Category Archives: New from Nick

New stuff written by me!

New paper on simulation in nurse education

I’m delighted to announce another publication from the project I’ve been doing with Donna Rooney, David Boud (both UTS School of Education),and Michelle Kelly (former UTS: Health, now at Curtin).

Kelly M, Hopwood N, Rooney D & Boud D (2016) Enhancing students’ learning through simulation: dealing with diverse, large cohorts. Clinical Simulation in Nursing 26(12), 171-176. doi: 10.1016/j.ecns.2016.01.010 

The highlights of the article are:

  • As healthcare simulation matures, new questions about pedagogy are emerging.
  • The challenges of large and diverse student cohorts need to be accounted for.
  • Relevant pedagogies are: informal learning, clinical judgement and sociomaterial.
  • Assist active participants and observers to become attuned to professional practice. Improving students’ noticing skills assists in learning about practice.

The abstract is:

As the field of health care simulation matures, new questions about appropriate pedagogy are emerging which present challenges to research and practices. This has implications for how we investigate and deliver effective simulations, how we conceive effectiveness, and how we make decisions about investment in simulation infrastructure. In this article, we explore two linked challenges that speak to these wider concerns: student diversity and large cohorts. We frame these within contemporary simulation practices and offer recommendations for research and practice that will account for students’ varying cultural expectations about learning and clinical practice in the Australian context.




New book out: ethnography of professional learning and parenting pedagogy

A day that has been a long time coming: I finally received the hard copies of my new book “Professional Practice and Learning: TNick PPLimes, Spaces, Bodies, Things”, published with Springer. It is part of the Professional and Practice Based Learning series, edited by Stephen Billett, Christian Harteis, and Hans Gruber.

The book is a major work, based on my ethnographic study of professional services for parents with young children at risk. Fieldwork as conducted at Karitane‘s Residential Unit in Carramar, Sydney. The research was funded as part of my Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Research Fellowship at UTS.

The reference for the book is (doi: 10.1007/978-3-319-26164-5):

Hopwood N (2016) Professional practice and learning: times, spaces, bodies, things. Dordrecht: Springer. 


Highlights and special features

  • Applies of sociomaterial / practice based approaches in a full ethnographic study
  • Draws both on practice philosophy, and practice-based approaches from organisational learning
  • Develops of unique arguments concerning relationship between practice and learning
  • Provides unique insights into pedagogical role served by professionals in coproductive practices.

This book explores important questions about the relationship between professional practice and learning, and implications of this for how we understand professional expertise. Focusing on work accomplished through partnerships between practitioners and parents with young children, the book explores how connectedness in action is a fluid, evolving accomplishment, with four essential dimensions: times, spaces, bodies, and things. Within a broader sociomaterial perspective, the analysis draws on practice theory and philosophy, bringing different schools of thought into productive contact, including the work of Schatzki, Gherardi, and recent developments in cultural historical activity theory. The book takes a bold view, suggesting practices and learning are entwined but distinctive phenomena. A clear and novel framework is developed, based on this idea. The argument goes further by demonstrating how new, coproductive relationships between professionals and clients can intensify the pedagogic nature of professional work, and showing how professionals can support others’ learning when the knowledge they are working with, and sense of what is to be learned, are uncertain, incomplete, and fragile.

Comments on back cover from leading scholars

“Meticulously researched and at once measured and authoritative, this constitutes an important and innovative contribution to the field. Based on an in-depth ethnographic study, it develops a rich account of practice in action and context, and provides new insight into professional learning and its associated pedagogies. Highly recommended.” Professor Bill Green, Charles Sturt University (Australia)

“This book forms a significant contribution to our understanding of professional practice and learning. It brings together recent sociomaterial approaches, and adds to these in important ways. I strongly recommend this book for scholars and practitioners who take interest in professional work and learning, and in sociomaterial approaches to practice more generally.” Professor Monika Nerland, University of Oslo (Norway)

“This book contributes a distinctive approach to researching workplace learning, specifically learning in professional practice. The ethnographic research that is presented imbues practices, knowledge work and pedagogy with suspense and uncertainty. Hopwood’s style of presentation is both rich and rewarding. This is a book to surprise you and it will.” Professor Silvia Gherardi, University of Trento (Italy)

“This splendid book offers many insights that will be appreciated by a wide range of readers. Hopwood proposes his own thought-provoking framework for understanding the relationships between professional practice and learning. The fruitfulness of Hopwood’s framework is demonstrated in analysis of empirical material derived from a major ethnographic study. Overall, this book is an impressive achievement.” Emeritus Professor Paul Hager, University of Technology Sydney (Australia)

ARC Grant Success!

