Developing the SPDN

Over the last year or so we’ve been thinking a lot about how best to further develop the SPDN to ensure it remains a vibrant and meaningful grassroots movement for UK social pedagogy. Our thinking has been influenced by a variety of considerations:

  • Views of SPDN members: Based on feedback we’ve had from participants at SPDN events, we have some insights into what makes the SPDN special and what participants value about the events. What we’ve been hearing regularly is that the SPDN offers a forum to re-energise and connect with like-minded people, that it stimulates participants’ interests in specific aspects of social pedagogy and provides the space to share their ideas and practice experience. There are likely to be many more aspects, and we’re eager to ensure that the development of the SPDN is guided by its members’ views.
  • Resource implications: We’ve previously not shared too much detail about how the SPDN is resourced and how we’ve managed to keep it a free event. There are three aspects to this: We rely on host organisations who are willing to offer a venue and refreshments for what’s quite often a pretty large crowd. We benefit from the good-will of individuals who agree to run workshops or present without any financial gain – none of the excellent keynote speakers we’ve had over the years has received any payment. And, of course, we as organisers invest a lot of our time and money into co-ordinating and facilitating the event without any external funding. We do it because we love the SPDN and because we are all devoted to developing social pedagogy in the UK. But resources are not endless, and so it’s important to ensure that we take a sustainable approach to the resources we use.
  • Role of the SPDN: Now that social pedagogy is more firmly established, with its own set of standards, a professional association and a broad range of vocational and academic qualifications from Level 3 all the way up to Masters level, it’s important to re-think the role of the SPDN and how it can best nurture and fit with these fantastic developments. All of them play a vital part in the social pedagogy landscape and rely on our collective support. They have already brought new initiative, for example an events calendar of social pedagogy conferences, webinars, workshops, lectures and other activities that offer richer, much more diverse learning opportunities around social pedagogy than ever before. We want to make sure that the SPDN’s place within that landscape makes sense and that there is synergy between what the SPDN offers and others’ contributions.

In determining how we can best develop the SPDN with these considerations in mind we’re keen to follow a co-production process. We obviously want the SPDN to remain of value to you, so we’ve given a lot of thought to how we can best achieve this. The following slide outlines how we think this may work:

We’d therefore like to share our thoughts on the desired outcome and hear what you think, so that we can identify a shared outcome for the SPDN. To share your views, help us work out what the options could be and then make an informed choice, you can either join one of our Zoom calls over the next few months, email us or come to one of the next SPDN events, where you’ll get an opportunity to voice your perspective.


Desired outcomes:

  • To offer an immersive social pedagogical experience: The SPDN seeks to offer a flavour of social pedagogy and let participants experience this with head, heart and hands. It’s social pedagogical in both content and method, and this is central to enabling participants to understand social pedagogy.
  • To be grassroots-led: We started the SPDN as a grassroots movement, where participants could actively shape social pedagogy in the UK, where we could jointly explore multiple perspectives on what social pedagogy is, could or should be. We want the SPDN to be celebrating the diversity that a grassroots movement has to offer – to let a thousand flowers bloom – and to ensure that everyone is recognised as an expert in their own right. What counts is the collective expertise, and therefore what matters most is how we can best draw out everyone’s expertise.
  • To demonstrate the potential of participatory structures: The SPDN aims to create opportunities where every person feels included, engaged and encouraged to share their ideas. This requires specific facilitation methods, such as Liberating Structures, a range of microstructures designed to creatively engage all participants. We want the SPDN to be a place where participants experience the benefits of such methods and become more familiar with them, so that they can use similar microstructures in their own practice.
  • To energise and connect participants to each other and to social pedagogy: A movement is only as strong and vibrant as the connections between the people who are part of it and the energy they bring to it. We’ve been fortunate that the SPDN has an amazingly passionate and thoughtful membership, and we want to ensure that they remain energised and feel connected to like-minded people and to the ways in which social pedagogy can help us nurture change, promote social justice and strengthen relationships between people.
  • To offer insights into how social pedagogy is understood and practiced in the UK, an illustration of its dynamic and evolving character: One of the most fascinating aspects of the SPDN has been that being a part of it is like having a finger on the pulse of social pedagogy in the UK. It has offered regular opportunities to find out what social pedagogy looks and feels like in different practice contexts and different organisations – the questions it raises, the ideas it sparks, the solutions it helps create, the barriers it encounters. We think this aspect is crucial, and we therefore want the SPDN to continue to be an important forum in which we explore and co-construct what we mean by ‘social pedagogy’.
  • To create space for the conversations that are important to participants: We want the SPDN to continue to be a forum where participants can explore the themes that matter to them. This ensures that conversations are more meaningful and that everyone has greater opportunities to take responsibility for their own learning.
  • To encourage action and reflection: The SPDN aims to be action-orientated and to enable participants to reflect both individually and with others in order to initiate change.
  • To be lean – easy to organise and easy to host: Over the years, the SPDN has become a fully-fledged conference in many aspects, even though we’ve avoided calling it a conference. Its events have become increasingly bigger both in terms of the number of participants, which is now quite regularly anywhere between 140 and 200, and in its scale. Having an evening and day seminar with a range of keynote presenters, workshop facilitators and other activities requires a substantial amount of co-ordination and liaison within the organising team, with the host organisations and everyone else involved in the event. As much as these are signs of the SPDN’s success, we don’t want the SPDN to become a victim of its own success by becoming too resource-intensive to organise and host. And for the reasons outlined above, we think that the SPDN would benefit from being a lot leaner, from focussing on creating space for dialogue, relationship-building and exchange of ideas that matter to the people involved – whoever they might be and whatever their ideas may be.
  • To remain free: There are two key reasons why we’ve been committed to keeping the SPDN free. On a pragmatic level, financial transactions create complexities such as who gets how much and why – and it’s not unlikely that the extra work associated with all of this ends up costing more than the revenue created. More importantly though, the involvement of money changes people’s engagement. This is not unique to the SPDN by any means, but the SPDN has greatly benefitted from the generosity of many people over the years – organisations who have hosted events free of charge, individuals who have travelled in their own time and at their own costs to contribute to events, helped prepare, organise, facilitate, clear up, etc. Where no money is involved, these acts of generosity are far more likely to occur and the arrangement far more reciprocal at a human level: Participants contribute not with their £££ but their ideas, they’re not passive consumers but active collaborators. We therefore want to keep future SPDN events free of charge too.

