We Don’t Do that Here: Using Role Playing and Character Battle Drills to Develop Upstander Behavior at West Point





Harmful Interpersonal Behaviors, Bystander, Upstander, Intervention, Courage


Background: The Army is focused on the prevention of harmful interpersonal behaviors such as sexual harassment and sexual assault. Training soldiers who may witness these behaviors to intervene is considered paramount to the Army’s prevention efforts. Objective: To increase the propensity and efficacy of cadets (undergraduate college students) employing upstander behaviors when witnessing harmful interpersonal behaviors in less governed spaces, the United States Military Academy at West Point facilitated two scenario-based role-playing workshops to develop its cadets while piloting new methods of training intervention behaviors. Methods: Both workshops had cadets improvise roles as upstanders, perpetrators, victims, and witnesses. The first workshop focused on developing cadets’ propensity (courage) to intervene and intentionally provided cadets with little guidance on if and how they should intervene, allowing them to develop their own workable intervention strategies and skills. The second workshop focused on developing cadets’ effectiveness during an intervention by having them apply the new Character Battle Drill (CBD) concept, which is a specific sequence of action steps to follow, including specific scripts to say during an intervention. Results: In both workshops, cadets reported higher levels of engagement than traditional forms of bystander training. Conclusions: Improvisational role playing seems promising for future training. Lessons-learned, limitations, and areas of future research are discussed.


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How to Cite

Spain, E. S., Konheim-Kalkstein, Y. L., Erbe, R. G., Wilsey, C. N., & Rosenberg, S. F. (2023). We Don’t Do that Here: Using Role Playing and Character Battle Drills to Develop Upstander Behavior at West Point. Journal of Character and Leadership Development, 10(2), 1–13. https://doi.org/10.58315/jcld.v10.263