Non-Technical Skill Development and Rehearsal

Role-Play Simulation

From the very early CRM programs, role-play has been used to create a bridge between the classroom and the real-world environment of the workplace. To achieve a less didactic and more active form of learning, role-play often involves replicating aspects of real-world activities in the classroom. Role-play is a simple and cost-effective form of simulation, which can contribute significantly to the development of non-technical skills. Role-play enables more experiential forms of learning to be achieved even in the classroom environment. Reluctance to participate in role-play can be overcome through the careful design of realistic scenarios that represent a complex and ill-defined problem in real-world operations.

Sometimes, role-play is seen as a childlike training technique and can meet considerable resistance. However, it is actually a highly valid form of low-fidelity simulation and can be used to great effect in bringing more experiential forms of learning to the classroom.

While there are many forms of role-play, the one most used in the training of non-technical skills involves presenting a hypothetical situation to a group and selecting individuals to assume roles within that scenario, which is then ‘acted out’ to facilitate skill development.20 As the role-play exercise unfolds, trainees must react to the scenario presented as well as the actions of other participants in the role-play. Following the role-play, facilitated discussion can then be used to provide feedback and explore aspects of good and poor performance.10 In this way, many of the benefits of simulation-based training can be realised without the expense.

The use of role-play in non-technical skills training has a considerable number of benefits. First, it is a simple and low-cost form of

Table 4.1 Guidelines for Developing Role-Play Exercises



Identify training needs

As with any form of training, the learning activities must be designed explicitly to develop pre-defined needs. The role and processes of training needs analysis will be explored in more detail in the following chapter, which deals explicitly with Instructional Systems Design.

Use subject matter experts

The scenarios used in role-play must be realistic and elicit the knowledge and skills required for real-world performance. Subject matter experts are required to ensure that the scenarios have high levels of face validity.

Provide structure to the scenario

The scenario used in the role-play must be supported, such that it is able to naturally unfold and events are cued along a timeline. Strategies such as presenting cue cards to the participants when a new event happens are useful.

Ensure that the roles of

participants are well defined

Each participant should be provided with clear instructions as to their role in the scenario, which may include cues as to the unfolding scenario, the expected responses to events and other participants' actions. Usually, the participant is only given information about their own role, and not those of others, to ensure that responses are spontaneous.

Create an atmosphere for the role-play

The use of low-fidelity props, such as a mock-up cockpit or control room, can significantly enhance the face validity of the scenario.

Provide opportunities for practice

Ideally, all participants in the training session should be able to assume each of the different roles and be given opportunities to practice. However, this may not be achievable given time constraints and the number of trainees. Even observation has benefits in terms of behavioural modelling and skill development.

Provide guidance for the facilitator

The facilitator must be provided with guidance with respect to managing the role-play scenario and also their expected roles in terms of providing feedback, facilitating debriefing, and other forms of facilitation.

Source: Beard, R.L. et al., Int. J. Aviat. Psychol., 5(2), 131, 1995.

simulation, in which experiential forms of learning and rehearsal can be achieved with a low cost and therefore can provide a high return on the investment of the training budget. Second, it can bring these experiential forms of learning out of the relative privacy of the higher-fidelity simulation and enable a larger group to participate in observational forms of learning such as behavioural modelling and critical reflection.

Some very good guidance has been developed for the design of role-play exercises in non-technical skills training programs within the scientific literature. Table 4.1 provides a brief summary of some of the important principles for the design of effective role-play exercises.

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