Using reflective dialogue to assess professional learning

Grant type: Research
Round: Research grant 2009
Amount awarded £10,000.00
Completed: October 2011
Leader(s): Mrs Ruth Pilkington
Organisation: University of Central Lancashire
Contact Email:
Contact phone: 01772 893106
Start Date: 1 September 2009
End Date: 2 September 2011
Interim report received: 21 March 2010
Final report received: 21 September 2011

The use of dialogue to support professional and experiential learning is well established in the literature, however its use as a tool for assessment is little researched despite being widespread within specific subject areas and contexts, e.g. languages, for presentations, for vivas, role play, etc.  Increased interest in assessment for learning, and specifically a need for an assessment tool for professional accreditation of HE academics, has prompted this study.  Drawing on qualitative and quantitative analysis of twelve assessed dialogues, the project explored issues of power, judgment, structure and definition which can inform those wishing to develop dialogue as a tool for assessing reflective learning. The conclusion is that dialogue offers significant advantages when assessing reflective and professional learning.  It is also reliable and rigorous in exposing values and attitudes.  The project emphasises the particular value of a dialogue model by Brockbank and McGill (2007) in effectively assessing professional and reflective learning. Finally, the project has produced a valuable body of resources and data which can inform the training and development of those involved in implementing this tool in a variety of contexts within HE, FE, vocational and professional education.

Resistance to use of dialogue for assessment purposes often relates to time, second marking, moderation, quality assurance and the reliability of evidence in written format.  The project has found that slight adaptations to normal quality assurance processes can accommodate the differences associated with this form of assessment, whereas the dynamic and flexible nature of dialogue allows probing, and detailed examination appropriate to expose reflection on practice and professional learning.  Training of assessors should focus upon detailed engagement with criteria and skills in facilitation of dialogue.