Phenomenology of Professional Practices in Education and Health Care: An Empirical Investigation

Wenche Bjorbækmo, Kristin Vindohl Evensen, Karen Synne Groven, Gro Rugseth, Øyvind F. Standal


In this article a group of professionals working in education and health care explore
professional practices and interactions from a phenomenological perspective, drawing on Max
van Manen’s conceptualization of the phenomenology of practice and his knowledge interest
in understanding and furthering sensitive, caring professional practice. Posing the question
what is the meaning of interaction in encounters within education and health care, we look
at practice experiences drawn from close observations and interviews during research
concerning special needs education, physiotherapy and weight loss programs. Three anecdotes
are offered as a way to ‘show,’ rather than interpret, the processes involved. Each anecdote is
followed by reflections in which we draw on van Manen’s notion of pathic knowledge and
Nancy’s ideas about co-existence to develop phenomenological insights about temporal,
embodied and relational qualities of the phenomenon of interaction in professional practice.
Such interaction seems to involve continuous negotiation. It emerges as a process of exchange,
a movement back and forth between supporting and letting oneself be supported; between
confronting and being confronted; between pushing and being pushed. Moments of active engagement give way to periods of waiting for the other to act. The experience is one of
continuous back and forth movement in the relational space in-between.


professional practice, health care, education, pathic knowledge, co-existence, embodied interaction, placement and dis-placement

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ISSN: 1913-4711