RPG Forums Online

Seminar - On Roleplaying Instruction

A collective resource for students including links to helpful ideas, great tips, writings by various sources including our instructors, lectures and seminars.
User avatar
Pseudosyne
Explorer
Explorer
Posts: 1166
Joined: Wed Jan 04, 2006 6:35 pm

Seminar - On Roleplaying Instruction

Postby Pseudosyne » Sat Jul 12, 2008 4:07 am

Comment by Alias: This seminar is available to everyone, and highly recommended to anyone who is, or would like to be an instructor. Thus, everyone is welcome to respond with their thoughts, comments, and experiences, as well as requests, suggestions, and questions.

-------------

I love to teach. I find it one of the most fun and rewarding things I could do. In this seminar, I'm going to go into some detail about my "philosophy" on teaching roleplaying as well as some techniques that I believe instructors can make use of to make their experience better for both themselves and their students. There will also be contributions from my colleagues, based on their experiences and what they feel are effective strategies for roleplaying instruction.

My first attempt at teaching roleplaying was on an old roleplaying website called Blast. There was no Academy or any equivalent, so my teaching essentially consisted of writing a couple essays about roleplaying and leaving them for the public to read, or not read. So, when I got to RPGFO, the concept of the Academy as it was then was new to me. Although I didn't really participate in the classes (as I was roleplaying heavily and had little time to spare), I always saw merit in the Academy. I got a little jaded with roleplaying after a while and decided to try my hand at starting a class in the Academy, level E. It dealt with the creation and maintenance of roleplays, which is something that I felt I had knowledge in, so I wrote the starter guides for E-1 and E-2 as well as the curriculum for each. The problem was that because people were required to go through levels A-D before they even made it to my class, so the only student I ever got was Xitaro. I realized that students would most likely never make it to level E, so once Xitaro had passed, I relinquished control of it to him. Later on, I got back into teaching with D-2 after the previous instructor had quit/gone missing, and I consider the assignments and lectures I wrote for that class to be some of my better works. Now, the Academy is going through a restructuring, all of that is behind me, and I'd like to offer what I've learned when it comes to teaching (especially roleplaying).

Be passionate. If you're not passionate about teaching, it doesn't matter how much you know, the student is not going to learn. You have to be committed to what you're doing, and I don't mean a time commitment. When you're teaching, you have to be focused on teaching (as opposed to just saying), and you'll soon learn how good you can really be.

Listen with as much conviction as you speak. I firmly believe that teaching is a back-and-forth process, and involves both input and output for it to work. If you explain a concept to a student, listen to what they have to say in return (and encourage them to respond!). Just simply reading their posts keenly and critically will help you determine many things about that student. As a teacher, you will learn where they may need work, where they lack confidence, how well they are receiving your message, etc. Lectures are fantastic, but discussions almost always produce better, more meaningful results. Instead of simply speaking at length about a particular aspect of roleplaying, try asking the student questions. Talk to them, listen to them, learn what they know, and build up on their knowledge wherever you can.

Support everything you say. If you tell a student their logic is flawed, explain why. If you believe that a character they have created is too cliched, show them how. Nothing is more useless and disrespectful to a student than an instructor making a point out of thin air with no evidence to support it.

Be open to criticism and challenges. You are not the absolute authority on roleplaying, no matter how skilled you may be. It's very likely you'll come across a situation where either a student or a fellow instructor criticizes a point you made or a method you used. First, check to make sure the problem isn't on your end. You may have left out a key word, made a grammatical error that changed the meaning of what you said, or something similar. If you find such a problem, thank them for pointing it out and fix it immediately. If you don't, reexamine your own statements and see how they could have been interpreted differently. This will help you tell if it's just a simple, minor misunderstanding and all that's needed is a clarification. These, usually, are characterized by a general comprehension of the point except for a very specific aspect. If it's obvious that it's not a minor misunderstanding (say, because they are mentioning something that sounds COMPLETELY different from what you intended) and they are implying that you are essentially incorrect, check your statements one more time and make sure that they haven't been logically invalidated. If they have been, you have been proven wrong and should gracefully concede. If not and you still feel your points have merit, go ahead and state your case. You will either spark a lively debate or prove that you are correct, but either way, the student will benefit immensely.

Consider other viewpoints. You may have one way of looking at something, but that does not mean everyone shares that same view. Look at your statements as if you were your students (or peer instructors) and you'll always find something that you can improve or change in order to make them more effective or easier to understand.

If you cannot clearly explain the point of an assignment in a single short sentence, it needs to be reworked. Assignments should be focused, meaning they should address the student's ability to understand a SINGLE DISTINCT TOPIC, like making a character unique or how to use a semicolon. For example, if you want to explain how to roleplay an attack in combat, don't require the student to also create a character or describe a setting. Those topics, while they may be used in a roleplay or duel, do not actually deal with the topic you are trying to explain (attacking in combat) and will only detract from the focus and possibly confuse the student. If you would like to create a kind of culminating, "final evaluation" assignment, then by all means, integrate as many topics as you feel necessary. However, when teaching a specific topic (especially if it's new and unfamiliar to the student), make sure all of your assignments are focused on a single main point.

