Comunicação seinajoki
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ERASMUS MOBILITY

ERASMUS MOBILITY

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Comunicação seinajoki Comunicação seinajoki Document Transcript

  • NEW APPROACHES TO SOCIAL INTERVENTION - THE APPLICATION AND CONSTRUCTION OF KNOWLEDGE: A CHALLENGE AND CURRENT DYNAMIC IN SOCIAL WORK- Helena Neves Almeida1 There are many theoretical benchmarks for social intervention, and theseare as varied as the contexts, purposes and subjects involved in action.Different kinds of knowledge are at issue: theoretical knowledge, which helps usto identify facts and to understand the factors concerned, as well as theirinfluence in the life situations indicated; and practical knowledge, which is know-how, knowledge that calls on skills, expertise and attitudes. Even though this isassociated with, and reflects theoretical knowledge, it nonetheless has a distinctvisibility within the process (for example, in compiling reports, conductinginterviews, providing guidance, communicating clearly, listening, and dialogue).Finally there is axiological knowledge which, embracing theory and practice, isimbued with values. Social work should not try to compartmentalize the impactof action, since when they do so, they are deceiving themselves (De Bruyne,Herman and Schoutheete, 1991; Banks, 1995). The three fields areinterdependent and interact in the everyday practice of intervention. Social work has provided the setting for various theoretical incursions,which have not always been appropriate to social reality. This has been broadlyrecognized since the second half of the 1960s. The call for the indigenization of1 Assistant Professor at the Instituto Superior Bissaya-Barreto (Coimbra), PH.D. in Social Work. Helena Neves Almeida 26-01-01
  • social work, that is, for an effort to construct knowledge and apply modelsdesigned on the basis of the reality of each social training (Kahn, 1970), bearswitness to this fact. If it is true that such a call has the advantage of avoiding themistakes committed in other countries, the low investment in the domain ofaction-research has relegated the field of intervention to a position of isolationand dependency in relation to the theoretical production of the social andhuman sciences. Research into the use of theories in practice suggests that the latter rarelyemploys a particular, identifiable theory, but rather a “practical theory” (Banks,1995, 52), that is, knowledge gained from practice and from parts of thetheoretical corpora, and skills acquired from work (Curnock and Hardicker,1979; Roberts, 1990). The activities and roles are so varied, and the contextsso wide-ranging, that it is hard to establish a single theoretical corpus for socialwork. Banks defines social work as “a knowledge of theoretical or practicalcomprehension of certain branches of science, art, learning or other area ofstudy”, and, in this regard, social workers have a panoply of theories thatinfluence their reflective practice (Schön, 1987) and performance (Ronnby,1992). In this logic, social workers are restricted to being mere users ofknowledge. They are not seen as producers of new learning. The question then is to know the relationship between theory and practicein the intervention process, and what the arguments are in this context. Helena Neves Almeida 26-01-01
  • 1 – The relationship between theory and practice in the process ofsocial workThere are several studies showing that social workers devise and retain modelsduring their practical work, despite the difficulties they have in identifying them.In 1979, Carew conducted a study on 20 social workers in the north of England,and this showed that not many were using theory explicitly during the course oftheir work, but a lot were using it without realizing it, as a system rather than asan explicit guide to action. Most said they had acquired a series of skills frompractice, which allowed them to develop procedures suited to the problemspresented by clients. Another study, carried out by Barbour in 1984, on 20students, not only identified two perspectives of the use of theory (onesupportive and the other curative), but also made it possible to identify threegroups of situations:a) students who had acquired general ideas and methods, but who could not say where they had come from, were unable to locate them on the theory plane;b) students who would use the particular theories they regarded as relevant, with each student creating a ‘stock’, a collection of professional tools to be used, andc) students whose use of knowledge was linked to their personality. The use of theory in practice thus raises certain questions. Helena Neves Almeida 26-01-01
