The identity of social pedagogy is in its values and approaches to work with people. It has developed as a coherent modern profession over the last 50 years. As an academic discipline, the theoretical foundation draws from related disciplines throughout the ages. These include sociology, psychology, philosophy, education, medicine, politics and law.
In addition, social pedagogy includes practical and creative activities such as sport, outdoor activities, music and arts. This does not restrict the application of social pedagogy to so-called direct work, but rather prompts us to reconsider our approach to social interaction with service users in all dimensions of work in social care and social work.
As an approach with a humanist value-base, social pedagogy offers a coherent way of thinking and working across complex systems. The social pedagogical setting or practice is held within an institutional context, which in turn is part of the wider community and society, including the political context. Theory underpins practice, both practice and theory link to policy, and research informs all areas.
In the words of Karl Mager (1844) “Social Pedagogy is the theory of all the personal, social and moral education in a given society, including the description of what has happened in practice.”
Social pedagogy can be applied in any work setting where the focus is to support individuals and/or groups. The approach enables staff to support children and adults alike in order to overcome challenging life situations, and social pedagogical leadership supports this work.
The aim is to initiate and support processes of empowerment, the creation of learning opportunities with trajectories to growth and wellbeing.
Social pedagogy simultaneously aims for more inclusive systems of community and society by effecting change within these systems. The social pedagogue works alongside people, in interaction with them and also acting within and on systems, be they institutional, community and/or societal.
Part of the meaning of the “social” in social pedagogy is a solidarity with vulnerable and marginalised individuals and groups; a social pedagogue supports them, with the aim of reducing their vulnerability and marginalisation. In their work, social pedagogues use broadly educational means to achieve greater social justice.
Social pedagogy practice is focussed on purposefully and reflectively building relationship with the service user and realising its potential. The relationship can be strengthened through social inter-action, and joint activities deepen it. The social pedagogue steers this relationship and common activities in such a way that they result in authentic, positive experiences for the service user.
An important dimension of social pedagogy is to empower service users in a democratic way to achieve positive and lasting change. This is well described in the words of Chinese thinker and social philosopher, Confucius (551bc-479bc):
‘Tell me and I forget
Show me and I remember
Let me do and I understand’
Social pedagogy is mainly taught in continental Europe, with some degree programmes in the early stages of development in the UK. 2017 sees the advent of the Crossfields Institute Level 3 Diploma in Social Pedagogy. Jacaranda is an approved assessment centre for this qualification. Further qualifications in social pedagogy are in development.
In the rest of Europe, the social pedagogy qualification is gained via university studies over 3 to 4 years. University training offers a balanced blend of theory and practice and practical skills.
Jacaranda Development offers work-based learning and development in social pedagogy. We provide additional services that support systemic development, which realise the efficacy of the investment.
Changes in beliefs and ways of doing do not occur in bubbles, nor solely on the front-line – research, learning theories and our experience show the importance of a systems approach in fostering meaningful practice development. See Develop for further details.
Jacaranda Recruitment provides social pedagogues, social educators and social workers (HCPC registered) with a social pedagogic orientation. See Recruit for further details.
More information on the UK developments of Social Pedagogy can be found at SocialPedagogyUK.com
1 Winkler, M. (1988) Eine Theorie der Sozialpädagogik. Stuttgart: Klett-Cotta.