Sense-making in child protection: Interpreting social workers' reasoning processes through applying Archer's theory of reflexivity

Cavener, John (2017) Sense-making in child protection: Interpreting social workers' reasoning processes through applying Archer's theory of reflexivity. Doctoral thesis, Northumbria University.

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Sense-making is an important practice accomplishment in child protection. This is because the judgement and decisions which follow can have life changing consequences for children and families. A contemporary social constructionist perspective identifies critical-reflexivity as a concept drawing attention to the influence discourse, knowledge, language and culture can have on human sense-making processes. In all social settings, these often taken-for-granted phenomena can shape human sense-making, action and agency. Empirical studies exploring practitioners’ sense-making and reflexive practice(s) in social work settings remain underrepresented within the literature. Therefore, informed by Margaret Archer’s theory of reflexivity, this study examines sense-making in child protection and the reflexive practice(s) of social workers situated in a statutory setting.

The research questions guiding the study are: ‘How do social workers ‘make sense’ in child protection?’ And: ‘Is sense-making in child protection informed by reflexivity?’ Utilising methods commonly applied in ethnography the study combined participant observation with in-depth interviews. Interviews included participant reflections on case studies. A thematic analysis was utilised to interpret the study data. Key themes drawn from the study data included how sense-making in child protection was influenced by: (1) prescriptive policy and practice frameworks (2) practitioners’ biographical backgrounds, perspectives, approaches, values, beliefs and concerns and (3) their differing ‘modes’ of personal reflexivity.

The study findings highlight how sense-making in child protection and the practice of personal reflexivity is a multi-faceted activity embedded within a range of formal and informal reasoning processes. Practitioners’ differing reflexive modes are identified as causally influenced by their personal biographies, knowledge, experiences, values, beliefs, concerns and their professional practice contexts, approaches and relationships. Highlighting how social workers think, talk about, experience and assign meaning to their day-to-day practice realities this study contributes knowledge to understanding sense-making, personal reflexivity and the development of ‘practice-depth’ in child protection.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: L500 Social Work
Department: Faculties > Health and Life Sciences > Social Work, Education and Community Wellbeing
University Services > Graduate School > Doctor of Philosophy
Depositing User: Becky Skoyles
Date Deposited: 11 Oct 2018 10:38
Last Modified: 31 Jul 2021 22:45

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