Although role-play is a widely accepted training exercise, it often delivers results far short of expectations; why is this the case? While you may be providing an opportunity to practice skills in a simulated situation, so much is lost in this uncomfortable and often rushed activity. The missing component is structure. The structure around the interaction or conversation, expectations and evaluation, and high-quality feedback.
While there are gains to be had in live role-play, the development taking place in a structured environment where learner and mentor can both focus on the scenario at hand is unbeatable. Distractions removed, unnecessary nerves put at ease, and an opportunity to perform with unparalleled focus provided.
While the structure discussed thus far may seem obvious, the hidden gem in structured role-play is how it facilitates repetition. With a structure in place, learners not only respond to scenarios, but review their submissions, reflect, re-record, review again, and submit once they feel they have put forward their best work. Repetition and the opportunity to quickly review is impractical if not impossible in a live role-play environment.
Even with the greatest of intentions, live role-play cannot deliver skills development equal to that of structured practice and coaching. This structure facilitates deliberate practice and deliberate practice leads to mastery.