Teaching with Role-Play: A Structured Approach
Each doctor/patient interaction presents infinite layers of meaning and complexity. Teachers of interviewing face the task of helping trainees understand and analyze such interactions in a manner that will help them develop their communication skills. Role-play is a useful technique in these educational tasks; examples of doctor/patient encounters are constructed and trainees adopt the role of patient or doctor for the purposes of a specific exercise. This approach is particularly useful for teaching basic communication skills because it permits instructors to focus on specific aspects of interviewing behaviors. Very particular communication skills can be demonstrated to students who then practice the same interventions in role-play. Instructors can give immediate feedback on trainees’ performance and encourage immediate repeat practice to reinforce the accomplishment of the specific skill in question. Role-play also allows trainees the opportunity to experience the interview from the patient’s perspective and to feel first-hand the effect of specific interventions and styles of interaction.
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