America’s Energy Future Mock Hearings

In this blog post, reflect on the mock hearing that was held in class on Thursday. In this role-playing exercise, several advocacy groups presented their views on the proposed legislation, and the Senators and the Public Advocacy Group had a chance to comment on how well those proposals would work in support of the goal to lessen America’s dependence on foreign oil. Think about how well this role-playing exercise was handled and comment on the following:

1) what are the benefits of using a role-play in place of a class reading discussion?
2) how should the instructor evaluate a student’s performance in a role-play exercise?
3) how should the goal of the role-play be established: should it be set by the instructor, or should the role-players have some say?

Please post your comments by noon on Monday, October 4th.

17 Responses to “America’s Energy Future Mock Hearings”

  1. Valerie says:

    The benefits of using a role play are many. For one it forces the participants to consider the problem from multiple angles and not just from their own perspective. Normally when we read something the only thing we are asked is to form an opinion of it and critically reflect on its content, but in this format we are asked to consider the practical application of the concepts the reading brings up from the point of view of a particular group. This way of thinking also allows us to see how truly complex these issues are and presents a more accurate picture of the difficulties in trying to solve them. In addition to this, you might not agree with the position you are assigned to research, but in having to look into you it fosters a degree of understanding that you would have missed out on otherwise. Role play also ensures that more people participate. When there are small groups of two or three people, and there has to be a representative from each group that speaks, many more voices are heard in the discussion.

    Evaluation of the speaker in an exercise like this I think should be largely based on thoughtful participation. Setting up specific guidelines for this would be somewhat difficult but I think that generally speaking the comments being added to the discussion should be
    -thought provoking
    -not led to dead ends
    -reflect critical analysis of the material
    -be respectful of other participants and conflicting viewpoints in that they attempt to reach diplomatic solutions
    Other than this, if someone is just not speaking up, or is only re-iterating what has already been said, then this is not helpful and they should not receive credit.

    When setting the goal of the role play I feel like the instructor needs to do this. While I am all for democracy and student involvement in how classes should be run, I feel like if we were to engage in a discussion about what the goal of a role play should be this would become the class discussion for the day and not much else would be done. Also, if the instructor is choosing, then it can be ensured that the goal is reasonable, on task, and not too specific. Even if students were to engage in a discussion in an online format about what the goals of discussion should be I feel like it wouldn’t be very productive. Perhaps a good way to meet in the middle on this would be for the instructor to provide the students with options and allow a vote to take place. This to me seems like it would be the best of both worlds.

  2. McKenna Lehman says:

    Role-playing, first and foremost, requires every single person within the classroom to take part. Whereas, in discussion, there is room for some to speak and others to remain passive. In a role-playing exercise, we are forced to take a certain stand and find the means and resources in order to support our viewpoint. In discussions, we read articles of people who have already taken a stand. The article is their argument, their debate. In that case, we are only evaluating and analyzing their argument. With role-playing, we are the authors of our own article. We are creating our own arguments pertaining to the type of role we take on. Within the confines of our role’s perspective, we are able to make several different arguments in order to persuade our audience to accept or contest our ideas. As well, role-playing, like the one in class, allows us become the people we are analyzing, especially in realistic situations, such as a court hearing. The exercise on Thursday allowed us to participate in something that could very well occur in reality. Moreover, we are able to participate in a discussion that is one of the most important debates of our generation at the moment. The roles we take are real, and those groups have to make arguments and try to persuade their points in order to make legislation, or what have you, that will affect our daily lives. This makes the role-playing exercise that much more relevant. By playing these roles, we begin to understand all sides of an argument and how these groups deal with the obstacles and ideas presented to them each day. For instance, by playing the role of the American Petroleum Institute, my group took on a role that most people would never even consider looking at. “Big oil” is the enemy in our society today. Not many people give them sympathy, but by playing their role, we were able to see the challenges they face and what exactly they bring to the table. They may be draining our Earth of all the resources it holds, but at the same time, it continues to help our economy by increasing jobs and therefore lowering unemployment. Not many people would realize this aspect if they weren’t forced to research such a role.

