Over the last few years, ThemPra has helped pioneer social pedagogy in different parts of the UK. We developed and delivered a short course for the social pedagogy pilot managed by the National Centre for Excellence in Residential Child Care (NCERCC) in 2007, piloted social pedagogy in Scotland through courses with Sycamore Services and the Scottish Institute for Residential Child Care (SIRCC) and in Northern Ireland with Belfast’s Health & Social Care Trust. We are also working with residential services in Essex, Staffordshire and Walsall on innovative, systemic strategies to implement social pedagogy.
Our experiences have shown that social pedagogy is uniquely suitable in creating an authentic and overarching vision, which different professional groups can easily relate to and share responsibility for. It allows practitioners to take ownership for their work and feel empowered to use their head, heart, and hands, providing them with practical concepts that communicate the importance of relationship-building and guide reflective processes. Social pedagogy fuels the passion that many professionals bring to their practice.
Many of the developments that teams have achieved using social pedagogy are subtle but significant: they have created an open atmosphere where people feel confident to be personal and professional, reflect in an appreciative way, listen from the heart, and turn situations into learning experiences. This creates not only a more home-like life-space but also more positive, trusting relationships with the children. There are many stories illustrating how much of a difference this can make in a child’s life, where every difference counts.
As every organisation works in a unique way the approach of how to develop social pedagogy within its culture and systems is also unique. There are generally 3 elements we can offer to help you develop social pedagogy within your organisation, which are explained in more detail further below:
Organisational development support
For organisations wanting to explore what potential social pedagogy has with regards to their services and how they could approach a holistic implementation, we offer organisational development support. It's social pedagogic consultancy, which means that rather than providing ready-made answers we'll help ask the right questions and support organisations in finding answers that build on their local resources and strengths. Even with very limited financial efforts there are possibilities for organisations to go on a social pedagogy journey, and we can help mapping it out.
We can further assist in demonstrating why social pedagogy is a smart investment that also makes economic sense. Recent research reports by Demos (2010) and the New Economics Foundation (2008) show the short-term and long-term cost-effectiveness of social pedagogically underpinned services for children in care. And experiences from organisations we’ve worked with suggest various financial benefits of a happier, more motivated workforce and better relationships with children.
Social pedagogy courses
ThemPra’s social pedagogy courses offer an in-depth insight into the world of social pedagogy, connecting theory with practice. Their quality and impact has been evidenced by various independent research and mean that some of our courses count as a university-accredited module. We have developed a set of courses, which aim to support organisations in embedding social pedagogy in a sustainable and holistic way. Therefore, our courses do usually not form a stand-alone option but are part of a systemic development strategy. Our current range of courses consists of a 9-day social pedagogy course, a 3-day social pedagogical leadership course, a 2-day social pedagogy change agents course (top-up for 9-day course participants) as well as social pedagogy awareness seminars (length between 0.5 and 2 days). These are described in more detail as part of our approach to social pedagogy strategic development outlined below.
Social pedagogy strategic development projects
As a holistic approach to children's education and care, the implementation of social pedagogy requires a holistic approach as well. If social pedagogy is meant to have optimal impact on children’s lives, it is not enough to expect practitioners to change – what needs to change with them are the conditions in which they work.
Developing social pedagogy within an organisation is like a marathon rather than a sprint. It is important to proceed at a calm pace, because the project will develop its own dynamics within different parts of the organisation. For this purpose, we advocate for a long-term strategy, which could be realised over 2 to 5 years. Important for the long-term development of social pedagogy is that there is a strong sense of ownership amongst professionals, which is why our strategy outlines are aimed at creating self-sustainability through their emphasis on embedding social pedagogy within the organisation’s culture and on creating the kinds of structures that support this systemically. Unlike a one-off introduction to social pedagogy, a systems perspective enables us to accompany the implementation process over time.
