National Farm and Garden

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The role-play is an exercise in which the class is divided into teams of five to six each. The students read a very short case situation and are then assigned roles in the organization. They are provided with varying levels of information about an issue. The teams then interact to provide recommended courses of action representing short-term, mid-range and long-term consideration. Each team experiences the group dynamics and tension that can occur between different departments seeking protection of their own interests.

These exercises were developed to create an additional technique for enhancing the learning outcomes of introduction to business courses. They address important issues that companies, management, and employees may be faced with on a daily basis. The exercise is a teaching tool that provides students with a very realistic experience in a simulated organizational setting. Through student participation in a role-play, we hope to increase their decision-making skills and help make them more aware of current issues and how to handle them. Beyond a case analysis approach, a role-play recreates the complexities of relationships and incomplete information that are pervasive in an organizational setting. Also, the exercise seeks to enhance inherent conflicts between certain departments within the organization. Therefore, a key goal is to improve individual awareness of the complexity involved in dealing with business issues. Finally, we hope to gain students absolute involvement and participation in class. By participating in a role-play, students will be able to develop their leadership skills and engage in problem solving activities directly related to organizational issues.

Specific learning objectives of role-play exercises include: 1. increasing students’ awareness of the complex dimensions of business decision-making 2. developing students’ analytical skills for resolving issues.

Instructions for Classroom Use

The role-play exercise complements and enhances traditional approaches to business learning experiences because it: 1. gives students the opportunity to practice making decisions that have business consequences 2. recreates the power, pressures, and information sharing that affects decision making at upper levels in an organization 3. provides students with a team-based experience enriching their skills and understanding of group processes and dynamics 4. uses a debriefing and feedback period to allow for the exploration of complex and controversial issues in business decision making.

The exercises can be used in classes of any size, as the instructor can run independent role-play case teams to fit the class size. Teams generally consist of five to six members. There are several implementation methods that can be used. Two options are provided.

Option 1: Implementation in a 50-75 Minute Class Period

1. Develop teams of five members (depending upon roles used). If only three to four participants are available per team, then roles that appear more important and complex should be selected for the members of the team. 2. Have each person read the role-play exercise background page as an introduction to the exercise. 3. Assign each person a role to play and give him or her the specific role description to read. Ask each person (role) to present their feedback and interaction with the group on the role description that they are assigned. 4. Indicate the desired outcomes of the process (for example, press conference. written or oral presentation of short-term, mid-range and long-term recommendations to address the issue, etc.). 5. Allow the teams to proceed without interruption for at least 45 minutes, depending on the outcomes specified above. The instructor may visit teams to answer questions and stimulate discussion on key issues. 6. Create classroom situation appropriate for teams to share their insights, decisions or recommendations. Instructor may require each team to turn in a...
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