    The evaluation of a role-playing exercise should be evaluated by how well that certain role represents its argument. It must come across clearly, be heavily researched, and an argument must be presented that is persuasive and relative to the problem at hand. Like the exercise we did in class, each different group, in the short time we had, was able to convey their own mission statement, their arguments for lessening foreign oil and how they were going to implement that in their own specific way. In the case that this was a debate, the professor should evaluate how well each role defends and supports their argument. In a normal debate, each person wants to win because they feel their argument is the most effective way of solving the problem. In that case, the professor should evaluate such a role in terms of how well they persuade their audience and, as well, how well they defend their territory against opposing viewpoints. However, the instructor must be specific on what exactly he is evaluating.

    The goal of the role-playing should be set by the instructor, since this is an evaluation by the professor. If we are to partake in a debate, the instructor might decide to evaluate how well a role persuades his/her own point, and how well he debates it. The instructor must decide whether or not he will place heavier emphasis of a grade on the debating process or how many people the role persuades. A role may defend his point incredibly well, however, if the opposing role persuades more people, for whatever reason or context the discussion is in, then that role may win the debate. The instructor must define what he finds most important pertaining to the task at hand: the process/debate that occurs to choose a solution, or the outcome of the debate that has taken place.

  3. James Cruz says:

    1) what are the benefits of using a role-play in place of a class reading discussion?

    One benefit of using a role-play in place of a class reading discussion is preventing or at least lowering the chances of students not paying attention to the discussion. Typically in a class reading discussion there is a group of students who participate the most in class, in turn there is a significant amount of students who can get away from not participating in class. Worse even is those student’s might not be paying attention the discussion at all.

    Another benefit is forcing the students to look at the other perspectives of the argument. In order to avoid looking like a fool in class a student MUST read the material and present a coherent, clear and well thought argument. Critical thinking and understanding are the products of looking at an issue from another perspective.

    2) how should the instructor evaluate a student’s performance in a role-play exercise?

    The instructor should evaluate the student’s performance based on the following rubric.

    Clear and coherent speech (includes posture): 40%
    Content: 20%
    Participation: 20%
    Outcome:10%-based on classroom consensus
    Outcome 2:10%-based on the instructor’s opinion

    3) how should the goal of the role-play be established: should it be set by the instructor, or should the role-players have some say?

    The instructor should set the framework of the discussion, but I feel the role-players should have some say over the discussion. For practical reasons the role-players are more likely to be motivated if they are pursuing their desired topic of discussion. Another reason the role-players should have some say is it adds a level of comfort if the student’s feel they are in control of some aspect of the the discussion. Therefore, a richer and cooler discussion.

  4. Kelly Horvath says:

    1) As mentioned, one benefit of role-playing is that requires everyone to participate rather than a few students. If the student wants to a receive a good grade, they need to be well prepared, which means having done research and readings on their topic. However, in a class discussion, the student can get away with not participating if they didn’t read for that particular class. Role-playing strongly encourages everyone to engage in conversation. A second benefit is that students may get a better understanding of the subject because they are forced to look at the issue from various perspectives rather than just their own. Also, it helps the students prepare for a future situation in which they must advocate for or against an issue.

    2) The instructor should evaluate the performance based on speech and presence of the speaker. For example, coherent sentences with minimal stuttering and words such as “um, like,” etc. A large portion should be based on the student’s argument and whether he or she is well organized and has done extensive research on the topic. The rest should be based on outcome and effectiveness of the argument. If the speaker just provides information without persuading their audience, it defeats the purpose of the assignment:

    Research/Information: 40%
    Speech/Posture: 30%
    Effectiveness: 30%

    3) Both the instructor and role-playing students should have a say in the goal of the assignment. The instructor should be clear in what he/she is looking for so that the student is prepared.

