Learning to Reason: The Factorial Survey as a Tool in Professional Education

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract


Judgement and decision-making are central activities in all professions. No matter which profession a practitioner belongs to, or which clients a practitioner is working with, he or she is regularly trying to find answers to the questions “what is the case?” and “what ought to be done?” When professionals are trying to find justifiable answers to such questions, they are reasoning. In this article, we treat reasoning as an individual skill, which should be recognized as constituting the basis for an “accountable” practice, and which can be improved by means of exercise. In addition, we propose and illustrate an innovative pedagogical tool, which can be used for such exercises, both in professional education and in professional development. This tool is based on a combination of Peter Rossi’s factorial survey approach and Stephen Toulmin’s model of argumentation. By letting the participants make judgements of a large number of experimentally constructed fictive descriptions of clients and conducting statistical analyses separately for each participant, we model the predictors of each participant’s judgements. By employing Toulmin’s model of argumentation, the participants systematically practice their ability to justify the patterns of judgements that have been detected in the statistical analyses. In summary, this exercise involves both rigorous inner deliberation and the development of reasoning skills, which are both essential ingredients in a knowledge-based and accountable professional practice.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Social Work
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2014 Jul 1
Publication categoryResearch
EventDARE (Decisions, Assessment, Risk and Evidence in Social Work ) 2014: 3rd International Symposium - Templepatrick, United Kingdom
Duration: 2014 Jul 12014 Jul 2


ConferenceDARE (Decisions, Assessment, Risk and Evidence in Social Work ) 2014: 3rd International Symposium
CountryUnited Kingdom