Simulated Conversations for Assessing Professional Conversation Competence in Teacher-Parent and Physician-Patient Conversations

By Wiesbeck, Anne B.; Bauer, Johannes et al. | Journal for Educational Research Online, September 1, 2017 | Go to article overview

Simulated Conversations for Assessing Professional Conversation Competence in Teacher-Parent and Physician-Patient Conversations


Wiesbeck, Anne B., Bauer, Johannes, Gartmeier, Martin, Kiessling, Claudia, Möller, Grit E., Karsten, Gudrun, Fischer, Martin R., Prenzel, Manfred, Journal for Educational Research Online


1.Introduction

Conducting professional conversations is an important task in many professional domains (Hargie, 2011; Association of Standardized Patient Educators, 2017). Consequentially, current frameworks for qualifications in higher education highlight the development of communicative competences (e.g., KMK, 2005). Specifically, professional conversation competence (PCC) and respective training programs have grown in importance for many fields of professional education. This is particularly true for medical education, as indicated by an increasing body of research (for an overview see e.g., Association of Standardized Patient Educators, 2017). In other fields, like teacher education, such research is only emerging, despite common emphasis on the importance of preparing students for professional conversations, particularly with parents (e.g., Aich, 2011; Dotger, 2013; Gartmeier et al., 2015; Hertel, 2009; Wiesbeck, 2015).

Assessing the outcomes of such training and providing feedback to learners requires reliable and valid measures of PCC. For this purpose, a specific challenge is to create performance-oriented assessment methods that measure participants' communicative behavior in authentic task situations (Braun, Athanassiou, & Pollerhof, 2016; cf. Blömeke, Gustafson & Shave lson, 2015; Shavelson, 2013). Simulated conversations (SC), as established in medical education, are a promising method for this purpose (e.g., Lane & Rollnick, 2007; for more information on simulated patients, see Association of Standardized Patient Educators, 2017; Barrows & Abrahamson, 1964). In SC, examinees lead a simulated professional conversation about a pre-defined authentic case scenario with actors trained to portray a standardized role. For example, a patient seeking medical advice on different treatment options. Beyond medical training, SC have started to expand into other professional domains, such as teacher education (Dotger, Harris, & Hansel, 2008; Gerich & Schmitz, 2016). However, while medical research maintains substantial evidence for the psychometric quality of SC (e.g., Cleland, Abe, & Rethans, 2009; Newble, 2004), such research is lacking in teacher education.

The present study contributes to closing this gap by investigating the interrater reliability and aspects of construct validity of SC for assessing conversation competence in a cross-professional setting: In teacher-parent conversations in education (cf. Chrispeels & Coleman, 1996; Jeynes, 2011; Kreider, Caspe, Kennedy, & Weiss, 2007) and physician-patient conversations in medicine (cf. Bennett, Fuertes, Keitel, & Phillips, 2011; Street, Makoul, Arora, & Epstein, 2009). The study is part of a larger project targeting the development of parallel-designed training programs to foster initial competence of shared decision-making conversations in medical and teacher education (Gartmeier, Bauer, Fischer, Karsten, & Prenzel, 2011; Gartmeier et al., 2015). We chose this interdisciplinary perspective, not only to build on existing research within the medical domain, but also to investigate domain-general questions. This cross-domain perspective may seem unusual at first glance, given that teachers and physicians have rather distinct occupations. This notwithstand- ing, the review by Berkhof, van Rijssen, Schellart, Anema, and van der Beek (2011) suggests that cross-domain studies have an added value for the generalization of results and for answering questions about the domain-generality vs. specificity of communication skills, their training, and assessment (cf. Braun et al., 2016). Despite the considerable differences between teaching and medicine, a closer look reveals that structurally equivalent conversation types - i.e. with comparable communicative goals and procedures - exist in both professions. Several typical tasks shared by both physicians and teachers include counseling clients1 (e.g., patients, parents or students for making a well-informed decision on a problem), delivering bad news (e. …

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