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Role Play Scenarios


A series of scenarios was devised by the project team.  Each scenario represented a typical recurrent misunderstanding between assistants and mentors, which were reconstructed from interviews with former assistants.  The scenarios were used to rehearse the situations in which the assistants might find themselves and to train them in the format of data collection demanded by the project.  They were designed to sensitise the participants to the cultural, institutional and linguistic factors which intervened in the interactions between assistants and mentors.

Two types of scenario were devised: one for demonstration and analysis and one for enactment.  The demonstration scenarios were pre-recorded on video or audio-tape and played to sub-groups who were then asked to comment closely on the behaviour of each of the interlocutors in the event and report back afterwards on their findings.  Enactment scenarios required the workshop participants to play the role of an assistant according to an outline description, with native speakers taking the part of the mentors, and then to explain their attitude to the wider group. For logistical reasons, three scenarios were created for the English students going to France and two for the French students going to England.


A   Scenarios for English students going to France

(Workshops in Cambridge, March 2004 and Lancaster, June 2004) 


Discipline Problems in an Ecole Primaire

Represents the frustration of an English assistant who seeks support from her responsable in resolving discipline problems in her class in a primary school in a ‘difficult’ area (Zone d’Education Prioritaire – ZEP).  The misunderstanding derives primarily from the fact that the Principal of the school wrongly believes the student to be a trained teacher and has placed the student in sole charge of the class concerned.  The Principal shows indifference to the concerns of the student and is reluctant to accept responsibility for the problem.  Instead, she blames the government for making English teaching compulsory in primary education without first ensuring that adequate resources are available.  She nevertheless agrees to speak to the students concerned.



Describes a confrontation between a status-conscious responsable and an independent-minded assistant in which the assistant, instead of following instructions and teaching pronunciation and grammar according to the dictates of the nationally prescribed examination system, has shown English video-films in class.  She finds these more motivating for the students and has not appreciated the extent to which the syllabus should determine class activities.  Following a confrontation, the assistant backs off and a compromise is reached. 


Seeking advice

Records a meeting between an assistant who is seeking help with teaching materials.  Not being herself an English specialist, the responsable is ill-placed to give her the advice she needs and offers only limited support.  The assistant is left to her own resources and feels mildly frustrated.



B Scenarios for French students coming to England

(Workshop in Cambridge September 2004)


Oh là là!

Reflects the habit of pre-GCSE pupils of imitating the French mannerisms of the assistant as a distraction in class, to relieve boredom or simply for humorous effect.  Not surprisingly, this is perceived as an insult by the French male assistant, not just towards him personally, but against his national self-esteem.  He complains to his mentor, expecting something to be done, and is taken aback by the mentor’s apparent readiness to see the pupils’ point of view.  He is only partly satisfied by the mentor’s assurances that he will have a word with the pupils concerned.


School trips

Evokes the reaction of a French assistant when asked by an insistent teacher to accompany her and her lower-sixth form French class on a visit to a neighbouring theatre to see a Molière play on a Friday evening.  Classical theatre does not interest the assistant.  In any case, she has taken part in the assistantship programme primarily in order to be near her boyfriend who is in another town and whom she visits whenever possible.  She does not wish to go beyond her contractual obligations.  Pressed by the teacher (who is not her mentor), she agrees reluctantly to help out on another occasion.

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