Biographical Methods and Professional Practice: An International Perspective

Biographical Methods and Professional Practice: An International Perspective

Biographical Methods and Professional Practice: An International Perspective

Biographical Methods and Professional Practice: An International Perspective


The turn to biographical methods in social science is yielding a rich harvest of research outcomes and invigorating the relationship between policy and practice. This book uses a range of interpretive approaches to reveal the dynamics of service users' and professionals' individual experiences and life-worlds. It shows how biographical methods can improve theoretical understanding of professional practice, as well as enrich the learning and development or professionals, and promote more meaningful and creative practitioner-service user relationships.Biographical methods and professional practice:reviews applications of biographical methods in both policy and practice in a range of professional contexts, from health and social care to education and employment;explores the impact on proffesional practice of social change in three main arenas: transformation from Eastern to Western types of society in Europe, major shifts in social and welfare principles, experiences of immigration and of new cultural diversity;critically evaluates subjective and reflexive processes in interactions between researchers, practitioners and users of services;considers the institutional arrangements and cultural contexts which supporteffective and sensitive interventions and which support and encourage change in the lives of individuals.With contributions from leading international experts, it provides a valuable comparative perspective. Researchers, policy analysts and practitioners, postgraduate students, teachers and trainers will find this book a stimulating read.


This volume is concerned with the relevance of biographical methods and the contextualised understanding of human agency, as keys in professional interventions. Its interest lies in the usefulness of biographical methods in investigating and generating new forms of social practice and in gaining fresh insights into institutional processes. the contributions to this volume portray ways in which biographical methods have been (or are starting to be) applied in various aspects of professional training as well as in partnership with users of services. the volume evaluates biographical practice against a mapping of practitioner and user positioning and experience. It also does so in different contexts, reviewing developments in policy and practice in a comparative European perspective.

The book profits from lively dialogues in international networks of biographical researchers, and draws on research from a wide range of countries. With such an international perspective, there is inevitably a strong emphasis on issues of migration and cultural diversity, gender, and situations of social transformation.

In this introduction, we clarify for readers our particular understandings of the term ‘professional practice’, and reflect on the differing contexts in which biographically focused professional practice has emerged.

Concepts of professional practice

Our understanding of professionalism concerns relationships of practice where interactions develop and are sustained within contexts that are rarely predetermined or formally defined, and in which the rules of engagement may be shaped under conditions of uncertainty and challenges to established boundaries. This contrasts with a more traditional approach to professional practice, in which social influence and power are what fundamentally differentiates professionalism from other forms of work (Evetts, 2003). It also goes beyond the emphasis on specified codes of conduct, learned and assessed procedures, and membership, which are typically used to define the work and action of occupations such as medicine, accountancy and law. This is not to say that questions of power differentials, knowledge, training and codes of behaviour are not relevant; rather that these more conventional and traditional defining characteristics come to be problematised by a more inclusive and . . .

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