If you assess students in courses on negotiation, mediation or other conflict-related topics, you might find this helpful….

Evaluating our Evaluation, written with Yael Efron and Kim Kovach, is an effort to pick apart the practices of negotiation teachers in evaluating students. What are we looking for, in student performance? Deep understanding? Insight? Analytical capacity? Improvement? The ability to implement a certain skill-set?

It would appear that sometimes the answer to these questions is a bit vague. This is merely the outcome, we suggest, of a larger area of ambiguity: negotiation course objectives tend to be a bit vague, with teachers reaching to encompass practice and theory, knowledge and skillbuilding in a single brief course.

The first step, we suggest, is to figure out what, precisely, we want students to gain.  The second is finding a way to evaluate whether that has been achieved in a fair and precise manner. This raises challenges. For example, while it is well established that people have different learning styles, we generally assume that assessment should be uniform. The paper suggests that multiple forms of assessment should be applied during any one course, or else we might simply be testing a student’s skill at coping with an assessment method – rather than their growth in the course.  The paper supports combining subjective and objective measures, and above all, making sure that assessment tasks provide, in themselves, meaningful learning opportunities for students.

The chapter provides what we think is a developed map of considerations to take into account when designing evaluation. More importantly, though, it is also an open call for all negotiation teachers to take an open and honest look at their assessment practices. Negotiation teachers are well known for being enthusiastic, even passionate, about their pedagogy – we suggest that the assessment element of negotiation pedagogy merits that same attention and care.

This paper provides an overview and background for the book I co-edited with Jim Coben and Chris Honeyman, Assessing our Students, Assessing Ourselves (DRI Press, 2012), part of the collected works of the Rethinking Negotiation Project .  You can download the full-text paper here: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2293955;  I’ll be putting some other chapters of the book on SSRN later on. I hope teachers of negotiation and related fields will find them helpful and even valuable (in a perfect world – as valuable as this reseller on Amazon.com seemed to think the book was). As always – I look forward to hearing your thoughts!


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Comment by Jeff Thompson on August 3, 2013 at 9:50am

Thanks for sharing this, I look forward to reading it. I have been doing a bit of reading/research on crisis negotiation training. Lots of the literature discusses the skills needed in order to be effective. It includes (not very surprising): rapport, trust, and active listening.

Not surprising is rarely do any of these studies/papers/articles go into specific actions that contribute to the first two other than active listening. I'll be the first to agree that they work in a gestalt, inter-connected manner however, the looping reference that rapport contributes to trust; trust contributes to rapport; and each are created by active listening creates a dizzying circle of reading where there seems to be no beginning or end!

One thing specifically mentioned is the importance of role-plays to get students to practice active listening while the teacher/trainer can then also evaluate them too.

I don't think I asked any questions above really; I just wanted to share some thoughts and look forward to reading your chapter :)

Comment by Noam Ebner on August 4, 2013 at 1:20pm

@Jeff - You know I'm into your stream-of-consciousness process, thanks for sharing. I envy your future students.


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