Simulation method

Dear colleagues, Can anyone can describe (or have done that before): what's the real difference between simulation and role-play? Which is better for language teaching? Yours, sincerely,Jolita Lepsiene

kate wong's picture
kate wong

Dear Jolita
Role-play involves participants to 'act' in a given role which is clearly defined on a role-card. Other students in the group also have designated roles, and play their part in the activity accordingly. Role-plays can be very simple dialogues, often used to practice a recently taught language item, or they can be much more complex, involving several students who act out a scenario. Sometimes the script is provided, and sometimes students create the script for themselves. Role-play is very much akin to acting in a play.
On the other hand, simulations, whether simple or complex do not specify the role a person has to play. On the contrary, a task is given which requires participants to resolve a problem of some kind using their own life experience and character. Simulations mimic real life situations as closely as possible. For example, if you have a group of doctors learning English as a Second Language, and they need to practice in a 'real life' context, you would set up a simulated situation in a hospital or health centre in which the doctors have to meet 'patients' and diagnose their problem, and give treatment or prescriptions. The 'patients' may be given (or create for themselves) their symptoms, and the doctors have to find out the cause of the illness (using their own experience) by interacting with the patients. The problem is resolved when the doctor diagnoses the problem, and prescribes therapy.
Simulations can be very complex, and are used widely in management training, for example, in which a whole conference might be simulated.  However, they can be used very successfully in the EFL/ESL classroom, in a much simpler form, and I have found them very effective. They are exciting, provocative and productive. In my opinion, simulations are much more effective than role-plays, especially at Intermediate level and above.
Thus said, simulations do have to be carefully planned, and follow on from language and skills work which prepere the event.
On a point of information, simulations are not a method, nor even an approach to language teaching and learning. They are useful, motivating, engaging activities which provide incentives for participants to use the language they have learned in practical, meaningful situations.
I don't mind answering any further questions you may have.
Best wishes

Jolita Lepsiene's picture
Jolita Lepsiene

Thank you, Kate,
for being so willing to help me to understand the differences. Actually, I am also involved into one EU international project, called "pools-m". Our aim is to adjust and adapt the methods into our curriculum into different European countries. I am in charge of "Simulation" manual.
If you are interested into the manual, please find it at: http://www.languages.dk/methods/documents/Simulation_Manual.pdf.
More about the project: www.languages.dk/methods
All the best, Jolita