We look forward to finding out what your desired outcomes for the SPDN are. Please feel free to share these by emailing us.

MOOC Fire Starter Event

‘Education is about filling a pail but lighting a fire’


We are plased to invite you to our exclusive MOOC fire starter event to bring together as many people from our collective networks, who are willing to help us reach as many future MOOC learners as possible. Hosted by the University of Central Lancashire on the 6th of September, 2018, the event is an exclusive opportunity to find out more about the MOOC and our ambition:

  • Get a first look at the final MOOC before its official launch in January 2019,
  • Talk to some of the pilot learners and find out how they have used the MOOC to develop their practice and team culture,
  • Get in dialogue with our cross-national MOOC team from the 8 organisations involved, and
  • Learn how you can embed the MOOC in organisational practice, training and academic courses.

We have been developing the MOOC with the aim of providing an exciting and meaningful learning resource about central principles in social pedagogy and how these can enhance social pedagogical practice beyond national boundaries. And we are inviting you, because we hope you can help us make the MOOC freely available to interested learners across the globe. We hope you’ll be able to join us and become part of a dynamic international network committed to developing social pedagogy.

The fire starter event forms part of our Erasmus+ funded 3-year project and is therefore completely free to attend, with overnight accommodation for international guests and food provided. Please note that places are limited and allocated in accordance with our funding conditions. Please register here or contact us for further details.

Crossfields Institute Level 3 Diploma in Social Pedagogy – Open Course


Join our brand new qualification

We’re pleased to announce the first open course forming part of our new Crossfields Institute Level 3 Diploma in Social Pedagogy. This is an excellent personal and professional development opportunity for anyone interested in social pedagogy. The 47-credit qualification is regulated by Ofqual and divided into 7 units:

(Unit 1) Key theories and principles in social pedagogy
This unit will explore key theories and principles of social pedagogy. A brief overview of its history, the key thinkers who have shaped its European/UK development and social pedagogy’s relationship with social justice will enable you to understand social pedagogy today and how it can be applied across different fields of practice and across the life course.
(Unit 2) Learning perspectives on human development
This unit will introduce you to key learning theories and principles around holistic learning and human development. Using experiential learning activities, this unit will enable you to develop an understanding of how relationships and well-being affect learning processes, and vice versa, and how they can create learning opportunities in everyday practice.
(Unit 3) Communication and understanding lifeworlds
In this unit you will explore how verbal and non-verbal communication can impact on our relationships, information sharing and perception of each other as individuals and professionals. It will introduce you to key communication theories, link these to practice and emphasise the importance of giving and receiving authentic feedback.
(Unit 4) Building meaningful relationships
This unit will focus on establishing, maintaining and promoting meaningful relationships with people and within inter-professional practice. Drawing on care ethics, you will explore various theories and principles, such as reciprocity, authenticity, empathy, trust and equality, that seek to include individuals in wider society and ensure that their diversity is recognised as valuable.
(Unit 5) Creativity in working with individuals, groups, and communities
The unit will introduce you to the power of creativity when working with individuals, groups and communities. It takes a broad definition of creativity, which similarly to multiple intelligences considers every individual as having unique creative potential.
(Unit 6) Safer practice from a social pedagogical perspective
Through this unit you will gain social pedagogical perspectives on safer practice. You will explore how you can best balance safe practice with the need to develop risk competence in other people – their ability to understand, assess and manage risks themselves. You will also learn about the role of children’s and human rights in framing safer practice by considering in particular the right to the best interest of the child/adult, their right to be involved in decisions that affect them, their right not to be discriminated against and their right to survival and development.
(Unit 7) Observation and reflective practice within a social pedagogical culture
In this unit you will explore the role of reflection within social pedagogy, highlighting the importance of making observations that avoid interpretations or judgments. By engaging with different reflection and appreciative inquiry methods, you will become familiar with practical and thorough reflective processes that are solution-oriented and thus enable you to develop your practice further.

