Lesson Idea: “The Love Lab”

Travis DixonHuman Relationships, Love and Marriage

"The Love Lab" research on communication and relationships lends itself perfectly to a bit of role playing in the classroom!

This lesson idea works well with the lesson “Positive Communication” in 5.3 of Love and Marriage (Chapter 5).

I used to hate role plays as a student. I loathe them now when I’m on a Pro-D workshop. So naturally, as a big mean teacher, I love to get my students to do them! 🙂

The activity…

In groups of three, students are to plan a short reenactment of two scenes from Gottman’s Love Lab (page 296-97 of Chapter 5). One student is the researcher while the other two are the couple. One scene should represent how a “non-regulated” couple might discuss the three topics that were part of the interview guide:

  • What they did during the day
  • A topic that is the source of conflict in the relationship
  • A mutually agreed on pleasant topic

The other scene involves the same questions, but an acting out of how the “regulated” couples might have discussed the questions.


Having students convert the information from one medium (e.g. the textbook) to another (e.g. a short acting skit) can really engage students and gets them thinking carefully about the content.

I have my students plan out their scenes and have a couple of rehearsals, but I don’t ask them to perform them (unless they want to), which comes as a source of relief for many.  I’m not really worried in their acting as the main purpose of the activity is to get students to comprehend:

  • Gottman’s methodology and details of “the Love Lab”
  • What is meant by the terms “regulated” and “non-regulated” couple

Once they can grasp these ideas, they are then ready to tackle the guiding question which is about how positive communication can increase marital satisfaction.

Teaching Tip: I actually adapted the guiding question for this lesson in my own class to read: “How does Gottman and Levenson’s (1992) study show that positive communication can increase marital satisfaction?” 


I’ve found that the “conversion” paradigm is an excellent way to get students to really think about the content they’re learning. The above activity is really suitable for “the actors.” Here are some other ideas you could adapt the same idea.

For Artists: Have students transform the written textbook material into a visual form (e.g. a poster). You can give them a guideline like, “you’re only allowed 5 words.”

For Writers: Students have to write a short story based on two different couples. The dialogue in the story should reflect the interactions of the couple (regulated and non-regulated) and should also somehow include the three topics of discussion (there doesn’t need to be an interview – they can get creative). They might not get a chance to finish writing their story, but the process of coming up with the plan should be enough.

These conversion tasks will ensure that students are reading the text carefully and trying to comprehend the information in order to convert it to a different medium.

Simple Differentiation

So what you could actually do is give students the choice of which group they want to be in: actors, artists or writers. Whenever I do this I prefer not to tell them the activity for each group, just the name. I like doing this because if there are any students like me when I was a kid, they could escape the acting and do something they love (writing stories), and our learning outcomes are still the same.

When introducing John Gottman’s “Love Lab” research yesterday I found myself for the third consecutive topic saying, “I think this might be my favourite.” I’ve found it’s pretty easy to engage students with this material and this really simple activity helps them to comprehend the new material in the textbook.

Thoughts? Can you see a way this might be improved?