A profession in change : : a development ecology perspective

University dissertation from Faculty of Teacher Education, Malmö University

Abstract: A welfare state consists of a variety of client organisations within which, among other professions, academics and social workers are active. Social work as a profession has developed in a welfare context where changes at the different levels of the individual, organisation and society constantly pose new challenges to the profession. When a society undergoes a total transformation, this also affects higher education, especially when it comes to facing needs for new competencies in a subject area such as Economics and Management. A change in a profession can also be seen on different levels and in various contextual environments. The thesis addresses the overall question: In the transformation of different societal and organisational environments, which factors may influence professions’ knowledge acquisition and learning processes? The theoretical frame of reference is provided by a modified model of Bronfenbrenner’s Development Ecology. This theory focuses on the individual’s drive and ability to influence their specific environment. This study’s point of departure is the individual and the individual in relation to their surrounding context on different levels. The thesis makes a contribution by improving knowledge of how Development Ecology may be seen in a welfare context by using study objects within the fields of education and a profession. The data collection primarily took the form of interviews. Other sources were added to the interviews; an analysis of key documents, lectures and seminars where there was an interaction with students as additional, empirical sources in various contexts, along with study visits. The thesis is based on the following three original publications: Management and Economics studies in Lithuania – the creation of a university discipline, Development Ecology in German Social Work and Proposed Enhancement of Bronfenbrenner’s Development Ecology Model. The study demonstrates how the Development Ecology model in a modified and developed form can constructively contribute to understanding a profession undergoing change. In addition, the study shows how the Development Ecology model can be used in two various societal and organisational contexts. It also demonstrates how professional autonomy is conditional given certain organisational and societal frameworks. Finally, the study reveals that entrepreneurship and learning are closely linked to each other and knowledge acquisition is about meetings on different levels where the interplay between the individual and their internal driving forces is essential – namely, to emphasise that the internal driving forces belong to the individual involved (a person).

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