Social Pedagogical Practice in Adult Care

By Maggie Bagley

Social pedagogy is becoming a familiar phrase within children’s services in the UK but is not as common in adult care, perhaps because people relate pedagogy with education and teaching.

Social pedagogy is a relationship-centred approach to support well-being, learning and social inclusion, and all these things are as important to adults as they are to children and the theories and concepts that form a social pedagogues practice can be used in any situation.

Social pedagogues contemplate what cannot be seen and yet needs to be understood, so that they can work holistically to build authentic and trusting relationships. Our personal perceptions, understanding and realities are influenced by our experiences, and views of the world. At the heart of social pedagogy is an absolute respect for the value of all human beings, and supports power with instead of power over, to support positive change.

 “If we are to achieve a richer culture, rich in contrasting values, we must recognise the whole gamut of human potential and so weave a less arbitrary social fabric, one which is each diverse human gift fill find a fitting place.” (Margaret Mead)

My background is in adult social care with older adults and people with learning disabilities in a care home environment and in community-based projects. I have seen many examples of practice, although not recognised as such, that align with the holistic nature of social pedagogy, using strength-based approaches, and with unconditional positive regard for the value of all human beings, that is present in many care organisations.

One charity managed an allotment to produce vegetables that supplied a community café that the charity owned. Both projects operated with a mixture of paid staff, community volunteers and charity members. None of the people involved were expert gardeners or bakers but they learned together how to grow potatoes and green beans, make scones or vegetable soup. Drawing on individual talents they discovered and developed friendships and worked towards a common goal. Social pedagogues would call this The Common Third, a practical concept that enables us to build relationships while learning from each other to develop new skills. The overall aim was to generate income for the charity, offer work experience opportunities and to support the local community.

Another concept I have seen in action is the Diamond Model, playing an essential role in building confidence and self-esteem. The Diamond Model, so called because it recognises the diamond within each of us. It has four core elements, well-being and happiness, relationships, holistic learning, and empowerment, that are accomplished through positive experiences.

For instance, a member of staff working in a supported living house took her dog to work. The person she worked with was particularly fond of animals, and he was thrilled to take the dog for a walk. Daily dog walks around town meant that they became a familiar sight in the community, and many people stopped to talk and pet the dog, establishing relationships and forming friendships and creating opportunities for the young man to use his voice, as communicating with others had been a stumbling block for this young man. The walks also supported his mental and physical health, encouraging regular exercise and lowering stress levels when he felt anxious. Without noticing the person also learned routes around town that he could use to go out independently, empowering him to go shopping on his own and fulfilling his potential.

Lastly, another of my favourite social pedagogy theories is the learning zone model. I have used this myself on many occasions. The model considers three areas, the comfort zone, where we mostly like to be because it feels safe and secure, the learning zone which challenges and is less familiar but helps us to learn and grow, and lastly the panic zone where we feel threatened and scared, unable to learn due to negative impact of our anxiety. 

The learning zone will be different for each person, so for instance someone who is frightened of heights will feel very differently to an experienced mountaineer on a trip to a climbing wall. I frequently think about this quote “Growth happens outside your comfort zone; magic happens when you go there with others” (Richard Branson).

Social Pedagogical Life at Camphill

There is no place like home as Covid-19 unleashed creativity in a Scottish Camphill Community!

By Laurence Alfred

It’s quite a challenge to summarise all that’s happened in our lives over the last 6 months. Whilst possibilities waned as we progressed into and through lockdown, our smaller inner lives became much more vibrant and dominant. As the world shrank around us, we found ourselves emerged in our microcosmos, living and working in this wonderful place we call home.

Coronavirus has, nonetheless, had a big impact on our lives, just like with everyone else. From mid-March till the end of June life was quite different to before. All of us missed our regular activities such as going to workshops, the gym, school, the pub, meeting friends and family, going to restaurants, cafes, museums, the list is endless. Add to this, the fact that we had to quarantine twice because of unclear tests and symptoms you can only imagine how complicated living with Covid around us, is. However, life went on and we all managed really well to adapt. Daily walks, craft activities, preparing for Halloween, playing games, BBQ’s (lots of them), gardening, water fights, playing music, watching movies, experimenting with haircuts and Thursday night NHS clapping were just some of the activities we did.

