Evidence in Practice On Knowledge Use and Learning in Social Work
Abstract: Against the backdrop of the transformations in the entire framing of professional work, social work has come under close scrutiny in many countries, including Sweden. Doubts have been raised about practitioners’ existing knowledge base, and the importance of practitioners engaging in learning and the renewal and extension of professional capacities has been emphasized.The present thesis concerns knowledge use and learning in the daily practices of child investigation work. The aim is to explore processes of knowledge use and learning in practice. The study is based on a mix of qualitative approaches, basically from ethnography, comprising methods such as participant observations, interviews, reflective dialogues and documentary analysis of case data.The main findings demonstrate that investigation work is characterized mainly by the use of practice-based knowledge. Research-based knowledge is predominantly used as a means of explaining a client’s situation or to underpin and legitimize one’s own beliefs and decisions made on other grounds. Professional learning is largely adaptive in character, as the social workers learn to handle tasks in a fairly routinized way on the basis of rules or procedures that draw on existing knowledge in the practice setting.Two conclusions are drawn: First, the use of knowledge in child investigation work bears little resemblance to principles of evidence-based practice. Second, the reproduction of professional knowledge is largely implicit and taken for granted. The study offers insight into the much-discussed topic of putting knowledge into practice, which is of importance to strategies for organizing profes sional learning and knowledgeable practice.
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