Education Endowment Foundation:EEF blog: Rehearse and repeat

EEF blog: Rehearse and repeat

Grace Coker
Grace Coker
Content Specialist for Maths

Grace Coker, our maths specialist, considers how rehearsing a teaching technique outside of the classroom can support practitioners to enhance their teaching skills and embed habits.

Blog •3 minutes •

I’ll never forget the time I took part in a role play exercise as part of a job interview. It involved speaking to a parent’ who took a pretend phone call during the conversation. There was gesticulation and heated words. Not by me, I might add. I genuinely wanted the earth to swallow me up.

Role play – for some reason – has always felt slightly uncomfortable and awkward.

Fast forward a few years and I have a better understanding of what role play is and isn’t, and how it can be used purposefully. It’s an opportunity to rehearse, practise, and perfect a technique. I’m using it more and more in the professional development I plan and deliver.

In my experience, role play isn’t as widely used in education as other professions. For example, in the NHS, police, and corporate jobs, it’s used as part of recruitment, training, and continuous professional development.

So, is role play something teachers and school leaders should be using to develop teaching practice?

Teaching techniques

The EEF’s Effective Professional Development Guidance Report identifies five mechanisms that can develop teaching techniques.

These are:

  • instructing teachers on how to perform a technique, 
  • arranging practical social support, 
  • modelling the technique, 
  • providing feedback, and 
  • rehearsing the technique.

It’s thought that prompting the practice and rehearsal of a technique, at least once in a context outside of the classroom, may support teachers in enhancing their skills and embedding habits.

For example, as part of a training programme for teachers on how to improve the provision of feedback to pupils, teachers could conduct a role play exercise where they practice providing challenging verbal feedback to pupils.

Model own thinking

Recently, I asked a group of primary teachers to take part in a role play exercise. No pretend parents were involved.

Instead, they were asked to look at the following question and think about how they would model their own thinking when tackling this mathematical problem.


After some planning and rehearsal time, teachers reflected on the process of role playing their modelling and shared what it had made them think about. They noted that:

  • Rehearsal helped teachers think more carefully about what they were going to say;
  • The act of practising allowed teachers to refine their modelling;
  • Role play helped teachers to think about how they could model their enjoyment, confidence, and motivation in maths;
  • Excellent subject knowledge is required to model effectively;
  • It made them think really carefully about the common misconceptions children may have;
  • There is often more than one strategy to solving a problem and it is important to model this;
  • It’s important to think about the intended pupil impact as a result of the teacher modelling.

The role of role play

Role play doesn’t need to be something that’s feared. It can be a purposeful process that can play a relevant role in developing teaching techniques, such as how to model own thinking’ in maths.

Follow this step-by-step guide to use role play to improve your teaching techniques.


  • Teachers can prepare and plan how they will share their mathematical knowledge and deliberate choices with pupils.


  • Teachers can practise and rehearse talking through their thinking step-by-step.


  • Teachers can reflect on whether their modelling was explicit and detailed enough and how they think it will support children’s mathematical thinking. They can discuss with colleagues how explanations can be enhanced.


  • When the teacher comes to model their own thinking in the classroom context, it is more likely the explanations will be clearer and the teacher more confident. Therefore, hopefully leading to better pupil understanding and them being more effective learners.

Rehearse and repeat.