Too much coffee: Making Sense of Normative Theory in Talks about Peer Observation

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This paper discusses how researchers and practitioners can produce knowledge about how to use normative theory in practice together while practicing an ideal of collaboration and dialogue as a basis for the knowledge production.
Taking our departure from the assumption that the only way of producing meaning together is through a dialogic ideal of sharing different experiences and forms of knowledge, we have worked together with nurses and nurse assistants at two psychiatric wards in order to create new knowledge about how to communicate with patients and their relatives about the patient´s diagnosis.
Our notion was that practitioners and researchers can bring different knowledge forms into play when they work together, and we assumed that one of our main tasks was to facilitate processes where it was legitimate to bring all sorts of knowledge and experience up for further reflections.
While we were in the process we did rather often discuss what was going on, because we experienced that the nurses insisted on referring to normative theory as common sense truths about “what we ought to do”.
Taking a point of departure in a micro-level analysis inspired by conversation analysis and ethnomethodology we – researchers - decided to study the interplay between practitioners and researchers negotiating on how a psychiatric patient who drinks too much coffee can be motivated to drink less coffee. The ethnomethodological perspective reveals how the interlocutors’ different common-sense and hierarchical perceptions of a normative theory and its meaning in practice appears to guide the talk about how to motivate the patient to drink less coffee. Moreover, the examination of the dialogue between these show how important it is to respect multivocality in order to be sensitive to how different knowledgeforms can be negotiated in practice.
The findings suggest that dialogues about practice have the potential to develop practitioners’ and researchers situational knowledge which is seen as a precondition for making sense of theories in practice. Challenges are – for researchers in relation to practitioners and for practitioners in relation to patients - to pay respect to both theories and the very concrete situation with the persons involved in this.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date30 Jun 2012
Number of pages35
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jun 2012
EventTenth Interdisiplinary Conference Communication, Medicine & Ethics (COMET): Communication, Medicine and Ethics - Trondheim, Norway
Duration: 28 Jun 201230 Jun 2012


ConferenceTenth Interdisiplinary Conference Communication, Medicine & Ethics (COMET)
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Olesen, B. R. (2012). Too much coffee: Making Sense of Normative Theory in Talks about Peer Observation. Paper presented at Tenth Interdisiplinary Conference Communication, Medicine & Ethics (COMET), Trondheim, Norway.