By the end of the summer we had a new norm – we’d buy more disinfectant than Nutella, we’d have people joining meals and celebrations through an iPad, and PPE was part of our everyday attire. Before we knew it, we were living a new kind of life, in a new kind of community. We’d found our way. Our home is a happy vibrant place, where something is always happening. We enjoy cinema in the comfort of our living room, there’s always live music and crafty activities to enjoy. Mary, Lizzy, Chris, and Scott have all become expert gardeners – we’ve plenty to celebrate and be thankful for.

Through being there for each other and sharing these stretching times we have managed to continue to make lasting memories in the household. The evenings are filled with the little ones zooming through on roller skates and filling the house with wonderful piano music whilst peaceful newly born Mark is smiling in the background! Michael enjoys ‘house band’ concerts with Clarinet, Drums, Guitar and Colin’s singing! (not quite Usher Hall but we manage!). Samantha has made a couple of appearances on local radio and continues to find joy and laughter in her new day to day activities despite everything and she’s really enjoyed getting to know our new co-workers! And then there is Brian who keeps us all grounded through his help with cooking and evening relaxation with classical radio.

Between the fits of giggles after supper to reminiscing about past memories there is always a smile to be seen around the house. In August we waved goodbye to the co-workers who stuck with us through a rollercoaster of changing times as we warmly opened our doors to our new co-workers who quickly made themselves right at home. We would like to express our gratitude and appreciation to all the people, who decided against all odds, risks, and warnings to come and share a year of their lives with us, in this very different world we’re living in. We are also incredibly thankful to those dear friends from previous years who returned throughout 2020 to support us when times were challenging.

We wish everyone inner light and warmth through the darkening days of Autumn as we look forward to the day when these things can be shared in person again.

Laurence Alfred, with thanks for colleagues of all ages in Camphill, and in particular those in Tiphereth Camphill in Edinburgh for the inspiration behind this blog, who share their vibrant life with me.

International Journal of Social Pedagogy – call for papers

Latest Articles

Read these latest articles and special issues from the journal, freely online:


Call for Submissions and New Special Series

The Editors of the International Journal of Social Pedagogy welcome new submissions for publication in 2022 and invite papers on social pedagogy as defined in its broadest sense which includes all aspects of social, philosophical, and pedagogical dimensions. The journal publishes articles open access (meaning anyone with an internet connection can read the full articles for free) and doesn’t charge any author a few to publish in the journal – the whole open access publication process is free of charge!

The journals full aims and scope as well as submission information can be found online at



In addition to general submissions, we are excited to announce a new special issue open for submission that aims to examine social pedagogical practices, ideals and ambitions of social inclusion and active citizenship in the global context of anti-extremism and anti-terror politics. This special issue looks to shine a light on how those practices and traditions vary in different countries and contexts.

Abstracts (up to 300 words) should be submitted by January 14th, 2022. Journal Editors will then invite successful authors to submit a full draft for editorial review by June 15th, 2022. Publication is anticipated for autumn/winter 2022/23.

For more information about submitting to this special issue please see the full call for papers here or contact the Editors by email at


Follow the UCL Press and the International Journal of Social Pedagogy on Twitter @UCLPress


virtual Social Pedagogy Development Network – 02/12/21

The SPDN is a community of practice for nurturing change in education and social care through social pedagogy. Join our virtual gathering.

About this event

We warmly invite you to join our next virtual Social Pedagogy Development Network event. The virtual gathering offers a forum for practitioners, students, service managers and academics alike to find out how organisations are developing social pedagogy within their services, to share ideas and to connect with other professionals who have a similar passion for their practice. We hold two free events each year, which aim to increase our collective understandings of social pedagogy in ways that are inspiring, practice-relevant and reflective of social pedagogical principles and values. We aim to stimulate reflection on how you can further develop your practice and thus make an even greater difference to the individuals, groups or communities you engage with.

