01 SES 08 B, Tackling Educational Inequality through Professional Development
How do political and educational reforms in welfare professional training affect welfare work and welfare workers? Does reform affect what kinds of students are recruited to professional training, and who later in fact enters welfare professional work?
This paper examines the Danish field of welfare work, and how field-wide reforms originating in the political and educational fields affect the structure of this field. The reforms are ones that can be grouped under the heading New Public Management, and include the establishing of Danish University Colleges for professional training, detailed changes in exam forms and tasks, and changing regulations of welfare professional work and responsibility.
I apply the term field of welfare work to institutions and agents of the Danish welfare state, all of whom are organized by a number of welfare professions. The field-term evokes the idea of social fields as put forward by Pierre Bourdieu (Bourdieu & Clough, 1998): a subsection of social space, organized by a specific logic, and specific practices. This implies understanding the agents and institutions of welfare work as having coherent categories of evaluation and perception, and common assumptions about the purpose of their work. Yet the notion of a field also implies that these categories and assumptions are the object of ongoing struggles about dominance within the field(Broady, 1991; Brodersen, 2009). Thus, in this paper I apply the notion of a field of welfare work to study a number of professions, their struggles, and their degree of closure under one heading, and thus the paper departs from a more traditional understanding of professions(Carlhed, 2011; Saks, 2012).
The Bourdieuan theoretical framework assumes that other fields affect the field of welfare work. Struggles within the political, bureaucratic end educational fields push dominating agendas into the field of welfare work through political agendas, administrative reforms, reforms of educational goals, structures and evaluations. These fields occupy a position of relative dominance towards the field of welfare work, meaning that reforms and political struggles “trickle down” into the struggles of the agents and institutions of the field of welfare work.
The paper examines the field of welfare work through these three research questions
- What forms of capital and relations of dominance structure the Danish field of welfare work?
- What changes has this structure undergone in recent years?
- How do these changes in capital structure relate to political and bureaucratic reform?
Previous studies(Frederiksen, 2010; Frederiksen, 2014) have shown welfare work to possess limited social status, and its agents as recruited from middle to lower class backgrounds, predominantly female, with an increasing number of immigrants or immigrant descent(Bøje, 2010; Harrits, Johansen, Kristensen, Olesen, & Larsen, 2014; Harrits & Olesen, 2012). These social characteristics relate to the dominated status of the field, and provide the impetus for examining a further question:
- To what extent do administrative and educational reforms mitigate or perpetuate the relatively dominated position of welfare workers?
Bourdieu, P., & Clough, L. C. (1998). The State Nobility: Elite Schools in the Field of Power. Contemporary Sociology (Vol. 27, p. 351). Cambridge: Polity Press. doi:10.2307/2655468 Broady, D. (1991). Sociologi och epistemologi Om Pierre Bourdieus författarskap och den historiska epistemologin (Vol. 1991). Brodersen, M. (2009). Fra profession til felt forvelfærdsarbejde. Tidsskrift for Arbejdsliv, 11(3). Bøje, J. D. (2010). Differentiering og sortering i pædagoguddannelsen. University of Copenhagen. Carlhed, C. (2011). Professioner i sociala fält – att använda fältbegreppet i professionsforskning, (september), 1–21. Frederiksen, J. (2014). Trawling for students. In F. Lebaron & M. Grenfell (Eds.), Bourdieu and Data Analysis. Peter Lang. Frederiksen, J. T. (2010). Between Practice and profesion. The Relationsship between Students’ Social Biographies, Educational Strategies, and the Demands of the Specially Structured Program for Social Educator Training. Educational Studies. Forskerskolen i Livslang Læring, Roskilde Universitetscenter, Roskilde. Harrits, G. S., Johansen, M. B., Kristensen, J. E., Olesen, S. G., & Larsen, L. T. (2014). Professioner under pres. VIA systime. Harrits, G. S., & Olesen, S. G. (2012). På vej til professionerne. VIA Systime. Le Roux, B., & Rouanet, H. (2004). Geometric data analysis, from correspondence analysis to structured data analysis. Dordrecht: Boston. Lebaron, F. (2009). How Bourdieu “quantified” Bourdieu: The geometric modelling of data. Quantifying Theory: Pierre Bourdieu, (June 2007), 11–29. Saks, M. (2012, June). Defining a Profession: The Role of Knowledge and Expertise. Professions and Professionalism. doi:10.7577/pp.v2i1.151
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