About time I shared the exciting news: I have been granted an Australian Research Council DECRA (Discovery Early Career Researcher Award) of $370,000! The project blurb and impact statement are below. I plan to write a post in the near future about the process of getting to this point (which involved a lot of rejection/failure along the way of course!), and to make clear the team effort that went into helping me shape up the proposal.

Meanwhile I’m very excited to have three years ahead of me following up on research that I feel really matters to the larger community, but which also enables me to pursue my curiosity around learning. (see UTS newsroom report on this and other UTS DECRA successes!)

Title: Creating better futures for children through effective parent education

Children born into circumstances of socioeconomic disadvantage are at risk of missing out on the developmental, educational and social opportunities that give them the best possible start in life. By helping parents in disadvantaged families to cope with adversity, parent education services can mitigate these risks, build resilience in families, and change children’s prospects for the future. This project will identify the most effective ways that parent educators can create lasting positive impacts for families. It will also find out what needs to change to make these best practices more widespread and cost effective, including learning from study of low-cost community-based services.

Impact Statement

The economic, social and educational benefits of intervening early in children’s lives to reduce the negative effects of disadvantage are well known. This project will increase the effectiveness of parent education services for families that benefit most from early intervention, and have most to lose if left unsupported. It will identify best practices in existing services and learn from low-cost models in order to increase positive impact on families and value for money in service delivery.




New publication on simulation in nursing: a sociomaterial view

Delighted to announce the online publication of the following paper:

Hopwood N, Rooney D, Boud D & Kelly M (2014) Simulation in higher education: a sociomaterial view. Educational Philosophy and Theory, doi: 10.1080/00131857.2014.971403


This article presents a sociomaterial account of simulation in higher education. Sociomaterial approaches change the ontological and epistemological bases for understanding learning and offer valuable tools for addressing important questions about relationships between university education and professional practices. Simulation has grown in many disciplines as a means to bring the two closer together. However, the theoretical underpinnings of simulation pedagogy are limited. This paper extends the wider work of applying sociomaterial approaches to educational phenomena, taking up Schatzki’s practice theory as a distinctive basis for doing so. The question ‘What is being simulated?’ is posed, prompting discussion of multiple bodies, performances and experiences. The potential of adopting such a framework for understanding simulation as a pedagogic practice that brings the classroom and workplace together is illustrated with reference to clinical education in nursing.


This has been a really fun project working with Donna, Michelle and Dave. I’d also like to mention the contributions from Prof Madeleine Abrandt Dahlgren and the SIMIPL team in Linkoping (Sweden), and Kate Collier here at UTS. This has been heading in exciting new directions recently, on the basis of some of the analysis reported in the paper above. In particular we’ve been working with Michelle in the UTS: Health faculty to enhance the learning experiences for students observing their peers in simulation, and were awarded a Learning2014 grant to assist with developing this work 🙂

New chapter “The Fabric of Practices: Times, Spaces, Bodies, Things”

Hopwood N (2014) The fabric of practices: times, spaces, bodies, things. In L McLean, L Stafford & M Weeks (eds) Exploring bodies in time and space. Oxfordshire: Inter-Disciplinary Press, 137-146.

This chapter presents an initial laying out of the ideas I later developed in the paper for the Journal of Workplace Learning. The chapter dives more thoroughly into the empircal world of the parenting service that I studied in my last ethnography. It was initially presented at the Time, Space & Body conference in Sydney, February 2013.

The editors summarise the chapter:

Nick Hopwood illustrates body-space-time routines embedded in workplace practices of a Residential Unit within a child and family health service. Field observations revealed that spatiality and temporality are crucial aspects of practice and that these need to be thoroughly considered in order to create environments conducive to positive relations and effective care.

