One of the most effective tools for training employees is role-playing. Many government organizations that deal with safety and security, including the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), have integrated role-playing in their training courses for new hires to ensure that employees are prepared for the rigors of the job.
Role-play is a form of experiential learning where trainees assume a certain character and interact with one another in complex communication scenarios. This training allows people to make mistakes and learn from them in a safe and controlled environment. A journal written by the University of Washington School of Public Health states that “Case studies, role-plays, and small group discussions help participants discover learning points themselves and practice skills used in interactions. Best used to practice newly acquired skill, to experience what a particular situation feels like, to provide feedback to participants, or to apply new knowledge to a specific situation.”1 For workers with no prior experience, role-play provides them with the experience and knowledge they need to feel confident about their abilities to perform their job. Those in training are able to experience various situations and will be prepared to handle them in the real world. This form of training is different from traditional forms of learning because there is more than one right answer. For jobs that are very context-dependent, it is important to use training tools that enforce the idea that there is more than one way to handle a situation. This leads to creative problem-solving, which is useful in a line of work that can be unpredictable.
Role-playing has been proven by many scientific studies as an effective training tool. A study conducted in 2014 by Katharina Luttenberger used role-play training on second-year medical students to practice five different scenarios that doctors face on a daily basis. At the end of the study, the results showed that over 75% of the students felt that they had learned important communication skills and felt that they could now handle difficult situations better than before.2
Government agencies are shifting over to role-play training to help employees learn the best practices for their jobs. It provides many benefits and has scientific evidence to back it up. Applied Development supports the efforts of agencies providing their employees with effective hands-on training that results in a deeper understanding of the job.
1 “Developing Training Content: Effective Adult Learning: A Toolkit for Teaching Adults” (2012): 7. Northwest Center for Public Health Practice . Web.
2 Luttenberger, Katharina, Elmar Graessel, Cosima Simon, and Carolin Donath. “From board to bedside – training the communication competences of medical students with role plays.” BMC Medical Education” (2014): 1-10. BioMed Central. Web. 13 July 2017.