Using Role-Play to Improve Students’ Confidence and Perceptions of Communication in a Simulated Volcanic Crisis
Traditional teaching of volcanic science typically emphasises scientific principles and tends to omit the key roles, responsibilities, protocols, and communication needs that accompany volcanic crises. This chapter provides a foundation in instructional communication, education, and risk and crisis communication research that identifies the need for authentic challenges in higher education to challenge learners and provide opportunities to practice crisis communication in real-time. We present an authentic, immersive role-play called the Volcanic Hazards Simulation that is an example of a teaching resource designed to match professional competencies. The role-play engages students in volcanic crisis concepts while simultaneously improving their confidence and perceptions of communicating science. During the role-play, students assume authentic roles and responsibilities of professionals and communicate through interdisciplinary team discussions, media releases, and press conferences. We characterised and measured the students’ confidence and perceptions of volcanic crisis communication using a mixed methods research design to determine if the role-play was effective at improving these qualities. Results showed that there was a statistically significant improvement in both communication confidence and perceptions of science communication. The exercise was most effective in transforming low-confidence and low-perception students, with some negative changes measured for our higher-learners. Additionally, students reported a comprehensive and diverse set of best practices but focussed primarily on the mechanics of science communication delivery. This curriculum is a successful example of how to improve students’ communication confidence and perceptions.