Improving professionalism through reflection and discourse in communities of practice: The key situations in social work model and project

Adi Staempfli, Eva Tov, Regula Kunz, Domink Tschopp, Stefan Eugster Stamm


Professional social work under conditions of uncertainty and complexity requires integration of various forms of knowledge, practice and values and entails managing emotions skilfully to make ethical professional judgements. The article discusses these challenges for social work(ers) and introduces the key situation in social work model. It consists of a systematic reflection process of typical, reoccurring practice situations in communities of practice (CoPs). Situated knowledge, memorised in relation to situations is dominant and is more easily accessed in practice. Situational knowledge, co-produced in reflections on key situations, is documented and shared on a virtual platform. Therefore, the model offers a concept for situational knowledge management and for discursive examination in professional and scientific communities. In the #keysituation project a platform was constructed and 10 CoPs with 35 active members from practice and academia quality assure its content. Based on the literature nine design principles for CoPs are suggested. The authors describe how these were applied. Success and failure depends on balancing three constituent aspects of CoPs: domain, community and practice. The model offers a flexible approach to continuous professional development (CPD), which fosters a learning culture essential to overcome managerial, technocratic approaches so prevalent in social work organisations.

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