Dialogic assessment in the context of professional recognition: perspectives from the canoe


  • Fiona Smart Edinburgh Napier University
  • Sarah Floyd
  • Vicky Davies
  • Mark Dransfield




Assessment, HEA Fellowship, professional dialogues, scaffolded support, reciprocal learning


This paper seeks to spark a conversation as it concerns dialogue as an assessment tool and the processes which may be needed to support it. While its context is specific, focused on the use of dialogic assessment in HEA Fellowship schemes, it is suggested that the metaphor which emerged from a collective autoethnographic study has the potential to be of value more widely. Data from this study indicated that dialogic assessment might be likened to a canoe trip which requires careful planning and skillful execution. The five phases identified - designing the vessel, getting aboard, settling in/ settling down, navigating the space and forward-wash – are overviewed with the intention of provoking discussion in the academic practice community, drawing into the conversation individuals who are concerned with assessment for learning generally, and those who have particular interest in the potential of dialogic assessment which culminates in a summative judgement. As such it adds to the literature focused on assessment in higher education by drawing to the fore the conditions in which dialogic approaches can thrive for the individual being assessed, while also facilitating reciprocal learning.

Author Biography

Fiona Smart, Edinburgh Napier University

I am an experienced academic who has worked in a range of settings in different roles. My twin passions are the student experience and the support of academic staff.

My PhD locates in Applied Social Science and focused on the development of the paediatric nurse practitioner role in two settings.


Adamson, J., & Muller, T. (2018). Joint autoethnography of teacher experience in the academy: exploring methods for collaborative inquiry. International Journal of Research & Method in Education, 41(2), 207-219.
Appleby, Y., & Pilkington, R., (2014. Development critical professional practice in education. Leicester. National Institute of Adult Continuing Education.
Asghar, M. & Pilkington, R. (2018). The relational value of professional dialogue for academics pursuing HEA fellowship. International Journal for Academic Development, 23(2), 135-146.
Brindley, S., & Marshall, S., (2015) Resisting the rage for certainty”: dialogic assessment. A case study of one secondary English
subject classroom in the UK. English Teaching: Practice & Critique, 14(2), 121-139.

Bruner, J. (1991). The Narrative Construction of Reality. Critical Inquiry, 18(1), 1-21.
Charteris, J. (2016) Dialogic feedback as divergent assessment for learning: an ecological approach to teacher professional development. Critical Studies in Education. 57(3), 277-295
Clandinin, D., & Connelly, F. (2000). Narrative Inquiry: Experience and story in qualitative research. Jossey-Bass.
Conlon, M. M., Smart, F., & McIntosh, G. (2020). Does technology flatten authenticity? Exploring the use of digital storytelling as a learning tool in mental health nurse education. Technology, Pedagogy and Education, 29(3), 269-278.
Crowley, S. (2014) Challenging professional leaning. London: Routledge.
Danielson, C. (2009). Talk About Teaching! Leading Professional Conversations. Corwin Press
Earl, L., & Timperley, H. (2009). Understanding How Evidence and Learning Conversations Work. In: L. Earl, & H. Timperley (Eds.). Professional Learning Conversations (pp.1-12). Springer.
Ellis, C., & Adams, T. E. (2014). The Purposes, Practices and Principles of Autoethnographic Research. In P. Leavy (Ed.) The Oxford Handbook of Qualitative Research (pp. 254-276). Oxford University Press.
Higher Education Academy (2011). The UK Professional Standards Framework for teaching and supporting learning in higher education. Higher Education Academy.
Henderson, E. (2019). Researching practitioner experiences through autoethnography: Embodying social policy, exploring emotional landscapes. Journal of Early Childhood Research, 17(10), 32-43.
Hustler, K. (2020 June 25). Advance HE update. Accredited Programme Leader Network. Online.
Kinchin, I. M., & Winstone, N. (2017). Pedagogic Frailty and Resilience in the University. Sense Publishers.
Kreber, C. (2013). Authenticity in and through Teaching Higher Education. Routledge.
Lawler, S. (2014). Identity: Sociological perspectives (2nd ed.). Polity Press.
Matthews, L. & Dobbins, K. (2020). The impact of engaging with a higher education institution’s continuing professional development scheme: the assessors’ perspectives. International Journal for Academic Development. Advance Online publication. DOI: 10.1080/1360144X.2020.1795664
Moon, J., & Fowler, J. (2008). ‘There is a story to be told . . .’: A framework for the conception of story in higher education and professional development. Nurse Education Today, 28(2), 232–239.
Parkinson, P., (2018) Assessment as dialogue: Reframing assessment. Curriculum and Teaching Dialogue. 20(1), 89-101.
Peat, J. (2015). Getting down to the nitty-gritty: the trials and tribulations of an institutional professional recognition scheme. Perspectives: Policy and Practice in Higher Education, 19(3), 92-95.
Pilkington, R. (2016). Annual Review of HEA accredited CPD Schemes 2014–2015. https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/system/files/downloads/annual_cpd_review_report_2014-15.pdf
Rowland, S. (2001). Surface learning about teaching in Higher Education: the need for more critical conversations. International Journal for Academic Development, 6(2), 162-167.
Roxå, T., & Mårtensson, K. (2009). Significant conversations and significant networks – exploring the backstage of the teaching arena. Studies in Higher Education, 34(5), 547-559.
Shaw, R. (2018). Professionalising teaching in HE: the impact of an institutional fellowship scheme in the UK. Higher Education Research & Development, 37(1), 145-157.
Smart, F., Asghar, M., Campbell, L.A., & Huxham, M. (2019). Electing to speak: professional dialogue in the context of Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy. International Journal for Academic Development, 24(3), 232-245.






Reflective Analysis Papers