Role play

Engineering Area
Analysis & problem definition, Assessment & evaluation, Ideation & Conceptual design
Group or Individual
Amount of People
Up to 15
Type of Class
Duration of Activity
Between one and two hours
Type of Activity
Collaborative team setting, Self-work by students


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 the solution which they want to offer, and evaluate it from their perspective.

Where does it come from 

Role play is known as 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 organized 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 breakout rooms for each group beforehand (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

You will need a platform to share screens and communicate with the participants, such as: MS Teams, Zoom or similar. 



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


The K. Patricia Cross Academy (2019, January 21). Teaching Technique 23: Role Play. [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.



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