The abstract is below:

Here I connect the themes of space, time, the body, and things with an ethnographic study of professional practices and pedagogy. The study joins an emerging body of work that aims to produce different accounts of professional practice, eschewing dominant discourses based on problematic assumptions of linear time that is used up, space as a container for practice, practice and learning as mindful but bodyless, and materiality as either irrelevant or passive. The study was conducted in a child and family health service in Sydney, Australia. The Residential Unit of Karitane takes up to ten families for five days each week, offering intensive support for parents experiencing significant difficulties with their children’s sleeping, feeding or behaviour. Four themes of times, spaces, bodies, and things are discussed, drawing on Theodore Schatzki’s practice theory and philosophy, but also making connections to wider sociomaterial theorisations of time, space and the body. While these themes resist analytic separation, they are offered as distinctive points of departure, each highlighting something different about practices, pedagogy and learning. Nonetheless the porous conceptual boundaries between temporality, spatiality, embodiment and materiality are addressed and illustrated. The result is an account of practices, and their pedagogic effects, which differs radically from conventional approaches.

Key Words: Practice, materiality, sociomaterial, pedagogy, temporality, spatiality, embodiment, parenting.

Four essential dimensions of workplace learning

My latest paper is now out (in Emerald Early Cite; ful doi etc pending), in the Journal of Workplace Learning.

Hopwood N (2014) Four essential dimensions of workplace learning. Journal of Workplace Learning 26(6/7).

It’s in a Special Issue edited by renowned scholars Tara Fenwick and John Field, and has a great collection of papers using sociomaterial and other perspectives. I’ve published a (very simplified) podcast that tries to make the key ideas more accessible.

The abstract of my paper is below.

Basically, I argue that learning in professional practice can be understood, as Gherardi tells us, in terms of connectedness in action, or ‘texture’. The paper is conceptual but draws on evidence from my study of how child and family health professionals work in partnership with parents struggling with young children (through processes of reciprocal learning). I suggest that this texture has four essential dimensions: times, spaces, bodies, and things. (Each is discussed in greater length in my forthcoming book to be published by Springer Press).

I say they are essential because I cannot imagine learning or connectedness in action outside of any of them; but also essential in the sense ‘essence’ – they are what texture is made of.

I also explain that the four dimensions can never be fully separated analytically or empirically (they all overlap and leak into each other). But they are useful as distinctive analytical points of departure, that lead us to notice different things.

Please get in touch if you would like a copy, and please comment below if you have things to say about the paper! Can you think of a fifth essential dimension? Do you think the framework would be useful to you in other research contexts?

Here is the abstract:

Purpose – This conceptual paper argues that times, spaces, bodies and things constitute four essential dimensions of workplace learning. It examines how practices relate or hang together, taking Gherardi’s texture of practices or connectedness in action as the foundation for making visible essential but often overlooked dimensions workplace learning.

Design/methodology/approach – This framework is located within and adds to contemporary sociomaterial or practice-based approaches, in which learning is understood as an emergent requirement and product of ongoing practice that cannot be specified in advance.

Findings – The four dimensions are essential in two senses: they are the constitutive essence of textures of practices – what they are made of; and they are non-optional – it is not possible to conceive a texture of practices without all of these dimensions present. Although the conceptual terrains to which they point overlap considerably, they remain useful as analytic points of departure. Each reveals something that is less clear in the others.

Research limitations/implications – This innovative framework responds to calls to better understand how practices hang together, and offers a toolkit that reflects the multifaceted nature of practice. It presents a distinctive basis for making sense of connectedness in action, and thus for understanding learning in work.

Originality/value – The paper offers a novel conceptual framework, expanding the texture of practices through dimensions of times, spaces, bodies, and things, rendering visible aspects that might otherwise be ignored.

New co-authored book on doing team ethnography published


Just a quick post to announce the publication of my 3rd book.

Doing ethnography in teams: a case study of asymmetries in collaborative research (Springer Press)

I wrote this one with Teena Clerke (who is first author), about what we learned from doing ethnographic research together.

The book offers detailed insights into ethnographic fieldwork, note-taking, analysis, and writing up – all from a perspective that explores collaboration through the idea of asymmetry: exploiting our differences as researchers.

I’d like to point out how important it is to me that Teena is first author on this book. Teena joined me in my ethnography at Karitane as a Research Assistant, funded through a research grant that was about developing collaborative methods in ethnography. While it is more common for research assistants to be second authors (or to disappear from authorship completely at times), in this case Teena took a lead on putting our book together, and so it’s right that she has the glory of being first author! Our asymmetries as different people and researchers continue to play out through single and joint authoring of publications relating to this work, on a text by text basis.

I think it speaks volumes about the nature of our collaboration, of how we conceived our roles and what ‘research assistantship’ can be, and of the significant contribution Teena has made to the project. Thanks, Teena!


