20 Reasons to Embrace Role Play

Role Play

“Ok everyone, we’re going to shift gears now and move into an activity. It’s a role play…”

Before you can finish your sentence, 80% of the room groans, 12% roll their eyes, 5% just sit in silent judgment of you and 3% suddenly need to step out of the room to take an “important” call.

In my experience, people almost universally despise role play activities. This is an important point to acknowledge as you design your next training segment, but it doesn’t mean we should toss this instructional strategy out. Here are 20 reasons for L&D professionals to embrace role play:

  1. The training room is a “lab without consequences” and role play allows people to try out new things before they need to actually do those things in a work setting. “What kinds of things?” you ask…
  2. Coaching.
  3. Giving feedback.
  4. Receiving feedback.
  5. Interviewing.
  6. Customer service.
  7. Sales.
  8. Courageous conversations around difficult topics. The list could go on this way, but let’s look at some other reasons, too.
  9. Sometimes things sound so much better in your head than they do when they come out of your mouth. Role play allows you to better align the intent in your head to the delivery that comes out of your mouth.
  10. As my 3rd grade daughter says: “practice makes progress.”
  11. Sometimes it’s just a lot easier to have learners try your new content or way of doing things on for size (through role play) as opposed to continuing to talk in conceptual terms.
  12. If people don’t like “role play”, then this type of activity allows you to use cool words like “simulation” or “interactive case study” instead.
  13. It gets your learners involved, allowing them no other choice than to stay present and engage with your content.
  14. Which means that if it’s an activity scheduled immediately after lunch, there will be no temptation to doze off!
  15. For presenters who don’t like to be the center of attention, role play takes the attention completely off you… for a little while, anyway.
  16. Role play allows designers to unleash their creativity in the scenarios they outline for their learners to navigate.
  17. By adding their own spin, learners may take your content and concepts to a level you didn’t even know existed, which makes role play a learning opportunity for presenters as well.
  18. If your learners didn’t know each other before a role playing activity, they sure will know each other afterwards!
  19. The buzz and energy and conversations that permeate the room as learners are role playing can be infectious and carry over throughout the remainder of your presentation (seriously, compare the energy in the room between a lecture and a role play… which seems like an environment that is more alive?).
  20. The de-brief of a role play is fairly easy to set up (“What was easy about that? What proved to be most challenging?”) yet can lead to so many ah-ha moments, and isn’t that what training is all about?

Looking for something beyond role play? Here are 18 instructor-led training activities you could use to engage your learners in a variety of training situations.

What did I miss? Any other reasons to embrace role play? Let’s hear your thoughts in the comment section!

Know someone who’s reluctant to insert role playing activities into their presentations? Why not pass this along?

Instructional Design Inspiration from an Indian Restaurant

The waiter stopped by my table and dropped off a menu as I waited for a colleague to join me. As I flipped through the pages, I noticed that each section of the menu (appetizers, vegetarian options, non-veg options, desserts) was broken up by a page of random food history.

It struck me that there might be a lesson in here for training professionals and instructional designers. A lesson that could reduce the amount of time they spend delivering superfluous content. Continue reading

Facebook’s Anti-bias Training is Interesting, Amusing… and Quite Dangerous

Facebook (Thumbs Down)

You can tell me that bias exists in the workplace, that my co-workers have biases, that I myself have biases, and that we as a company… nay… we as a nation must do more to combat workplace biases in order to create the inclusive, representative organizations that we need, and I’ll believe you.

Just don’t tell me this stuff for an hour. Even this training-loving, left-leaning, rule-following do-gooder will tune out after 10 minutes.  Continue reading

8 Lessons from My Fitbit that are Transferable to L&D Initiatives

Fitbit

I received a Fitbit last Christmas and I love it for two reasons:

1) With heightened awareness of how sedentary my life had become, wearing the Fitbit has helped me realize I need to move more.

2) Thinking about everything that goes into the Fitbit has spawned a bunch of thoughts about behavior change, which is what learning and development is all about.

Following are 8 lessons that transfer quite well into the world of learning and development. Continue reading

What’s Your Go-to Move?

Go-to Move

We all have a “go-to move”. Danny Zuko had the old yawn-then-put-your-arm-around-Sandy’s-shoulders. Jimmy Superfly Snuka leapt from the top rope to head butt his opponents. A guy who lived across the hall from me in my freshman dorm had this irritating, unstoppable shot from just below the goal in Sega’s NHLPA Hockey ’93.

In the learning and development world, it’s that instructional strategy that seems to make its way into just about every one of our workshops or presentations.

Recently my go-to move has been an activity called “How I See It”. I first learned this activity as part of Casey Family Program’s training on racial and ethnic identity development called Knowing Who You Are (side note: this is the best diversity-related training I’ve ever attended). Here’s the activity in a nutshell: Continue reading

3 Questions to Ask Before Planning Your Next Training

Planning

“Begin with the end in mind” is a pretty common rule of thumb when mapping out training programs. It sounds like wise advice… but what does it really mean?!

What’s the end? The end for whom? Are we talking about the end of the training program? Are we talking about when mastery of the content has occurred? Are we talking about the end of days?

Over the weekend, I spent some time with the curriculum planning team for a new certificate program in Workplace Learning and Professional Development at the University of Washington, and we began our planning session with these three questions: Continue reading

10 Interview Questions that Training Professionals Should Be Ready For

Interview

Whether you’re looking for your next position in facilitating workshops or you’re looking to put a new degree in instructional design to use in the “real world”, here are 10 questions you should be ready for in your next interview. In addition to being prepared to answer these questions, it might also be helpful to know why a hiring manager is asking such questions in the first place. In parentheses, I’ve added the “question(s) behind the question”. Continue reading