Role Plays

The situation is a role play in an Informatics subject (high % NESB and international student cohort) where students are asked to take on the persona of a user of technology eg a middle aged man with an ‘electronic’ prosthetic arm, a teenager using mobile phone technology etc and present themselves ‘in role’ to discuss how this technology impacts on their life. So you can see it’s a cognitively and linguistically demanding task. My concern is how to scaffold this task both cognitively and linguistically for this group of students. And, more generically what people have used in the past as assessment criteria for roles plays. I realise that it is unlikely that anyone will have something so specific ( but maybe you do?) so was just wanting to see if there is anything out there that might be adaptable to the specifics of this learning situation.

more on role plays

Hi Bronwyn and everyone

This reply links in a way to the previous discussion on backgrounds of us student language and learning folk...my original background is in educational drama...the relevance of this as a background is high in terms of principles behind the teaching and learning...I think the profession would be poorer for having less diversity but then I would say that wouldn't I Smile

As for role plays...for a role play to be effective the focus has to be on 'building belief' in the imagined person's situation. This can be done in a number of ways (time doesn't permit here but lots has been written about how to do this, for example Dorothy Heathcote and Gavin Bolton). Not to focus on feelings is to end up with stereotype. Here's an example used on me in my educational drama training many years ago...powerful enough for me to still remember it...

We were asked to take on the role of a pirate. We all immediately started to walk around the room with imagined parrots on our shoulders, prominent limps and lots of swaggering and oooh arrrs in 'typical' pirate voices Smile We all had great fun but no deeper learning happened other than confirming our stereotypical knowedge of pirates Smile. In contrast, we were then asked (and my memory is a little blurred but hopefully you'll get the idea) to sit on the floor and imagine what it might be like to be always on the run, to be scared of being found, to never have a place to call home, to wonder where our next meal was coming from and so on...We were asked to sit as if on a jetty looking out to sea, imagining where we might sail to next, wondering if we would ever see this land again, wondering where our next adventures lay. After some time of thinking about these feelings, our lecturer went into role (we weren't quite sure as who yet, the focus was on building belief) )and walked up to one of us, huddled beside her and asked if she was as frightened as he was....and that was the start of building belief in the role of a pirate....we started the process of thinking and feeling as a human rather than as a type.

So in terms of the middle aged man with the electronic prosthetic arm, unless one actually is a middle aged man with an electronic prosthetic arm, we can't possibly begin to act as one who does. To do so only creates stereotypes. The situation has to be taken down to a feeling level. For example, one way might be to ask the students "I wonder what it would be like to always have to ask people to help you, to feel proud, to be patronised, to be treated insensitively, to want to shout with exasperation, to feel no different to anyone else"....and so on....people can tap into these feelings from elsewhere in their lives. Asking them to act out a middleaged man with an electronic prosthtic arm will result in stereotype as per the "ooo arrs" of our pirates Smile. The students could be asked what feelings a person might have in that situation, both good and bad and so on.

Then there's what's known as the hot-seat technique in which the student (or teacher if the group is less cohesive and more nervous) who is pretending to be the middle aged man with the electronic arm, sits in the middle of the circle and the class ask questions about his life. The students can create these questions as if they were in role themselves, for example, as health care professionals of some sort, as centrelink staff, and so on...choose depending on what sort of perspectives you're trying to focus on.....and again focus on feelings for the students round the circle too...for example, "I wonder what it's like to have to deal with people's problems all day?" Questions can be prepared beforehand by the class and the student or teacher in the middle of the circle can have time to think about it beforehand too. Different students can volunteer to sit in the middle of the circle to give different perspectives...

Hope it might help in some way or other!

Best wishes,
Gill

_____________________________
Dr Gill Best
Lecturer
School of Learning Support Services
Portfolio of Language and Learning
VU College
Victoria University
ph 61 3 9919 4147
fax 61 3 9919 4766


Dr Gill Best
Senior Lecturer
Coordinator, Students Supporting Student Learning
School of Language and Learning
VU College
Victoria University
ph 61 3 9919 4147
Mobile 0406996167
fax 61 3 9919 4766