The importance of Tacit Knowledge in Practices of Care

Hans Reinders

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background: The paper argues that a high quality personal relationship between professionals and clients is a necessary condition of professional knowledge. This epistemological claim is developed against the background of current methods of quality assessment that rely on objectively measurable 'indicators'. Method: A philosophical analysis regarding the nature of professional knowledge in the care sector. The analysis proceeds from Michael Polanyi's concept of tacit knowledge to account for the personal dimension of professional expertise in the care sector. Results: Quantitative methods of quality assessment understand 'quality of care' as being independent from the professional who generates it. Consequently, quality assessment as currently practiced necessarily renders the personal dimension of professional knowledge invisible, thereby excluding it from managerial attention and support. To indicate the relevance of Polanyi's concept of tacit knowledge, the paper offers some observations from the practice of care in a group home for people with intellectual disabilities. Conclusion: The paper concludes that a high quality relationship between professionals and their clients is crucial for quality of care. This relationship generates the positive interaction that enables professionals to gain adequate insight in the needs of their clients. © 2010 The Author. Journal compilation © 2010 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)28-37
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Intellectual Disability Research
Issue numbers1
Early online date23 Feb 2009
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2009

Bibliographical note

Special Issue: Counterpoint


Dive into the research topics of 'The importance of Tacit Knowledge in Practices of Care'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this