Original Publication
Open Access

From Role Play to Real Play: Teaching Effective Role-Playing Facilitation Skills

Published: November 2, 2011 | 10.15766/mep_2374-8265.8603

Included in this publication:

  • Role Playing Real Playing.ppt
  • Instructor's Guide Appendix D.pdf
  • Instructor's Guide.pdf

To view all publication components, extract (i.e., unzip) them from the downloaded .zip file.

Editor's Note: This publication predates our implementation of the Educational Summary Report in 2016 and thus displays a different format than newer publications.


Role-playing is an underutilized but useful educational tool for teaching skills. Its effectiveness is increased when the role-play is facilitated well. Teachers may not feel comfortable in the facilitator role and may need further training. In this learning session, clinicians and medical educators become more aware of different role-play facilitation strategies and how they could be used in different teaching environments. The workshop lasts from 90 minutes to 2 hours. Participants focus on their own facilitation skills to learn how to engage clinical trainees in role-plays. A PowerPoint presentation and Instructor’s Guide are provided for use in running the workshop. The session has been provided at two conferences, one institutional and the other a regional conference. The session was well received both times. At the end of the sessions, 90% of participants felt more confident in their ability to use role-play as a teaching tool. Depending on the number of participants, there may be a need for more presenters. The optimal size seems to be between three and five learners in a group. If there are too many learners in a group, they do not have an opportunity to participate in skills practice. The session is currently planned so that four presenters are needed to run it. If the learner practice scenario uses two learners to play out a scenario with a third learner acting as facilitator, then need be only one presenter. To encourage the use of role-plays as a teaching tool, teachers must feel comfortable in their roles as facilitators. This session provides a brief training on some of the principles of effective facilitation, as well as ideas about various types of role-play formats and techniques.

Educational Objectives

By the end of this workshop, learners will be able to:

  1. Identify role-playing strategies that are currently being used in clinical training.
  2. Recognize barriers that may limit the use of role-playing in clinical training.
  3. Demonstrate strategies to maximize their own effectiveness as facilitators of role-plays for their learners.

Author Information

  • Winnie Suen, MD, MSc, LMT: Boston University School of Medicine
  • Jennifer Hughes, MD: Boston Medical Center
  • Matthew Russell, MD, MSc: Boston Medical Center
  • Henri Lee, MD: Boston Medical Center
  • Anne Carr, RN, MSN, NP-C: Boston Medical Center
  • Victoria A. Parker, EdM, DBA: Boston University Medical Center
  • Sandhya Rao, MD: Boston Medical Center

None to report.

None to report.

Prior Presentations
Suen W, Hughes J, Russell M, Lee H, Carr A, Rao S. From Role-Playing to Real Playing, Organizer and moderator. Workshop presented at: John McCahan Boston University Medical Center Education Day; June 2010; Boston, MA.

Hughes J, Russell M, Suen W, Lee H, Carr A, Rao S. From Role Play to Real Play: Facilitating the Development of Advanced Communication Skills. Presented at: Society of General Internal Medicine Northeast Regional Conference; March 2011; Boston, MA.


Suen W, Hughes J, Russell M, et al. From role play to real play: teaching effective role-playing facilitation skills. MedEdPORTAL. 2011;7:8603. https://doi.org/10.15766/mep_2374-8265.8603