Sunday, April 25, 2010

Role-play for Medical Students Learning About Communication: Guidelines for Maximizing Benefits

This article, from BioMed Central Medical Education, evalutes the use of role-playing as an educaitonal method for medical students. Authors Debra Nestel and Tayna Tierney focus on role-playing by 284 first-year medical students at Imperial College's communications program, which divides students into groups of 30 to learn specific skills associated with medical interviewing. Students take the role of interviewer, patient, or observer and have 5 minutes preparation, 5 minutes in role-play and 10 minutes in feedback. Before the sessions, students completed questionnaires about their prior experience with role-play, and afterwards, they completed evaluations about whether or not they thought role-play was helpful based on their new experience. Responses were both closed and open-ended.

According to the authors' research, role-play is used as a training method to acquire knowledge, attitudes, and skils in a range of disciplines and with learners of different ages. Role-play in particular is a type of simulaiotn that focuses attention on the interaction of people with one another and emphasizes the functions performed by different people under various circumstances. Role-play can be fully scripted or partially scripted. Players can rotate through roles or new information can be added into the role-play.

Of the 284 students who completed forms, 199 had prior experience with role-play. 221 students reported role-play to be valuable for learning while the remainder reported it to be not valuable. After the role-play, 274 students reported that role-play had been helpful for leaning. Unhelpful experiences focused on emptional responses that impede learning, such as embarrasment, intimidation, or anxiety. Overall, role-play was reported to be an effective means of learning communication skills, desptite prior negative experiences with role-play.

  • students gained insight into their own and others' behavior
  • increased understanding of certain issues
  • increased communication skills
  • players get immediate feedback
  • players not taking role-play seriously
  • lack of realism in roles, setting, or tasks

1 comment:

  1. The results of this study reported that role-play is an effective means of learning communication skills. It would be interesting to compare a group of students that participated in role-playing with a group that did not, and then see if those who participated had better communication skills once they began working with real patients. If they did, that could be considered somewhat of a validation study, because it would attribute the successful outcome to role-playing.