  5. Amanda Howland says:

    There are many benefits of using a role-playing technique instead of a class reading discussion. Role playing forces students to be well-prepared for the class, to actively/passionately participate in class, and will make it less likely for students to skip class. In role-playing exercises, students cannot just sit back and listen to others talk about the day’s reading. Some students just sit and play on their computers during discussions of class readings and role-playing will prevent that. They are forced to become engaged in the discussion and share their views. This will make for a better class discussion. Also, the students will take more away from that day’s class. If they are involved and actively participating, they will remember more of the class’s discussion and therefore take more away from it. It will also increase how much they learn, and that information will stay with them for years to come if they physically perform a role-playing assignment.

    Much will go into conducting an actual role-playing assignment. However, there are a few basic elements that are very important in evaluating how well that student performed their exercise. The following are important components that should be evaluated:
    – Research of Topic
    – Speech itself (how well it was written, content, etc.)
    – Oral Presentation
    – Effectiveness

    Overall, the role-playing should conform to what the instructor has in mind for his class to do. However, I think it is important that the class has some say in what is expected of them. The student will be more inclined to give a better presentation if they are interested in their role-playing assignment. If they agree to what is expected of them, will be more willing and likely to meet those standards enthusiastically.

  6. Brian Brown says:

    I see role-playing as being different then class discussion in three crucial points. First, you cannot get away with not engaging in discussion. You have to at least make some remark. In a class discussion you can get away with it. In a role-play, it is obvious who is not in the discussion and furthermore I think you feel guilty if you’re not participating. It’s a contribution the class must make, not a few students. Secondly, role-play offers a different approach to information acquisition. You can get away with skimming readings and still be able to remark about opinionated questions in discussions. In role-playing, you have to research and must have some grounded knowledge to enter in the discussion. Lastly, role-plays ask you to give something other than your opinion. Class discussion can end up being simply an exchange of opinions that aren’t grounded in some realm of evidence.

    Evaluation by the instruction be founded in, again, three points: A) the student is actively engaging in the exercise. However, there should be some caveat to this. I had a role-play exercise in high school and some students wanted to control the exercise. They wanted to be involved in everything and have a say in all that went on. This made discussion difficult and some students were put off by the abrasiveness of others. Active engagement must have some limitations. B) the student has demonstrated knowledge grounded in research specific to their character C) in sort of a differentiate from the rest idea, that extra grade should come from students not just researching a role and acting it, but making the role seem human. Role-play is becoming a character and adding an element of emotion, wit, or whatever makes discussion more interesting. It shouldn’t be just a bunch of people who have researched about a stance and still present that stance through their own perspectives.

    The goal of the role-play should involve both. An instructor should have an idea, a framework about how the role-play should be carried out. Students should have a say in how the exercise might be carried out. In the exercise last class, Professor Rao didn’t tell us exactly how the proceedings were, i.e. how long each group should talk. So there should be structured leeway.

  7. Jaclyn says:

    Doing a role play exercise in place of reading discussion allows us to take what we are learning and to learn how to communicate it in a persuasive way, similar to the articles. It allows us to really think critically, test what we know, and also practice our communication skills. I find role playing also very beneficial because we have the opportunity to not only work and learn from out group members, but also observe other groups in how they went about completing the assignment. Although on thursday it was nerve wracking with the little time that we did have to pull something together, I felt like I learned alot about myself as a presenter under short term notice presentations.

    The evaluation of a student on a role playing assignment should probably focus on their communication skills as a whole, what they did well and what they should be aware of/improve on. Also we should be evaluated on the main persuasive points we make, and be asked were our statements effective in its persuasiveness? And lastly, we should be evaluated on how well we were able to pull our major points of communication together in our small groups, and whether or not all ideas were addressed. This last idea might be harder to evaluate, but it is important in the role playing process.

    Depending on the assignment students should have some say. It might be effective if the instructor is evaluating us on his own terms, and as students we also create our own evaluation sheet since we know where we are in general as students in a communication course. That way the instructors’ expectations and goals can be in some sense pursued, and the students evaluation can be own personal goals and grades.

