This role play lesson plan was developed by M.S. in Conflict Analysis and Resolution students at George Mason University for Dr. Arthur Romano’s Pedagogy course and was piloted in that class.
In the last few years there has been a rise of real and alleged incidents of bias and hate speech on college campuses which have sparked vigorous and much needed debate over these events, what happened at them, and what the proper response ought to be. Often times the complexity of those events and of the identities, beliefs, policies, and intentions wrapped up in them get swept aside by one-sided rhetoric that simplifies incidents as revolving solely around questions of race, privilege, or free speech. In order to encourage students to critically explore the complexity of these issues and the spectrum of experiences, bias, identities, intentions, and policies this lesson plan lays out a role playing scenario around such an incident. Specifically this scenario is loosely based on a real-life incident at a college around a “Tequila party” that caused much debate which highlights the difficulty of reducing any such case into a clear-cut understanding of what happened or what answers ought to be sought. Please note that the scenario and roles used in this role play are fictional and have no relation to actual faculty, staff, or students at that college.
The goal of this lesson is to have students engage in a lively discussion about the complexity of bias incidents by taking on two different identities, or roles, of fictional actors on a college campus. Ideally the discussion and the diversity of roles whose views and priorities might not align with every student’s own views will stimulate a better understanding of how such a conflict plays out in all its complexity. Additionally students will should gain some empathy and ability to understand, if not necessarily agree, with other points of view and see how this could be useful in dealing with these incidents. Rather than having the students looking at the conflict from the outside with the intent of fixing the problem, they will instead experience it from the inside and will confront differing view points on the incident and proposed college policy.
Schedule and Time: About 45 minutes
The lesson would be broken down into roughly the following schedule:
Activity and prompt read out loud and explained to the class. A copy of both should be available either on a projector or on printed copies for each participant.
|2 Minutes||Groups and Role Assignment
Class divided into groups of no more than eight (including facilitators) and are given their randomized roles. Note there should be one facilitator per group.
|15 Minutes||First Discussion
The facilitators help begin a group discussion with each role player introducing themselves and given time to speak. The facilitators should take an active role not to shape the group’s opinion but rather to help get everyone into the mood of role playing, to ensure everyone has a chance to talk, and to keep the discussion civil and on topic.
|15 Minutes||Second Discussion
The facilitators have all students pass their roles to the person across from them or to the right. Then the facilitators lead the groups in restarting the discussions again but this time with everyone’s new roles. The facilitators should guide the discussion the same way as the first one; with everyone introducing themselves and the facilitators both being involved in their role and acting as moderator when needed.
The facilitators will announce when the time for the second discussion is up and they will gather everyone back into a larger circle. At this point they will ask the debrief questions to check-in on the dynamic of each group and of the individual students’ thoughts and feelings on the experience of the exercise.
A projector and computer with which to display the scenario and discussion prompt for reference during the activity. The facilitators may also instead opt to print out copies of the scenario and prompt for every participant.
Printed and individually cut packets of role strips to be handed out to each group of eight students. The slips should may be given to each participant randomly or else may be folded and pull randomly out of a container. Regardless, it is important for each group to have it’s own separate packet of roles to choose from to avoid double roles.
Students of a dorm at Miskatonic University have advertised publicly on social media and with fliers around campus that they would be having a “Tequila Party,” which some of them also referred to as a “Fiesta.” The party went forward and involved drinking tequila wearing sombreros, pictures of which surfaced on Facebook after the event. In the days following the emergence of those pictures, some students began to protest against the event on the grounds it was a form of racial and ethnic stereotyping. Students and college groups on both sides began to be involved in protests and writing opinion pieces in the college paper over the event and the administration’s subsequent condemnation of any stereotyping as against the Honor Code and the University’s values. The administration has asked for respectful dialogue and has gathered everyone here today who is interested in a townhall to hear student feedback on how to move forward and address any concerns.
Prompt for Discussion:
The University’s Student Life and Multi-Cultural Committee has proposed that for the duration of the academic year (approximately three months) all non-academic events must be approved at least a week in advance by a newly created Event Review Board that will screen for and prevent potential violations of the Social Code and College Values. Please note that this is a proposal and that such a Board has not been set up yet.
President of the University
President of Latin American Student Association
Professor of Cultural Studies
Senior Class Representative
How did everyone’s group discussion goal? Did your groups seem to coalesce around one particular view or were there more disagreements?
Did you find playing the roles you were given to be difficult? Especially if the identity and view you were given was different from your own?
How did it feel to change identities half way through the discussion? Did you find that challenging and did you gain any insights into other view points as a result?
Have any of you experienced any incidents or townhalls such as the one we role played today? In what ways did you find the experiences different or similar?
What do you think you have learned from this scenario and how do you think it could be applied to incidents and discussions about the complexity of bias, identity, and policy in real life?