Role Play in Active Learning


During lectures, instructors can either use passive or active methodsor a combination of both to achieve desirable learning outcomes amongtheir students. Passive learning involves giving lectures withoutthe participation of the learners. Conversely, active learninginvolves students thinking about the subject matter of a given topicand interacting with their instructor on the same topic. They get achance to ask questions and share their opinions (McCarthy, &ampAnderson, 2000). Some of the common active learning methods usedinclude simulations, problem-solving sessions, and role plays. Thetechniques invoke increased participation of the learners, and theymotivate them to understand the topics. However, it is worth notingthat instructors cannot solely rely on the active methods for theirteaching (McCarthy &amp Anderson, 2000). The goals defined in thelearning outcomes dictate the best method to use either passive oractive.

Role play is one of the active learning methods used by instructorsto achieve given learning objectives. According to DeNeve &ampHeppner (1997), role play involves setting a structure situation thatimprovises students’ behaviors to fit with the conceived rolesassigned by a given topic. In active learning, the objectives of roleplay are to trigger the interest of the learners to a particulartopic, develop group dynamic skills for problem solving, andcultivate leadership skills and exposing them to the scientificmethod of learning (McCarthy &amp Anderson, 2000).

Upon the achievement of these objectives, a study conducted by DeNeve&amp Heppner (1997) indicates that learners remember moreinformation from role plays as opposed to other learning methods.According to Paquette (2012), the activities conducted during theplays are easier to remember than the ones taught during a passivelecture. The result also indicates that learners apply the role playin understanding real world situations, and this enhances theirproblem-solving skills. When facing a real life situation requiringthem to use the knowledge they gained from learning institutions,leaders can easily relate the role plays to the situations at handand solve them effectively. In another study conducted by Fayombo(2014), students who took part in role play showed greater leadershipand confidence skills than those who took part in passive learning.In the same study, role play was found to be an important tool tointroduce concepts that could otherwise take longer for students tograsp.

In skills such as counseling, role play can be an imperative tool incultivating confidence. During role plays, it can be easy to correctmistakes in client approach and handling before embarking on theactual practice. Also, role play can stimulate leadership skills andteamwork. When working with clients, it is sometimes necessary toseek the opinion of other professionals who have an interest in thewellbeing of the client (McCarthy &amp Anderson, 2000). Thequalities of tolerance and positive behavior will have been polishedduring role plays. Counseling also requires a professional to exhibitleadership skills and give clients directions concerning treatment.Role play cultivates this quality in learners, and they can exploitin their practice.

In conclusion, active learning allows for the participation oflearners in the various topics. As opposed to passive learning, theactive approach uses methods like role plays and simulations toengage the learner. Role-play is an important aspect of activelearning since it helps learners to remember the concepts learnedduring the plays and apply them in their actual practices. Also, itcultivates the qualities of leadership and teamwork and this moldseffective individuals for the workplaces.


DeNeve, K. &ampHeppner, M. (1997).Role play simulations: The assessment of an activelearning technique and comparisons with traditional lectures.Innovative Higher Education. 21(3), 230-246.

Fayombo, A. (2014).Enhancing learning outcomes in psychology through active learningstrategies in classroom and online learning environments.International Journal of Learning and Development. 4(3),114-131.

McCarthy, P. &ampAnderson, L. (2000). Active learning techniques versus traditionalteaching styles: two experiments from history and political science.Innovative Higher Education. 24(4), 280-296.

Paquette, L. (2012).Using role play simulations to promote activelearning. Faculty Focus.Retrieved from

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