In today’s college practicum experiences, it is sometimes quite difficult for students to find quality field or clinical placements to log hours of pre-professional experiences. Hospitals, clinics, and school districts maintain busy schedules and are not always willing to allow interns into their facilities to practice their professional skills on an ongoing basis.
Role play can be implemented by college instructors and professors as an additional way to increase practice of skills within the confines of a college classroom among peers. This can be done as practice prior to implementing the skills within partnering clinics, hospital, or school districts. In a college of education for example, role play is a time when the aspiring teacher leads a lesson or activity as the peers in the college classroom participate as students (Kazemi, Ghousseini, Cunard & Turrou, 2016). Role play within other fields may include providing therapy, health care, service, or other activity involving the college student in a typical situation that he or she may encounter within a practicum experience.
Role play is an engaging tool for professors to use in their courses and engages student interns in the delivery of a service among their peers within the college classroom. During role play, there is one lead intern who provides the service, and other peers within that college course assume the role of the patient or student. This method allows the intern to rehearse his or her planned lesson in a risk-free environment while gaining confidence in the delivery of their professional content knowledge prior to actually delivering services to involved community partners.
One instructional tactic that complements role play within the college classroom is “act outs.” Act outs are designed to further enrich the intern’s ability to deliver the skill or lesson while also addressing any challenges that may arise. The professor of the course uses 4-5 index cards with descriptions of possible challenges that may be encountered and administers these randomly to the participating peers in the classroom prior to the lead intern’s delivery of the service or lesson.
These peers must “act out” the behavior listed on the index card while the lead intern continues to provide the service. This is a time for the lead intern to experience challenges while providing the service as a means of gaining experience of situations that may arise within their profession. The peers with the act outcards continue to exhibit the behavior on the card while the lead intern addresses the behavior during his or her delivery of the service.
Act out cards could include any behaviors that the professor feels the intern needs practice managing. For students in a healthcare program, a card might say, adult is afraid of needles and does not want to get a flu shot. For students studying education, a card might say, student in first grade refuses to stay in his seat. Prior to the beginning of the lesson, the professor asks the lead intern to leave the room while the act out cards are administered to 4-5 students randomly throughout the classroom. The lead intern does not know who will exhibit a challenge nor what it will be. The professor explains to the peers that their job is to continue as instructed on the card until the service is complete or the behavior is addressed.
At the end of the lesson, the professor leads the class in a debrief and encourages all students to reflect on what transpired and discuss how things could be approached differently in a future, real-word situation.
By incorporating role-playing situations that mirror clinical settings, students can practice working with challenging behaviors in the safety of the classroom before encountering them in during their practicum in the workplace, where the stakes are much higher.
Stefanie R. Sorbet is an assistant professor in the Elementary and Special Education Department at the University of Central Arkansas. She previously taught elementary school.