Performance-Based Tests: Using Role Plays to Assess Communication Skills

  • Edith BraunEmail author
  • Ulrike Schwabe
  • Daniel Klein
Reference work entry


Modelling and job-related assessment of vocational competences has been traditionally a major aspect for vocational education and training (VET) in order to adequately define and train necessary competences in the context of a dynamic, ever-changing occupational world, as the “ASCOT” research initiative has demonstrated. Similarly, one of the main objectives of higher education (HE) consists in preparing students for the demands of the labor market. This implies that not only discipline-specific competences and expert knowledge need to be acquired during studies but also more generic competences like communication skills. In order to be able to assess such generic learning outcomes of HE, performance-based test instruments are required.

Within this chapter, a conceptual framework as well as the method of such a performance-based test of students’ communication skills will be presented. In vivo role plays are used in order to assess the relevant communication skills, respectively. Using Habermas’ (1981) theory of communicative action, the conceptual elements corresponding with the two distinct types of communicative action, which are strategic and understanding-oriented communication, have been extracted. Furthermore, empirical results concerning the relation between discipline-specific competences of economics and observed performance of communication skills will be reported. The data were collected from a sample of nearly 500 students from ten different HE institutions within Germany.

The discussion will firstly address the application for assessment practice in HE as well as the potential limitations of the test; and secondly possible synergy effects between HE and VET assessment practices will be reflected.


Communication skills Generic skills Ever-changing occupational world Performance in complex situations Transfer between VET and HE 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Teaching and Learning in Higher EducationJustus-Liebig UniversitaetGiessenGermany
  2. 2.Research Area Educational Careers and Graduate EmploymentGerman Centre for Higher Education Research and Science Studies (DZHW)HannoverGermany
  3. 3.International Centre for Higher Education Research Kassel (INCHER-Kassel)Kassel UniversityKasselGermany

Section editors and affiliations

  • Esther Winther
    • 1
  1. 1.Vocational Education and TrainingUniversity of Duisburg-EssenDuisburgGermany

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