Dialogues refer to a range of learning conversations that go beyond knowledge transfer to include knowledge articulation and translation. Dialogue is defined as “a reflective learning process in which group members seek to understand one another’s viewpoints and deeply held assumptions. Group members inquire into their own and one another’s beliefs, values, and mental models to better understand how things work in their world (Garmston and Wellman 1998)”.
Outside the area of evaluation, dialogues have been used to support the ongoing professional development of school teachers and higher education teachers. Professional dialogue has been defined as “a discussion between peers that allows the other to explicitly articulate, appreciate and extend their understanding of practice” (Nsibande 2007, p. 4).
A literature review of “conversations that support professional growth” (Timperley 2015) identified five enablers: clear purpose and structured processes that engage and test ideas and solutions about the possible cause of teaching and learning problems; resources in the form of tools and expertise to help identify effective practice and relevant evidence; relationships of trust, challenge and mutual respect to develop agency for improving outcomes; an inquiry-focused and problem-solving culture with collective responsibility for solving problems and making a difference; and the development and use of refined/revised/new actionable knowledge for practice.
The American Evaluation Association (AEA)
The AEA demonstrates a current example of collaborating with other organisations to undertake dialogue around an important area for evaluation practice. The AEA is currently hosting a series of three national Dialogues on Race and Class in America, held between January and September in three locations and live-streamed. The discussions are based around a case and involve a panel and a facilitator. The Washington dialogue was jointly sponsored by the American Evaluation Association, The Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration at George Washington University (USA):
“Our hope is through dialogue we can discern ways to proactively engage entrenched issues and end the sense of paralysis many have felt as the nation goes from one headline making incident to the next. For AEA and the entire country, this must be a time of reflecting upon the issues behind the headlines and the substantive concerns behind the ideological splits. We urge our members and colleagues to come together and ask the important questions, raise our collective understanding, and commit to contributing to racial and social class healing. Through purposefully learning about ourselves and the society to which we contribute, we hope to create plans of action capable of positively impacting areas of national concern.”
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Peersman, G. and Rogers, P. (2017). Pathways to advance professionalisation within the context of the Australasian Evaluation Society. Melbourne: ANZSOG/BetterEvaluation. Retrieved from: https://www.betterevaluation.org/en/resources/pathways-advance-professio...
Garmston, R., Wellman, B. (1998). Teacher talk that makes a difference. Educational Leadership 55(7):
Nsibande, R. (2007). 'Using Professional Dialogue to Facilitate Meaningful Reflection for Higher
Education practitioners', in Enhancing Higher Education, Theory and Scholarship, Proceedings of the
30th HERDSA Annual Conference, Adelaide, 8-11 July 2007: 421.
Timperley, H. (2015). Professional Conversations and Improvement-Focused Feedback: A Review of the
Research Literature and the Impact on Practice and Student Outcomes. Melbourne: The Australian
Institute of Teaching and School Leadership, AITSL.