The 6 Biggest Do's and Don'ts When Teaching With Role Play

Pedagogical research is beginning to show role playing to be an extremely effective way of engaging students and bringing social dynamics to life in the classroom. Experiencing the consequences of failure, as well as successful application of learning, will make for truly transformative learning. However, as educators, it is important that we remember to always approach role plays with caution, and consider certain guidelines to ensure they are educational, respectful, and inclusive. After all, stepping into someone else’s shoes can be a transformative experience. So here are some of our biggest do’s and don’ts for teaching through role plays:


  1. Provide a safe environment for all: Before engaging in role plays, establish a classroom culture that promotes respect, empathy, and open dialogue. Create a safe space where students feel comfortable expressing their thoughts and opinions without fear of ridicule or denial.

  1. Clearly define the purpose: Communicate the goals and learning objectives of the role play activity to students before anything else. Explain how it relates to the broader curriculum and the importance of understanding social dynamics and historical perspectives.

  1. Choose appropriate topics: Select topics that are relevant, historically accurate, and sensitive to cultural and social contexts. Ensure that the content is age-appropriate and aligns with your students’ developmental levels.

  1. Offer a range of roles: Provide a diverse range of roles that allow students choose how they’d like to to explore different perspectives and experiences. Include roles of all sides in a scenario, but be mindful of potential discomfort or harm that may arise and offer alternative roles if needed. Don’t be afraid to step into a role yourself if no student feels comfortable on a particular side of the scenario.

  1. Encourage critical thinking: Promote critical thinking and analysis by asking students to consider the motivations, values, and consequences associated with each role. Help students understand the complex social and historical factors that influenced people’s actions and choices in your chosen scenario.

  1. Facilitate reflection and debriefing: After the role play, facilitate a reflective discussion to help students process their experiences, thoughts, and emotions. Encourage students to share their insights, challenge assumptions, and consider alternative viewpoints.


  1. Use stereotypes and caricatures: Emphasise that role plays are intellectual exercises, and not performances. Discourage students from adopting stereotypical mannerisms, accents, or costumes that could perpetuate harmful stereotypes.

  1. Trivialize or minimise traumatic experiences: Be sensitive when addressing topics that involve trauma, oppression, or violence. Avoid reenactments or simulations that trivialise or minimise the experiences of marginalised groups.

  1. Force students into uncomfortable roles: Respect students’ comfort levels and allow them to choose roles that they feel comfortable with. Avoid pressuring students to take on roles that may trigger trauma responses or cause distress. Don’t be afraid to step in yourself if no student wants to assume a particular role.

  1. Promote a “both sides” narrative: Make it clear that role plays are not meant to equate oppressor and victim perspectives. The purpose is to understand the historical context and motivations behind different actions, not to validate or legitimise oppressive ideas.

  1. Use role plays as standalone activities: Role plays should be integrated into a broader curriculum that provides historical context, critical analysis, and opportunities for students to reflect. Remember that role plays alone cannot address complex issues adequately.

  1. Overlook the power of reflection and action: Encourage students to consider the implications of what they have learned during the role play. Encourage them to think about how they can apply their insights to real-life scenarios and inspire positive change.

By following these guidelines, educators at all levels can create meaningful and educational role play experiences that promote empathy, critical thinking, and social awareness among learners.
If you’re an educator looking for further advice, assistance, or tools for facilitating role play focused assessment, Ardacious is here to help. Head on over to our website at to get in contact.