advantage of the role-playing technique is that it provides something extremely valuable: it forces the participants to interact with each other. This avoids isolation and offers each and every one the opportunity to put themselves in the place of others, observing and dealing with situations and perspectives to which they are not normally exposed.

Role playing
Simulation and online learning

The use of role playing, also known as dramatization, has been (and still is) very common in face-to-face coaching sessions, led by expert instructors, to simulate conflicts in work environments. However, the incorporation of this technique in e-learning adopts its own characteristics.

Using digital tools such as videoconference rooms, chat rooms or discussion forums, role playing opens up, in this new teaching space, dynamics of collaborative work in an online environment that, sometimes erroneously, has been linked to an individual and solitary learning.

To better understand the dynamics of this simulation technique, there are some examples of possible role-playing activities within the framework of an online course:

  1. Criticizing a specific behavior
    In a videoconference, and from a certain situation, one of the participants plays a role with an inappropriate behavior. Using the chat, the rest reacts to their attitude, criticizes it and highlights the mistakes made.
  2. Solving a mystery
    A situation that contains and unsolved mystery is presented. Its scene and the characters involved are also described. Next, each of the participants is assigned a role and, with the information available, they must try to solve the mystery. The results are posted in the forum and then, each one comments and assesses the others’ proposals.
  3. A business meeting
    Before the activity, a project must be defined and the different roles distributed among the participants: account director, team leader, different experts, etc. Next, an online work meeting is scheduled; its agenda is provided and a time limit is set. From here, and using the chat, everyone assumes commitments and proposes solutions. The objective: to close the agenda including specific tasks that each one must carry out next. 

These are only three examples of the different plots that can be created. Role playing is a technique that basically seeks to activate the students’ imagination, help them to deal with conflicts transversally and teach them to compare and correct mistakes. From here, let our imagination run wild.

Obviously, students will be able to check the keys and correct answers at a theoretical level, which will be published together with the rest of contents of the course in the LMS platform. However, we are referring to a simulation strategy that puts a theoretical situation into practice and whose fundamental goal is that the student draws a personal experience.

Lastly, it should be emphasized that the role of the teaching expert is essential when organizing the activity, to make it dynamic and to provide good feedback to the participants, which is what will close the activity in all cases. In addition, as it is online training, the creative and active use of digital communication tools will be a fundamental value to achieve a continuous and satisfactory group participation.


Role playing will allow students to create opinions, know how to achieve results through reflection and not leave solutions and answers to depend exclusively of memorizing data. It is an excellent tool that will allow them to train and obtain the necessary agility for a correct decision-making in critical situations.

So, if you detect that your continuous training courses need to improve, remember these four key points of role playing:

  • The fundamental challenge in any training process is to involve students in the construction of their own learning.
  • Knowing how to choose the tone and investigate new motivation techniques is essential and decisive for the success of your training programs.
  • Role playing is a tremendously effective resource in those training actions that include learning social skills and interpersonal relationships.
  • “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn”. This phrase, attributed to Benjamin Franklin, perfectly sums up the essence of role playing: we can forget many things, but we will always remember what we have lived through experience.

Magí del Campo

Magí is a Training Coordinator, trainer, designer and audiovisual producer. He is a partner and head of the training area at Futura Training & Consulting, an Opentrends teaching content company. Furthermore, he works on projects for the transformation and adaptation of corporate content, both technical and technological, with the aim of providing the user with an attractive, easy and direct language.