Paper published on space, learning and interprofessional practice in health


First post for 2014! New paper now available online from informahealthcare

Gregory L, Hopwood N & Boud D (2014) Inteprofessional learning at work: what spatial theory can tell us about interprofessional learning in an acute care ward. Journal of Interprofessional Care doi: 10.3109/13561820.2013.873774


This paper was led by Linda Gregory, a doctoral student who I have been supervising with Dave Boud. I’m super proud of her achievements in getting this published. This abstract is below; it is beginning to explore issues around space and workplace learning in health contexts – an area I’m doing a lot more work on myself in the coming months:

It is widely recognized that every workplace potentially provides a rich source of learning. Studies focusing on health care contexts have shown that social interaction within and between professions is crucial in enabling professionals to learn through work, address problems and cope with challenges of clinical practice. While hospital environments are beginning to be understood in spatial terms, the links between space and interprofessional learning at work have not been explored. This paper draws on Lefebvre’s tri-partite theoretical framework of perceived, conceived and lived space to enrich understandings of interprofessional learning on an acute care ward in an Australian teaching hospital. Qualitative analysis was undertaken using data from observations of Registered Nurses at work and semi-structured interviews linked to observed events. The paper focuses on a ward round, the medical workroom and the Registrar’s room, comparing and contrasting the intended (conceived), practiced (perceived) and pedagogically experienced (lived) spatial dimensions. The paper concludes that spatial theory has much to offer understandings of interprofessional learning in work, and the features of work environments and daily practices that produce spaces that enable or constrain learning.



Paper published today on Vygotsky, learning and partnership in child and family health

Hopwood N (2013) Understanding partnership practice in primary health as pedagogic work: what can Vygotsky’s theory of learning offer? Australian Journal of Primary Health, doi: 10.1071/PY12141

Here is the abstract; full text available from CSIRO publishing; or email me for a pdf

Primary health policy in Australia has followed international trends in promoting models of care based on partnership between professionals and health service users. This reform agenda has significant practice implications, and has been widely adopted in areas of primary health that involve supporting families with children. Existing research shows that achieving partnership in practice is associated with three specific challenges: uncertainty regarding the role of professional expertise, tension between immediate needs and longer-term capacity development in families, and the need for challenge while maintaining relationships based on trust. Recently, pedagogic or learning-focussed elements of partnership practice have been identified, but there have been no systematic attempts to link theories of learning with the practices and challenges of primary health-care professionals working with families in a pedagogic role. This paper explores key concepts of Vygotsky’s theory of learning (including mediation, the zone of proximal development, internalisation, and double stimulation), showing how pedagogic concepts can provide a bridge between the policy rhetoric of partnership and primary health practice. The use of this theory to address the three key challenges is explicitly discussed.

Paper on interprofessional learning in health now available online

Here is the link to a paper recently published in the Journal of Interprofessional Care, with colleagues from Linkoping University, Sweden. The first author is a doctoral student whom I am working with as a co-supervisor. Well done, Annika!

The full reference (until printed) is:

Lind Falk, A., Hammar, M., Hopwood, N., Hult, H., & Abrandt Dahlgren, M. (2013). One size fits all? A student ward as learning practice for interprofessional development. Journal of Interprofessional Care, Early Online (published 27 June 2013). doi: 10.3109/13561820.2013.807224

Here is the abstract:

Interprofessional training wards (IPTWs), aiming to enhance interprofessional collaboration, have been implemented in medical education and evaluated over the last decade. The Faculty of Health Sciences, Linköping University has, in collaboration with the local health provider, arranged such training wards since 1996, involving students from the medical, nursing, physiotherapy, and occupational therapy programs. Working together across professional boundaries is seen as a necessity in the future to achieve sustainable and safe healthcare. Therefore, educators need to arrange learning contexts which enhance students’ interprofessional learning. This article shows aspects of how the arrangement of an IPTW can influence the students’ collaboration and learning. Data from open-ended questions from a questionnaire survey, during autumn term 2010 and spring term 2011 at an IPTW, was analyzed qualitatively using a theoretical framework of practice theory. The theoretical lens gave a picture of how architectures of the IPTW create a clash between the “expected” professional responsibilities and the “unexpected” responsibilities of caring work. Also revealed was how the proximity between students opens up contexts for negotiations and boundary work. The value of using a theoretical framework of professional learning in practice within the frames of healthcare education is discussed.

Read More: