Outline of the Talk. The initial problem ? preventing social exclusionDistributed expertise and professional practicesInter-professional workingRelational agency and common knowledge. The Studies ? all shaped by Vygotskian frameworks . Two DfES/DCSF studies of inter-professional practices with children and familiesTLRP study of Learning in and for Interagency WorkingESRC study of practices at the boundaries of schoolsCurrent CWDC study of remodelled social workStarting two studies of strategic practices to support inter-professional work.
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1. Expertise in Working at Professional Boundaries: building common knowledge at sites of intersecting practices [email protected]
2. Outline of the Talk The initial problem – preventing social exclusion
Distributed expertise and professional practices
Relational agency and common knowledge
3. The Studies – all shaped by Vygotskian frameworks Two DfES/DCSF studies of inter-professional practices with children and families
TLRP study of Learning in and for Interagency Working
ESRC study of practices at the boundaries of schools
Current CWDC study of remodelled social work
Starting two studies of strategic practices to support inter-professional work
4. A Complex Problem: the prevention of social exclusion Vulnerability to social exclusion arises from accumulated risk: housing, poverty, disruptions to family life etc.
Need to look across a child’s life to recognise the factors
Responses need to be inter-professional with professionals ‘attuned’ (Barnes) to each other
5. Demands on Expertise Practitioners need to exercise a core expertise and a relational expertise when working with others
Will explore the foundations and use of relational expertise
6. A Cultural Historical Account of Expertise Expertise is evidenced in:
working with the resources available within practices to support intentional action e.g. Holland on the world of romance in a US college;
exercising ‘engaged agency’ pace Taylor
Natalie Lundsteen is using these ideas to explore how interns navigate the practices of an investment bank; and Barbara Banda is examining how managers read and act in the practices of their workplaces
7. Rethinking Expertise Expertise is the: collaborative and discursive construction of tasks, solutions, visions, breakdowns and innovations within and across systems (Engeström and Middleton 1996: 4)
Today the trend is towards de-institutionalization, hybrid forms of organisation and co-operative mastery of knowing and knowledge production, towards open expertise produced in multi-actor networks. (Karvinen-Niinikoski 2004: 23)
8. Distributed Expertise Cultural tools, whether they are material, for example an assessment system; or conceptual, such as specialist knowledge about autism, are loaded with intelligence, which can turbo-charge the purposeful actions of practitioners;
Expertise may be distributed across a neighbourhood or local authority with practitioners contributing to it, drawing on it and engaging with it.
9. Relational Expertise Is in addition to the core expertise that has developed though engagement in practices of e.g. social work or mental health work.
Taking the standpoint of the other (Benhabib; Taylor)
Knowing enough to be able to understand what matters for others;
Being able to understand what they mean without being able to do what they do (cf Collins on interactional expertise)
10. Practices Historically formed
Driven forward by values and motives
Open to change
Inhabited by practitioners
11. Professional Practices (occupational rather than organisational) Resourceful intentional problem-solving – exhibiting ‘engaged agency’
Knowledge-based and values-led – providing the ‘background’ for engaged agency
Negotiated – with clients and other professionals
12. Sites of Intersecting Practices Boundaries are not just what separate practices
They are places where work is done to enable professionals to act responsively when working together on complex problems
They are important features of the relational turn in expertise
13. The Relational Turn: Relational Agency Involves:
Aligning one’s thoughts and action with others while interpreting and acting on the world
Expanding an object of activity such as a child’s trajectory by working with the sense-making of others and drawing on the resources they offer when responding
(e.g. Edwards 2005, 2009 a & b; in press)
14. Relational Agency – an activity theory concept The ‘object of activity’ is a problem space at which we direct our actions e.g. a child’s trajectory towards social exclusion
We interpret the problem from the perspective of the practices we inhabit - e.g. a social worker will see a child’s trajectory differently from how a teacher might – their object motives for acting are different
When people from different practices work together on a problem they expand understandings of it
16. Object-motive and the ‘Why’ of Collaboration ‘Why’ is more important than ‘how’ in fluid and responsive work
Motives (whys) shape activities
Motives are aligned through focus on longer-term goals (Engestrom; Pickering)
I think the very first step is understanding about what the sort of issues are….Professions have very, very different ideas about need, about discipline, about responsibility, about the impact of systems on families…So I think the first step is actually to get some shared understanding about effective practices and about understanding the reasons behind some of them. Understanding some of the reasons why we are seeing these sorts of issues in families.
17. Relational Agency: supporting professional action
A strong form of agency is necessary for practice in complex settings outside the protection of institutional practices
Individual agency can be strengthened by working with others in these activities
Professionals can, and need to, draw on and contribute to systems of distributed expertise
18. The Centrality of Specialist Knowledge to Responsive Work
Relational agency works against the grain of ‘organisational professionalism’ by asserting that professional practices are driven by professional values and involve paying attention to relationships and trust in the expertise of others and the quality of the resources, both conceptual and material, that they can bring to bear on problems
But what mediates inter-professional collaborations?
