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The Best Practice Unit: a model for learning, research and development


Jean Pierre Wilken ,

About Jean Pierre
Jean Pierre Wilken, PhD is professor of Participation, Care and Support at HU University of Applied Sciences. He is also director of the Research Centre for Social Innovation. His research focuses on helping persons in vulnerable positions to achieve and maintain their desired quality of life in the community. Wilken is working on the Best Practice Unit model as a research methodology for applied practice-based social science.
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Carla van Slagmaat,

About Carla
Carla van Slagmaat, MA is lecturer in Social Work at HU University of Applied Sciences and a researcher in the Participation, Care and Support research group at the Research Centre for Social Innovation. Her research focuses on care and support for individuals with learning disabilities, and she has conducted research on the role of the facilitator in the Best Practice Unit model. She is also a facilitator herself, and trains and supervises new facilitators.
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Sascha van Gijzel

About Sascha
Sascha van Gijzel, BSW is a junior researcher at the Research Centre for Social Innovation at HU University of Applied Sciences. Her research focuses on supporting individuals with learning disabilities and social inclusion. She has conducted research on the analysis and validation of the BPU model.
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The Best Practice Unit: a model for learning, research and development The Best Practice Unit (BPU) model constitutes a unique form of practice-based research. A variant of the Community of Practice model developed by Wenger, McDermott and Snyder (2002), the BPU has the specific aim of improving professional practice by combining innovation and research. The model is used as a way of working by a group of professionals, researchers and other relevant individuals, who over a period of one to two years, work together towards a desired improvement. The model is characterized by interaction between individual and collective learning processes, the development of new or improved working methods, and the implementation of these methods in daily practice. Multiple knowledge resources are used, including experiential knowledge, professional knowledge and scientific knowledge. The research serves diverse purposes: articulating tacit knowledge, documenting learning and innovation processes, systematically describing the working methods that have been revealed or developed, and evaluating the efficacy of the new methods. Each BPU is supported by a facilitator, whose main task is to optimize learning processes. An analysis of ten different BPUs in different professional fields shows that this is a successful model. The article describes the methodology and results of this study. De Best Practice Unit: een model voor leren, onderzoek en ontwikkeling Het model van de Best Practice Unit (BPU) is een unieke vorm van praktijkgericht onderzoek. De Best Practice Unit is een variant van de Community of Practice zoals ontwikkeld door Wenger, McDermott en Snyder (2002) met als specifiek doel om de professionele praktijk te verbeteren door innovatie en onderzoek te combineren. Het model wordt gebruikt om in een periode van 1-2 jaar met een groep professionals, onderzoekers en andere betrokkenen te werken aan een gewenste verbetering. Kenmerkend is de wisselwerking tussen individuele en collectieve leerprocessen, het gebruik van meerdere kennisbronnen, de ontwikkeling van (nieuwe of betere) werkmethoden en de implementatie hiervan in de praktijk. De diverse kennisbronnen zijn: ervaringskennis, professionele kennis en wetenschappelijke kennis. Onderzoek dient verschillende doelen: het articuleren van taciete kennis, het documenteren van het leer- en innovatieproces, het systematisch beschrijven van geopenbaarde of ontwikkelde werkwijzen, en het toetsen van nieuwe methoden op hun effectiviteit. Een BPU wordt ondersteund door een zogenaamde facilitator, die als taak heeft leerprocessen te optimaliseren. De resultaten van een onderzoek naar tien BPU’s in verschillende professionele domeinen laten zien dat het een succesvol model is. Dit artikel beschrijft de belangrijkste methodologische kenmerken, en de resultaten van dit onderzoek.
How to Cite: Wilken, J.P., van Slagmaat, C. & van Gijzel, S., (2013). The Best Practice Unit: a model for learning, research and development . Journal of Social Intervention: Theory and Practice . 22 ( 2 ) , pp . 131–148 . DOI:
Published on 17 Jun 2013.
Peer Reviewed


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