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Guidance For Role Players

Guidance for Role Players with Mediation Institute

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Guidance for Role Players

Mediation Institute runs hundreds of online mediation role plays each year.  This post provides guidance for role players to make sure you make the most of the opportunity and also provide a great learning experience for your mediator.  

To ensure flexibility and accessibility all of our role plays are conducted by Video Mediation using a tool called Zoom.  To prepare please download a free version of Zoom if you have not already been using it.  You don’t need a paid version of Zoom to participate in role plays but downloading the app makes it easier for you to join role plays. 

You can access the Role Play Scheduler link for your course on the Course Menu on the left-hand side of your course.

The course you are on will indicate your requirements for the number of role plays you must do.  You can do more as a role player or observer if you want. 

Why participate in Role Plays?


What happens in Role Plays?

 The aim of the role-play is to give the mediator an environment in which they can practice and demonstrate their skills in mediation.

The secondary aim is to give role players the opportunity to learn what it feels like to be a client and also to benefit from the skills of your mediator and the feedback from the mentor. 

Your job as a role player is to provide a scenario that is believable and allows the mediator to develop and demonstrate all their skills.

How to book in for role plays

Navigate to the role play scheduler using the link provided in your course menu.

  1. You read down for the day and across for the time, scenario and so on. Make sure you are looking at your time zone. There are always at least three and up to five in the summer.
  2. Write you name as a role player in a time slot that works for you.  Make a note of the time in your calendar or diary along with the Zoom number for the mentor.  You will not get automatic reminders it is your responsibility to remember and turn up!   
  3. Locate the role play scenario which will be in the Role Play Scenarios folder in your course and read it prior to the scheduled role play.  If you are a member you may have to email your mentor for the scenario if you can’t find it in the folder in the Mi Members course.
  4. Just before the allocated time get yourself some water or a hot drink ready for your two-hour commitment, open your Zoom app and put in the meeting number for the mentor.  

What if I can’t do the role play due to another commitment?

When booking a role play as a mediator or as a role player, please be aware that this is putting in place a commitment to participate.

The mentor will put aside their time to mentor the role play and the two other participants will also put aside the time to participate. If you drop out at the last minute, then you are affecting 3 other people who have committed their time, AND you have not left enough time to find a replacement. When this happens, most role plays will be cancelled.

How to avoid causing problems

  1.  Do not put your name in the role play scheduler unless you are committed to attending.
  2. If you cannot make it, then advise your mentor and other role players ‘As Soon As Possible’ so that the slot can be freed to allow another participant to take your place.
  3. Do not simply remove your name from the scheduler and hope that no one will notice.  This is very disruptive and unfair to other students who were relying on you and we can check the history to see who it was that withdrew without notice at the last minute.  

How to notify the others

  • If there is plenty of time email the mentor and let them know. You can use the email at the top of the role play spreadsheet or the course inbox.
  • If it is within 24 hours of the role play email the mentor and other students using the course inbox telling them you will not be able to participate, the date and time that the role play was scheduled.

What if I am an observer?

 Observers are welcome and encouraged as it is a really good way to prepare for your first mediation after you have role played as a role player a few times and also as preparation before your assessment. 

When you are observing it is a great idea to get the role play assessment tool for the particular role play and use it to focus your observation.  Look for the language skills such as summaries, reframes, reflections, the use of silence etc used by the mediator. Look for the transitions and the facilitation of the process steps as you observe.

Don’t turn up late if the role play has started you will not be let in to avoid distracting the mediator. Make sure that you are logged in and ready 5 minutes before the scheduled time for the role play to start. 

Role Player Etiquette

IMPORTANT: Read the role-play scenario and print it if you want before the scheduled start time. 

You should prepare before logging into Zoom, so you know your scenario and we are not wasting time waiting for role players to find and read scenario.

Role Play Do's

DO remember you are in mediation because you have a dispute.   Add some disagreement, try to interrupt, and react to things as you would if you were the person you are playing.  Give your mediator the opportunity to enforce their ground rules for respectful behaviour by interrupting during the parties opening statement if you feel that a party would be trigged to do that.

Do be willing to discuss the issues. During the parties opening statements allow the mediator to draw out the issues.  Don’t just read them off in one statement! Be willing to discuss the issues more deeply during the exploration phase from your point of view and private session as you feel is appropriate. Embellish for realism but don’t add major new facts or deliberate red herrings to the scenario you’ve been given.

Do be willing to generate options. If the mediator is encouraging you to come up with options, make sure you do. Remember that you are in mediation to try and resolve the issues. Act that way! If an opportunity to come up with a workable solution doesn’t arrive before the private session try to work with the mediator during the session.  After the private sessions think about the consequences of not reaching any agreement and if possible, come up with something to allow the mediator to practice documenting agreements.

