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Role-Play and Simulation

Street Law, Inc.

Over 40 years of educating about law, democracy, and human rights

  • Role-play: Participants feel like, think like, and/or act like another individual and “act out” a particular problem or situation.
  • Simulation: Participants react to a specific problem within a structured environment, for example a moot court or legislative hearing.

Although these two approaches have different qualities, they are complementary and share the following purposes of

  1. Furthering the development of imagination and critical thinking skills
  2. Promoting the expression of attitudes, opinions, and values
  3. Fostering participant ability to develop and consider alternative courses of action
  4. Developing empathy for others
  1. Initial activities should be simple and become increasingly complex if role-playing is to be more than a dramatic exercise.
  2. Do not expect polished performances initially. Give participants several opportunities to role-play and to simulate historical and contemporary situations. Vary the type of activity.
  3. There are four essential components to these two strategies:
    1. Preliminary planning and preparation by the teacher
    2. Preparation and training of the participants
    3. Active class involvement in conducting the activity
    4. Careful discussion and reflection about the activity
  4. Because participants may be uncomfortable or embarrassed, these activities should be presented in a relaxed, non-threatening atmosphere, and the participants should realize there may be more than one way to react. Practice will help participants feel more confident in these activities.
  5. There should be extensive debriefing and in‑depth analysis of the experience by the teacher and by the participants.
tips for role-playing
  1. Give participants adequate information to play roles convincingly. This preparation will make it easier for the participants to enjoy the exercise as they learn.
  2. Make situations and problems realistic.
  3. Allow participants to “jump right in.” Don’t spend time on long introductions.
  4. Allow participants to do a role‑reversal to look at opposing viewpoints and prevent stereotyping participants.
  5. Consider the following questions during the debriefing:
    • Was the problem solved? Why or why not? How was it solved?
    • What alternative courses of action were available?
    • Is this situation similar to anything that you have experienced?
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