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ABS115 - ‘Relational agency’ as the driving force of improvement in welfare services in Iceland

2.2 Identity and professional learning in new and diverse ecologies
5:00 PM, Wednesday 30 Aug 2017 (20 minutes)
Professional practice is usually seen as developed and enacted within specific institutional settings. However, there is a growing awareness of the importance of ecological models in welfare services directed at young disabled children; shifting from specialist focused services to a child and family-focused approach as international conventions and Icelandic law indicate. This requires new forms of practice which call for a capacity to collaborate with other practitioners and draw on resources that may be distributed within and across systems. In this presentation, the concept of relational agency is described and illustrated with reference to a qualitative multi-case study performed in three municipalities in Iceland. The aim is to explore the services provided to young disabled children and their families with an emphasis on capturing the views of the parents in order to contribute to the development of services in a system of distributed expertise. The analysis is located within Cultural-historical activity theory (CHAT). The findings indicate tensions between the three activity systems involved: a) the families, b) the preschools where the children spend their day and c) the specialist services provided outside the preschool. Moreover, the findings demonstrate how the parents see the services as fragmented and incompatible. In the presentation we illustrate how the conceptual tools and concepts offered by CHAT such as ‘interacting activity systems’, ‘boundary space’ and ‘boundary crossing’, ‘expansive learning’ and ‘relational agency’ can be utilised to underpin an enhanced form of professional agency which is of benefit to the objects of practice.

University of Iceland
University of Iceland. School of Education
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