Contradictions of Social Workers’ ‘Evidence-Based Practice’: Opening Pandora's Box?

Publikation: KonferencebidragPaperForskningpeer review


The development of professionals’ knowledge base is an integral part of the modernization of work in the public sector. The accumulation of scientific evidence contributes to this process by condensing knowledge for professionals to substantiate their decisions, but also creates new and contested demands. This paper presents initial results of an analysis of social work professionals’ interpretation of evidence-based practice (EBP). With inspiration from critical discourse theory, EBP is analyzed as a disputed discourse of professionalism, which is re-contextualized within different societal fields of practice. To explore the specificities of the recontextualization within social work, it is investigated how Danish employment specialists process tensions between the discourse(s) of EBP and the relational character of their work. I analyze an extreme case of EBP in social work made of interviews with and observations from Danish employment specialists’ work with the method of Individual Placement and Support (IPS). Their adoption of EBP is analyzed as an interplay between the discourses of EBP and their collective processing of their work. I find that the professionals strongly identify with the normative dimension of EBP: To work effectively and knowledge based towards clients’ individual goals for employment. At the same time, they encounter contradictions with EBP as defined within research. They negotiate the meaning not only of the process standardization and documentation associated with the management and control systems but also the implicit hierarchization of knowledge legitimized through the evidence-hierarchy. The paper illustrates their struggle to make sense of the contradictory discourses attached to EBP within Danish employment services.
Publikationsdato14 jun. 2018
StatusUdgivet - 14 jun. 2018
BegivenhedNordic Work Life Conference: Creating a sustainable future of work in the Nordic countries - Oslo and Akershus University of Applied Sciences, Oslo, Norge
Varighed: 13 jun. 201815 jun. 2018
Konferencens nummer: 9


KonferenceNordic Work Life Conference
LokationOslo and Akershus University of Applied Sciences
AndetCreating a sustainable future of work in the Nordic countries addresses the future of work by focusing on social, institutional and technological change causing a shift in the type of work and the way work is organized in the Nordic countries.

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