Why social pedagogy?

Jan Storo

Jan Storo

by Jan Storø, author of Practical social pedagogy, publishing today

When I started working full time as a teacher at Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences a few years ago, I was given responsibility for teaching social pedagogy. I was not fully up-to-date on the topic (at least not how it was understood in academia), and had to refresh my knowledge about it. I had been a student in the same institution myself, but that was twenty-five years earlier. I had spent all these years in the practice field, practicing social pedagogy. But, I have to admit, I had failed to update myself on theory.

Coming back into the university college with a large portion of practical experience in my rucksack, it was exciting to investigate the topic. In the places I had practiced all these years, mostly in residential care for young people, the term “social pedagogy” was not used frequently. We worked with young people. We were good at it. But we did not always theorize about our practice. Still, we knew very well that we were practicing social pedagogy.

This strange, double-sided relation to one of the most important terms of our profession – and to all its implications – came into focus for me almost the instant I walked over the threshold to the University College for the first time as an employee. After four days as a teacher, I took the decision that I had to go deeper into this topic. And that I would do it by writing a book about it. Only by doing a deep-dive in what I had done in the practice field and seek how this experience could be understood in my teaching,  could I hope to give the young students what I imagined they needed. That Saturday, after the first week as a teacher, I began working at the script that eventually became the book ‘Social pedagogy practice: Theories, values and tools for working with children and young people’.

To reflecting on social pedagogy is to travel in a landscape of theory and practice. From quite early in the process it was clear to me that I had to address these two concepts. It seemed  apparent to me that some of my colleagues from practice mostly were interested in…practicing, and that my new academic colleagues were more frequently focused solely on theory. I found myself in a fruitful middle-position. That gave me the starting point for the book.

Therefore in the book I have included an imagined dialogue between a practitioner and a researcher in the first couple of pages. The dialogue is meant to show how challenging it can be to speak about practice and theory within this field. This challenge is the invitation I give to my readers.

The dialogue can also be read in my article ‘The Difficult Connection Between Theory and Practice in Social Pedagogy‘ in the International Journal of Social Pedagogy, no.1, 2012.

Practical social pedagogy is available to buy with 20% discount at http://www.policypress.co.uk

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