Uncovering social workers’ knowledge use

A study of the tacit-explicit dimension of social workers’ professional judgements

Authors

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.1921/swssr.v22i3.1638

Keywords:

Knowledge use, Tacit knowledge, Social work, Professional judgements, The Toulmin model

Abstract

The aim of this study was to explore whether social workers can become more explicit about their knowledge use if they are assisted in analyzing the rationales underlying their conclusions about diagnosis and treatment. By dissecting the rationales provided by 46 Swedish social work practitioners and students in response to two case vignettes describing vulnerable children and their families, and by systematically comparing the rationales generated by two methods of data collection, the study arrived at mixed results. At the general level, the analyses showed that the social workers were indeed more explicit about their knowledge use when assisted in analyzing their rationales. However, there was substantial variation across different types of argument components. While a majority of the respondents spontaneously provided basic level arguments, prompts were often required for them to make explicit the level of uncertainty associated with a conclusion, and to elicit information about specific knowledge sources. Further, most social workers failed to provide a more general explanation for why they inferred a specific conclusion from the data, even when queried. Finally, the results indicated that the knowledge underlying conclusions about treatment was more prevalent and/or explicit in social workers’ reasoning than the knowledge used for arriving at conclusions about diagnosis.

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Published

2022-04-07

How to Cite

Wallander, L. (2022). Uncovering social workers’ knowledge use: A study of the tacit-explicit dimension of social workers’ professional judgements. Social Work and Social Sciences Review, 22(3). https://doi.org/10.1921/swssr.v22i3.1638