  • In this domain, there are three prominent arguments (Payne, 1994): The pragmatic argument, the positivist argument and eclecticism. • The pragmatic argument holds that there is a confused mass of theories,mostly imported from different social, economic and political contexts, and of nouseful relevance. The obstacles to practical application have various origins,among which the following stand out: the generalist nature of some theories,which hampers their using in specific practical actions, and the existence of ahigh degree of competition between theories, making it difficult to choose aparticular one. According to the pragmatic argument, there are three distincttraditions. a) the pragmatic tradition associated with social work in official services (Poor Law, Social Security), whose economic support component is fundamental; b) the socialist tradition that embraces social reforms, social criticism and collective intervention (such as groups and communities); c) the therapeutic tradition related to individuals and groups who have personal problems and social difficulties. Keeping these approaches in mind, different practices reflect theinfluence of sundry theoretical benchmarks from the social and humansciences, particularly sociology and psychology, such as: theories ofcommunication; theories of change; theories of conflict; psychodynamic theories Helena Neves Almeida 26-01-01
  • of the personality; behavioral theories; cognitive theories; systems theory,among others. This fact makes it difficult for social workers to use them. • The positivist argument2 argues that many theories are insufficientlyrigorous and do not constitute true theories, since they describe and raisehypotheses, but do not have an explicative power based on empiricalreferences. According to this perspective, the comprehension of human activityshould be based on the methods of the natural sciences, and therefore predictbehaviours on the basis of experimental methods and statistical tests. • Eclecticism focuses its attention on the possibility of using acombination of several theories at the same time. By this argument, clientsought to be able to benefit from all the knowledge available, since the theoriesbelong to various disciplinary domains, or may work on different levels. Thisfact underpins the argument that it should be possible to make use of differenttheories, in combined way.2 According to De Bruyne (1984) positivism accepts that: 1 – the social world is inaccessible, only theworld of facts is scientifically analysable; 2 – the subjective world (conscience, intuition and values)eludes science; 3 – external observation is the sole guide, with comprehension and introspection beingrejected due to lack of control; 4 – the notion of general law lies at the center of the positivist program,which aims to discover and confirm general laws. The individual in itself is of no interest and has nosignification; 5 –knowledge of essential structure and fundamental and final causes is illusory. Trueknowledge is the fruit of the capacity to predict events that belong to the sphere of pertinence of the lawsit has established. Erickson (1986) holds that the positivist paradigm is rooted in the postulate of the Helena Neves Almeida 26-01-01
  • 2 – What consideration should we give to such arguments? What concerns to the pragmatic argument, if we consider that theory issocially constructed and that it often corresponds to the need to respond toquestions and problems encountered in various institutions (Grawitz, 1986,331), then theory and practice are not separate universes. Theory may beuseful in replenishing practices, and practice, taken as a sphere of interactionfor a multiplicity of factors, such as context, demand and actors, is essential tothe construction of new knowledge. If the question is put at the level of capacityfor prescription, then it is best to say that everything that we do is theoretical(Howe, 1987). The positivist argument is also fallacious. The 1960s saw theemergence of new epistemological orientations which, influenced by theWeberian tradition, value the subjective and significative nature of the actors’actions. According to the interpretative / comprehensive paradigm, relationsbetween the behaviors and the significations that the actors ascribe to them,vary through their social interactions, and so different significations maycorrespond to identical behaviors (Lessard-Herbert; Goyette and Boutin, 1994)3.uniformity of social life. Positivist orientation values an “axiological neutrality” towards action andfavours the values of rationality, rigour and efficacy (Groulx, 1984).3 The authors cited have characterised the interpretative paradigm as an orientation based on the dualistontological postulate (reality is simultaneously materialist and spiritualist), with a social dimension whichvalues the spatial and temporal context (significations vary in terms of specific groups of individuals,who, through their interactions, share determined comprehensions and traditions particular to thisenvironment, which differs from one group to another). From the ontological standpoint, the uniformityof social life is apparent, even though it constitutes an epistemological category that is necessary forinterpreting the world. Helena Neves Almeida 26-01-01
