We use profiles in the classroom in two ways. First, we assign them as readings to supplement academic literature. Second, students produce their own practitioner profiles. This enables them to explore aspects of practice that interest them while honing their narrative research skills (e.g., interviewing, analysis, etc.). For a discussion of the ways students can learn from these profiles, see John Forester's presentation in Johannesburg, South Africa in 2005.
We use profiles to explore the challenges and opportunities that practitioners face in our fields. Like other narrative and ethnographic material, profiles provide phenomenologically rich qualitative data that can be corroborated by existing literature from our fields. Sensitively analyzed, profiles facilitate theory-building because these practice stories can help us clarify theoretical problems in our fields. For example, see John Forester's presentation in Seoul, Korea in 2007. >> see selected research papers
We use profiles as tools for organizational and professional development in several related ways. First, as "products," profiles serve as "teaching" material for professional development. New practitioners may read profiles to learn from the work of more experienced colleagues. The individuals profiled may read their own narrative to reflect upon their work. We also use profiles as a resource for collective reflection sessions with groups of practitioners. Some ideas about using profiles in this way can be found in the preface to the profile collection We Grow People.
Second, the process of creating profiles -- that is, creating the space for the telling of and reflecting on practice stories within an organization -- contributes to both organizational and professonal development. Many practitioners report that they gain valuable insights into their work through the interview process itself.
A discussion of two cases in which profiles were used for organizational and professional development can be found in Practicing a Pedagogy of Hope: Practitioner Profiles as Tools for Grounding and Guiding Collective Reflection in Adult, Community and Youth Development Education (by Scott Peters, Helene Gregoire, and Margo Hittleman)