Learning in social work practice
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The research question underpinning this study is ‘How is learning organised within the context of social work practice in the third sector?’ The research objective is to establish conceptual frameworks that theorise the organisation of learning in this context. Drawing upon literatures from Organisational Behaviour, Management, Social Work, Sociology and Psychology (e.g., Ballew and Mink 1996; Foucault 1995; Mayer and Salovey 1997; Ouchi 1979; Weihrich 1982) and undertaking an ethnographic inquiry in the Old-Five-Old Foundation in Taiwan, which collects documents as secondary data and gathers primary data through participant observations and interviews, this study establishes interdisciplinary frameworks to answer this research question. It argues that practitioners’ learning is organised by five kinds of structuring forces. At the macro level, practitioners’ direction of learning is organised by service purchasers’ demanding (an inter-organisational level structuring force) and the service provider’s planning (an organisational level structuring force). The evaluation of practitioners’ learning is organised by the service provider’s monitoring (an organisational level structuring force). At the micro level, practitioners’ methods of learning are organised by practitioners’ puzzle solving and instructors’ instructing (individual level structuring forces). By looking at the macro and micro structuring forces (cross level analysis) that organise practitioners’ learning, including their direction and methods of learning and the evaluation of their learning (process analysis), this study systematically analyses the organising of learning through both a cross-level analysis and a process analysis, deepening an understanding of the organising of learning and thus making an original contribution to previous studies of learning in the organisational setting (e.g., Argyris and ch n 1978; Nonaka and Takeuchi 1995; Senge 1990; Wenger 1998, 2000).