Learning potentials in the professional dialog

Student thesis: Master Thesis and HD Thesis

  • Mona Bak Foged
4. term, Social Work, Master (Master Programme)
The scope of my thesis is motivated by an interest in further improving the social work, and in doing so I take a pragmatic approach to the development of social work. This approach is founded in my positive expectation that the individual social worker will be driven by a need to develop himself professionally. This approach also contradicts a more normative critical approach, which relate to how social work must actually develop. Furthermore I am motivated by my interest in conversation analysis, since the study of naturally appearing data supplies the opportunity for focusing on the actual actions of the social worker, through what he says in dialogs with both clients and other professionals. I have chosen to examine the area of children and family, since both na-tional and international research points out that the quality of the social work in this field is not good enough. It is thus relevant to examine new ways of describing and analysing practice in this field. With this in mind I examine the professional dialog used in a case conference in a children and family department with a conversation analytical approach. The aim is to shed some light on the social workers exchange and development of knowledge, visualise the reflexivity and learning potentials in the professional dialog, which can be of use and help qualify the social actions taken. Ideographically I treat the following question: How does the professional dialog take place in case conferences? I specifically elaborate on how the social workers establish a professional identity, exchange and develop knowledge and conclude treatment of a case. I discuss the use of conversation analysis in relation to the focus of this thesis; social work and thus supply the contextual understanding of dialogism. I position the thesis as a moderate social constructivism. At the same time I explain the construction of the social worker as an interactional strategist, who strives to manage the many encounters which constitute social work by means of developing a range of linguistic skills. Central to this thesis are theoretical perspectives on conversation analysis as a theory containing relevant concepts such as fact making, accountability and categorisation as well as interactional identity, positions and roles. Moreover theoretical perspectives on knowledge and reflexivity in social work with specific focus on knowledge as a product, a process and an orientation are central to this thesis. Based on an inductive method with a comparative perspective I analyse authentic recordings of two case conferences with the inclusion of interviews conducted from an interactional position. The aim is to detect both immediate (discursive) contextual resources and mediate (abstract) contextual resources. I conclude that the case conference is governed by the team leader, while also the social workers knowledge of face-to-face encounters as well as his experience is of crucial importance to the professional dialog in case conferences. Furthermore I conclude that the purpose as well as the social workers understanding of the case conference also has a crucial importance to how they position themselves in the establishment of a professional identity and the exchange and development of knowledge. On one hand this indicates that the case conference limits the diversity in the professional dialog. On the other hand however the conversation analytical approach shows that the display of the crucial elements is very diverse, due to the fact that the comparative perspective reveals both differences and similarities in the pattern of the professional dialog. The micro study thus shows how the social workers handle interactional mechanisms and analytical elements differently in the diverse and reflexive dialog, which takes place in case conferences. With this in mind I have developed a perspectivation with suggestions to a meeting sequence in the children and family department, where the goal is to visualise and create awareness of the reflexivity of the social worker and serve as an inspiration to how the social worker can use and qualify learning potentials in the professional dialog.
Publication date2009
Number of pages124
Publishing institutionAalborg Universitet
ID: 16485749