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The master program in Learning and Innovative Change is a two-year full time master program created in accordance with the two-cycle system (Bologna, 1999) and thus admitting students with a range of different bachelor degrees (academic as well as professional). Student Development Dialogues (SDD) has been an integrated and mandatory part of the program since its start in 2005.It takes place during the first three semesters, i.e. 7 through 9, and have the dual purpose of 1) introducing the students to the theoretical foundation of development dialogues as a tool for professional development in a broad sense, and 2) allowing the students to gain personal experience with and practical insight into the method in relation to their own study situation. So the intention is to create a framework for the individual student to gain a conscious and reflective approach to his/her choices in the program, to make it possible for him/her to integrate the bachelor background, and thereby create an individual and specific professional master profile. It is emphasized that the SDDs are professional development dialogues and they are centred around the student’s professional and conscious reflection. The role of the dialogue partner (a teacher) is to discuss the thoughts and statements, which have been submitted by the student in advance. The student is provided with a form relating to the specific semester with a number of questions designed to spur the student’s reflection. Through the preparation and the dialogue the student is trained in recognising, analysing and evaluating his/her knowledge, skills and competences, strengths and weaknesses. In a candidate survey (2009) it has been complained generally that some graduates are not able to be explicit about their abilities in a way that future employers may recognise. Having assessed several hundred students we have experienced that they by use of SDD are trained in being more explicit about their professional profile, and have gained an active vocabulary for talking about it.
This paper will focus on the use of SDD as a means to support students’ reflection in HE. Focus will be on the theoretical background for using the method, and it will in particular study the preparation phase through the students’ written preparation forms. Here the following questions will be addressed: what level of reflection do we find in the written material, and to what degree are the preparation forms conducive to student reflection? The analysis will draw on J. Mezirows theoretical framework on content, process and premise reflection (Mezirow 1991). The form and some of the reasons for using SDD will be discussed based on the concept of NUZO by Vygotsky(1978) and Mott (1992), and on the theoretical framework on the relation between thinking, writing, reflecting and dialoguing as a means to reach a high academic level (Dysthe, 2005).
The data consist of 132 written forms prepared by students for their development dialogues in semesters 7 through 9 in the master program, covering a period from 2007 to 2010.