ABSTRACT This paper critically evaluates the use of role-playing simulations in a negotiation course taught to graduate students. The course consisted primarily of a series of simulations involving the alternative dispute resolution (ADR) processes of negotiation, facilitation and mediation. Data were obtained from two sets of questionnaires completed by 41 students before and after the course. A review of previous research reveals that despite the widespread use of role-playing simulations in education, there has been very little empirical evaluation of their effectiveness, especially in conflict resolution and planning. Comparison of the data acquired from the two surveys generated findings regarding student understanding of ADR processes and key issues in conflict resolution; the educational value of simulations; the amenability of types of planning and planning goals to ADR; appropriate learning objectives; the importance of negotiation skills in planning; challenges in conducting effective simulations; the value of simulations in resolving real conflicts; the utility of negotiation theory; and obstacles to applying ADR to planning disputes. More generally, the paper concludes that role-playing simulations are very effective for teaching negotiation skills to students, and preparing them to manage actual conflicts skillfully and to participate effectively in real ADR processes. However, this technique is somewhat less valuable for teaching aspects of planning other than conflict resolution. Surprisingly, prior experience with simulations had no significant influence on the responses to the pre-course survey. Also surprising was the lack of a significant correlation between final exam scores and responses to relevant questions on the post-course survey.
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