The following elements are usually spread over the different phases in the project’s life-course:
- Social pedagogy awareness seminar for stakeholders;
- Introduction days for all staff;
- 9-day professional and personal development courses for a majority of practitioners;
- 3-day social pedagogical leadership courses;
- Team development days;
- 2-day social pedagogy change agents courses;
- Strategic development days;
- Practice development forum days;
- Independent research to evaluate the project.
Social pedagogy awareness seminar:
A systemic approach to developing social pedagogy should consider the organisation or a particular service as part of the wider system, and running half-day or one-day social pedagogy seminars aimed to raise stakeholders' and staff's awareness for social pedagogy can help in that process. These seminars allow sharing the vision for the future and jointly exploring what every person can contribute to the development of social pedagogy. This can help generate wider support both within the organisation and amongst partner agencies.
9-day social pedagogy course:
This professional and personal development course is an integral building block providing up to 16 participants with opportunities to gain a holistic understanding of social pedagogy and to jointly explore what it can mean for the quality of their work and for the development of their personal work approach. The course is designed holistically to enable experiential learning, individual and group reflection processes, and to come into dialogue, thus using participants' knowledge and experience as an important source. Through first-hand experience participants will become familiar with a variety of methods they can easily transfer into their everyday-practice.
Over the three 3-day blocks participants are required to keep a reflective diary, which enables them to continuously reflect on the links between social pedagogic theory and their own practice. They will also get research tasks in between to explore how the course learning can impact on their everyday-practice. Participants can be drawn from a single team or even from different services.
3-day social pedagogical leadership course:
With its strong emphasis on more equal relationships, learning processes, a shared life-space and ethics as first practice, social pedagogy has important implications for leadership at every level of an organisation. For the development of a social pedagogical culture within the organisation, it is therefore vital that its leaders know how to embrace social pedagogy. We have developed a 3-day social pedagogical leadership course, which aims to provide an opportunity for existing and potential leaders to explore in dialogue pedagogical leadership, what this means for individuals, teams, the organisation and most importantly the impact leadership has on the children and young people we care for.
The leadership course builds on the 9-day social pedagogy course, drawing on core social pedagogic concepts explored previously and applying them to leadership. It is therefore facilitated in a similar experiential way for up to 16 participants. Whilst it is not a requirement, these should ideally have been part of the 9-day course.
2-day social pedagogy change agents course:
Developing change agents for social pedagogy is usually vital in the process of nurturing a social pedagogic culture. The social pedagogy agents will receive additional training, which focuses on reflecting with them how they can continuously promote learning and reflection within their teams about how social pedagogical concepts and values can be translated into daily practice and structures within the organisation. This will prepare them to use their own initiative to develop their own practice, thinking and knowledge and that of their colleagues to effect change within their team. Importantly, the social pedagogy agents should undertake this challenge in an inclusive and appreciative way, thus sharing the responsibility for developing social pedagogy within the culture of their work place.
As there will inevitably be challenges to overcome in the development process, the social pedagogy agents will play a significant part in providing feedback on issues that need to be addressed.
Social pedagogy development groups:
To ensure that social pedagogy develops within an organisation in ways that create synergy by being connected to other service-wide developments and by drawing on the innovative ways found by different homes along their journey, we recommend setting up two closely related groups: a strategic service development group and a practice development forum for social pedagogy. Ideally, these should be complemented by a young people’s care development forum, thus giving young people in care an opportunity to connect to each other, to help shape the service and to be directly involved in the development of social pedagogy.
The strategic service development group has a key role in outlining the wider vision around social pedagogy and in systemically exploring how this vision can be realised. As a guiding model we have adapted the McKinsey 7S framework. In its task the group must be highly receptive to feedback from the practice development forum, so that potential barriers to social pedagogic practice identified by practitioners can be overcome and successes can be captured and celebrated.
The potential of social pedagogy to provide a value-based framework across services, to connect them and promote shared responsibility for children and young people makes it an economically sensible investment that can improve the range, efficiency and quality of tailored, more cost-effective services.
If this sounds interesting and you would like to find out more about the ways in which we can support you in developing social pedagogy within your organisation, please get in touch with us ...