  8. willbennett2012 says:

    Role-playing in the classroom provides an opportunity for students to see a position from both perspectives of the issues involved. By having to defend positions that may not be what they agree with they really develop a clear understanding of the entire issue. It may not be that someone changes their mind by seeing the other sides perspective, and it might even make their original view stronger, but seeing things from a fresh perspective provides a clearer understanding of a topic and a more intelligent argument for either side.
    Evaluation should be carried out based on how well the student portrays the actual views and emotions of the person they represent. Just as an actor has to become his character, a role-player must take on the perspective of the person the impersonate. If a student does an accurate job portraying their role then they deserve credit. If they opt to reduce fines on big factories for polluting, and they happen to be portraying a radical environmentalist then maybe they should lose some points.
    The goal should not be based in what the outcome is, but rather in the process. The instructor’s goal should be for the students to produce a similar result to that which the actual people portrayed would do. This could be gridlock, or it could be total agreement. It really depends heavily on what the issue is, and how polarized the roles are.

  9. Fairuz Maggio says:

    The benefits of using a role play instead of a class discussion is that it engages everyone in the class. It allows for most, if not all, participants opinions to be heard in the class because you are put on the spot to answer a question. If you must take a stance, like we did the other day, it lets for many different sides of an argument to shed light on a a wide range of opinions. This allows for more information to be relayed in the discussion instead of a reiteration of what everyone else feels is right, like in our class discussions because all of us are pro-environment.
    The instructor should evaluate the performance by how well the student represented the role in their presentation. It should not be determined by if they won or not but how well they represented their argument.
    I think that the instructor and the students should have a say in the role play. The instructor should determine the roles based on a general idea of where the student stands. This is because a student is more likely to devote more time and thought into forming an argument that they support. If they do not agree with the stance it could be very difficult for them to distinguish their own opinions from the opinions they are supposed to articulate.

  10. knazworth says:

    A role-play exercise allows everyone to gain a more full perspective on the issue being discussed. Rather than just focusing on one aspect, we have to know the standpoint of the side we’re representing and the opposing sides as well, so as to refute their arguments.

    Evaluations (I think) should be based on how well a student correctly presents their assigned stance. Additionally, since it is a speaking intensive class, there should be some evaluation on articulation and use of rhetoric.

    I’m torn on how to establish the goal. I suppose there should be some emphasis on “winning” the debate but it’s definitely not the sole purpose of a role-play exercise. There also might be some bias towards (or more specifically against) certain sides given the focus of this class and the general persuasion of most people in it. I guess it should play some part, but a small one.

  11. kscrimsh says:

    The biggest benefit to a role-playing exercise is that you can put yourself into someone else’s shoes. Instead of just focusing on your own ideas and beliefs, a role-playing exercise can help expand your views. Normally in the class discussions about the articles, people tend to side with what they believe in, without expanding their feelings toward other views. There is also the issue that not many people join in on article discussion whereas in role-playing, they must participate to defend their specific views. An interesting comment pertaining to this discussion that I liked that was made in class on Thursday where essentially the person said that we all like to try to find someone as the “bad guy” like the oil companies, but really, if we were to place ourselves in their shoes, they would not seem quite as bad as they do to us as a class full of environmentally conscious students.

    I the case of evaluating the student in a role-playing exercise, the student must present their topic logically and coherently to the audience. So, one thing to watch for will be that the student is presenting pretty well, without too many filler words (like ‘um’ or ‘like’) and whether they are getting their point across to the audience, or if they are boring them. another way to grade the performance will be if the student has done their research and is able to present their side of the argument and fully comprehend their role; ie, they will not stumble too much if asked a question on the spot. Also there must be the end goal in mind; people have got to try and convince others of their viewpoint. If they succeed, they should be praised for their ability to convince others (through rhetoric) that they should agree with them.

