Article written by Michiel Hulsbergen and Joep Hanrath.

What is DialogueTrainer and how does it innovate conversation practice?

At the training and education Network of the CEP in November 2020, we were invited to share the use of DialogueTrainer, an online simulation platform which professionals and students can engage in challenging conversations with virtual characters.

The University of Applied Sciences Utrecht, in cooperation with Probation and Child Protection Services developed scenarios to enhance conversation techniques.

The challenge we face is to get students well prepared for the rather complex task of engaging in and structuring a conversation with an offender. Roleplay is a classical form but online simulation adds a new element. It offers a safe  learning environment, in which users are immersed in challenging cases and engage and actively test their assumptions about what works. In a simulated dialogue, players choose between answer options based on prevalent learning objectives and a validated best-practice approach, defined with experts. Each choice results in a different interaction and has an effect on what is achieved in the conversation. Players learn by seeing the effect of their choices and through scores and feedback, which are based on theory.

It offers:
  • A secure learning environment
  • Reflection on action, in action, by actively choosing between approaches
  • Seeing the effect of an approach, as feedback on decisions and underlying assumptions, to explicate challenges

For  professionals online simulation offers the possibilities to develop skills on effective correctional practices as well as linking tacit knowledge to evidence based expertise. If simulations are played  by a team of professionals simultaneously then this structures the discussion about different interventions. What kind of outcome follows from this answer option and how does it fit in the goals you strive for? These discussions help norm finding on desired conversation outcomes.

Do you want to try for yourself? Play the scenarios:

Michiel Hulsbergen, Dialogue Trainer
Joep Hanrath, University of Applied Sciences Utrecht, Forensic Social Work


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