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Title: Power and competence in professional education : a study of youth workers
Author: Bradford, Simon
ISNI:       0000 0001 2415 8492
Awarding Body: Brunel University
Current Institution: Brunel University
Date of Award: 1998
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This thesis explores shifting ideas of youth work, and the changing notions of professional competence that have shaped it since its emergence at the end of the last century. It begins by discussing Foucault's distinctive conception of power. This analysis is applied later in the thesis to youth work itself and to its forms of professional education and training. It is argued that modem professional practices illustrate the changing nature of disciplinary techniques in modem societies. These techniques are employed to discipline both professions themselves (by 'normalising' professional practices), and their client groups, and are also part of the contemporary problem of 'government'. Indeed, it is argued that models of professional education reflect the historically changing rationales on which British society has been organised and managed. The thesis identifies three phases of this: 'emergent welfarism', social government' or 'welfarism' and 'neo-liberalism. Drawing on a range of historical sources, a number of changing assumptions about young people in the context of youth work are identified, such as their characterisation as an inherently and naturally problematic social category. The 'discourse of adolescence' which draws on a range of knowledges about young people (from scientific to moral) is seen as providing a powerful justification for the expansion of youth work over the last hundred years or so. The youth worker's modem role in managing groups, offering counselling and acting as a 'broker' of social and moral knowledge is discussed. The progressive development of the professional education and training of youth workers since the 1930s is examined together with its curriculum content and the techniques and practices through which youth workers have been socialised into their occupational roles. After the initial tendency towards leadership training through apprenticeship, the professional model became organised on 'technical-rational' principles, with various 'techniques of the self' by which youth workers became disciplined into their professional identities (for example by 'surveillance' and 'confession'). Focus is given to the paradigmatic development and deployment of such techniques at the National College for the Training of Youth Leaders in the 1960s. The thesis concludes with an analysis of the intense criticism to which professional education and training in youth work has been subjected in the last decade, including the separation of theory and practice, unclear curricula, academic and professional elitism, and the marginalisation of learners' experience. The 'discourse of competency' is identified as being important in shaping current approaches to professional education and training in youth work. Finally, it is suggested that the emergent model of professional education is, ironically, characterised by an increasingly intense and invasive application of the techniques of disciplinary power identified earlier in the thesis. Competency practices we suggest facilitate the attempt to govern, professionals ahd professional practice. The thesis is broadly structured in four parts, and in the following way: Chapter 1 provides a broad introduction and context for the thesis. In Part One, Chapter 2 discusses Foucault's concept of power which informs the thesis. In Part Two, Chapter 3 discusses the managerial and disciplinary functions of the human service professions, providing a context for the subsequent analysis of youth work. Chapter 4 goes on to identify models of professional education in their political and social contexts and concludes with a discussion of the 'competency model'. In Part Three, Chapters 5 and 6 explore the distinctive contribution which youth work has made to the regulation and disciplining of young people. In these chapters links are made between broad political objectives and the evolving knowledge and practices of youth workers. In Part Four, Chapter 7 identifies the earliest attempts to identify and enhance competence through the training and education of youth workers. Chapter 8 explores youth work training in the 1960s and 1970s, identifying the essentially humanistic discourse which subsequently dominated youth work and the training of youth workers. In the context of political shifts beginning in the 1970s, Chapter 9 analyses the emergence of a 'discourse of competency' in youth work, and its challenge to the prevailing humanistic orthodoxy which characterised the professional education and training of youth workers. Finally, Chapter 11 draws general and particular conclusions to the thesis.
Supervisor: Down, B. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Foucault's concept of power ; Leadership training ; Apprenticeship ; Competency model