Role-Playing Simulations Offer Unique Opportunities for Teen Engagement

Role-playing simulations enrich in-person and virtual learning environments in an immersive way that benefits educators and teens. Here’s how.

By iThrive Games
June 29, 2020

Educators have long used role-playing simulations to give students direct experience of academic subjects, whether it's as decision-makers during the Great Depression in a U.S. history class or as bankers or business owners in an economics class. Our approach to role-playing simulations is unique-we embed social and emotional learning and integrate technology. Role-playing simulations are of great benefit to educators and teens because of the varied opportunities they present for student engagement. 

Here are six benefits of using role-playing simulations:

1. They engage students in a new way of learning. Students, especially at the high school level, get too few opportunities for experiential and embodied learning. Role-playing simulations invite them to interact with each other and with content in a hands-on way that leaves a big impression. Over 50 years of research on role-playing methodologies shows that role-playing is excellent for getting students interested in a topic (for a summary of these studies, see Druckman and Ebner, 2013).

2. They challenge students to strategize, research, and compromise. Students engaged in a role-playing simulation are responsible for moving the action forward. They must work individually and as a group to assess the information at hand, negotiate, defend their points of view, and make decisions that produce the outcomes they want.

3. They create high-energy, collaborative experiences that make lasting memories. When emotions are fully recruited for learning — like in an action-filled role-playing scenario — the learning that happens goes deeper and lasts longer. Research shows that role-playing helps students to retain information better than more traditional ways of learning.

4. They spark a deep love of learning about the world. Role-playing simulations illuminate systems in the world — like the inner workings of governmental entities — that can be largely invisible until a person is invited to work and improvise within them. Experiences like these can propel students' curiosity and motivation to explore possibilities for new ways of interacting and making decisions that can improve dysfunctional systems and produce a better world for all.

5. They inspire civic participation. Students who have engaged in a role-playing simulation have a leg up on those who've only read about a topic related to civic life in America; the players know what it feels like to take action and can better recall the strategies that work, supporting feelings of efficacy for taking action in the real world. 

6. They embed social and emotional learning. Above all, role-playing simulations recruit and require emotional engagement and social interaction. Since teens are highly attuned to their emotions and their social status, the experiential approach of role-playing meets them right where they are developmentally. Our role-playing simulations are specifically designed to offer students opportunities to think about and practice self-awareness, social awareness, self-management, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making.

Ready to try it in your class? Contact us to learn more about our iThrive Sim: Lives in Balance and other our role-playing simulation scenarios