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Looking for 'social work' in school social work
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Social Work.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-8474-5821
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Social Work.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-4540-5373
2017 (English)In: European Journal of Social Work, ISSN 1369-1457, E-ISSN 1468-2664, Vol. 20, no 2, 191-202 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

School social workers can be seen as a professional group operating on the margin of an educational logic that dominates schools as institutions. This conditions what tasks they are assigned and what aspects of social work knowledge they will find relevant. On the other hand, the role as a sole professional and relative outsider in the organization provides a potential for school social workers to transcend established theories of social work practice. This article aims to investigate how social work theory is applied in school social work. Twelve semi-structured interviews with school social workers were analysed in terms of how they relate to four knowledge approaches derived from the literature: task-centred, systems theory, strengths and anti-oppressive. Contrary to claims within the sociology of professions that social work practice is formed largely by organizational context rather than a discipline-specific knowledge base, the interviewees seemed to lean on a robust professional foundation within social work theory. Interviewees strongly emphasised their role as working for the individual pupil and positioned themselves as somewhat in opposition to a somewhat oppressive school environment.

Abstract [sv]

Skolkuratorer är en professionell grupp som har en perifer position i förhållande till skolan, som domineras av en pedagogisk logik. Detta påverkar vilka specifika arbetsuppgifter och aspekter av socialt arbete som blir relevanta för den skolkurativa praktiken. Samtidigt erbjuds denna grupp av socialarbetare genom sin perifera roll möjligheter att överskrida och utveckla etablerade former och teorier för vad som utgör det sociala arbetets praktik. Syftet med artikeln är att undersöka hur teorier i socialt arbete tillämpas i den skolkurativa praktiken. Tolv semistrukturerade intervjuer med skolkuratorer analyserades med utgångspunkt i fyra centrala perspektiv inom socialt arbete: uppgiftscentrerat, systemteoretiskt, empowerment och antiförtryckande. I motsats till vad som framförts i professionssociologiska studier, där det hävdas att det sociala arbetets praktik formas av den organisatoriska kontexten snarare än av en disciplinspecifik kunskapsbas, föreföll intervjupersonerna i sin praktik primärt förhålla sig till en robust kunskapsbas hämtad från teoribildning i socialt arbete. Intervjupersonerna framhöll vidare hur deras arbete präglades av ett barnperspektiv, vilket gjorde att de i viss utsträckning positionerade sig i opposition till en skola som delvis uppfattades som förtryckande. Dock var de inte benägna att kritiskt reflektera över sin egen potentiella roll i denna förtryckande kontext.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Taylor & Francis, 2017. Vol. 20, no 2, 191-202 p.
Keyword [en]
social work, school social work, counselling, practice theory, knowledge use
Keyword [sv]
Socialt arbete, skolkuratorer, skola, elevhälsoarbete, kunskapsanvändning, praktikteori, evidensbaserad praktik
National Category
Social Work
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-118888DOI: 10.1080/13691457.2016.1188775ISI: 000395162500005OAI: oai:DiVA.org:umu-118888DiVA: diva2:917298
Note

Title in swedish: Skolkuratorers användande av teorier i socialt arbete

Available from: 2016-04-06 Created: 2016-04-06 Last updated: 2017-05-12Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Den kritiska gästen: en professionsstudie om skolkuratorer
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Den kritiska gästen: en professionsstudie om skolkuratorer
2016 (Swedish)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Alternative title[en]
The Critical Guest. School social wokers as professionals
Abstract [en]

The aim of this thesis is to examine the professional role of school social workers in Sweden from the perspective of profession theory, with particular focus on legitimacy, jurisdiction and discretion. The aim has been divided into four research questions, which are examined in four separate studies:

  1. How has the school social work profession emerged and developed?
  2. How do school social workers experience boundaries to their professional discretion?
  3. How are theories of social work practice applied in school social work?
  4. How do school social workers and teachers perceive their cooperation with regard to the wellbeing of pupils?

The general area of interest concerns professionals operating in organizations where they are the sole representatives of their profession. In addition, these professionals typically have a peripheral position in relation to the core professions in the organization.

The four different studies build on empirical material from qualitative interviews with school social workers and teachers, and also from policy and regulatory documents. The theoretical framework guiding the analysis draws on theories from the sociology of professions (Abbott, 1988) and about human service organizations (Hasenfeld, 1983, 2010).

A key finding is that school social worker has a specific technology based on well-established practice theories in social work, where a systems approach appears as the most prominent. Although, it was possible to discern such practice theories from the interviews, the school social workers did not explicitly give reference to them and generally struggled to describe their practice in a professional language.

A second key finding result is the lack of clarity with regards to the school social worker’s role. This is evidenced in regulatory documents, as well as among social workers themselves and teachers. In theory, this provides school social workers with a high degree of discretion. However, due to legitimacy problems they feel limited in performing their work unless they can rely on support from other sources such strong support from headmasters.

A third key finding is that the cooperation with teachers is all-important to school social workers. They spend a considerable proportion of their time working with teachers rather than pupils, not the least by providing informal consultations to teachers.  On a rhetoric level, teachers agree with social workers about the value and need of school social work. However, they tend to disagree about the role of school social work when they talk about concrete practice.

As an overall conclusion the school social worker appears as a critical guest, drawing on a professional foundation in social work theory that contributes uniquely to pupil health care. This distinguishes the school social workers’ role from other professionals in the school setting.

The findings in this thesis indicate the need for both education and research in the discipline of social work to start paying attention to social work in schools and other settings where social workers represents a minority occupation peripheral to the host organisation.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Umeå universitet, 2016. 83 p.
Series
Studier i socialt arbete vid Umeå universitet : avhandlings- och skriftserie, ISSN 0283-300X ; 82
Series
Umeå Studies in the Educational Sciences, 8
Keyword
social work, school social work, legitimacy, jurisdiction, discretion, practice theory
National Category
Social Work
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-118900 (URN)978-91-7601-341-0 (ISBN)
Public defence
2016-04-29, Hörsal C, Samhällsvetarhuset, Umeå universitet, UMEÅ, 10:00 (Swedish)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2016-04-08 Created: 2016-04-06 Last updated: 2016-04-20Bibliographically approved

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