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Shifting subordination : Co-located interprofessional collaboration between teachers and social workers

By Anette Bolin


The purpose of this thesis is to describe and analyse the practice processes involved in co-located interprofessional collaboration. The study took place in a resource school where social workers and teachers collaborate on an everyday basis around children who are both in receipt of special educational support and interventions from social services. The research question centres on the division of labour and the explicit notions and implicit assumptions that underpin it. Further, the organisational conditions that influence the division of labour, the process involved in the selection of pupils, and the processes of maintenance and development of professional identities in a close collaborative context are all examined. The study is a qualitative case study of interprofessional collaboration. Through interviews with the teachers and social workers, and via participatory observation of their professional practice, empirical data has been generated. This has been used to examine processes of collaborative collaboration in accordance with a thematic analytical scheme. A theoretical framework based on theories of the sociology of professions (Abbot, 1988; Evetts, 2006b) and drawing also on the work of Hasenfeld (2010a) on human service organisations and Lipsky (1980) on street level bureaucrats, in conjunction with Strauss’ (1978) theory of negotiations, has been used in analysing the empirical data. The results indicate that the intake process functions primarily to legitimise collaboration from an organisational and professional perspective. Further, the teachers and social workers create what are termed common and separate grounds for practice. The concept of common grounds describes the processes in which common collaborative relationships are created, such as, for example, the construction of interchangeability and a common practice ideology. Separate grounds, on the other hand, involves situations in which social workers and teachers are engaged in defining and specifying their profession-specific roles in the context of their everyday work. Another means of maintaining and reinforcing a profession-specific professional identity in co-located collaborative contexts is the use of the spatial design. The results also point to three particular characteristics in the construction of co-located interprofessional collaboration. First, professionals are engaged in what can be termed a form of shifting subordination as a means of both legitimising and developing their professional identities. Shifting subordination is a strategy used to reduce and avoid professional conflict around roles and working tasks. Secondly, they are engaged in constructing a shared professional identity as a means to meet the organization’s imperative of ‘getting the job done’. Thirdly, there is the characteristic of interdependence which shapes the negotiation processes involved in the division of labour

Topics: interprofessional collaboration, social work, teaching, professions, jurisdiction,subordination, discretion
Year: 2011
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