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Decision-making in problematic situations: reflections on social workers’ use of knowledge and implications for social work research
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Social Work.
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Social Work.
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Social Work.
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Social Work.
2014 (English)Conference paper, Abstract (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Currently there is an effort to make social workers act according to principles of evidence-based practice. This approach assumes that by supporting social workers with reviews of “what works”, or practice guidelines, decision-making, and knowledge use will improve.

Our paper discusses decision-making and knowledge use in social work practice. What kind of knowledge is used? How is decision-making conditioned by contextual contingencies? What are the implications for social work research?

The paper draws on two studies of social workers. From the study Social Workers and Doctors Use of Knowledge in Practice, written narratives describing problematic situations where decision-making were hampered were collected. The participants (29 social workers) were experienced and came from different areas of the Swedish social services.

The project “Specialization or integration in the Personal Social Services?” studied how specialised respectively integrated organisations condition interventions and outcomes. We studied three organisational models using several research methods: 1) survey among social workers, 2) interviewing politicians, mangers and social workers, 3) focus groups with social workers, 4) analysing official documents, guidelines etc.

Decision-making and knowledge use proved to be more complex than usually assumed within the EBP paradigm. It is seldom just a matter of rational decision-making and matching specific interventions and well-defined social problems. The character of the interaction with clients conditions social workers’ decision-making and use of knowledge. Interaction with clients, perceived as being “problematic”, causes a rupture in social workers’ professional routine practice, which affects decision-making and knowledge use.

The predominant discourse on decision-making and knowledge use focuses on "the best” kind of knowledge, how knowledge should be implemented, as well as professionals’ motivation and competence. Professional action is largely viewed as a rational cognitive process. However, this is insufficient and policy-makers and social work researcher should focus more on social and relational aspects (i.e. client encounters) of decision-making and knowledge use.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Keyword [en]
decision-making, knowledge use, disrupted professional practice, relationships
National Category
Social Work
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-88004OAI: diva2:713077
The 4th European Conference for Social Work Research, the Free University of Bozen-Bolzano and European Academy Bozen-Bolzano, 15-17 April 2014
Available from: 2014-04-19 Created: 2014-04-19 Last updated: 2015-04-24Bibliographically approved

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Blom, BjörnEvertsson, LarsPerlinski, MarekRexvid, Devin
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