Your assignment must do what you say it's doing. There are two good ways to check for this:
  1. Determine what concept is being tested, and how the testing is occuring. This "what" and this "how" should be very obviously linked, and if it is at all unclear how they are related, your assignment is not doing what it's supposed to be doing. For example, if you are testing someone's ability to create a character and your assignment asks them to edit a character profile, your assignment is not doing what it's supposed to be doing, as your intent is to test "creation", not "editing".
  2. Ask yourself: "If I was a student and I didn't understand the topic/point my instructor was teaching me, would I still be able to do this assignment satisfactorily?" If the answer to that is yes, your assignment is not doing what it's supposed to be doing. An assignment is supposed to test knowledge. Use examples, lectures, and discussions to put that knowledge into place.
"Stock" assignments usually cause students to lose interest quickly and may discourage learning. This was a big thing in the old Academy, where most classes consisted of assignments like:
  • Write me a character
  • Write me an intro post
  • Write me a setting
  • Write me a...(blah blah blah)
The main problem with these assignments are that they are relatively unfocused, boring, and tend to show laziness on the part of the instructor. They are not necessarily a bad thing and can be a viable tool if used sparingly, but instructors should take care to design more interactive, engaging assignments.

Some examples from my own work:
  • Travers and Quara Duel (duel by Alias, assignment concept by me). This stressed the importance of reading carefully and tested the students' ability to follow details in a duel. It was a mock duel, and the students were required to answer difficult questions afterward about small details from it. If they failed to read carefully (which is what I was testing), they would not be able to answer the questions correctly.
  • Player 1 post, three Player 2 replies. This dealt with consistency and tested the students' ability to find continuity errors in a duel and, as an extra measure, predict long term consequences of those errors. The predictions served to show them how wrong a duel could go just because of seemingly trivial errors. If the students did not understand the concept of consistency, they would not consider them to be "errors", as the errors were neither grammatical in nature nor obvious, and their effects would possibly not show up until later on in the duel.
  • Four possible replies to a duel post. This dealt with advancing action and maintaining courtesy, and was probably the least creative of the three. It tested their ability to both recognize and correct posts that did not include advancement of action and were discourteous. Asking students to do it incorrectly 3 times before they did it correctly made sure that they really understood the concept, as doing something intentionally wrong requires as much knowledge as doing it intentionally right.
Put work and effort into your assignments and you'll see the results. Boring assignments have little lasting effect on a student, but a really cool assignment will stick in their mind.

Experiment. Try different ways of teaching the same thing. Some examples:
  • Ask the students to do something incorrectly on purpose, then ask them to do it correctly
  • Ask the students to explain a concept to you as if you were the student
  • Devise a "game" based around the concept and play it with them
  • Teach through trial-and-error (student posts, you correct, student posts again, you correct, etc.)
  • Ask students to dissect something you give them and have them explain it line-by-line
  • Give students a specific example and ask them to generalize it into a method that can be applied in the majority of cases
  • Have a "debate" with another instructor in front of the student to show them what the differing points of view on the topic are and allowing them to form an opinion themselves
  • Participate in an IC roleplay with your student, discussing and explaining concepts as you encounter them
These are just some things that I've thought of, and I'm sure if you give it a few minutes, you'll be able to think of many more interesting ways than I've managed to come up with.

Cater to the student. They are your priority and you need to be aware of that. I am all for experimentation, but if it seems like a certain teaching style is working wonders for your student, consider sticking with it. If a student makes a special request, try to honor it. They will only learn when they are comfortable, so do your best to make the environment comfortable for them. And, if you find yourself repeating the same set of lectures to every student with little success, adapt to each student. Base your examples on their own work, as it is already familiar to them.

Explain first, test second. This is more general way of saying "lecture first, assignment second". With the exception of "evaluation" exercises (which by their very nature tend to come before explanations), I believe you should explain something before you test the student on it. Asking them to "wing it" and saying you'll explain where they went wrong after they're done with it doesn't instill confidence in the student and makes them feel like you want to see them fail. In some rare cases, you may want to try it like that anyway (with a solid plan for it in mind, of course), but in the majority of situations, explain your point before presenting with the exercise. If you have enough patience and/or enough time, you should take it one step further and make sure that the student UNDERSTANDS your point before you present them with the exercise. However, it's really the instructor's preference, as some feel assignments are only meant to assess performance and comprehension after teaching is otherwise complete, while some feel assignments are part of the teaching process themselves.

Never "give up" on a student. If you find that no matter what you try, a student simply isn't grasping what you want them to grasp, don't show your annoyance. Don't let it be known that you have grown frustrated with them. Every student learns differently and at a different rates. Simply mention that you would like to consult another instructor and have that instructor take over. There are only a few things worse than your student assuming their instructor has given up on them.

Respect is crucial. As an instructor, you must respect your students' opinions and viewpoints, as only then will they be able to take you seriously. They will in turn respect what you have to say even more, making you a better instructor for it.

