Escape from reality

Tim Hibsman

Escape from reality and the classroom. Now is the time for research writing scenarios. Give students the opportunity to learn more about the world around them as they role play in different scenarios. They must learn about their new environment by researching and understanding the scenario they are being given. Teachers can provide students with research writing scenarios that engage students in the research process, critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

Escapism and Education
Traditionally the term ‘escapism’ is associated with finding a distraction from life’s unpleasantness through entertainment. The stress of daily life has forced people to distract themselves from thinking or interacting with people. Some of the most common forms of distraction are sleeping, eating and exercising. By sleeping you can simply ignore the pressures of daily life and at the same time, hopefully, wake up refreshed. Eating is often enjoyable, but also a distraction, especially if concentration is necessary to prepare the food. Exercise often involves physical activities and a change in the environment. While visiting a gym, there are new people and surroundings, as well as monitors or screens to watch while working out. Schools often provide an escape for children who have difficult home situations. The school provides a safe environment and is a place where there are friends and teachers who care about them. A passive form of escapism is observation; examples include watching a movie or reading a book. If the participant has a vivid imagination, these passive forms can be quite rewarding. The common notion of ‘getting lost in a book’ is easily found on memes and posters in our culture. The active form of escapism provides the participant a direct interaction. Video games usually come to mind as the primary example of direct interaction. But there are other ways to engage the student. Below are some examples of using research writing scenarios as a way of making students pretend and escape into another world.

Research and Assignments
Conducting research is usually a solitary or individual procedure. With schools closed, this is the perfect time for students to embrace research writing for all kinds of subject areas. Students can be given the opportunity to research different topics and then provide their project through a traditional research paper and presentation.

The optimum way to give students their assignments is through a model scenario. Provide students a role-playing situation where they must conduct research, write a report and present their findings. Consider the following academic situations:

Health and Nutrition:
Students are assigned to work for a health food company that makes consumer products. Pick any related products and research the positive and negatives to the consumer. For example, what are the side effects of multi-vitamins and/or daily supplements? What is the drawback of drinking high energy/high caffeine energy drinks? Do frozen foods have the same nutritional value as fresh foods? As a deliverable, students must present research information on any of the following concepts: product information, company description, nutrition facts, sales records, marketing information. As the students role play as employees of a health food company, they will gain valuable insight into aspects of nutrition and business.

Sports and Safety

Students are assigned to work for a sporting goods company that desires to market equipment that focuses on safety. Pick a sport and analyze the most common injuries and then suggest some safety equipment. What are the most common injuries in cricket, cycling or basketball? Is there a way to prevent those injuries? What type of equipment is used? If you do get injured what is the rehabilitation process?

Business and Product Analysis
It is time to go to work. Imagine that it is time for you to get a job. Where would you want to work? Pick a company or business that you would like to work for. Imagine that you work there and role play on the kinds of activities you would be doing? Would you like to build automobiles or airplanes? Would you like to build electronic products like cell phones, iPad, wireless earphones, audio sunglasses, etc.? Would you like to entertain people? Would you like to be a teacher? Would you like to take care of people in the health and hospital industry? Students can research the company and career field they are interested in.

Sometimes students feel helpless in certain situations. Imagine watching the news and seeing all kinds of negativity in the world knowing there is little you can do about it. The above ideas can help students to temporarily escape from the world and role play while they are researching, writing and learning.

Note: All images came from and are royalty-free.

The author is a tenured, Associate Professor in the Department of English at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. After spending 15 years in the aerospace field (TRW/Northrup Grumman, Hughes Aircraft) he now focuses on professional and technical writing. His most recent scholarship is presenting on practical simulations in the classroom at the Computer Using Educators Conference. He can be reached at

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