Epistemic Practices in Professional-Client Partnership Work

  • Nick HopwoodEmail author
  • Monika Nerland
Original Paper


Relational aspects of professional practice demand increasing attention in research on work and learning. However, little is known about how knowledge is enacted in practices where different people work together. Working in partnership with clients surfaces a number of epistemic demands, responses to which are poorly understood. This paper analyses two cases of nurses working with parents in support services for families with young children. The questions asked are: What epistemic practices are enacted when professionals work in partnership with clients? How do they generate distinct modes of partnership work? Findings show how professionals’ and clients’ knowledge is mobilised and made actionable through practices of diagnostic reasoning, recontextualising, testing and contesting knowledge claims. A distinction is presented between partnership that unfolds as strengthening the client from a professional epistemic perspective, and that which validates and augments the client’s own epistemic contribution. This reveals how knowledge is made to matter and becomes a basis for action in the course of working with others, and informs a new analytical distillation highlighting key epistemic aspects of professional-client partnership.


Partnership Professional knowledge Epistemic practices Professional practice Parenting 



The research was funded by the Australian Research Council (DE150100365], and approved by The study was approved by South Western Sydney Local Health District Research and Ethics Office (HREC/15/LPOOL/77) and by the University of Technology Sydney HREC (2015000284). The authors wish to thank the staff and clients of Karitane, Tresillian and Northern Sydney Local Health District for their participation.


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Education, University of Technology SydneyBroadwayAustralia
  2. 2.Department of Curriculum StudiesUniversity of StellenboschMatielandSouth Africa
  3. 3.Department of EducationUniversity of OsloOsloNorway

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