Role plays can be very effective as training tools. They can also be amongst the most complex activities to plan and run. When it is well run, a role play will have a strong impact, but a poor one is likely to result in criticism and frustration. There is a potential complication in the case of facilitators who may be implementing role plays that they have not developed, and so they must think very carefully about how relevant or effective they will be. This should include careful consideration of any cultural aspects that might affect the running of the role play.


The role play centres on recreating an actual, anticipated, or imaginary scene. This scene would probably involve dialogue and/or action. The script for a role play involves two elements:

• A clear description of the starting point, for example, what is the context, what led up to the point where the role play starts, who are involved, in what capacity?

• An indication of how each person might react or behave after the role play begins – this is often referred to as their brief.

Please see Topic 6 for more-detailed information about how to devise role plays.

The role play should aim to be spontaneous within its established context. Role plays do not provide specific dialogue for the actors, nor do they have a predetermined outcome; their purpose is to explore what might happen and how different actions or statements might influence the outcome. Role plays also provide the opportunity for participants to experience how various situations or outcomes might feel.

When organising or using a role play, facilitators should bear in mind the stages through which the role play goes. The facilitator needs a clear plan that involves:

• Planning the role play in advance;

• Preparing the script in advance;

• Informing and engaging the participants;

• Running the role-play activity;

• Stopping the role play;

• Clearing unfinished business that might have occurred whilst role-playing;

• A short debriefing;

• Bringing the participants out of their roles;

• Debriefing the role play;

• Taking the learning from the role play;

• Transferring the learning to the real world.

If any of the above steps are incomplete or omitted, facilitators and/or participants are likely to experience problems.

Examples where role plays might be used effectively

• To provide participants with the experience of seeing a situation first-hand from the perspective of another person.

• In situations where there is a high degree of trust and understanding amongst the participants, and where there is sufficient time to run the role play effectively. They are not suitable for short-life groups or one-day training workshops.