You are laying a foundation, not creating a clone of yourself. Instructors need to accept this before they can even begin teaching. Every student will have their individual styles, and you should not be trying to impart your own personal style onto them. You are giving them the tools to help develop their own style so they can become their own roleplayer, nothing more. Even if you are teaching an advanced concept, try to avoid imparting your own style upon them and allow them to develop into the concept on their own.

Any qualities you expect your students to have, you should display yourself. If you expect your students to be confident, you must be confident in your teaching. If you expect your students to put in their best in every assignment or exercise, you should put in your best in creating them. If you expect your students to be punctual, you should be on time with your own posts. This doesn't mean that your students will necessarily show these qualities if you show them, but it will encourage them and help draw them out.

Taking a personal interest in your students' successes or failures can work wonders. While this is not for everybody (some instructors may prefer to keep an objective, outsider view on teaching), taking a personal interest in a student can be one of the most encouraging experiences there is. Talk to them outside of the Academy, be their friend as well as their instructor, and just generally get to know them as a person. They will feel appreciated and be more motivated to learn once they know you really believe in them, and you will get that warm, fuzzy feeling inside when they do succeed.

Emphasize the good as well as the bad. As instructors, you want to encourage positive habits in your students while eliminating any negative ones, so reinforcing what your student is doing well is a great way to boost their confidence and improve their roleplaying all around. But, as I mentioned earlier, be able to support everything you say and don't go overboard in either direction. Try not to gush unnecessarily about the quality of your student's post if such gushing is unwarranted, and don't mercilessly destroy a submission if you see that it has some merits.

Further tips by my fellow instructors:

(Tifa)Keep the big picture in mind. Specific examples are great for reinforcing concepts, but don’t get lost in the details. When going over certain things, like a mistake the student made in a particular post, try to relate your points to more general ideas – the bigger picture, so to speak. Helping your students develop techniques that they can apply generally will aid them more in the long run.

----------------------------------

This seminar is open for anyone to respond to, and I hope that this does become an ongoing discussion as well as a general resource for instructors. I will most likely be updating this as I gain new insights, and your own suggested additions are appreciated. However, please remain courteous and respectful, and discuss your points intelligently. Unlike other seminars which have limited lifetimes, this seminar will remain open so that it can serve its purpose as a resource.
Last edited by Pseudosyne on Mon Aug 18, 2008 5:02 am, edited 5 times in total.
<center>Image

(Sig and avy by Alias)</center>
User avatar
Pseudosyne
Explorer
Explorer
Posts: 1166
Joined: Wed Jan 04, 2006 6:35 pm

Postby Pseudosyne » Thu Jul 31, 2008 10:14 pm

Content added on 7/31/08
[spoiler]Emphasize the good as well as the bad. As instructors, you want to encourage positive habits in your students while eliminating any negative ones, so reinforcing what your student is doing well is a great way to boost their confidence and improve their roleplaying all around. But, as I mentioned earlier, be able to support everything you say and don't go overboard in either direction. Try not to gush unnecessarily about the quality of your student's post if such gushing is unwarranted, and don't mercilessly destroy a submission if you see that it has some merit.[/spoiler]

Thanks to Tifa for reminding me of this!
<center>Image



(Sig and avy by Alias)</center>
Tifa
Traveller
Traveller
Posts: 156
Joined: Thu Oct 18, 2007 5:08 am
Location: United States

Postby Tifa » Fri Aug 01, 2008 1:39 am

With Pseudosyne's permission, I'd like to contribute the following point. >w<

[spoiler]Keep the big picture in mind. Specific examples are great for reinforcing concepts, but don’t get lost in the details. When going over certain things, like a mistake the student made in a particular post, try to relate your points to more general ideas – the bigger picture, so to speak. Helping your students develop techniques that they can apply generally will aid them more in the long run.[/spoiler]
User avatar
Alias
Explorer
Explorer
Posts: 1622
Joined: Fri Jan 06, 2006 1:10 am
Location: EST (GMT -5)
Contact:

Postby Alias » Tue Aug 19, 2008 2:43 am

So, one thing that we need to work on, not only with students but in this and other seminars, is the Wall of Text phenomenon. Wall of Text is often responsible for the death of RPs due to a reluctance of players to read through long thick writing. Walls of Text often require an effort to even skim through, and when trying to teach a student, such a student can easily lose interest.

To remedy the Wall of Text, new things, like bold emphasis, section headings, spaces, lists, etc can all be added, each of those an attention grabbing hook. Even a Table of Contents can make a Wall of Text easier to read, though that is not directly pertinent to one-on-one lessons.

While this seminar has lists and bolded bits, there are too many such bolded bits, and they blend back into the Wall of Text. I propose, not only to add a bit about avoiding Walls of Text in on-on-one lessons, but to reclassify the points of this seminar into indicative headings (perhaps three, five, seven, however many make sense) to improve perusability (yes, I did just make that up).
<center>Image</center>
User avatar
Sorvenus
Caffeinated Fatalist
Posts: 800
Joined: Wed Jul 30, 2008 1:38 am

Postby Sorvenus » Mon Aug 25, 2008 8:44 pm

...This makes me want to become an instructor now, haha.
I thought what I'd do was, I'd pretend I was one of those deaf-mutes...

Image

Return to “Library”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 0 guests

cron