Social representations and the study of professional practice

Christopher Walmsley

Abstract


The social representations perspective provides a framework for understanding the thinking of the practicing professional, but its effectiveness as a tool for analyzing professional practice has not been considered. In this article, the author assesses the methodological implications of the social representations perspective to the study of social work practice in child protection. The perceived advantages of the perspective—that it captures symbolic forms of thought, permits analysis of the social context of practice, and enables thought about action to be organized and analyzed in an integrated way—are partially supported. The author could not identify the interplay between scientific and everyday knowledge but does describe other knowledge forms significant to the practitioner. Researchers make only partial use of the perspective’s major ideas. This suggests that a different method is needed to ensure greater application to professional practice.

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