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The Press Briefing Role-Play

This case study is extracted from the guide Simulations, Games and Role-Play prepared by Mark Sutcliffe for our Handbook for Economics Lecturers.

The case study below outlines a role-play designed for first-year undergraduates undertaking a business studies degree. Students’ reflection on the role-play is assessed within a module entitled Global Business Context. This module replaced a more traditional course in introductory economics and seeks to inform students about competitive aspects of the global environment for business. The module places a strong emphasis on understanding the motivation of stakeholders and the implications of their actions for business. It is straightforward to identify stakeholders in international trade: governments, businesses, consumers, workers in different countries, NGOs, etc., and contrasting viewpoints on the benefits of international trade are often presented in stark terms. For these reasons it was decided that a role-play would help students to investigate issues in international trade in an interesting way.

The detailed instructions given to students are presented in the box below. Students are asked to work in groups. Each group chooses one issue in international trade as their focus and the group as a whole is required to research that issue from the standpoint of a specified stakeholder. They are required to provide a press release and a press information pack and to make a presentation as if they were that stakeholder.


I am sure most of you have at some point in your life seen a press conference on TV. Well, for this assignment you have the opportunity to give one. You will, in groups, be expected to consider an issue in international trade with each of you delivering a presentation to the rest of the group. The twist is that you will be expected to present to the rest of the group from the perspective of a given stakeholder, whose views may be fundamentally different from your own.

A detailed assignment brief is set out below, please read it very carefully.

What is being assessed?

This assignment consists of three assessed components.

  • a press release (10%);

  • a press pack (40%);

  • a presentation (50%).

The press release. The press release should take the form of a single side of A4, which is to be given out at the press briefing. The release should identify the main issues you support and the policies you propose, as well as giving the media a headline!

The press pack. The press pack should offer the reader an in-depth analysis of your views and standpoint. It should include a wide variety of resources, which you feel help to make your case. Such a press pack will include material written by the group, articles from other sources, statistics and research sources. The press pack should be well structured and organised. It should include no more than 2000 of your own words (articles, statistics and research sources are in addition to this). The key to a good press pack is relevance and how it adds to your argument.

The presentation. The presentation must be no longer than 15 minutes in length. In this time you will be expected to outline your position on your given issue and make a case for your policy suggestions. The presentation must be in PowerPoint (a laptop and data projector will be provided). The presentation you make must be in role. It is not expected that you will present a balanced argument, but an argument from a particular viewpoint, expressing particular concerns and offering particular policy suggestions based upon these concerns.

Additional: group diary. Together with the submission of the press pack, each group must present a group diary. This should include a list of all group members, and a list of their responsibilities in the group work. The diary should also include a schedule of all group meetings, who was in attendance, who was absent and why. The diary must be signed by all group members as recognition that its contents are accurate, and submitted along with the press pack.


Groups will be selected at random prior to your first meeting and will be no larger than five students. At your first meeting you will be given a Blackboard chat room password, unique to your group. This will enable you to keep in easy contact with one another throughout the assignment. You are advised at this first meeting to schedule meeting times, devise a work schedule and provisionally allocate work tasks. You might wish at this stage to appoint a team leader to oversee the group’s efforts, and to ensure that the team is moving in the same direction and that deadlines are kept. Alternatively, you might have a more devolved group structure in which all group members supervise every one else. The choice is very much up to each group concerned. If you do adopt a group leader approach, this may well require some additional rewards come mark time (see below).

You most also decide, as a group, what is likely to be the most effective strategy in completing this assignment. This will invariably involve some division of labour following the initial phase of information gathering. Remember, your group will be more effective if you work together as a team. The assignment is run to a very tight and short deadline. This is intentional. You are being put under pressure to turn the work around fast – a phenomenon that you will invariably experience throughout your working lives. You have in effect only 2 weeks from your allocation into groups to your presentation. It is crucial that you are well organised and have a clear focus as to who is going to do what and by what deadline.

Please note: it is the responsibility of students who fail to turn up in the week that groups are allocated to contact either me or their workshop tutor to discover who their group is, and then to contact their group. Failure to do so will result in a zero mark, unless extenuating circumstances can be proven. One final point regarding group work: in your group you must respect all group members, and treat others as you expect to be treated yourself. Threatening behaviour of any sort will not be tolerated.


There are six topic areas identified that are currently big issues in international trade. Each topic area must be considered from the perspective identified.

  • Free trade and the environment: from the perspective of an environmental pressure group, such as Greenpeace.