  • The interpretative paradigm ensures a kind of continuity relative to the wisdomof common sense. The learning of common sense that all subjects have withrespect to their reality, history and environment form the basis for knowledge ofsocial realities. This presupposition does not imply a breach with the commonsense advocated by positivism, but a continuity between that and scientificlearning. In this context, the everyday world comes to be valued as a source ofknowledge, influenced by the phenomenological stream of Husserl. This newapproach allows the familiar to become strange, and explains what is implicit.Everyday life eludes us because it is very familiar, because of the ties ofproximity that make it hard for us to analyze them. The interpretative /comprehensive paradigm allows us to understand particular situations, bymeans of concrete elements of practice; it enables us to consider thesignifications that subjects ascribe to events and to the contextual conditions ofexistence. This epistemological orientation is centered on the comprehension of, andnot on the explanation (determinist) for, “external realities”, as the positivism ofDurkheim (1980) argues. Moreover, the explicative power of the socialsciences is illusory, given the difficulty in isolating the factors intervening insocial situations. In the light of the foregoing, is it possible to question whether the socialwill mean to explain or to comprehend. If the social object is seen not as anexternal reality, but as a subjective construction, then studying the social will beto understand it. Understanding may nevertheless signify, as Max Weberstressed, explaining the motivation and meaning attributed to or associated with Helena Neves Almeida 26-01-01
  • the action. In this regard, explaining is also perceiving the context to which thataction belongs. Acceptance of the eclectic argument, and recognizing the possibility ofcombining sundry knowledge in the course of an action, does not imply thatsocial workers are released from their responsibilities in the process ofaccumulating, integrating and transforming knowledge coming from practice, asthough theory might restrict the action or limit the production of knowledge, oreven as though practice might constitute a reservoir of theory. On the contrary,theory empowers practice, furnishing it with valuable orientations relative tounderstanding the reality / the context in which it operates and to the veryprocess of intervention, without descending into practicism. Theory should, therefore, be seen as a tool for guiding action andaction as a space for renewing knowledge. In this context, the field ofpractice is established as a dynamic entity, helping towards theconstruction of new knowledge. Action always has meaning andsignification, and the social worker cannot be consigned to a passive rolein the process of receiving and using knowledge. Knowledge isreplenished in everyday life and in the context of the relations betweensocial actors. Social workers must be aware of this fact and not ignorethe huge source of knowledge which practice comprises. Theory andpractice are inextricably linked. Helena Neves Almeida 26-01-01
  • 3 – The value of theory But let us not belittle the value of theory. It is an essential guide both onthe plane of constructing new knowledge and on that of action, since it suppliespractice (Payne, 1994, 50) with: models – which make it possible to single out determined principles andpatterns of activity which standardize practices, from descriptions of generalpractice procedures; approaches or perspectives – in the framework of complex humanactivities, which allow subjects to participate consciously in the processes inwhich they are involved; explanations – about the reasons why a given action works in a given way,and in what circumstances this occurs; prescriptions – for actions, so that those who are intervening know what todo in specific circumstances; justifications – for the use of models and explanations of practice responsibilities – in describing appropriate practices. It can be made a distinction between comprehensive theories, appliedtheories, specific theories and perspective theories: Comprehensive theories - offer a system of thinking that covers all thepractices of social workers who wish to develop ‘casework’, group work orresidential work practices. Comprehensive theories provide a globalframework, regardless of the core object and area of intervention. This refers to Helena Neves Almeida 26-01-01
  • the knowledge that makes it possible to understand the complexity of theintervention process, and which serves to buttress the bases for practices thatare differentiated and, at the same time, standardized, from the standpoint ofthe intentionality of the action. Among these theories we may placepsychodynamic theories, behavioral theories, cognitivist theories and systems’theories. Perspective Theories which consist of ways of considering life,organizing professional attitudes relative to personal and social change, andwhich shape conceptions in the framework of professional practices. In thisgroup we find the humanist / existentialist and radical approaches. Specific Theories which delimit specific procedures and benchmarkattitudes, whatever the starting context and theoretic framework may be.Theories of communication and problem solving can be found in this group oforientations. Applied Theories which produce a group of knowledge oriented toparticular concrete situations in an individual or collective field, such as conflictmanagement, network working, pedagogy of consciousness-raising,empowerment, advocacy. Social mediation also belongs in this group oftheories (Almeida, 2000). So, there are several theories backing up methodological and proceduraloptions (Figure 1), which operate at different levels: the level of global Helena Neves Almeida 26-01-01
