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UBC Theses and Dissertations

A framework for dialogue to unsettle taken-for-granted knowledge with a group of professionals Salverda, Menno


This research explores how knowledges are unsettled in a framework of dialogue amongst a group of ‘privileged’ professionals, supporting services to families in the Central Okanagan, Canada. I hold the theoretical position that knowledges are socially constructed. Previous research had identified that parents avoid the very programs that were designed for them and felt stigmatized. Professionals however felt they did ‘good’ work. Through theoretical concepts from Foucault, Ashenden, Goffman and Illich, I identified that a main concern is professional power, linked to expert knowledges, to diagnose and treat families who deviate from norms that have become dominant during liberalism. I was interested in an educational approach to unsettle this ‘hold’ of professional power on the labels by which families were judged and objectified. I drew from critical pedagogists such as Freire and standpoint theorists such as Smith, both whom focused on social transformation by empowering the oppressed. Biesta and Thayer-Bacon critique these theories, arguing that they reinforce binaries and thus inequalities. Based on literature and suggestions for a more open process and attention to relationality, I designed a framework for a dialogue with a group of ‘privileged’ professionals. The purpose was to unsettle knowledges. To support this, strategies were applied from learning models aligned with unsettling, such as ‘Inquiry-Guided Learning.’ I conducted 11 focus groups with 12 professionals over a 6 month period. I also conducted individual semi-structured interviews and collected reflections from participants via emails. The findings are shared through examples of disruptions of knowledge in three areas: professional power, stigma and autonomous family. Implications relevant to the question of how unsettling occurs are that participants in the context of a group of privileged participants can unsettle and that diversity amongst the participants is key to ensure sufficient opportunity to see things through different lenses or different perspective. However, unsettling also requires sufficient trust, curiosity and motivation as well as opportunities to reflect and be reflexive. Lastly, the facilitator has to balance acknowledging emerging learning while still guiding the group to continue to unsettle. Key words: dialogue, unsettle, professional power, stigma, relationality, taken-for-granted knowledge, education

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