The qualification consists of our 8-day, face-to-face course, which draws on experiential, active and reflective learning methods to:

  • Develop practice by integrating social pedagogical theories and principles
  • Practice with greater confidence, intention and creativity
  • Enhance important interpersonal skills such as communication, relational and reflective skills

You will have access to our Moodle virtual learning environment and be supported in your learning and assessment through a variety of tasks, including some written and reflective work, presentation, and a creative scrapbook.

The qualification is approved by the Social Pedagogy Professional Association and meets its Standards of Proficiency in Social Pedagogy. As a graduate you may carry the title of Social Pedagogy Practitioner. The qualification is also accepted as an entry requirement by the University of Central Lancashire for their BA in Social Pedagogy, Advocacy and Participation.


Dates and Location

The open course will be offered by ThemPra and hosted by the University of Central Lancashire at their campus in Preston. The dates are:

  • 4th to 6th July, 2018
  • 25th and 26th July, 2018
  • 3rd to 5th September, 2018

All days are 9.30am to 4.30pm, and we ask you to take part in all dates.



The cost for the whole qualification is £2,400 (no VAT applicable), which you can pay in two instalments – one upon registration and the other upon commencing the assessment process. The fee includes the £350 learner registration fee, which we pay to the awarding organisation Crossfields Institute. Please see our Terms & Conditions for further details.


Next Steps

If you’re interested in finding out more, please get in touch with us. We’re happy to answer any further questions. You can also download the application pack here.

Become a MOOC Pilot Learner

Piloting the MOOC

From November 2017 we will be piloting the MOOC with a cohort of critical friends, who will help us beta-test the course in all aspects. We’re keen to find out whether the content presented and the style of delivering it are engaging, insightful and practice-relevant. Interested? Learn more in this short video.



The pilot is the first chance to get insights into the brand new MOOC in social pedagogy. We’re testing this to get a better sense of how well the course works and what we can do to further improve it before we’ll make this available to anyone around the globe. The online course will run over 8 weeks, with each week consisting of around 30-45 minutes of video resources, 30-45 minutes of further reading materials, some suggested activities to relate your learning to practice, reflective questions and an assignment task. We’ll need pilot learners to commit to road-testing the whole 8-week course (within a 16-week timeframe) and providing us with detailed feedback on each session as well as the overall learning experience. In addition, you can also become more actively involved as a critical friend, for instance by writing a blog on a specific thematic session (we’ll give you advance access to that week’s learning materials), taking part in week 8’s live review session to share your learning, joining a focus group conversation a few weeks after the pilot to share your perspective on the key learning points, and acting as a ‘multiplier’ by disseminating information about the MOOC via social media and your professional network. In addition to getting exclusive access to the MOOC, as a pilot learner you will receive a free certificate of completion upon successfully passing the assessment. If you would like to register as a pilot learner, please complete the below form, and we’ll send you all relevant details in due course.

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By submitting your details you agree for us to use your in accordance with the Data Protection Act 1998. We will share your details only with our project partners for the purpose of realising this project. To support your ongoing learning about social pedagogy, we may occasionally send you relevant information via email. You’re free to unsubscribe at any time.



An important part of the learning journey throughout the 8-week course is the interactive assessment process. Each week includes an assingment task, which enables you to gradually compile a scrapbook illustrating your individual social pedagogy journey. (We’ve even included some resources and ideas on how to make a virtual or actual paper scrapbook, so that this can be an enjoyable creative process even for people who don’t consider themselves artistically gifted.) Whilst assessments aren’t graded, they are regularly peer-evaluated, and we will review the entire scrapbook before awarding you with a certificate of completion.


For further details on the MOOC please click here.

Counting down to the pilot of our Social Pedagogy Across Europe MOOC


With the pilot of our new Massive Open Online Course just a few weeks away, we met up with our brilliant team of international partners last weekend to review the video contributions from each country and plan the next steps. We’re already very excited about the variety of themes and the diverse styles in which every team has brought their topics to life.

Over the course of the weekend, we also undertook some creative activities that will feature in the MOOC and filmed a few scenes for the introduction. We’ve also been working out the evaluation strategy and shared ideas for promoting the pilot. If you’d like to be amongst the pilot learners and help beta-test the course (which is free of charge), we’d love to hear from you! Just drop us an email at We’ll share further details next week, so make sure to check in again!