Changing communication skills training methods with the Conversation Analytic Role-play Method (CARM)

Submitting Institution

Loughborough University

Unit of Assessment

Communication, Cultural and Media Studies, Library and Information Management 

Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Studies In Human Society: Criminology
Psychology and Cognitive Sciences: Psychology

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Summary of the impact

The impact claimed is the international uptake and successful commercialization (as across public, private and third-sector organizations, of a pioneering method for communication skills training called the `Conversation Analytic Role-play Method' (CARM). CARM's development was funded by the ESRC knowledge-exchange scheme and is based on research conducted at Loughborough University. It has reach and significance in attitude change in training culture: 130+ workshops have taken place at 60+ organizations since 2008. CARM's impact on training practice is evidenced by its accreditation by the College of Mediators for the Continuing Professional Development of mediators. CARM won Loughborough's Social-Enterprise Award (2013).

Underpinning research

The following research was conducted by Professors Elizabeth Stokoe (employed 2002-present) and Derek Edwards (employed 1974-2012) at Loughborough University (2003-2013). The `Conversation Analytic Role-play Method' starts with research-based evidence about the roadblocks that occur in conversation and how to overcome them.

1. Research on community and neighbour disputes and the organizations that handle them

The research underpinning the impact examined the causes of neighbour disputes. It started in 2002 [3.1, 3.2] and was subsequently funded (2005-8) by the ESRC (RES-148-25-0010 Identities in neighbour discourse: Community, conflict and exclusion Stokoe PI, Edwards CI, rated `outstanding'). The project collected and analysed a dataset of 600 audio-recordings, comprising 1) telephone encounters between members of the public and mediation or local authority services and 2) police investigative interviews with suspects in neighbour-related crime. The research identified key areas for miscommunication between service staff (mediators, police officers) and members of the public (callers, clients and suspects):

Finding 1: Mediators often failed, in initial intake calls with callers, to convert callers into clients of their service, resulting in fewer clients [3.4]. Analysis revealed barriers to mediation, as well as the endogenous practices some mediators used to overcome them.

Finding 2: Mediators and police officers struggled to respond to racist, ageist, sexist, or otherwise prejudiced clients or suspects [3.2, 3.3, 3.6]. Analysis revealed strategies that maintained, or failed to maintain, impartiality and rapport with clients/suspects.

Finding 3: Question design impacted on the outcome of interactions [3.3, 3.4, 3.5]. Analysis revealed techniques that established confessions (police) and client generation (mediation).

2. Research for knowledge exchange and the development and delivery of CARM

An ESRC follow-on project (RES-189-25-0202 Mediating and policing community disputes: Developing new methods for role-play communication skills training 2011-2012 Stokoe PI). The project is an ESRC Impact case study (Research Impact on Practice: Case Study Analysis). It took findings from the above research to develop CARM: a radically different approach to communication training. CARM works by identifying, transcribing and anonymizing extracts from live recordings that demonstrate the different ways mediators, or police, communicate. Animation software is used to play the audio/video and transcript synchronously. This means that participants `live through' encounters `in the moment', without knowing what is coming next. They `role-play' what they might do to handle the situation. For example, if party A makes a particular sort of comment, how might party B respond most appropriately? Participants discuss their likely response in small groups. Finally, party B's actual response is revealed. Participants evaluate what party B did, and the workshop moves on. Participants identify `effective practice' on the basis of what people actually do and say.

The research findings listed above underpinned CARM workshops with mediators on overcoming barriers to mediation in intake calls; converting callers to clients; impartiality; dealing with `-isms' (racism, sexism, etc.), the position and content of explanations of mediation in intake calls [3.2, 3.3, 3.4, 3.6]. It also underpinned workshops with police officers on question design and impartiality in investigative interviews [3.3, 3.5].

References to the research

3.1. Stokoe, E., and Wallwork, J. (2003). Space invaders: The moral-spatial order in neighbour dispute discourse. British Journal of Social Psychology, 42(4), 551-569. DOI:
BJSP is an international, peer-reviewed journal (IF=1.8), ranked 18/59 in Social Psychology. The paper has 38 citations.


3.2. Stokoe, E. (2003). Mothers, single women and sluts: Gender, morality and membership categorization in neighbour disputes. Feminism & Psychology, 13(3), 317-344. DOI:
F&P is an international, peer-reviewed journal (IF=0.6), ranked 17/38 in Women's Studies. The paper has 77 citations.


3.3. Stokoe, E., and Edwards, D. (2007). "Black this, black that": Racial insults and reported speech in neighbour complaints and police interrogations. Discourse & Society, 18(3), 337-372. DOI: 10.1177/0957926507075477
D&S is an international, peer-reviewed journal (IF=0.7), ranked 41/72 in Communication. The paper has 54 citations.


3.4. Edwards, D., and Stokoe, E. (2007). Self-help in calls for help with problem neighbours. Research on Language and Social Interaction, 40(1), 9-32. DOI:
ROLSI is an international, peer-reviewed journal (IF=1.2), ranked 19/72 in Communication. The paper has 15 citations.


3.5. Stokoe, E., and Edwards, D. (2008). "Did you have permission to smash your neighbour's door?" Silly questions and their answers in police-suspect interrogations. Discourse Studies, 10(1), 89-111. DOI: 10.1177/1461445607085592
D&S is an international, peer-reviewed journal (IF=0.8), ranked 36/72 in Communication. The paper has 37 citations.


3.6. Stokoe, E. (2009). Doing actions with identity categories: Complaints and denials in neighbour disputes. Text and Talk, 29(1), 75-97. DOI: 10.1515/TEXT.2009.004
T&T is an international, peer-reviewed journal (IF=0.6), ranked 44/72 in Communication. The paper has 33 citations.



