At the nexus of learning and innovation
August 9, 6:20 am

A Centre for Research on Learning and Innovation seminar on Supporting families with young children at risk: a cultural-historical perspective with Dr Nick Hopwood

All children deserve the best possible start in life. Working within a risk and prevention paradigm, many services intervene early, supporting parents’ to cope with adversity. The problem is that telling parents what to do doesn’t work. Partnership models aim to address this, but come with their own challenges. Professionals can retreat from their expertise for fear of being a ‘bossy expert’ and undermining partnership.

This seminar will report findings from a 3-year study across three Australian States, involving over 100 professionals and parents in diverse services. It takes a cultural-historical perspective, framing partnership as a mind-expanding encounter in which professionals and parents collaborate on complex problems. The presentation will reveal the diverse forms of expertise involved, providing answers to questions such as: How can we help parents escape from impossible situations where motives to care for their children pull them in opposite directions? How can professionals guide parent’s learning what they can’t know what is to be learned in advance? Why is the difference between goals and ‘what matters’ to parents so significant? And how can professionals cope with the need to work with incomplete, fragile and uncertain knowledge about those they are trying to help?

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Nick Hopwood is Associate Professor at the UTS School of Education. His current research focuses on relationships between learning, expertise, agency and resilience in services for families with young children. Nick draws on cultural-historical theory (in a Vygotskian tradition), as well as sociomaterial and practice-based philosophy (informed by Schatzki among others). Nick’s other work includes teacher education and development in Bhutan (where he is involved in setting up the country’s first PhD program), and being Higher Degrees by Research Coordinator for the School of Education. He maintains a blog ( and you can follow him via @NHopUTS. Updates on his  current project are tweeted from @BetterFutureUTS.