Teaching Negotiation: Understanding The Impact Of Role-Play Simulations

Claim your free copy from the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School.

Teaching Negotiation: Understanding The Impact Of Role-Play Simulations.

The insights you need to deliver the most effective role-play simulations

After a few years of teaching property law, Mike recently decided to try his hand at teaching a negotiation course. But during his first role-play simulation, he learned a valuable lesson. Here’s how he tells it:

I was an attorney for more than three decades, and when I retired, I didn’t want to just pack it in. Instead, I took a part-time position at the local law school. After teaching property law for several semesters, I decided to mix it up with a negotiation course.

From my own experience in the classroom, I know that role-play simulations are one of the greatest ways to help students learn the skills they’ll need in the real-world. So I decided to write my own simulation based on the recent Taliban hostage negotiation.

The case described how a U.S. soldier had been taken hostage by the Taliban in 2009 and held for the last five years. It detailed the delicate interplay between the terrorist organization, the Qatar and Afghanistan governments, and various American officials at the Dept. of State, Dept. of Defense, Joint Chiefs of Staff, the CIA, and the FBI.

It was a rich environment for exploring opposing interests and dealing with high pressure situations. How do you negotiate when the United States says, “We don’t negotiate with terrorists?” I thought this role-play would keep the students engaged for hours.

But do you know what they did? They simply re-enacted what happened! Yes, they very quickly came to the decision that they would trade the American soldier for five Afghan detainees at Guantanamo Bay. Case closed.

I left class stumped. What could I have done differently to create a more engaging and productive role play simulation? Well, I found the answer in free special report called Teaching Negotiation from the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School. In its pages, I learned that:

One potential problem with reality-based simulations is that, if participants know the historical outcome, they may simply act out what happened

Instead of it being “ripped from the headlines,” a more effective role-play uses “pseudo-real” simulations that are realistic enough to be familiar but different enough that participants can concentrate on what could happen

Some educators don’t inform their students that the simulation is fact-based until after it’s over and others instruct their students to ignore what really happened and instead focus on negotiating the best possible outcome

When the problem of mechanically re-enacting an outcome is avoided, the process of “re-negotiating” an actual historical dispute can lead to valuable insights

Needless to say, I wish I had known all that before! But now I’m better equipped to teach engaging, effective role-play simulations.

Dear Negotiation Colleague,

Negotiations can be challenging. And so can teaching it! At Harvard Law School’s Program on Negotiation (PON), we help educators, scholars and practitioners like you learn how to more effectively teach negotiation.

Notably, role-play simulations are a particularly useful way to facilitate experimentation and introduce participants to new dispute resolution tools, techniques and strategies. To help you gain a greater understanding of the impact of role-plays, we’ve recently introduced a new, free report: Teaching Negotiation. It reveals the answers to many common questions like:

• What does it mean to make a negotiation exercise “authentic”?
• When a role-play simulation is based on an historic event, how do you prevent students from simply “re-enacting” what happened?
• What effect do human emotions have in role-play simulations?
• How do you create an immersive simulation experience in a short amount of time?

Why do some negotiation exercises stand the test of time?
In Teaching Negotiation, you’ll learn why some negotiation exercises are still used in many university classes even 20 years after they’re written! Role-play simulations like Sally Soprano and Harborco have stood the test of time because they present two plausible and coherent, yet clashing viewpoints.

As you know, writing such effective simulations isn’t as easy as some people think. But with this free special report, you’ll gain the knowledge you need to identify and teach the most effective role-play simulations for your students.

You can find over 200 of these tried and tested role-play simulations, created by the Program On Negotiation’s eminent negotiation scholars and esteemed practitioners, available through the Teaching Negotiation Resource Center (TNRC).

The field of negotiation is evolving every day. Stay on top of negotiation teaching techniques with this new special report from the experts at the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School. It’s totally free and you can download it right now.


Gail Odeneal
Director of Marketing
Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School

P.S. This report contains the most important, most relevant information you need to enhance your negotiation teaching skills. Don’t wait – download your complimentary copy right now.

You can download a complimentary copy of our special report, Teaching Negotiation, right now!

Discover how to execute the most effective role-playing exercises in this free special report, Teaching Negotiation from Harvard Law School.

Simply click the download button. We will send you a download link to your copy of the report and notify you by email when we post new advice and information on how to improve your teaching negotiation skills.


5 Responses to “Teaching Negotiation: Understanding The Impact Of Role-Play Simulations”

  • Khin Ni Ni T.

    Thank You Gail! for the Free reports. I would be using them and giving full credit to PON. Lv, NiNi.

  • Gail O.

    Please feel free to use this free report and credit PON for the content.

  • I would like to introduce a role playing simulations in my grad seminar on Collaboration Across Sectors. Is there something you would recommend for a first go round? I have about fifteen students in the class from a wide range of backgrounds.
    Prof of Sociology and Public Admistration
    University of Colorado Colorado Springs

    • Hello,
      I have sent your request to someone at the Teaching Negotiation Resouce center and they will get back to you.


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