Monday, March 26, 2012

Skills Development using role-play

In the article, Deepa Rao discusses the usefulness of role-play in developing first-year pharmacy students’ patient-care skills.  Rao believes that desired learning outcomes can be achieved if learning activities focus on engaging students by providing opportunities and support for the students to build on their knowledge, actively participate, self-critique, and practice. The author writes that role-play can be a useful tool in developing essential skills, including communication, information-gathering, making assessments and recommendations, and counseling.

The author describes a role-play model that was developed and implemented in workshops across two semesters of a year long pharmaceutical course at an Australian University.  In the role-play students performed different roles, including a pharmacist and a patient and documented the results of each interaction.  

The role-play was constructed as a category role-switch exercise.  The exercise will help the students to understand a concept by taking on the role of another person or entity.  The role-play exercise focuses on developing and practicing skills through acting out predetermined scenarios, with the goal of providing the student an almost real life experience that is as realistic as possible.  The exercise allowed for multiple tasks to be undertaken in a single interaction, allowing for the simultaneous development of several skills.

The goals for the the role-play exercise was derived from the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia’s Professional Practice Standards and Competency Standards.  The goals included:

  • Developing effective communication skills, including active listening skills.
  • Accurately gather patient history using a structured process
  • Apply knowledge about medications to make appropriate recommendations
  • Accurately document patient interaction
  • Develop professional attitude

The students were surveyed at the completion of the role play exercise.  It was found that the role-play exercise improved the students abilities to:
  • Effectively communicate and frame appropriate questions
  • Gather patient history
  • Develop professional attitudes

The students did not show an improvement in their ability to accurately document patient interaction.  

Overall, the students believed that the exercise helped them develop core competencies in pharmacy practice.  Suggestions for improving the role-play exercise included increasing the number of cases from the 10 that were run, include a wider variety of cases, and have smaller group sizes.  

This article demonstrates how role play can be used to engage students to actively teach and be sensitive to another’s position.  The techniques used in this article can be applied to the intelligence field.  Role play exercises can be constructed to teach intelligence analysts and engage them in considering the positions and motivations of others.  If role play exercises are properly constructed and executed it could allow an analyst to properly assess a given situation and reach a conclusion to anticipate an outcome.  

Rao, D. (2011). Skills development using role-play in a first-year pharmacy practice course. American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education, 75(5), pp 1-10.


  1. This is a normal way for students to learn patient care before entering the clinical stage, as well for individuals learning how to respond in emergency situations. I would be interested if you had any ideas of role play exercises to teach intelligence analysts?

    1. I'm thinking of a situation where an intelligence analyst is attempting to determine the course of action of a foreign leader. It's not enough for the analyst to try to forecast how the leader will think; essentially the analyst must act out the role of the leader and live the role of the leader. Additional analysts will act out the roles of others who interact with the leader so there is interaction.