Sinead McCotter, Senior Lecturer HRM (Teaching and Scholarship), The York Management School
This workshop was a revelation and the highlight of the conference! Difficult and sensitive conversations are part of every organisation whether associated with HR, student support, career development or discussion of poor assessment/performance scores. Whilst websites provide factual support, this doesn’t come close to preparing the individual for the encounter in terms of the way in which he or she manages the interaction and becomes effective in the role. Role-play is widely used as an educational technique. It is however often viewed with anxiety by participants, in part because of the lack of clear structure and unpredictability of the encounter.
The use here of a group of actors under the direction of the audience provides great insight into the dynamics of the interaction, allowing the students to pause, consider, discuss and rewind the encounter, developing a deep and complete appreciation of key challenges. This active learning process is hugely engaging and effective, allowing students to become immersed in the process from a position of safety, without worrying about how they are perceived.
Launched in 2009 Flying Cloud is a successful collective of international artists expert in transferring skills learnt on the professional stage into a commercial and educational context. Their performance was perfect. Overstated at times for effect, their awareness of the learning outcomes of the session and deep knowledge of content were reflected in the ways in which they effortlessly responded to audience requests to modify their behaviour in terms of, for example, body posture, organisation of space, and tone of voice. Note that this was only the briefest of insights into the first part of a far more extensive delivery which culminates in students working in role-playing pairs to put newly developed skills into practice.
This workshop builds a strong case for the inclusion of dramatic arts in HR management, but it also demonstrates the potential of this format to address many other facets of university life such as career development meetings, interview readiness, effective personal and project supervision, mental health first aid training, staff CPD activities associated with management of teams and negotiation of both HR and research goals. It’s clearly a labour intensive exercise in terms of preparing and facilitating the sessions, but the benefits are both clear and significant. Unfortunately for ethical reasons the video of the session cannot be released, but please consider how this might be applied to your practice.
Phil Lightfoot, Physics, University of York