Potential Challenges with Interactive Exercises

Initial Publication Date: December 21, 2006

Large Classes

For large classes, split the group up, or use an etiquette like Robert's Rules of Order ( This site may be offline. ) to ensure that people who have something to say can say it. A Model UN works well for large groups.

Good Vs. Evil

The students need to sympathize with their characters, so it is a bad idea to assign overtly evil ones. It's too much to ask of students to represent the interests of genocidal tyrants. These exercises are supposed to be fun! Likewise, the instructor should use situations without simple or obvious solutions or situations that are doomed. Because of issues in the students' own backgrounds, it is also generally good to choose settings and characters that are either fictitious or well removed from the students in space and time. Asking college students to role-play well-known Republican or Democratic politicians can be a recipe for trouble.

Not Letting Go

One reason that open-ended, problem-solving exercises are fun and somewhat realistic is that the students, in character, decide the outcome of the scenario. This can be damaged if the instructor decides on the "correct" ending or pushes the students to play characters a certain way.

Lack of Social Skills

A chronic problem with role-playing is that some students don't pay attention to others and that charismatic students can overwhelm less assertive ones. If the student is violating the rules you as the instructor have established for the role-play, do not hesitate to remove them from the exercise immediately. Disciplinary action may be appropriate depending on the student's behavior. However, within the limits of the rules, there will still be minor problems, which may actually become a useful part of the lesson. Bonnet's (2000) 10-year-old students reported that they were alienated by characters that came across as too angry about issues. These children may well recognize that courtesy and calmness are valuable tools for a debater.