We were really pleased to be asked to write a piece for One Stop Social on the developments around social pedagogy in the UK. The timing couldn’t have been better with us fast approaching World Social Work Day on the 19th March with its focus, this year, on ‘promoting the importance of human relationships’. The central thread of social pedagogy is relationships and how we use them in our practice with individuals, families, communities and each other. We will return to this a little later, but first it might be useful to tell you a little more about social pedagogy. Over the last 4 years, we have been working at the University of Central Lancashire, developing and sharing knowledge in this field and supporting students, organisations and practitioners in applying this to their practice. A common obstacle that we encounter is that people are unfamiliar with the term and even pronouncing can be a challenge. Is it social ped-a-goggee or ped-a-godgy? The good news is that either will do and the even better news is that many of you are already doing it.
Social Pedagogy Concepts
Social pedagogy is essentially concerned with well-being, learning and growth and has a rich history throughout Europe and South America. It describes a holistic and relationship-centred way of working in care and educational settings with people across the course of their lives and is concerned with addressing social inequality and facilitating social change by nurturing learning, well-being and connection both at an individual and community level. Social pedagogy is based on humanistic values. It is underpinned by the concept of ‘Haltung’, a German phrase roughly translating as ‘mindset’ or ‘attitude’. Reflective of Carl Rogers (1951), core conditions, Haltung insists upon an emotional, authentic connectedness and requires the whole person to be brought to work.
Head, Heart and Hand
Central to social pedagogy is the concept of Head, Heart and Hand coined by Swiss Social Reformer and Educator Pestalozzi (1946-1827). The Head represents the intellectual engagement with practice, the knowledge informing our interventions and decisions. In addition, social pedagogy welcomes the use of the heart, even the notion of love as a means to convey passion and a deep respect for incorporating human rights and social justice. The hands symbolise the importance of the practical engagements with individuals and opens opportunities to work in creative ways. Pestalozzi noted the inseparable nature of all three elements. Linked to Head, Heart and Hand, is attention to relationships in practice.
The 3 P’s: Professional, Personal and Private
The 3 P’s concept (Jappe, 2001), relates to the Professional, Personal and Private. The professional refers to the purpose of our engagement, perhaps as a consequence of law or policy and draws on knowledge and research. Importantly, social pedagogues recognise the value of bringing aspects of self to the role, representing the personal strand. Finally, private aspects of ourselves are not shared and this reflexive framework supports social workers in managing these boundaries with integrity rather than procedure to work in complex situations. Relationships, by nature are two way and are also one of most critical resources in practice. As such they often become the intervention rather than incidental to our practice, making social work a relational role as a well as a relationship based profession.
This refers to all stages and aspects of life and is perhaps something we tend to overlook in social work. Holistic learning is about creating opportunities and spaces for learning to happen. It is about facilitating individuals in accessing a sense of potential and walking alongside the individual as learning takes place. Just as a child learns new skills at each stage of childhood, learning in later life can enhance opportunities and the capacity to exercise choice and determine circumstances. Hafford and Letchfield (2010), describe the transformative potential of learning in later life when older people take an active role in improving and sustaining well-being rather than a ‘managed care’ approach, whereby expert professionals provide solutions and services.
Why Social Pedagogy and why now?
At a time when social work is struggling to assert its unique contribution in the face of increasing pressures and austerity, it has never been more important to strengthen the meaning and purpose of working alongside individuals, families and their communities. Social workers pride themselves in their ability to support others, promote social justice, respect individual dignity and recognise the importance of relationships and integrity in their practice. The challenge for social workers however is the ability to honour, promote and commit to these values particularly at a time when demand for social care is increasing and resources are decreasing. Principles, we know, are easy to profess but much harder to practice. An engagement with social pedagogy with its deep philosophical and theoretical roots can support professionals to take care of their intentions, words, thoughts and beliefs and align them with their underpinning values.
While you're here...
As part of our work at UCLan, we have represented the UK in the development of a free Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on Social Pedagogy, as part of a Erasmus project.
You may also wish to apply for a subsidised place at our International Conference Contemporary Challenges and Social Pedagogy Ghent conference 21st May 2019
For more information about social pedagogy please refer to the resources provided by social enterprise ThemPra