  • Child labour: from the perspective of a pressure group advocating its abolition, such as Save the Children.

  • Genetically modified food: from the perspective of the EU.

  • Trade-related intellectual property (Trip’s): from the perspective of a lobby group representing the interests of western business, such as the pharmaceutical industry.

  • Bananas: from the perspective of an African, Pacific and Caribbean (ACP) banana producer country, such as the Windward Islands.

  • Trade and less developed economies: from the perspective of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

On Blackboard there will be a discussion room set up for each topic. You are strongly advised to visit and contribute to the ongoing debates. This would be an excellent forum for exploring issues surrounding the role-play element of this assignment. What values and views would inform a perspective from Greenpeace, or the EU? How does this fit with your understanding?

Marking scheme

The following marking scheme should be considered when completing this work.

The press release
Clarity and organisation 50%
Headline potential 50%
The press pack
Content 40%
Organisation 20%
Presentation 20%
Resources used and sources discovered 20%
The presentation
Use of PowerPoint (visual) 30%
Clarity of presentation including
content/organisation and communication
Role-play 30%

Marking and mark allocation

At the end of this assignment, each group of students will receive a pool of marks. The pool of marks will be derived by totalling the marks from the three assessment elements of the assignment: press release, press pack and presentation. This total mark will then be multiplied by the number of group members. It will then be the group’s decision to allocate such marks amongst group members as they see fit. The allocation of marks should reflect effort and the volume of work done. The allocation of marks must be confirmed to your group tutor within 1 week of the assignment pool mark being returned.

Failure to agree on a mark allocation will involve a process of arbitration by other students in the class. In the event of failing to reach an agreement after such arbitration, then marks will be allocated in the final instance by me. Hopefully this will not be necessary.

One point of clarification on deriving the group’s pool mark: if the group has five members, but one does not attend, then the group will be classified as having only four members. You will only be able to claim marks for the number of members that actually took part in the group work.

Instructions to students on the Press Briefing role-play

The role-play takes the form of a press conference, where the conference presentation must be given in role, and the relevant supporting materials must also reflect the presenting group’s perspective. The press release provides an abstract of the group’s position. It is to be given out at the time of the press conference and students are told that the media will base their choice of headline on the content of the press release. The press pack contains the detail, and offers an in-depth analysis of the group’s standpoint. Students are encouraged to use a variety of resources within the pack, including material written by the group, supporting articles from other sources, statistics, and suggestions of sources of further information (such as websites). Students are informed that the strength of the press pack is in how it adds to the relevance of the group’s argument. The presentation, no longer than 15 minutes in length, needs to articulate the press briefing. As with the briefing and the press pack, the presentation must be in role.

Student feedback will take two forms:

  • in the tutor’s written comments regarding the press release, presentation and press pack;

  • a meeting of each group with their course tutor to discuss the issues that the assignment raised both in content and in conduct. This will help inform future years of this assignment.

Learning outcomes

The learning outcomes from this assignment are as much skills based as subject based. Students will be expected to analyse and evaluate a current issue in international trade, and identify alternative viewpoints regarding the nature of the issue and its potential resolution. They will be expected to identify the difficulties in resolving trade issues and how the political nature of international trade shapes economic arguments. Given that the cohort sitting this assignment are business studies students, a further element that this work will develop is the relationship and interaction between business and other stakeholder groups.

This assignment also offers the opportunity to develop a wide range of skills: group work and interaction, information retrieval and analysis, and presentational skills. The presentation skills include the use of PowerPoint, which is mandatory for the group presentation.

The assignment also attempts to promote independent learning and encourages students to take personal responsibility for and control of their own learning. With the support of a Blackboard virtual learning environment, each group has its own chat room, and there are discussion boards for all the topic areas.

Future review

The reasons for selecting role-play as a teaching strategy is that it gives the student an understanding and appreciation of alternatives. It will hopefully encourage students to reflect on their own views and, as a result, to understand more fully the position of others. Many of the arguments surrounding the issues that the students are asked to investigate have a moral or ethical dimension. This is far more likely to be understood if the student is forced to evaluate such an issue from a distinct point of view, as students will be forced to look beyond their immediate assumptions and expectations.

In order to maintain a measure of control over student learning, the confined nature of presentation and the specification that the press pack is focused on a distinct point of view should prevent students from deviating too far from the main focus of the assignment brief. It should be anticipated that more problems are likely to arise from group working and mark allocation than from the subject matter and its approach.

A full review of the assignment will be conducted at the end of 2003.

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