University of North Dakota Faculty/Staff Newsletter

On Teaching seminar will focus on ‘Role Playing as a Pedagogical Tool’

The first On Teaching seminar of the semester, titled “Role Playing as a Pedagogical Tool,” is from 12:30 to 1: 30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 24, in the Memorial Union Badlands Room.

Many of us would like to incorporate more active learning into our classes, allowing students to interact more deeply with the course content, as well as with us and each other. Role-playing – assigning students to think, argue, write and/or behave as if they were a particular person in a particular situation – is one student-centered pedagogical approach that facilitates that deeper engagement. Readily adaptable to various contents and to the amount of class time and student effort faculty want to invest, role playing can be focused on a range of student learning outcomes: from the application of disciplinary knowledge to the honing of critical thinking and communication skills. Role-playing experiences also have greater potential to be transformative. Like other inquiry approaches, role-playing shifts the classroom focus to experience and while – we might wish information alone more frequently led people to change their minds – personal experience more often does. Research shows that well designed role-plays are particularly effective in terms of student engagement and can create a safe environment for exploring cultural, as well as personal, attitudes and values.

Deborah Worley (Educational Leadership) and Melissa Gjellstad (Languages) have taught a course organized around student role play and presented on that experience at an international conference. In this On Teaching seminar they will share their insights into why role plays work as they take us through an active demonstration of what role play can look like in the college classroom. Please register by Tuesday, Jan. 22, at noon to attend and reserve a lunch. Visit the Office of Instructional Development online ( to register. For information contact Jana Lagro.

-- Jana Lagro, coordinating assistant, University Writing Program, 777.3600,

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