Interpretative Social Work: On the Uses of Qualitative Methods for Practice, Reflection and Research
Qualitative methods could play an important role in the context of a lively, life-world oriented, and emancipatory self-reflective social work. They are already applied in three realms of social work: social work research, the daily practice of social workers and professional self-reflection. Even though these three realms overlap they are three distinct spheres of knowledge and action, which have specific aims. Therefore qualitative methods have to be adjusted to the needs of social science, practice and practice reflection. When students and practitioners of social work learn to use qualitative methods in this sense, they gain a competence which can be referred to as "ethnographic sophistication." This "ethnographic sophistication" contains essential elements of social work professionalism. Familiarity with qualitative methods and their application are highly relevant for the acquisition of basic competencies in social work, i.e., that what has become known as "reconstructive social pedagogy" is much more than just one social work method among others. But a consequence of the introduction of academic reforms of the so called "Bologna process" all over Europe is that it has become more difficult in many universities and universities of applied sciences to implement this approach.
qualitative methods; theory and methods of social work; ethnographic sophistication; diagnosis; reflection of professional practice; reconstructive social work research; fieldnotes; group discussions; biographical-narrative interviewing