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From The Classroom To The Boardroom: The Use Of Role Play In Graduate Education

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

Mentoring Graduate Students

Tagged Division

Graduate Studies

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.655.1 - 11.655.8



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Paper Authors


Sharnnia Artis Virginia Tech

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SHARNNIA ARTIS received a B.S. and M.S. degree in Industrial and Systems Engineering from Virginia Tech in 2001 and 2005, respectively. Currently, she is working on a Ph.D. degree in Industrial and Systems Engineering with a concentration in Human Factors Engineering.

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Glenda Scales Virginia Tech

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GLENDA R. SCALES, Associate Dean for Distance Learning and Computing, Virginia Tech College of Engineering, and Director for the Commonwealth Graduate Engineering Program. Dr. Scales received her PhD in Curriculum and Instruction, 1995, Virginia Tech; MS in Applied Behavioral Science, 1992, Johns Hopkins University; Bachelor of Science in Computer Science, 1985 Old Dominion University.

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Odis Griffin Virginia Tech

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HAYDEN GRIFFIN is currently professor and head of the Department of Engineering Education at Virginia Tech. He holds BSME and MSME degrees from Texas Tech and a Ph.D. in Engineering Mechanics from VPI&SU. He had 13 years of experience in industry and government laboratories prior to joining Virginia Tech in 1985. Prior to moving into his current position, he was associate dean for academic affairs in the College of Engineering.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

From the Classroom to the Boardroom: The Use of Role Play in Graduate Education


A variety of innovative student-centered instructional methods are being increasingly applied in non-technical fields to enhance learning. However, in the engineering field, the primary instructional methods continue to follow the traditional teacher-centered approach to teaching and learning. Although useful for imparting information, these types of methods do not readily facilitate open discussion and the free expression of student opinions. Nonetheless, adult learning theories assert that the involvement of the adult learner is critical for effective classroom learning. Engineering educators as well as corporate technical trainers are therefore seeking ways to implement teaching and learning experiences that provide more "hands-on" experiences for learners. Such student-centered instructional methods allow the instructor to emphasize open discussions and encourage innovative expressions of student opinions.

To increase the involvement of adult learners in a graduate-level engineering course at Virginia Tech, the course designers selected experiential learning as the primary instructional strategy and role play as the primary instructional method. Role play was implemented in this course for three reasons: 1) to enhance interaction between the adult learners and the instructors, 2) to engage the adult learners in discussion, and 3) to simulate real world experiences for the learners.

This paper discusses the implementation and impact of role play in a graduate engineering course, Training System Design. It then evaluates the results of an on-line survey the students completed to evaluate their experience participating in a role-play designed course, and concludes with recommendations for implementing additional role play in graduate courses.

Role Play

Role play is an educational method in which participants take on a particular role, emulating a true-life setting, in order to achieve certain educational objectives.5 For many years, role play has been used extensively in several disciplines such as nursing, clinical psychology, and management. This educational method, which is somewhat comparable to rehearsal, provides a less structured setting for learning interpersonal skills, developing abstract thinking, sharing new material and experiences, and supporting individuals who make a mistake.2,4 Role playing also allows an instructor to help students learn to make responsible choices in complex situations.2 Despite the advantages of role play, there are some valid concerns about using it in a more traditional educational setting. Two major concerns, for example, are the slower learning curve for participants, as well as the time and resources needed to set up a role play environment for learning.1, 3

Artis, S., & Scales, G., & Griffin, O. (2006, June), From The Classroom To The Boardroom: The Use Of Role Play In Graduate Education Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--910

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