David Kirk Dirlam Author of Evaluating Organization Development

David Kirk Dirlam

Educational Assessment Consultant

Since 1967, I have sought a unit of analysis for knowledge development. My 2017 book defined and described discoveries, innovations, and interpretive precedents for mode of practice. A 1997-98 Cattell Fund Fellowship furthered this work. After teaching psychological research for decades, my Appalachian students achieved Association for Psychological Science Chapter of the Year. I am an APS Charter Member and on the Board of the Association for the Assessment of Learning in Higher Education.


My work as a researcher in knowledge development included teaching people aged 2 to 72, from preschool to doctoral levels at diverse institutions. I have been a professor, school principal, higher education administrator, entrepreneur, management analyst, and retailer. I preferred small colleges where I could know my students. As part of my research, I interviewed 300 people in over 100 disciplines and trades. I began learning data analysis at age 10 and still love massive databases. I raised four children and am a devoted husband.


    Ph.D., McMaster University, Hamilton, Canada
    B.A., Northwestern University, Evanston, IL

Areas of Research / Professional Expertise

    Knowledge development
    Educational assessment
    Research methods and statistics
    Computerized text analysis
    Applied network theory

Personal Interests

    Grandparenting, writing, woodworking, flute playing, singing, Celtic harp, hiking, Torah chanting.


Featured Title
 Featured Title - Teachers, Learners, Modes of Practice - 1st Edition book cover


). In P. Crisman and M. Gillem (Eds.) The Value of Design (pp. 445-455), Washington, DC: ACSA Publishing.

Collaboratively Crafting a Unique Architecture Education through MODEL Assessmen

Published: Feb 17, 2017 by ). In P. Crisman and M. Gillem (Eds.) The Value of Design (pp. 445-455), Washington, DC: ACSA Publishing.
Authors: Dirlam, D. K. and Singeisen, S. R.
Subjects: Education, Developmental Psychology, Cognitive Psychology, Urban Studies

This article presents an original theory of the development of architectural expertise that is collective and comprehensive. Single authorship of developmental theories introduces biases and incomplete coverage. Matrices Organized Developmentally with Expertise and Labeling (MODEL rubrics) abstract ideas from developmental interviews to dilute biases and identify a common educational plan. The 96 interview dimensions were condensed into 13 master dimensions that addressed all 34 NAAB criteria.

AALHE Conference Proceedings 2016

Real time developmental assessments for transforming students and teachers

Published: Feb 17, 2016 by AALHE Conference Proceedings 2016
Authors: Dirlam, D. K.
Subjects: Education, Developmental Psychology, Cognitive Psychology

Higher education needs to replace short-term stressful exams with student triumphs from extended work, base faculty changes on data they respect, and focus on transformative learning of individual students and cohorts that teachers and learners retell years later. Real-Time Developmental Assessments (RTDA) identifies transformative learning as it occurs using developmental rubrics and the DEEP modes of commitment (disorienting, examining, enabling, and performing) to each new mode of practice.

AALHE Conference Proceedings 2015

How to help faculty make better rubrics.

Published: Feb 17, 2015 by AALHE Conference Proceedings 2015
Authors: Dirlam, D. K.
Subjects: Education, Developmental Psychology, Cognitive Psychology

Five-point scales and Sequences Which Expand Little by Little (SWELL rubrics) do not discriminate student experience, scaffold their learning, or reveal curricular improvements. To make effective developmental rubrics (1) describe behaviors, (2) include multiple dimensions, (3) use a succession of levels based on rates of growth and competition resulting from the combination of behaviors into complex units, and (4) apply to extremely diverse time scales ranging from minutes to millennia.

AALHE Conference Proceedings 2014

The Course Design Survey: A critical link in formative program assessment

Published: Feb 17, 2014 by AALHE Conference Proceedings 2014
Authors: Dirlam, D. K., Minnis, S., Merlock-Jackson, K., Payne, L., and Ferguson, L.
Subjects: Education, Developmental Psychology, Cognitive Psychology

Program assessment gets exciting when faculty make educationally useful discoveries. The few “High Impact Practices” currently touted, however, imply such usefulness is a “settled” issue. Course Design Survey (CDS) enable assessors to identify learning impacts for an astronomically large number of educational practice patterns using an easily countable number of options checked in a simple survey. This paper shows how to create and analyze a CDS for various formative assessment designs.

Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission, 7

Competing Memes Analysis

Published: Jan 01, 2003 by Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission, 7
Authors: Dirlam, D. K.
Subjects: History, Developmental Psychology, Cognitive Psychology

Competing Memes Analysis is an empirical methodology applicable to significant social problems consisting of three steps: (1) identifying the organization of memes within an activity as small groups with in-group competition and out-group co-occurrence (the succession of memes with increasing experience helps identify competing memes); (2) coding records of activities for the presence of each meme identified in Step 1; (3) analyzing changing frequencies of each coded meme over time or space.


Soundscapes Newport News

By: David Kirk Dirlam
Subjects: Developmental Psychology, Psychology

Soundscapes teaches music after school to impoverished pupils in Newport News Virginia. They created developmental rubrics in the Fall of 2014. Instructors, however, used them in the traditional way of grading on the curve. Such assessment is one of the most insidious rituals of modern education. In music, which demands cooperation, it favors competition rather than collaboration. In economically disadvantaged schools, where home support can be limited by survival needs, it demoralizes those students receiving less help from parents.

The effects of the change from traditional grading on the curve to developmental interpretations had three results. First, it enabled a clear picture to all who observed the ratings of progress as students moved through the program. This produced a major change in the reporting for the most impoverished students. Instead of being forever penalized in the program with reports of lower performance than their peers, their records showed major progress that lagged just slightly behind their peers. Instead of receiving worse scores every year like they did with rating on the curve, severely impoverished students with 9-12 ratings clearly performed at a higher level than those from better supported homes with 5-8 ratings. The impact of developmental ratings was also felt on retention, which showed a dramatic improvement in poverty groups. There was some indication that attendance might be a problem for the most impoverished group. Future data on individual absences would help to determine if this is the case and if so, the program staff would be able to test ways to alleviate it.

Two of the dimensions (Instrument Care and Aural Skills) were targets of special efforts to develop sub-rubrics. These efforts resulted in faster development than other dimensions. One possibility is that the extra effort on those dimension alerted the instructors to them and resulted in an increased likelihood of using the definitions, “real time”, while they are instructing.

Finally, across all the years, Soundscapes students typically pass standardized exams at or above the level of other students in their schools. The data from Soundscapes and the Carver Elementary make it abundantly clear that enrollment in Soundscapes has no negative effect on school performance and often enhances it.