Negotiation educators have long considered the use of role-play simulations as an essential classroom teaching method, and have had high expectations regarding their suitability and efficacy for teaching. In this article, we review the literature to examine the degree to which simulations deliver on these perceived benefits, finding that simulations enjoy only limited advantages over other teaching methods.
We note three trends that have developed as part of this reevaluation process: improving the way simulations are conducted, deemphasizing the use of simulations as a teaching tool while seeking new methods, and finding paradigm-changing uses for simulations. With regard to this last trend, we describe our own experiments assigning students to design their own simulations, rather than participate in them as role players. Among other benefits of the design method, we found that designers showed greater improvements in concept learning and motivation than did role players.