Guidelines for Developing Classroom Roleplay Exercises

The real world can be a stressful place. But, at the end of the day, learners of any age have to move from their education and into that “real” world of work. So educators still need to prepare their learners for that reality, of course, but how? Essays don’t give the necessary hands-on experience, but practical internships are few and far between and highly competitive. Well, there is a solution: roleplay-based assessment. Blending the best of both research methodologies and experiential learning, roleplays engage learners in real-life scenarios that might be stressful, unfamiliar, or highly complex, but which give them room to fail safely without fear of professional consequences and to learn in new and powerful ways. So how do you, as an educator, build a roleplay-based assessment for your classes? Here are some of our guidelines.

  1. Start Slow

Roleplay is (at the moment) a somewhat uncommon assessment tool. It’s highly likely that some learners have never had to put themselves into a roleplaying mindset. By introducing smaller ungraded practice roleplay sessions into your curriculum early on, you’re giving your learners the skills they need to be able to deliver an effective assessment once the final roleplay comes around.

Additionally, roleplay operates best once learners have a solid base level of knowledge on the subject being taught. Use other content delivery and assessment methods until you think your learners are prepared to step into specific professional scenarios.

  1. Determine Learning Objectives

As with all assessed materials, roleplays must move learners towards specific learning objectives. Determining what these objectives are before learning begins, and keeping them in mind at all times, will help ensure that learners achieve to the best of their abilities and leave your class with the skills and knowledge to perform in their industry. For example, if you’re teaching a marketing course with a unit on sales, your learning objective would be to have students understand the sales cycle – to do this, a roleplay between a salesperson and their customer might give the most opportunity to learn and internalise this information. This also helps your learners see how the content will become relevant to their future careers, increasing their motivation to learn.

  1. Give Clarity

When moving into an assessment with a roleplay element, make sure your learners know what, why, and how this assessment will be conducted. The purpose of roleplay is ultimately to give consequence-free practice in the skills necessary to perform in the field being taught, but each individual roleplay session may be looking for different things. Providing clear guidelines on things like general behaviour, appropriate language, or use of props is a good place to start. From there, you’ll want to make it clear what specific outcomes you’re looking to reach through the exercise: do you need that salesperson to close a sale? Or do you want them to see what a tough customer can be like?

Additionally, you’ll want to make your assessment criteria and methodology clear. Will there be observers? Will those observers be given the rubric, or have any influence over the grading? Will feedback be provided? Will there be opportunities for the roleplayers to revise and re-present their roleplay? These things all have a strong influence on how your learners go about preparing, so be sure to have it all mapped out before beginning. 

  1. Focus On The Right Thing

When analysing a roleplay assessment, it’s important to keep in mind which parts of the presentation are actually relevant to the learning experience. If you’re using the roleplay as a demonstration for observers, it’s important to focus on the topics being discussed, rather than the people acting in their roles. If you’re using the roleplay as a consequence-free experiential learning moment for the actors, it may be more important to focus on bearing, tone, and body language and how those can help relay the content.

  1. Keep It Challenging

Roleplay is a fantastic way to push your learners outside their comfort zone and learn things that written assessments struggle to teach. Understanding your learners’ limits – and meeting them – will help them grow in ways that will surprise you, and lead to truly transformative learning experiences that no other assessment method could achieve. 

Getting a taste of career-related scenarios in the classroom is a rare opportunity in traditional learning environments. By preparing roleplay-based assessments, you’re helping your learners think more critically about complex problems, see situations from multiple perspectives, and internalise content that will help them perform highly in their field. And when properly implemented, roleplays can also be fun, engaging, and memorable for learners. 

If you have any further questions or concerns about implementing roleplay-based assessments in your curriculum, Ardacious are the experts. With over 20 years of experience in higher education, course design, roleplay methods, and transformative learning strategies, Ardacious’ team can provide any guidance you need. Reach out to us today at, we’d love to have a chat with you.