Role play


It is becoming more recognized that if a company want to have long term success, innovation is the key. But some will argue that the engineering design process still lacks important aspects of the creativity process, especially when it comes to inclusion, mention, and considerations. Therefore, it is argued through social studies that the creativity element is an essential part of the designing process, hence it is often creativity which has the biggest impact on a products outcome. Without creativity, there are no potential for innovation that can be transformed into commercial value for a company and long-term failure is a certainty (Howard et al., 2017). 


What is this technique about

Role-play is an activity where the students can act or think as another person and put themselves into an imaginary situation where everything is possible. The students can become anyone they like for a short time to see or solve a problem from a whole other angle, as well as using the same characters in debates by discussing for and against a certain topic. Like that, they can evaluate scenarios or use cases and step Into the shoes of potential stakeholders of their solution, and evaluate it from their perspective.

Where does it come from 

Role play is known a simple and short technique from the wider set of simulation techniques. Other than simulation, “role-play is highly flexible, leaving much more room for the demonstration of individual variation, initiative, and imagination” (Alkin & Christie, 2002 :211) and thus easily to organize in teaching environments.

For which purposes it is used (why in your engineering teaching)

For learning to take place, it is widely agreed that the activities need to be interactive and memorable. Here, the role play method can provide a proper learning environment because, as Jeremy Harmer (1989) argues, the learning environment that is created with role play includes the outside world, it is fun, motivating, and shy students might use this technique to express themselves. Using the role play method as a part of a class when user needs should be analyzed or when potential solutions should be evaluated from the perspective of stakeholders can add a variety of insights to a problem as well as to evaluating the potential outcome.

How to use it

Come up with 5-6 very famous people (e.g., actors, singers, athletes, politicians). The student now has to think and act like the chosen character to analyze a problem or solve the task.. Examples of famous people: Elon Musk, Donald Trump, Beyonce, Messi, Jim Carrey, Queen Elisabeth.

How to implement this techniques online

Preparation, what do before the session

  1. For this task, the students’ needs to be divided into groups of 4 members. Arrange therefore breakout rooms for each group (e.g., in MS Teams or Zoom).
  2. Prepare a slide set with pictures of famous people and a lead question, e.g., “What are the pains that this person experiences, and what would s/he really like to have?”, “How would this person solve this task?”, “How would this person evaluate this solution?”

During application, i.e., while giving the session

  1. Introduce the exercise and the task to the students. Tell them that they have 20 minutes in their groups to stage a 5-Minutes TV Panel Discussion in which famous people explain how they would approach the lead question. 
  2. Tell the student groups to choose three characters they want to play. Make sure that all characters are chosen. The fourth person in the group is the TV show discussion panel facilitator. 
  3. Send the student groups to the breakout rooms and let them work on the roles they chose.
  4. Keep an eye on time – Inform the students once they have only 5 minutes left. 
  5. Get the student groups back and ask them to present their role play.

Follow-up, about what to do after the session

  1. Evaluate what the outcome of each group in plenum – what does that mean for the task at hand?

Tools needed



Role-Playing: Preparing for Difficult Conversations and Situations. (n.d.). Mind Tools. Retrieved May 21, 2022, from


Teaching Technique 23: Role Play. (2019, January 21). [Video]. YouTube.


Alkin, M. C., & Christie, C. A. (2002). The use of role-play in teaching evaluation. American Journal of Evaluation, 23(2), 209-218.

Howard, T., Culley, S., & Dekoninck, E. (2007). CREATIVITY IN THE ENGINEERING DESIGN PROCESS. Innovative Manufacturing Research Centre (IMRC), University of Bath.


Harmer, J. (1989). The Practice of English Language Teaching. Longman.