Do realise that role plays don’t have to end in a full agreement for the mediator to be competent.  Be cooperative because you want a resolution (as most parties who agree to mediation do) but don’t just hand the mediator a resolution out of nowhere.  That doesn’t mean that you should be avoidant or stonewall or the aggressive client from hell. If you are behaving in a way that in the real world the mediator would stop the mediation if they couldn’t get you back into a resolution mindset. Testing the mediator with a really difficult scenario is not appropriate. Remember they are still learning so be a good role player!  If possible, give them something to write down even if it is an interim agreement but do not hand the mediator a completely unrealistic resolution if there is no way you would have agreed to that. Don’t make the mediator feel they have pulled off a miracle if they haven’t.

Do add a moderate level of emotion. That does not mean have a meltdown or make it impossible for the mediation to continue!  It means try to connect in with what your character may be thinking and feeling and feel free to express sadness, frustration etc.  


Don't do this!

Don’t add surprising new facts.  This will distort the role play scenario and throw out your other role player who has to adjust to the changes you’ve made.  Sometimes people do this to make themselves not look bad.  It is better for your learning to experience what it is like for someone caught out with questionable behaviour than to change the scenario to make yourself look blameless. That will help you to understand the importance of helping parties save face by using private sessions and other techniques to really challenge them.

Don’t bog things downWe don’t have to go into the detail that we would in the real world. A role play is a simulation not a re-enactment.  We are limited to 90 – 100 minutes for the role-play. The role play will be stopped before the two hour mark to allow for feedback, regardless of where the mediator is up to in the mediation. Keep to the agenda items only and accept that not all items will be fully explored in many cases.  A normal mediation would usually be scheduled for a minimum of three hours but some tribunals do use 2 hour mediations so be aware of that.

Don’t forget that if people didn’t speak English you should have an interpreter.  While some role plays may indicate lower levels of financial or English literacy the parties have been screened and can mediate without an interpreter.  Do ask the mediator to explain jargon or complex language if you think that they are speaking in a way that a person with basic education could understand but don’t allow language or communication issues to be a distraction to the role play and disrupt the flow of the mediation.

Don’t dig your heels in and refuse to budge. All parties in our role plays should have an interest in reaching a resolution for the dispute and all scenarios are resolvable if the mediator facilitates the process adequately. Deciding that you are not going to give in or compromise on anything is not appropriate as a role player as that is a power move related to your ego and not related to the actual scenario!

Don’t agree to anything and everything. If you do that your mediator will have nothing to work with and it will be a very unrealistic scenario wasting everyone’s time.  There are points in all scenario that need assistance to resolve so do not change the scenario to the extent that the mediator has nothing to do.  Also don’t just mediate yourselves in the exploration. If you don’t feel that you have guidance stop talking until the mediator steps in to help with facilitating the communication.  


 These are role-plays, not real life. It is not about winning or losing. It’s about providing a believable role-play so that the mediator can practice, build, and demonstrate their skills and

be assessed.

Risk screening has already occurred, unless you are doing a pre-mediation role play, so don’t behave in an extreme way.

It is beneficial for you to be a role player as you will gain personal experience of the mediation or FDR process and be able to see and feel what is effective or causes negative outcomes. You’ll also gain new insights while participating in the feedback at the end. Get a Guidance for Role Players

You will never win an Oscar for your role playing efforts so please keep your focus on helping your mediator by being a good role player.

The Assessment Tools

 The tools used to provide feedback and assessment are available in your course.


·         NMAS Course – You will find the assessment tool attached to the role play tasks as the mediator and also in the files area.

·         Family Dispute Resolution / Property FDR – there are role plays for pre-mediation, high conflict pre-mediation, parenting FDR, Property FDR, Child Inclusive FDR, Video Shuttle, and safety planning role plays.  You will find the assessment tool attached to the role play tasks as the mediator and also in the files area.

·         Facilitated Discussion Course – you will find the feedback tool attached to the role play task as the facilitator and also in the files area. 



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2 thoughts on “Guidance for Role Players with Mediation Institute”

  1. Jacqui orwell

    Thank you for the role play guidelines. I have participated in a few lately and prior to being accepted into the zoom meeting the tab comes up asking If I give permission for the session to be recorded.
    Is there an option of not giving permission? Could you advise what happens to these recordings? Can I assume further permission would be needed prior to putting any recordings on a public platform?

  2. We generally only record role plays for the benefit of the role player (they record on their computer) or if it is an assessment to allow for an appeal on an assessment outcome should the applicant want to. Sometimes role plays are uploaded into a members only (accessible via a link) video repository on Vimeo as demonstrations. We would generally ask those present for additional permission in those cases.

    We understand that snippets of role players or the mediators taken out of context could be embarrassing and are always mindful of ensuring that our members and students are as protected from that kind of thing as we can. Role play are definitely not published publicly without the full consent of everyone involved and as I said usually only if they were created for the purpose of a demonstration.

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