Creating better futures for children through effective parent education
Nick Hopwood’s DECRA project is now nearing the end of the first phase of fieldwork. It is using a Vygotskian approach to understanding how professionals help parents develop resilience. Nick and his co-researcher Teena Clerke are working with Karitane, Tresillian, and Northern Sydney Local Health District, and this first phase involves shadowing practitioners as they interact with families. The research questions relate to the nature and use of professional expertise, and the pedagogic relationship that unfolds between practitioner and parents.
The Creating Better Futures project is a three-year DECRA project funded by the ARC. It aims to discover some of the most effective practices that help to build resilience in vulnerable families. It was recently featured in the Sydney Morning Herald.
Cultural Historical Activity Theory (CHAT) provides the theoretical centrepiece, stretching from Vygotsky’s spontaneous and scientific concepts, to Edwards’ relational expertise and relational agency (Edwards will be visiting us in February 2016 as a DVS). The first project aim is to identify the most effective practices for bringing about lasting positive change for families through reciprocal learning between parent educators and parents. The second is to identify systemic features that enable and constrain this learning. In phase 1 we are shadowing practitioners in outreach (home visiting) and day stay services, and are fast approaching our target of 50 sessions.
The study poses important questions about the nature of professional expertise, assuming that partnership-based ways of working do not dilute or displace specialist knowledge, but require broader and augmented expertise on the part of the professional, as a learner and in a pedagogic role.
Initial indications are that Vygotksy’s notion of inference (rather than reference), and recent work on the ‘space of reasons’ (Derry, Brandom) will be helpful in exploring how professional (scientific) concepts come to helpfully mediate parents’ interpretations of their children’s behaviour, and to afford new possibilities for acting in response to that behaviour. We are also pursuing Middleton’s D-analysis (see picture) to look at the collaborative communicative action through which ideas get mentioned, taken up, explored, and worked on to provide a platform for change.