Reshaping dominant stories: A poststructuralist approach to online role play

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Research and Development in Higher Education Vol. 33 : Reshaping Higher Education

July, 2010, 654 pages
Published by
M. Devlin, J. Nagy and A. Lichtenberg
0 908557 80 9

Online role play is an increasingly popular teaching/learning technique in higher education (Wills & McDougall, 2009) but there has been little research into ways a poststructuralist approach may be supported in this format. This paper describes two very different means of incorporating a poststructuralist approach into role plays in higher education to problematise dominant assumptions in the language and content of the subject matter. The first method was a series of interventions in a face-to-face role play in which medical students practised consultations with adolescent school students. The consultations were interrupted repeatedly with activities designed to interrogate assumptions and the school students acted as coaches to improve the medical students’ technique. Although this role play was performed face-to-face, some of its activities may be redeveloped to suit an online role-playing format. The second method was a feature of an online role play involving Middle-East politics and journalism students, in which daily online newspapers provided a reflecting and distorting mirror to the political events simulated by the politics students. Indications of ways in which the two methods produced changes in understanding were gathered using a mixture of qualitative and quantitative methods: questionnaires, focus groups, interviews, participant observation and analysis of online discussions and artefacts.

Keywords: online role play, role play, poststructuralist drama techniques