University of Leicester
2017JensenKJDSocSci.pdf (1.58 MB)

Connecting professional identity and workplace learning in a public sector context of change: The case of Danish social workers

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posted on 2017-07-10, 09:50 authored by Karsten Jensen
This study explores the inter-related roles of professional identity and informal learning in shaping responses by social workers to the context of change. The background for the study is the multiple policy reforms, changing the modality of public services of Denmark into the requirements of the competition state. Aiming to understand the relations between professional identity and informal learning, the study examines, how workers engage in informal learning in microrelations of everyday practices in a context of change. The study employs a qualitative research strategy, leaning on an interpretivist and a social constructivist approach. The data collection is done through semi-structured interviews, involving 20 social workers located in different municipalities in Denmark. The study concludes that the social workers' adjustment of professional identity in response to organisational change is mediated and facilitated by informal learning through microrelations of the workplace. Confirming the essential role of microrelations, the study illustrates, how the microrelations at work provide a space that facilitates informal learning to strengthen the capacity to act and to adjust professional capacity in relation to the context of change. Finally, the study documents how professional identity is based on a core of professional autonomy that itself is formed by exclusion of ‘the other’. The study adds to an area of research that is not yet well documented. Giving a voice to social workers, this study is the first to explore the narratives of social workers in terms of, how workers adjust professional capacity in a context of change as well as documenting how microrelations emerge at the workplace, offering a space for informal learning and adjustment of professional identity.



Hammer, Nikolaus; Rudloff, Daniela

Date of award


Author affiliation

Centre for Labour Market Studies

Awarding institution

University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • DSocSci



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