Sunday, April 25, 2010

Investigating the Use of Role Play Training to Improve the Communication Skills of IS Professionals: Some Empirical Evidence

Mark Frolick, the author of this article from The Journal of Computer Information Systems, looks at the effectiveness of the role play exercise for the communication skill improvement of Information Systems (IS) professionals. Role play is an active learning technique that creates a training situation in which the interpersonal interactions and communication flow characteristics of the real world can be accurately reflected.

The study consisted of 93 role play exercises aiming to improve the two dimensions of communication skills, content and process related skills, which were conducted among 92 graduate students enrolled in systems analysis and design courses between 1998 and 2000. It looked at two questions: How fast can role play exercises generate measurable results? and Does the incremental improvement in communication skills between role play exercises decrease over time? Each group was given 5 minutes to prepare a scenario, which was then acted out. Fellow students acted as judges and rated the participants in terms of effective communication in both content and process. Each student participated in 3 role-playing exercises about 4 weeks apart.

The analysis of the data suggests role play is a viable training method that can yield measurable results of communication skill improvement. The content and process related skills of the participants improved consistently over the three role play exercises on average. Incremental improvement decreases as more role play exercises were conducted, which is consistent with learning curve theory.

  • rapidly and effectively improve the communication skills of trainees
  • participants become more involved in the training
  • participants have a better overview of problems and can foresee what possible solutions exist and why
  • allows participants to experiment with various strategies without real consequences, allowing them to express their opinion freely
  • enhance self-confidence of participants
  • participants may become apathetic to role play exercises over time
  • role play exercises are challenging to devise
  • puts individuals on the spot, which might lead participants to resist


  1. What a great idea. It's also important to factor in different communication styles. There is a direct relationship between communication skills and styles. offers a framework for communication styles.
    Thanks. Interesting post.

  2. I can offer anecdotal evidence here. RPing a Joint-application-design and other requirements gathering workshops is a common practice in the data modelling class I taught.

    It's quite effective.