Brandywine professor publishes book on active learning in business education

MEDIA, Pa. — Julie Stanton, associate professor of business at Penn State Brandywine, recently published a book called “Role-Play Simulations,” which provides instructors of all experience levels with frameworks for understanding role-play simulations and implementing them in their classes. Stanton co-authored the book with Alex Bolinger, associate professor of management at Idaho State University.

“Role-Play Simulations book cover.

Julie Stanton, associate professor of business at Penn State Brandywine, recently published a book called “Role-Play Simulations." 

Credit: courtesy of Julie Stanton

“This book describes the value and theories behind role-play simulations as used in business courses and provides examples that illustrate different contexts for how and when to use them,” Stanton said.

The collaboration started when Bolinger was a Penn State Brandywine faculty member prior to his role at Idaho State University. Stanton, who teaches marketing and supply chain management, and Bolinger, who teaches negotiation and leadership, both use role-play simulations in their classrooms.

“Role-play simulations give the participants a more active level of engagement with the topic at hand,” she said. “Students in role-play simulations get the direct experience of trying to sort out the context and priorities that enter into the provided situation, while also having to articulate their arguments, feelings and perspectives.”

From start to finish, the project took approximately two years to complete. Stanton said the book starts by helping readers better understand the value of using role-play simulations, followed by the “do’s and don’ts” of using role play in the classroom. Then, the authors walk readers through several simple and complex simulations, giving them something practical they can use or adapt for their own classes.

“I’ve been adding pedagogy research to my agenda recently, recognizing that any of us who have been teaching for a while have a combination of problem areas that we’d like answers to and good tactics that we have developed that others might be able to use,” she said. “The more we share ideas, the more likely we all keep advancing our teaching ability.”

Stanton first started using role-play simulations several years ago when she taught a course on negotiation. She said the subject created such an ideal opportunity for using role-play activities that she developed at least one simulation for every chapter she covered in class. After seeing the value of role play, Stanton inserted various other activities into other classes.

Some of Stanton’s role-play simulations only take a few minutes, while others take multiple class sessions and require prep work by students to complete. No matter the activity, “the most important tool is the debrief,” she said. “That’s the instructor’s value in role play. You can synthesize and contrast the different approaches and allow students to give each other constructive feedback. Great and lasting learning comes from those moments.”