20. Common Knowledge Relational Agency is exercised in activities where quick responses from others are needed
Common knowledge (Edwards (D) and Mercer) as the basis for thinking and working in classrooms
Common knowledge (Middleton) is shared understandings generated within common practices and which are the basis for difficult decisions
21. Common Knowledge and Knowledge Transfer
Transfer, translation or transformation (Carlile 2004)
Common knowledge permits quick transfer
Common knowledge can represent the differences and dependencies now of consequence and the ability of the actors involved to use it (Carlile 2004: 557)
It can give access to the ‘background’ i.e. what matters – the motives as well as the knowledge
22. Preparation for Relational Agency in Sites of Intersecting Practices A three stage process of preparation prior to relational agency – building common knowledge
Recognising similar long-term open goals, such as children’s wellbeing, which give broad coherence to the specialist activities of practitioners
Revealing categories, values and motives in the natural language of talk about problems of practice.
Recognising and engaging with the categories, values and motives of others in the processes of negotiating action on a complex object
23. The Practitioner Perspective We try to have meetings in different places so that allows us to go to different projects; and in that way we have learnt about other people’s projects and maybe been able to get an understanding and see where we can learn…you know, gain knowledge about that project.
It’s about understanding at a deeper level. It’s about connections. Maybe you are not sure about the child we are thinking about; but as we talk it through there may be a connection and if not for that child, maybe for another.
24. Developing Common Knowledge Accessing the informal as well as the formal category systems of other professionals in task-focused meetings
…implicit mediation typically involves signs in the form of natural language that have evolved in the service of communication and are then harnessed in other forms of activity….(and do not) readily become the object of conscious reflection. (Wertsch 2007: 185)
See also Asa Makitalo on how categories reveal and structure workplace practices
25. Building Common Knowledge – making your ‘background’ explicit A PhD is a strange conglomeration of personal, intellectual and sort of professional agendas. And so, you need to think about where you‘re going to go with it...you also need to think about what you‘ve got to offer... I also think that, my personal interest... is particularly in the ways in which African societies are being reshaped by their engagements with philanthropies of all sorts of shapes and sizes.... So then I, I‘d be... I think that‘d be interesting
(supervisor in year 1 in Sheena Wagstaff’s study)
26. Deputy Head of a Community School in an AT-structured Meeting (in the LIW study)
Well the context is that if a child comes to school and they have come from a dreadful home situation where there is terrible violent crime and abuse and parenting is poor or non-existent because of addiction problems and so on and so forth and the kid hasn’t had much…can’t read or write to any standard that would allow him to access the curriculum… it can be awful out there, but you don’t have to fail in school because we have got this for you, that person is there for you, if this happens you can do that. And I think it’s a sanctuary.
27. Building Common Knowledge: revealing categories in use (Edwards and Kinti 2009)
There is a sense in which although the child is the same child outside and inside we sort of feel we can almost draw a boundary around the school and say when you are in here you can leave it at the gates or we can minimize the effects….I think we set ourselves a target which is almost unachievable, unattainable in the sense.... perhaps the way in which schools with others need to be bridging that boundary differently.
28. Taking on the Categories of Others I mean something that just… sorry, something that just came into my head is many years ago I worked in (name of city) for the child guidance service. ...there were offices in each areas and each office then had its own schools and the schools referred to child guidance. I was a teacher in the team, we had weekly meetings where all the children that were referred by those schools were discussed. That team consisted of psychiatrist, Ed Psych, social worker, teacher and I can see a couple of others but I’m not sure what agencies they were. So then the child is discussed, the presenting problem is discussed and it was decided at that weekly meeting which agency was actually going to be dealing with them.... I actually look back that on that system – it doesn’t exist any longer in (the city) – but I looked on that system as being a very good one at the time.
29. A Ranking of Representations (Mehan 1993) Labels such as MBD (minimal brain dysfunction), DAMP (deficit in attention, motor control, and perception), ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), Aspergers, Dyslexia, Dyscalculia, and so on, are used widely in schools as categories for classifying children, for organizing teaching and learning opportunities, and for the distribution of economic and other kinds of resources. This practice has resulted in a rapid increase in the number of children in Sweden who are categorized as in some sense handicapped.
(Hörne and Säljö 2004: 2-3)
31. Learning About and From Each Other Learning a lot from each other at meetings
It is important that people aren’t precious about their information and having the knowledge that they have and that we do sort of need to often bounce different ideas off each other. I know I need to.
(Social worker in a multi-professional team 2009)
32. Highlighting Specialist Knowledge
It’s about being clear in our roles, when we’re doing a ‘team around the child’ meeting, they’re easy meetings to do because we break up our tasks. In statutory work you would come away with a huge list of tasks for the social worker….whereas I think now that sustaining a relationship is part of it, I think it is about people accepting their responsibility in their role.
(social worker in multi-professional team 2009)
33. Expertise: the relational turn Knowledge and expertise are distributed across teams, neighbourhoods etc. (pace Lave)
RA enables practitioners to work with the expertise of others – it is in addition to core expertise
Interactional expertise (Collins)
Common knowledge – quick understanding (Carlile)
Attunement in collective practices (Barnes)
Can lead to more clearly defined divisions of labour and a valuing of distinct professional knowledge
Highlights motives and values and therefore an enhanced form of professional practice