Creating Unique Learning Opportunities in which TheorymeetsPractice
Social pedagogues work in many diverse settings, ranging from early years provision to services for marginalised adult groups to care for the elderly. This means that there is not just one way of practising social pedagogy but that the context of work is very important in determining how social pedagogical theories and principles can best be applied into practice. As a result, ThemPra’s approach to education is not to implement our own ideas but to get into dialogue and explore together with organisations how social pedagogy can guide and enhance their ways of working. This empowering ethos creates a synergy effect, in which we all bring in our collective expertise to develop a social pedagogy that enables professionals to make sense of and apply social pedagogy in ways that reflect their specific context, own sense of purpose and inner motivation. By enabling practitioners to be active agents of change we can maximise their existing potential and experience.
‘It is not possible to teach. But it is possible to create situations in which it is impossible not to learn.’
Based on the above quotation, our educational courses are creative and unconventional. We see our role as providing opportunities for deep learning that invite people to understand, feel and grasp social pedagogy with head, heart and hands. Our courses are therefore filled with interactive, dynamic and experiential methods and group exercises which highlight social pedagogical principles and facilitate relationship-building, critical reflection and meaningful learning transfer. They can be easily adapted for practice and enable our participants to relate to social pedagogy at a professional and personal level.
Given that our participants are the experts for their practice and the potential change agents, we aim to support them in exploring and reflecting upon how social pedagogy can guide and enhance their ways of working. To achieve this we are using a pedagogical learning style wherein theory meets practice – that’s what ThemPra stands for!
Emphasising a Whole-Systems Approach towards Cultural Change
The holistic nature of social pedagogy means that any implementation of social pedagogy into practice must be seen holistically, too. This is why we take a systemic approach in our projects, which is aimed at improving practice (pedagogical situation), creating the right organisational conditions for practice to grow (institutional framework), and influencing the wider culture in which practice takes place (societal-political context). The model below, by Badry and Knapp (2003), outlines this:
Whilst we cannot do this for an organisation, we can do this in dialogue with key people and support them in developing a coherent culture of social pedagogy in which all parts of the organisation feel empowered to use social pedagogy autonomously in their everyday practice on a long-term basis. In this process of developing social pedagogy, we encourage and empower professionals to reflect on social pedagogical principles, values and concepts and to embed these in ways that reflect their unique practice context.
This type of strategy aims to systemically incorporate the key principles of social pedagogy into practice instead of ‘establishing a separate role of “social pedagogue”‘ (Paget, Eagle & Citarella 2007), thus enabling organisations to build on existing good practice and develop it systemically. This process can only be successful where people are valued and the process is underpinned by the principles of social pedagogy. The notion of the learning organisation is fundamental to ensuring that social pedagogy is woven into the fabric of an organisation’s culture. So taking a systemic perspective is paramount as it recognises the potential of social pedagogy to affect positive change both at practice level (the pedagogical situation) and more widely throughout the team and organisational culture, structure and systems (the institutional framework).
If you would like to find out more about how we can support you in developing social pedagogy within your organisation or context, please contact us. As a social enterprise we’re happy to help in whichever ways we can.