Nødvendigheten av fronetisk handlingskompetanse i sosialt arbeid
Sammanfattning: The aim of this study has partly been to explore how social work students develop their conception of relevant competence during their bachelor education. This part of the study is based on qualitative interviews with a sample of twelve students from Lillehammer University College interviewed individually focusing on the relationship between theory and practice, competence learned at the university and college and in practice placement and on the personal aspect of professional action. The most significant research finding was the ways in which the students changed their view on relevance after a period of practice placement during the second year of the bachelor program. The students consider competence experienced in practice placement as the "real thing" and competence learned in college as a secondary, but necessary competence for passing the final exam. Competence learned in practice placement was taken for granted and critical reflection on knowledge systems, practices and the relationship between welfare politics and professional action was outside the limits of what the students deemed relevant competence.From these research findings and interpretations I derived new research questions which I have investigated in five articles. Article 1 scrutinizes the strong impact of practice placement, article 2 explores the purpose of ethics in a context where social work tries to mediate between social control and users participation, article 3 is concerned with the necessity of moral competence in order to make good judgements in the application of the mandate given from the welfare state, article 4 asks to what extent the concept of empowerment requires certain techniques of intervention in order to make conform clients to conventional ways of living, while article 5 explores the potentials in Buddhism applied to relevant social work issues.The articles are situated in three different theoretical traditions. I use the traditions partly to challenge core elements within the traditions themselves, partly to challenge conventional viewpoints concerning competences in social work like arguments in favour of scientific knowledge because it contributes to the elevation of the status of social workersThe first one draws on the tradition from situated learning and explores learning as participation in two different contexts (college and workplace). I challenge the notion that development of competence is about negotiations between contexts. I contend that the institutionalised practices in social work have a very disciplinary impact on the concept of relevant competence which is rather underestimated by our educational system.Article 2, 3 and 4 profit from Michel Foucault's governmentality-concept. His perspective on the ways in which the population in modern societies is governed. is used to explore how the welfare state uses its professions to combine social control with freedom and self-governing. In my interpretation, ethics is a part of a soft and subtle intervention strategy to transform social and structural issues to individual troubles and make clients cooperative and responsible. I also contend that the mandate given to social workers requires good judgement in their application of individualized strategies which actualize their phronetic competence. I also interpret empowerment as a strategy for intervention that makes clients conform to conventional ideals in society. This interpretation challenges the notion of empowerment as liberation strategy defined by the clients themselves.Article 5 is entirely devoted to the question of moral character, drawing heavily on core values from Buddhism. Buddhism is used to identify and suggest ways to overcome ego-related problems which are frequently occurring in social work (such as the problem of "burn-out" and the ways bureaucratic distance is used as a shield against demanding clients). I also suggest that Buddhism can be used as a strategy for promoting personal social engagement in social work.My empirical study as well as my articles identifies "phronetic competences" in social work as the most important ones. This concept is derived from the aristotelian "phronesis" meaning personal, experienced-based competence for making morally right judgements according to particular situations. I argue that phronetic competence is highly relevant because it includes capacities for actualizing moral aspects of a situation, critical analytical reflection and for scrutinizing knowledge systems, practices and impacts of welfare goals which tend to be taken for granted. I contend that the education of social workers must make a stronger effort to facilitate phronetic competences among social work students to prevent social work from being reduced to technical skills and social engineering.
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