© 2010

Being an Expert Professional Practitioner

The Relational Turn in Expertise


Part of the Professional and Practice-based Learning book series (PPBL, volume 3)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xi
  2. Anne Edwards
    Pages 21-40
  3. Anne Edwards
    Pages 41-60
  4. Anne Edwards
    Pages 81-98
  5. Anne Edwards
    Pages 99-115
  6. Anne Edwards
    Pages 117-136
  7. Anne Edwards
    Pages 137-156
  8. Back Matter
    Pages 157-170

About this book


Professionals deal with complex problems which require working with the expertise of others, but being able to collaborate resourcefully with others is an additional form of expertise. This book draws on a series of research studies to explain what is involved in the new concept of working relationally across practices. It demonstrates how spending time building common knowledge between different professions aids collaboration. The core concept is relational agency, which can arise between practitioners who work together on a complex task: whether reconfiguring the trajectory of a vulnerable child or developing a piece of computer software. Common knowledge, which captures the motives and values of each profession, is essential for the exercise of relational agency and contributing to and working with the common knowledge of what matters for each profession is a new form of relational expertise. The book is based on a wide body of field research including the author’s own. It tackles how to research expert practices using Vygotskian perspectives, and demonstrates how Cultural Historical and Activity Theory approaches contribute to how we understand learning, practices and organisations.


CHAT cultural historical activity theory (CHAT) expertise knowledge work organization profession professional practice professionalism relational agency relational expertise relational turn workforce development

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.Dept. EducationUniversity of OxfordOxfordUnited Kingdom

Bibliographic information

  • Book Title Being an Expert Professional Practitioner
  • Book Subtitle The Relational Turn in Expertise
  • Authors Anne Edwards
  • Series Title Professional and Practice-based Learning
  • Series Abbreviated Title Profess.,Practice.Learning
  • DOI
  • Copyright Information Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010
  • Publisher Name Springer, Dordrecht
  • eBook Packages Humanities, Social Sciences and Law Education (R0)
  • Hardcover ISBN 978-90-481-3968-2
  • Softcover ISBN 978-94-007-3302-2
  • eBook ISBN 978-90-481-3969-9
  • Series ISSN 2210-5549
  • Edition Number 1
  • Number of Pages XII, 172
  • Number of Illustrations 0 b/w illustrations, 0 illustrations in colour
  • Topics Professional & Vocational Education
  • Buy this book on publisher's site


From the reviews:

“A well-argued account of the need for professional practitioners to become resourceful learners in and through work, engaging relationally with others at the sites where practices interact, and with clients. The theoretical frameworks which inform the text are clearly explicated, and examples from her own, and other research studies, bring these to life. … this text has much to recommend it, both to researchers and academics interested in learning at work, and to professional practitioners who wish to develop greater understanding of contemporary practice issues.” (Anne-Marie Reid, Vocations and Learning, Vol. 5, 2012)

This is a groundbreaking book for two main reasons in that it develops new perspectives on expertise and agency. The thinking was forged through a long term engagement with research which has examined professional learning and systems development and functioning in the public sector in the UK. This work drew attention to the multiprofessional nature of new and emerging forms of professional work and the need for professionals to develop new and relational forms of expertise. The development of an understanding and appreciation of the capabilities and priorities of other professional service providers has become a major imperative in modern welfare services. This book argues for, and illustrates, the building of common knowledge that stretches across boundaries and  in turn mediates the exercise of relational agency . In short this book announces the need for an enhanced form of professionalism which has major implications for professional work and learning as well as training. It is well written and accessible to a wide audience. It is, without doubt, a major contribution. It sheds new light on a field which is in danger of instrumental codification rather than, as this book does with such elegance, promotes an understanding of complexity and subtlety of the ways in which new forms of work emerge.

Harry Daniels, University of Bath