Changing communication skills training methods with the Conversation Analytic Role-play Method (CARM)
Submitting InstitutionLoughborough University
Unit of AssessmentCommunication, Cultural and Media Studies, Library and Information Management
Summary Impact TypeSocietal
Research Subject Area(s)
Studies In Human Society: Criminology
Psychology and Cognitive Sciences: Psychology
Summary of the impact
The impact claimed is the international uptake and successful
commercialization (as www.carmtraining.org) 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).
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
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
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.
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
• 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
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
(www.carmtraining.org). 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,
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
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
5.9. Example of one individual from email chain from members of `firstname.lastname@example.org' 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