  • comprehension; the level of conceptualization of practice, and the procedurallevel. The multiplicity of theoretical benchmarks bear witness to the complexityof the intervention process and the need for interdisciplinary or transdisciplinarywork. FIG. 1 – THEORETICAL BENCHMARKS FOR SOCIAL WORK COMPREHENSIVE THEORIES PERSPECTIVE THEORIES SPECIFIC THEORIES PRACTICAL THEORIES Conflict Management Network working Empowerment Advocacy Social Mediation THEORIES OF COMMUNICATION HUMANIST / EXISTENTIALIST APPROACH RADICAL APPROACH PSYCHODYNAMIC THEORY. BEHAVIORAL THEORY COGNITIVIST THEORY SYSTEMS’ THEORY Helena Neves Almeida 26-01-01
  • Final considerations: The responsibility of university institutions that runtraining courses in social work. In the light of the above, the application of knowledge to social realityimplies a drive based on three aspects: 1 – the acknowledgment of the theoretical content which underpinsrenewed practices and the meaning ascribed to them; 2 – the identification of the conceptual network that cements the innovativeattitudes on the procedural plane; 3 – the acceptance of the active role played by social workers on the planeof knowledge construction. These elements favour both the development of coherent, theoreticallybased, strategic actions, that is, actions that are cognitively oriented by means-ends relations, adapted to the social reality of intervention, and also theproduction of new knowledge. The field of action is not a hoard of knowledgethat manifests itself as a routine. Action is the outcome of choices, even whenwe are not aware of the fact. And, although their bases may not always beparticularly distinct, these choices lead to the perception that practices arediverse. The inadequate consideration given to everyday professional life hascontributed a great deal to this. In this context, the responsibility of university institutions is considerable.It has become necessary to develop a “culture of research” that brings thediscourses of theory and practice closer together. And this will only beachieved by doing research, and teaching how to do it. Relations with the fieldof intervention enable knowledge to be replenished, converging strategies andvaluing knowledge. Helena Neves Almeida 26-01-01
  • References: ALMEIDA H., Conceptions et pratiques de la médiation sociale. Les modèles de médiation dans le quotidien professionnel des assistants sociaux. Thèse de doctorat présentée à la Faculté des Lettres de l’Université de Fribourg, en Suisse, 2000. BANKS S., Ethics and values in social work, London, Macmillan Press, 1995. CURNOCK K. & HARDICKER P., Towards Practice Theory. Skills and Methods in Social Assessments, London, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1979. DE BRUYNE P. & al., Dynamique de la recherche en sciences sociales, Les pôles de la pratique méthodologique, Paris, PUF, 1974.DURKHEIM E., As regras do método sociológico, Lisboa, Editorial Presença, 1980. ERICKSON F., “Qualitative methods in research on teaching” in WITTROCK M.C., Handbook of research on teaching, Nova Yorque, Macmillan, 1986, pp.119-161. GRAWITZ M., Méthodes des Sciences Sociales, Paris, Précis Dalloz, 7e edition, 1986. GROULX L., “Recherche et formation en service social au Quebec: tendances et interprétation” in Service Social dans le Monde, 3, 1984. HOWE D., An introduction to social work theory: making sense in practice, Community Care,England, Wildwood House Limited, 1987. KAHN A., Teoria e prática do planejamento social, S.Paulo, ESSPUC, 1971. LESSARD-HÉBERT G., & BOUTIN G., Investigação qualitativa: fundamentos e práticas, Lisboa, Instituto Piaget, 1994. PAYNE M., Modern Social Theory: a Critical Introduction, London, Macmillan Press, 1991. ROBERTS R., Lessons from the Past: Issues for Social Work Theory, London, Routledge, 1990.RONNBY A., “Praxiology in Social Work” in International Social Work, vol,35, 1992, pp.317-329. SCHÖN D., The Reflective Practitioner: How Professionals Think in Action, New York, Basic Books, 1987. Helena Neves Almeida 26-01-01
  • NEW APPROACHES TO SOCIAL INTERVENTION- THE APPLICATION AND CONSTRUCTION OF KNOWLEDGE: A CHALLENGE AND CURRENT DYNAMIC IN SOCIAL WORK- Helena Neves Almeida Helena Neves Almeida 26-01-01
  • The question is to know the relationship between theory and practice in the intervention process and what the arguments are in this context. Helena Neves Almeida 26-01-01
