Understanding the Use of Online Role-Play for Collaborative Argument through Teacher Experiencing: A Case Study

March 2016

Source: Asia-Pacific Journal of Teacher Education, Vol. 44, No. 3, 242–256, 2016
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This study examines how teachers experience the use of online role-play for collaborative argument so that they could have a better knowledge of how technology enhances learning. 

The participants were 10 in-service teachers: three elementary school teachers, three middle school teachers and four college or university teachers. All of the participants took a digital education methods course for master’s programme in a large Midwestern American university.
The role-play lasted for 3 weeks and underwent three stages: preparation, implementation and reflection.

Data were collected through questionnaire survey, the class website for role-play, the blogs and the interviews.

The findings reveal that online role-play was an appropriate way for teaching collaborative argument. The participants indicated that topic choice would influence their degree of involvement in the activity. 

Furthermore, the findings show that participants recognised the value of conducting research on the topic prior to posting for evidence to support their claims. The participants posited the need for critical reading of peers’ postings for developing knowledge about the topic, and gaining an understanding of the competing perspectives on the topics. In addition, the participants explained that engaging in an online role-play themselves enhanced their understanding of the nature of online role-play in terms of implementing online role-play in their classrooms.

The participants identified a number of benefits of online role-play. They indicated that online role-play helped them collaboratively develop ideas in a creative, enjoyable manner by adopting alternative perspectives through adopting different roles and responding to other roles. Additionally, the participants perceived online role-play as providing less vocal participants with an avenue to share opinions with other people, which helped them to develop their collaborative argumentative ability.


The authors argue that this study has some pedagogical implications for teaching argumentation by using online role-plays.
First, the authors argue that it is important to select appropriate topics about which students have substantial prior knowledge as well as topics in which they have interest so that they can formulate informed arguments about that topic.
Second, the authors found that an asynchronous online role-play may be a preferable option over synchronous online role-play for developing students’ thinking and communication ability.
Third, instructions on how to collaboratively build alliances with peers are necessary so that they can coordinate formulation of arguments supporting other allied roles.
Finally, the reflection on the role-play activity is essential to identify what has been learned about an issue and how to improve the future use of online role-plays.

The authors conclude that this study also demonstrates a new perspective of teacher education that teachers acquire their knowledge of a particular teaching method by experiencing and imitating the actual learning process of their students. 

Updated: Feb. 07, 2018