Exposing students to potential risks through role-play in classroom

In business school, role-play can serve as a useful simulation tool for preparing students for real-life business situations. In this post, I am sharing an example of a role-play simulation that we used in one of our course. Based on this I will reflect on the preparation that is involved in organizing such a role-play in a classroom setting.

We used role-play in the course “Stakeholders in networks.” Tiina Onkila, Adrienn K├íroly, and I teach this course together. Broadly speaking, this course is about how stakeholders can influence business and how businesses engage with its stakeholders. In the last session of this course, we have a role-play exercise to expose the students to the real-life stakeholder negotiation process. Some of the learnings of this exercise are how stakeholders influence businesses, what are the potential risks to business and how two very diverse stakeholder groups might be interrelated to each other.

Possible pointer for planning such a role-play session in a class:

1) Choosing a topic for role-play: It is essential that the students are comfortable with the issue or else the learning outcome will not be that effective. During the first session of our course, we asked students to choose one real-life case from a set of a few real-life cases we provided them.

2) Providing information about the issue. In our course, the students had the owners to find information about the problem. We facilitated this process by presenting them with the existing literature from different stakeholder perspectives.

3) Assigning roles to the students. In our class, we assigned students to different stakeholder groups through the lottery. Each stakeholder group has three to four students. Role assignment was done a session before the role-play session. Delaying the role assignment is debatable. I prefer to postpone until a class session before the actual role-play. I feel this allows students to reflect on all the stakeholders during the course and yet get some time to discuss issues of a specific assigned stakeholder group with other students of the same group.

4) Setting some broad rules for the role-play is essential to facilitate is stakeholder discussion/negotiation.  If there are stringent rules, then students lose creative liberty to try something different from what has happened in the real work.

5) Receiving and giving feedback after the session. In our course, last time, we did not have a formal feedback discussion with all the teachers. However, I do believe Adrienn had the opportunity to discuss this experience in one of her class. I feel after the role-play; we should have a discussion, which may highlight even bigger emotions and issues that the students felt during the role-play.

These were some significant practical issues to prepare for having a role-play session in the class.

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