• ESRC, PI, `Mediating and policing community disputes: Developing new methods for role-play communication skills training', £47,927 (02.11-08.12)

• ESRC, PI, `Identities in neighbour discourse: Community, conflict and exclusion', £128,346 (02.05-01.08)

Details of the impact

The research cited in Sections 2-3 underpinned impacts corroborated in Section 5.

Impact on communication skills training methodology

CARM's reach and significance (inter)nationally is evidenced by the delivery of 130+ CARM workshops to 60+ organizations across UK/Ireland and USA, totalling 1000+ individual participants who are beneficiaries. Many events were organized in response to repeat/unsolicited requests [5.1-5.4].

CARM has been awarded Continuing Professional Development accreditation status by the College of Mediators [5.7]. Stokoe was invited to join the College's Board of Directors (October 2012), to provide expert advice and influence policy. The Ministry of Justice uses her work in its public information about mediation [5.10]

CARM has spread into other domains of communication training and is generating not-for-profit income as a sustainable social enterprise ( CARM's reach has spread into the legal, medical and commercial sectors [5.5] and is also in high demand from UK, US and other overseas academics, beyond the submitting HEI, to use in their own work [5.6].

Feedback from workshop participants often focused on CARM's use of recordings of real mediators rather than traditional `role-play' approaches. 1000+ items of feedback demonstrate CARM's impact on awareness, thinking and understanding in training practice [5.8]: "The fact that it was `real', as opposed to role-play was a relief" (Mediator, Glasgow Community and Safety Services); "Having the ability to listen to actual calls ... was very innovative ... versus a typical role play environment" (Family Mediator, DC Superior Court, Washington, DC, USA).

Capacity-building in mediation services

CARM has impacted the `syllabus' of mediation training because it includes, uniquely in the sector, training for initial telephone inquiries which involve critical points at which prospective clients are won or lost. As one user said, "it is so useful to see what subtle ways there are to ... convert callers into clients" (ESRC Case Study respondent) [5.8].

CARM's capacity-building with community mediators has spread into family mediation services. Many of the workshops delivered in 2013 were in response to invitations from national, regional and local family mediation services [5.3]. Stokoe was invited to provide expert advice in the launch, development and service delivery of a new family mediation organization [5.4].

Culture and attitude change in mediation training

CARM has impacted on attitudes towards traditional training and the value of academic research. One beneficiary said of CARM: "(the fact that it is) grounded in reality impresses people and they see the value of it ... it is certainly not my experience with a typical academic" [5.8].

CARM involves genuine knowledge exchange. It mattered to stakeholders that workshops were grounded in research ("The nature of the workshops is very important; they are very much evidence-based; the evidence gives it quite an impact"). Users saw an inherent complementarity, with one effectively defining `Knowledge Exchange': "a full, rounded engagement of what we have to bring, she takes that and gives from the academic side ... We have benefited, as part of her wider family" [5.8].

Sustainability and connectivity in mediation training

CARM is sustainable and has long-term impact, building capacity in mediation services where personnel change regularly resulting in a continuous demand for training evidenced by regular invitations to run workshops from new and existing organizations [5.1-5.4].

The project has generated enduring connections with mediators across the country, by organizing the first national training workshop for mediators who currently have no such forum for meeting and training (June 2012) [5.8].

The project has also generated a 600+ member international online mediation discussion forum [5.9]. As one user said, "[Liz] has had a big impact on mediation in UK and Ireland already, not only through workshops but also through putting people together and creating networks ... she has helped to fill a vacuum" [5.8]. Another user said, "Liz has worked relentlessly hard, bringing mediators, services together, establishing links online, raising awareness of CARM ... [and has made] seamless connections linking services and mediators together. After Mediation UK collapsed, we were all working in silos and suddenly we are now talking to each other in a true mediation fashion!"

The selection of CARM as an ESRC Impact Case Study

CARM was selected as a case study in an ESRC "Research Impact on Practice" impact evaluation [5.8]. The report describes CARM's impact and summarizes extensive user feedback.

Awards and external visibility

CARM won the Loughborough University Social Impact Enterprise Award (April 2013). Stokoe was awarded a British Psychological Society award (September 2011) for her applied work. Stokoe's CARM was the focus of BBC Radio 4's `The Life Scientific' (June 2013).

Sources to corroborate the impact

The following sources of corroboration can be made available at request

5.1. One example of numerous unsolicited requests for CARM for individual community mediation services and regional networks.

5.2. One example of numerous unsolicited requests for international CARM mediation events.

5.3. One example of numerous unsolicited requests for CARM events from local, regional and national family mediation organizations.

5.4. Unsolicited request for consultation and training input from the Director of Family Mediation Northeast, UK

5.5. One example of numerous unsolicited requests for CARM from commercial, legal and healthcare services.

5.6. One example of numerous unsolicited requests from UK and international academics to consult about using CARM in communication training in other settings.

5.7. Continuing Professional Development accreditation: Listing on the College of Mediators website.

5.8. Meagher, L.R., (2013), `Research Impact on Practice: Case Study Analysis': Report on ESRC Grant number RES-189-25-0202 Mediating and policing community disputes: Developing new methods for role-play communication skills training. The report contains feedback from numerous users and beneficiaries, which summarizes the 1000+ similar items.

5.9. Example of one individual from email chain from members of `' and request to join the list.

5.10. Letter from the Ministry of Justice to support an application for ESRC Impact Champion of the year for Stokoe and CARM, detailing the use of this work in their promotional material about mediation.