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The Uses of Simulation and Role Play in a Business TEFL/TESOL Context

The Uses of Simulation and Role Play in a Business TEFL/TESOL Context | ITTT | TEFL Blog

While studying the content of the Teaching Business English specialized course, I was introduced to the unique place of role-playing and simulation. In a similar vein, in a previous summative task, I focused on the use of games within a general TEFL/TESOL context.

This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Stephen W. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.

Interesting Techniques

Role-playing and simulating business interactions, using gamification techniques, would be an effective educational tool in teaching business English. It would be effective because it encourages the development of fluency, the ability to focus upon the use of degrees to which a point is agreed upon or disagreed upon, and the pursuit of objectives (which, when implemented well, comes close to realistically simulating interactions that happen in real-time, with real pressures).

Simulation necessitates verbal fluency. To interact with others well and make points and counterpoints, such as in a simulated negotiation, students will need to be able to demonstrate strong productive and receptive linguistic skills. In business, these skills are essential to the day to day success, and especially during times of crisis or important decisions (which these simulations may emulate).

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Training Skills

Focusing upon the use of degrees to which a point is agreed or disagreed upon in a simulation activity is important because it gives clarity to argumentation and other expressions. Argumentation and expressions emphasizing degrees of agreement or disagreement frequently feature in business negotiations and other business activities. And while I have never participated in a business simulation in another language, it seems that it would be a difficult skill because of the involved nuance, and therefore one that should be practiced in a controlled context, such as a classroom simulation.

Lesson Stages

Engaging students in activities that involve the pursuit of objectives also provides a clear purpose. This should lead students when the instructions are clear and examples of how to engage in the activity provided, to focus on these objectives. This clarity of purpose may alleviate anxiety in some students and is realistic because people in business constantly pursue motivations. And these motivations compete or converge with the motivations of others, such as in a negotiation (which again, may be simulated activity). The realism of the simulation is its benefit over other activities.

When I envision simulations and role-plays of this type (involving competing and converging motivations), I imagine higher-level students gaining the most benefit because of the high level of skill that seems necessary. However, it seems that the idea of simulation could be scaled to different learning levels and still involve business skills. For instance, simulating an interaction at a store.

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In such a case, one student might play a cashier, and the other a customer. The level of vocabulary, fluency, accuracy, and complexity of negotiation can be made simple, such as in the following script:

  • CASHIER: Hi. How can I help you?
  • CUSTOMER: I want one apple, please.
  • CASHIER: That will be two dollars.
  • CUSTOMER: I don’t have two dollars.
  • CASHIER: Then I cannot give you an apple. I’m sorry.

In my own experience, simulations have been incredibly effective educational tools. As a political science student at Aquinas College, I participated in simulations of the United Nations and Arab League. And for several years I’ve served on the staff of a model United Nations. I recall the experiences and tools I developed at these simulations better than I recall what I learned of value in most classes.

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While I have not participated in many complex business simulations for teaching purposes, either as a student or as a teacher, my firsthand experience has led me to see the value of simulations in education in a general sense. During my time as a teacher, I hope to assess the most effective way to implement simulations in the classroom, when teaching TEFL/TESOL in business and other contexts.

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