Constructivism in social work: towards a participative practice viability

Cooper, Barry (2001). Constructivism in social work: towards a participative practice viability. British Journal of Social Work, 31(5) pp. 721–738.



Social work has traditionally drawn upon an expansive range of social science research and theorizing as its claim upon a ‘knowledge base’. Recent debates have explored the need for the profession to develop its own theory of social work knowledge arising from practice. This paper seeks to extend the boundaries of these ideas through an operational and epistemological elaboration and critique of Sheppard's (1995a; 1998) notion of a practice paradigm. In an examination of the contribution of constructivism and the seminal work of George Kelly's (1955) Psychology of Personal Constructs, arguments are put forward for social work practice to focus upon the co-construction of viable working relationships with service users as the basis for an anti-oppressive and participative professionalism. It argues that the sterile philosophical dichotomies between objectivism/realism-subjectivism/interpretivism and the equally unhelpful social work division between practice-theory should be integrated within a situated, participatory, constructivist approach to knowledge creation in social work practice and continuing professional development.

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