Thinking what we do: reflexively testing post-structural theoretical concepts with social work practitioners and fieldwork educators

Uschi Bay, Alexandra Haynes, Deborah Western

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Neoliberalism is a contemporary political rationality in Australian public policy that frames how problems are understood and addressed. Neoliberalism also encourages certain kinds of subjectivities, ways of being and behaving in the world. Foucault’s theorizing about political rationalities was presented to and discussed with 19 Australian social work practitioners (also fieldwork educators) in two half-day professional development workshops. This small research study indicated that exploring social work practice using political rationalities led to participants asking broader questions post workshop, including ‘Why am I thinking about it that way? Why do we see things in a certain way?’ Instead of focusing mainly on their own individual behavior or attitudes and assumptions as indicated in the pre-workshop survey, their questions became ‘What are we doing in the first place?’’ and ‘Could I think about it in a different way?’ The pre and post surveys and the one-hour focus group interview transcripts were used to analyze the shifts in thinking by workshop participants. This study indicated that post-structural theorizing may add some new and worthwhile concepts to the process of critical reflection, especially on the psychosocial effects of neoliberalism. The implications for teaching critical reflection in social work fieldwork education are outlined.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)941-953
Number of pages13
JournalSocial Work Education
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 14 Mar 2019


  • conceptual issues
  • continuing professional development
  • post- modern/post-structural theories
  • Reflection
  • theory

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