    In the end, I think that the goal should be determined by both the teacher and the students. The result of the discussion should definitely come into a factor (if one person were able to convince everybody that their views are the best, then they should be recognized) but it should not be the only way this is evaluated. People should be graded on how they speak, how they articulate their points, and how well they are able to hold their own when they are asked questions about the organization they represent.

  12. Brandy Simpson says:

    The primary benefit of using a role-play in place of a class reading discussion is that everyone must equally participate in the role-playing exercise. It gives everyone a chance to voice their opinion. Another benefit of the role-playing exercise is that there is more of a clear goal in what the class is aiming to achieve by the end of the exercise. Also, another benefit of using a role-play in place of class discussion is that a student may end up arguing for a side that they don’t necessarily agree with. Arguing for an alternative point-of-view may help to open the student’s mind to the reasons driving the alternative side’s argument. This may promote a resolution of meeting in the middle and it helps the student understand the flaws in their own, personal argument.

    To evaluate the student’s performance in a role-play exercise, I think the instructor should grade the student on the following criteria: the coherency of the student’s speech, the effectiveness of the student’s argument, and the student’s ability to defend and play the role they are given.

    I believe that the goal of the role-play exercise should be set by the instructor. I think this would help keep the discussion on track and would give the students a better idea of what is expected from their arguments.

  13. Kelsey Voss says:

    1) The benefits of role playing is that students are placed into categories of an issue they might not typically discuss in a class discussion. When a student is forced to argue for an opinion they do not support, it forces them to realize the complexity of the different interests in every issue. Sometimes in class discussions, we can get so caught up in certain details of our own opinions, that we forget about the big picture and the enormity of the real situation. When learning how to argue for our opponents, we learn how to better argue our own opinion in real life, because we an strengthen our case. Another benefit is that every student is forced to talk and participate, instead of keeping quiet if they choose.
    2) A student should come accross as being well-prepared. This does not mean research. This means the student went Beyond the research and THOUGHT about everything from EVERY angle of the debate, before going into it. Anticipating what will be said should give a student the ultimate preparedness to defend their cause. It will be easy to tell which students did research and are just rambling off words they read on the internet, and which students are actually using some of their own words and examples to further explain their points. Reading off some well put together sentence from a research source doesn’t exactly involve using your brain. Students should actually show that they have used their own brain, instead of just reading someone else’s words.. even if its slightly rephrased. Other things to consider are, of course, public speaking, how well you represent your character, if you are passive or actually participating, and a small consideration of the outcome of the debate. Most importantly, though, is what I was talking about first!
    3) The goal of the role-play be established by both the instructor and the role-players. In class on Tuesday, I think we need to discuss this more, to determine what is best. I think this is the only fair way to do it, is to collaborate to determine what the goal should be. Overall, though, it should be a realistic goal for the class, and one that is realistic as it pertains to the issue of debate.

  14. Sara Zolnick says:

    When thinking about the benefits of role-playing exercises in class, my list can be pretty high. I love being able to put myself into the situations we discuss and being able to fully experience it. I feel as though these exercises are very helpful to the material we are covering because we can create situations, characters, and outcomes of real-life issues that we would otherwise not be involved. Role-playing exercises also give students a chance to show their opinions without being criticized, as well as the option to explore different perspectives relating to environmental rhetoric. Although I was sick on Thursday and did not participate in the activity, I have experienced similar exercises in other classes and truly enjoyed it. Role-playing exercises let students show their opinions and help to teach and explain the real-life situations.
    In these exercises, each student is a participant, despite their knowledge or experience on the subject. I think the professor should evaluate each student on their willingness to participate and learn, not on their knowledge or capabilities. For some students, it is difficult to stand in front of the class and perform; however, I feel as though as long as each student is cooperating and enjoying the activity, they should receive full participation.
    The goal of these activities is usually based on the situations and the theme of the exercise. Frequently, the role-playing does not end up where it started and other themes and issues are addressed that weren’t originially in the plan. Because of this, I think the students and the professor should work together to set a goal for each activity, and should attempt to make the goal able for change and distortion. With this in mind, the students can act as they please and complete the official goal while still being able to speak their minds and perform their character to their upmost potential.