Thanks to the diversity of participants, the SPDN offers you a real flavour of what social pedagogical practice looks like in children’s homes, fostering services, family support services, communities for adults with disabilities, residential schools and many other settings. For us it’s about enabling a thousand flowers to bloom – so instead of the conformity of monocultures you’ll get a flavour of the rich diversity in which social pedagogy is growing in different practice settings.

The virtual gathering offers an open space for you to talk about what matters most to you with people who share your interest and thus help shape the social pedagogy discourse. If you’re interested in learning a lot more about social pedagogy, then join one of our experiential online courses, our webinar series and other learning events.

Relationship-Centred Practice in Care Homes

by Andy Carter & Maggie Bagley

We’ve all heard the phrase ‘a rough diamond’ to describe something that has potential which is not immediately obvious at first look. The same could be said of human beings who do not have access to the best conditions for their self-development. Relationship-Centred Practice sets out to realise the potential in all of us to be a shining diamond.


The Care Act 2014 section 1 creates a general duty on local authorities exercising community care functions to promote the well-being of the individual. The Diamond Model is a strengths-based approach with an overarching aim of nurturing long-lasting holistic well-being and happiness for people by considering four core aims that provide a scaffold for organic personal growth and in doing so supports that duty in practice.


Well-being and ‘happiness’ are sometimes seen as one and the same, but in our understanding they are notionally different: happiness describes a present state whereas well-being describes a long-lasting sense of physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and social well-being.  In combination we can get a holistic view of a person’s well-being and happiness.

Importantly, well-being and happiness are very individual and subjective: what causes happiness is highly individual, meaning that it is context-specific and highly responsive to the individual rather than adopting a one-size-fits-all approach. In practice it is important to seek to understand the person we are working with, and then work alongside them to achieve this. This means simple things like joy, laughter and kindness are at the centre of relational practice.


Holistic Learning is much more than what happens in formal education. It is a process of realising our own potential for learning and growth at any point in our lives, which can take place in every situation that offers a learning opportunity. By experiencing these learning opportunities, people get a sense of their own potential and how they have developed. As we are all unique, so is our potential for learning and our way of learning and development. These learning opportunities can be seen in most aspects of daily life such as learning how to ​​​​​​cook a new recipe or having a go at belly dancing (something you always wanted to try). It’s a matter of looking for ways in which we can stimulate people’s learning.


Meaningful supportive Relationships are essential to achieve the elements mentioned above. Only through genuine connections can a person experience that someone cares for and about them, that they can trust somebody. This is about growing and maintaining social skills and being able to have strong positive interactions with those around them. Therefore, the relationship must be a personal authentic relationship between human beings, making use of our personalities and bringing our whole selves to the work we do. This can be as simple as remembering how someone likes to have their tea or which is their favourite biscuit.


Empowerment, together with relationships, is crucial in order to ensure that an individual experiences a sense of control over their life, feels involved in decisions affecting them, and is able to make sense of their own universe. Empowerment also means that the individual is able to take on ownership and responsibility for their own learning and their own well-being and happiness, as well as their relationship with the community to the maximum that they are able.  This could be taking time to really understand their needs in detail or chairing and organising resident/service user meetings.


Positive experiences are at the centre of the diamond and helps us to realise these core aims. The power of experiencing something positive – something that makes someone happy, something they have achieved, a new skill they have learned, the caring support from someone else – has a double impact: it raises the person’s self-confidence and feeling of self-worth, so it reinforces their sense of well-being, of learning, of being able to form a strong relationship, or of feeling empowered; and by strengthening their positives the person also improves their weak sides, so that negative notions about their self disappear.

Perhaps by having a pen pal and receiving letters or entering home grown veg into the local show.


This blog has been published in NAPA’s The Activity Providers Magazine Summer 2021 issue.