Reading Room October 9th-Role-play in Literature Lectures: the Students ’ Assessment of their Learning.

Journal: International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning

Role-playing causes nervousness and stage fright in Literature classes.  However, role-playing becomes less stressful once an effective method is used in the class.  In the International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning article (written by Isobel Ryan, Ciaran Dawson, and Marian McCarthy) titled “Role-play in Literature Lectures: the Students ’ Assessment of their Learning,” the authors delve into the research with role-playing in a literature classroom at the University of College Cork, Ireland back in 2015.  This whole module dealt with folklore storytelling and the author(s) collected from all 18 students for the research project.

The authors based all their rhetoric on several theories involving theatre arts.   With drama, role-playing is used when a person acts out a persona completely different from who they are in real life.  That is pure storytelling theatrically because they are able to portray fictional scenarios by imitating someone different from themselves.  Back in the early days in Ireland, storytelling was something you saw outside and physically was seen.  By using this folkloric method of storytelling, students were able to be grateful to be in this new role telling stories.  Using Manfred Schewe’s idea of physicalization, the students are coming to terms that some of these concepts are very foreign and odd to them at first.  Each of the others now discusses the idea/theory of Teaching For Understanding (TFU).  What this discusses is a sense of purpose and includes form as well.  It involves the skills being naive, a novice, an apprentice, and possibly the master.  With this research, the authors look at student’s feedback on the emotional replies, stressing the crucial significance of group work, and gaining new friends being formed working in groups.  The authors use Classroom Assessment Techniques (CAT’s), essays, and several groups to center in on what they experienced with role-playing.

There was one role-playing exercise the students acted out in this research.  It was all traced back to a short story that has roots of oral traditions and connecting all the way back to the modern short story format.  This story was written by Donncha Ó Céilleachair and took place during the 1830’s.  The plot was around a woman who died at childbirth and the family had a conflict on where she is supposed to be buried.  Within society, there are lingering questions (dying at childbirth) if she should be laid to rest with her father or laid to rest with her husband.  What the students needed to do was change the turning point within the story at the point where the father gives the coffin to his son-in-law; the father gives him the opportunity to bury her with his family.  The two actors would involve a woman and a man in this role-playing performance.

Some of the methods had to do with the authors’ “pretexts” in class and how the students reacted to the role-playing.  In turn, the students developed their own classroom assessment techniques (CAT’s) before participating within the group.  After they participating in the group, the students began getting into role-playing. But at the same time, they were given questionnaires during the process.  What this did was give the researchers a chance to query students on what they thought about several problems.   The students’ essay responses had a lot to do with their role-playing in class.  The authors’ made the essay 50% of their final grade on this module. All of the essays were set up so the students had time to thoroughly go into further detail on the classroom assessment techniques.

I found this research very interesting because I come from a creative writing background during my undergraduate program.  I have studied and acted out some plays/scenes during class.  At first, I truly understood why role-playing can cause stage fright because it is so foreign and different.  But after writing scenes during the past 3 years, I come to realize it can pose so many questions for students and give them a chance to go outside their comfort zone.  This is something I would love to implement as a college professor down the road because there is so much creativity throughout the process with literature.  It is always fun to pull the creativity out of students because you make them the co-creators of learning (thinking back to Paolo Friere).