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Taking the Perspective of Another

Submitted by Ritu Thomas

This activity helps participants use information, such as the values, personality traits, life experiences, and knowledge of another to view a situation from the perspective of this other person and to understand how these facets influence the choices others make in a given situation.

average rating is 5 out of 5, based on 1 votes, rating(s)
Glass ball in front of waterfall inverting the view

Learning Goals

  • Develop the skill of viewing situations or topics from the perspective of others.

  • Practice trying to understand how another’s values, traits, life experiences, and knowledge drive their choices.


Set Up: Prepare for the Activity

Create your own, or pick two characters from a popular novel, movie, TV show, painting or photograph. You can also select two historical figures. Make sure you pick characters or figures who are very different from each other. If possible, provide a summary list of their values, traits, life experiences, knowledge, etc. as a handout.

Create your own scenario that is relevant to your group, use the scenario shown below, or select another scenario from the What IF…Scenarios or What IF…Moral Dilemmas collections and share on the board or screen.

Organize participants into pairs or small groups (4-6 ppl).

Begin by introducing the learning goals of this activity.

Step One: Round 1 - Decide on Choices for a Fun Topic (10 min)

Present a situation to the group where a decision needs to be made or some kind of action taken.

Choose a fun topic, like where to go for vacation, what to buy as a present, or what to order on the menu.

In small groups or pairs, and using the information provided or what they know or can deduce about the two characters, invite participants to:

  • Discuss and decide what decision or choice each character would make in this situation

  • Explain their rationale - what values, thoughts, feelings, experiences, and/or knowledge drive this choice?

Once each group or pair is finished, invite them to write the decision they came up with for each character on a whiteboard, shared screen, or other surface visible to the whole group.

Step Two: Round 2 - Decide on Choices for a Serious Topic (15 min)

This time ask groups to decide how each character would respond to the scenario you prepared or the following scenario:

The city council is voting on a proposal to convert a plot of downtown parkland into an affordable housing development. The city has a severe shortage of affordable housing stock. This parkland is the only undeveloped land under the city’s control. The proponents on the city council see this conversion as a major way to make the city a more inclusive community, as it will counter the forces of gentrification that have been pricing many low-income residents out of the city. Opponents point to the need for greenspace for the physical and mental health of all city residents. And they highlight the fact that the existing parkland is the only green space that is readily accessible to existing low-income neighborhoods.

How would the characters respond to this scenario? Why?

Step Three (optional): Share Personal Choices (10 min)

If time permits (and participants are open to sharing on a more personal level), ask them to now share with each other how they would respond to this scenario. Invite them to ask clarifying questions and explore together how their values, experiences, and knowledge inform each of their decisions.

Once again, record responses on a shared surface.

Step Four: Debrief as a Full Group (10 min)

  • What similarities do you see between all the decisions listed for each character? Did many groups/pairs come up with similar decisions? If so, why do you think this is?

  • What differences do you see? Did many groups/pairs come up with different decisions? If so, why do you think this is?

  • Which of the decisions jump out as the most surprising or unique?





Culturally Responsive Collaboration

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average rating is 5 out of 5

February 14, 2024 at 1:03:34 AM

average rating is 5 out of 5

February 14, 2024 at 1:02:20 AM

average rating is 5 out of 5

February 11, 2024 at 3:55:15 AM

average rating is 5 out of 5

January 4, 2024 at 7:22:22 PM

average rating is 5 out of 5

December 12, 2023 at 11:56:40 PM

average rating is 5 out of 5

Lori Britt

October 3, 2023 at 5:00:05 PM

Have done this in the past, but today a group really blew me away. I did this as a Fishbowl with 7 students taking roles. Prior to the converstaion they could seek input from a few other students about what which decision they think the person in their role would support and why. I also asked them to come up with some things that were concerns for them. This 10 minute of prep time helped my role play participants really embody and feel confident in their roles. Great discussion about what deliberation looks like in practice and about how power can impact conversations and how a facilitator can try and minimize these power imbalances. I used the scenario above and assigned these roles (I was not sure my students woul be able to consider roles that would offer different perspectives): • Facilitator (non-voting) • Mayor • High school teacher • 17-year-old high school student • Transportation planner for the region • Local business owner • Economic development office for the region (your community and the surrounding communities served by the train) • 50-year-old who lost his job last year and who has been on unemployment

average rating is 4 out of 5


September 20, 2023 at 5:18:02 AM


average rating is 5 out of 5


September 20, 2023 at 5:17:25 AM

very good

average rating is 4 out of 5

September 16, 2023 at 2:25:09 PM

average rating is 5 out of 5

September 11, 2023 at 9:02:29 AM

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