- Problem solving in Role Play situations.

In real life it is often the case that peoples motives are accidentally or deliberately unclear. The messages they transmit are confusing. Every doctor knows the patient who precedes his description of symptoms with "I've only come for a friend who didn't want to come himself but I thought he ought to."Everybody has been involved in situations where they have been taken for somebody else. When the policeman at the door says "The Inspector asked me to call round." don't shout "I didn't do it!" until you are quite sure they have found out. He may only want a contribution to the Benevolent Fund.

Suitably presented, situations which have to be explored before they can be handled can provide stimulating and highly realistic material for advanced level (or at least intermediate level) role plays.

Role cards are necessary, particularly since the roles themselves tend to be relatively detailed. In any event, this is the best way of ensuring that the different actors participate without knowing the details of the other roles. It is best if the teacher does not participate in this kind of activity - the students will get more satisfaction from handling the situation if they know the teacher wasn’t ‘helping’ them.

The fact that there is a problem to be solved in the simulation does not mean the participants are in outright opposition. It would not be a good idea to set up a simulation where one student comes out the ‘winner’; automatically there would also be a ‘loser’ and he might end up traumatised. It is no good setting up a situation where there is no room for agreement. The principal difference between a ‘Simulation’ and a ‘Role Play’ is that each participant is aware only of his own role. He can, of course, make suppositions about the roles of the other participants. That, after all is how life works; the bank clerk says " next please " and is attuned already to hearing, " I’d like to cash this .... ". The one hundred thousandth customer who says " Your money or your life! " is likely to be quite simply misunderstood on his first approach. I once read of a notable going down yet another line of other, lesser, notables shaking hands. It was a familiar task for him and, to break the monotony he replaced his usual platitudes with a gently smiled, " I killed my grandmother this morning .". Nobody noticed.



BK08d 2000
reviewed May 2020