  15. Emily Sherman says:

    1) what are the benefits of using a role-play in place of a class reading discussion?
    The role-playing activity made more people participate. It also forced us, as a class to look at many sides and perspectives on an issue instead of just a few. We were able to step away from the environmental view point on issues and look at the economic side. Although it is ‘environmental rhetoric’ or cases would have no support if we didn’t learn to look at things in a practical way, and in today’s world, that means looking at the economics and availability of technology of a specific environmental issue.

    2) how should the instructor evaluate a student’s performance in a role-play exercise?
    I don’t think that there was enough time for a conclusion to be drawn as to which group convinced the senate and the advocacy group the most, and this would not account for comprises made by these two groups. I think that in this case, given that the activity was done to improve or rhetorical skills, the groups should not be compared to each other. Rather, the grade should be given based on the group’s presentation and their ability to answer questions asked by the decision makers (and the relevancy of the decision maker’s questions).

    3) how should the goal of the role-play be established: should it be set by the instructor, or should the role-players have some say?
    I think that the goals and structure of the role playing assignment should be determined by the instructor. This will allow us to be measured on our capability to conform to the roles. If the student’s had more say and more choice we could, for example, pick the sides of the discussion that we are on which might give us an unfair advantage of already knowing information/having passion for our possession. In a rhetoric and communications class, I think that we should be learning how to argue, which is more challenging when we do not agree with what we are saying, but let’s us learn the skill set better.

  16. Mary McClellan says:

    1) what are the benefits of using a role-play in place of a class reading discussion?
    The first benefit of role play is that it allows you to fully dedicate yourself to a position and makes it much more real for each individual. To talk about a position on the environment is one thing but to actually act it out is another. The role play last class was good because it got the entire class involved. I was one of the senators which is a role that we talk about a lot in class – things that senators should do, policies that should be enacted etc. It was really quite different actually acting out the part of a senator though because you had to have the right questions to ask and everyone does such a good job defending their position that it made it really hard to side with anyone. It made a senator’s job more real to me.
    2) how should the instructor evaluate a student’s performance in a role-play exercise?
    The instructor should evaluate the student based on their knowledge of the material that they are defending and their ability to support that knowledge when questioned. I do not think a grade should be based on a “winner” because, as I realized when I was acting out the senator last class, it is very hard to decide who a clear cut winner is. Furthermore, people will have their own beliefs that will affect which side of the argument they agree with, no matter how well prepared one person may be.
    3) how should the goal of the role-play be established: should it be set by the instructor, or should the role-players have some say?
    The role players should have some say because they are the ones enacting the scenario’s. The role players may have some really good ideas about what the goal should be, but ultimately the instructor gets to decide what route to take.

  17. Tomoya says:

    1.) There are several benefits to the role playing exercises instead of class reading discussions. Role playing ensures that every body participates, keeping everyone’s attention while having everyone have a chance to interact with the class. Role playing also lets one take the perspective on a topic that they might be opposed too, letting them look further into what one might not have before.
    2.) I feel the evaluation of the role playing exercise should be based on the students ability to show they have done research their role. If the student has done enough research on their side of the issue then they should be able to effectively argue their points and answer any questions regarding their stance on the issue based off their role. In class it was asked if the team who wins the debate should be the only ones to get A’s, however, I feel if more than one team argues their points effectively and are able to answer questions, then it would be hard to decide who wins. Grading should be based on how well the student has researched their role, effectiveness in arguing, and ability to answer questions regarding their side on the topic.
    3.) The goal of the role play should be determined by both the instructor and the students. The instructor should provide clear instructions for what the students role is along with what topic the role is based around. The students should also have a say in what the topic should be. Maybe something recent like the oil spill, which would provide an interesting exercise that we all have heard of and seen the effects.