  • 1 – The relationship between theory and practice in the process of social work There are three prominent arguments : The pragmatic argument, the positivist argument and eclecticism.- The pragmatic argument holds that there is a confused mass of theories, mostly imported from different social, economic and political contexts, and of no useful relevance. The obstacles to practical application have various origins, among which the following stand out: the generalist nature of some theories, which hampers their using in specific practical actions, and the existence of a high degree of competition between theories, making it difficult to choose a particular one.- The positivist argument argues that many theories are insufficiently rigorous and do not constitute true theories, since they describe and raise hypotheses, but do not have an explicative power based on empirical references. According to this perspective, the comprehension of human activity should be based on the methods of the natural sciences, and therefore predict behaviours on the basis of experimental methods and statistical tests. Helena Neves Almeida 26-01-01
  • - Eclecticism focuses its attention on the possibility of using a combination of several theories at the same time. By this argument, clients ought to be able to benefit from all the knowledge available, since the theories belong to various disciplinary domains, or may work on different levels. This fact underpins the argument that it should be possible to make use of different theories, in combined way. Helena Neves Almeida 26-01-01
  • 2 – What consideration should we give to such arguments? Theory should, therefore, be seen as a tool for guidingaction and action as a space for renewing knowledge. In thiscontext, the field of practice is established as a dynamic entity,helping towards the construction of new knowledge. Action always has meaning and signification, and thesocial worker cannot be consigned to a passive role in theprocess of receiving and using knowledge. Knowledge is replenished in everyday life and in thecontext of the relations between social actors. Social workersmust be aware of this fact and not ignore the huge source ofknowledge which practice comprises. Theory and practice are inextricably linked. Helena Neves Almeida 26-01-01
  • 3 – The value of theory But let us not belittle the value of theory. It is an essential guide bothon the plane of constructing new knowledge and on that of action, since itsupplies practice with: models – which make it possible to single out determined principles andpatterns of activity which standardize practices, from descriptions of generalpractice procedures; approaches or perspectives – in the framework of complex humanactivities, which allow subjects to participate consciously in the processes inwhich they are involved; explanations – about the reasons why a given action works in a givenway, and in what circumstances this occurs; prescriptions – for actions, so that those who are intervening know whatto do in specific circumstances; justifications – for the use of models and explanations of practice Helena Neves Almeida 26-01-01
  • It can be made a distinction betweencomprehensive theories, applied theories,specific theories and perspective theories. FIG. 1 – THEORETICAL BENCHMARKS FOR SOCIAL WORK COMPREHENSIVE THEORIES PERSPECTIVE THEORIES SPECIFIC THEORIES PRACTICAL THEORIES Conflict Management Network working Empowerment Advocacy Social Mediation THEORIES OF COMMUNICATION HUMANIST / EXISTENTIALIST APPROACH RADICAL APPROACH PSYCHODYNAMIC THEORY. BEHAVIORAL THEORY COGNITIVIST THEORY SYSTEMS’ THEORY Helena Neves Almeida 26-01-01
  • Final considerations The responsibility of university institutions that run training courses in social work. In the light of the above, the application of knowledge to social realityimplies a drive based on three aspects: 1 – the acknowledgment of the theoretical content whichunderpins renewed practices and the meaning ascribed tothem; 2 – the identification of the conceptual network thatcements the innovative attitudes on the procedural plane; 3 – the acceptance of the active role played by socialworkers on the plane of knowledge construction. Helena Neves Almeida 26-01-01
  • These elements favour both the development of coherent,theoretically based, strategic actions, that is, actions that arecognitively oriented by means-ends relations, adapted to thesocial reality of intervention, and also the production of newknowledge. The field of action is not a hoard of knowledge thatmanifests itself as a routine. Action is the outcome of choices,even when we are not aware of the fact. And, although theirbases may not always be particularly distinct, these choiceslead to the perception that practices are diverse. Theinadequate consideration given to everyday professional lifehas contributed a great deal to this. In this context, the responsibility of university institutionsis considerable. It has become necessary to develop a“culture of research” that brings the discourses of theoryand practice closer together. And this will only be achieved bydoing research, and teaching how to do it. Relations with thefield of intervention enable knowledge to be replenished,converging strategies and valuing knowledge. Helena Neves Almeida 26-01-01