Agency, learning and knowledge work: Epistemic dilemmas in professional practices
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- Professional and Practice-based Learning, 2017, 20 pp. 121 - 140
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© Springer International Publishing AG 2017. The nature of professional work is changing. In particular, relationships between professionals and the people work are being reforged in more complex formations. Partnership approaches to services for families with young children are among the historically new work practices that are part of a broader shift towards coproduction. Working in partnership with parents places a particular set of demands on practitioners, including engaging in distinctive forms of relational work and developing new kinds of expertise. Less well understood is what such changes mean in terms of the ways professionals in such settings need to develop and exercise agency as a regular, but nonroutine, part of their work. This chapter draws on an ethnographic study of a parent education service in Sydney (Australia), casting light on agentic responses to a series of epistemic dilemmas that professionals encounter in practice. Adopting a cultural-historical approach, it works with concepts of the object, activity, motive, and practice in dialectic relation with one another. Analysis focuses on handover between professionals as an artefact of practice in which professionals do knowledge work, inflecting ‘Where to?’ questions with agentic and epistemic considerations of ‘How do we get there?’ The account provided here enriches cultural-historical understandings of agency in the context of professional work, offering an expanded description of responses to epistemic dilemmas in practice.
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