Social pedagogy has people and relationships at its heart. Because of this, this research group has a focus on carrying out education-based research with a social impact.   

Social pedagogy emerged in the mid-nineteenth century as a response to increased social inequalities, and this remains its focus. We find ourselves in a similar position at the beginning of the 21st century with the divide between the privileged and the overlooked continuing to expand in the UK. Social pedagogy has a focus upon those who have, for various reasons been denied a voice. It is about Human Health, Wellbeing and Flourishing and looks for ways to further promote these. Current projects, such as those exploring the experiences of the families of children with SEND, or the health and wellbeing of teaching professionals following the stresses of the pandemic, exemplify this.

We, as a research group, believe that by recognising structural inequity and our role (both individually and collectively) in challenging this, we might achieve deeper levels of understanding of ourselves, develop advanced empathy toward others, and more clearly recognise the conditions for change needed in organisations and wider society. Our aim is to start ripples that can turn to waves-we make a social impact ourselves (however modest that might be) and in doing so support others to do the same.

The existing values of this group clearly align with all the underpinning principles of the University Research and Knowledge Exchange strategy.

These include:

1.  A commitment to ethical research exemplified by the respectful and ethical approach taken by all of its members; resulting in excellent, positive research relationships that have endured over years. Members of this group have multiple publications in the area of ethical practice and research and have presented on the topic may times.

2.  As sensitive researchers we work closely and respectfully with our research partners to produce high quality research which, beyond the ethical prerequisite to ‘do no harm’, has a positive impact upon those involved. Our aim is to support and energise rather than to judge or demean. Our intention, in Bloor’s (2010) words, is to ‘bring about good’, not just with the results of our research, but throughout the entire process.

3.  Our group has a desire to see and listen to the diverse or the atypical and to provide more effective opportunities for them to be heard and supported. For example, recent research has focused upon better understanding the experience of parents encountering poverty, grief and domestic abuse, and better recognising systems of support that can be put in place to support them. Social pedagogy strives to better understand the experience of all, in order to better provide services that cater to all.

4.  What has been the practice of members of this group over past years, and will continue to be a focus, is the creation of a nurturing and supportive environment for new and developing researchers. Our group ethos recognises that we have all been inexperienced researchers at some point and have benefitted from the support and encouragement of mentors, the values of this group recognise a moral obligation to feed this forward. We recognise, like Carl Rogers (1957) that an environment of unconditional positive regard must be in place for an individual to flourish. Ours is an environment where all viewpoints and contributions are heard and valued.




Allies, Suzanne (2023) Practical ways to improve teacher wellbeing. Freedom to Teach.

Cliffe, Johanna and Solvason, Carla (2022) What is it that we still don’t get? – Relational pedagogy and why relationships and connections matter in early childhood. Power and Education. pp. 1-15. ISSN 1757-7438; Online ISSN: 1757-7438

Duncan, Mandy (2023) How can early years practitioners support the care of young children living in poverty? International Journal of Birth and Parent Education. 10 (2): 3-7

Duncan, Mandy (2023) Safeguarding Practices (Chapter 25). In: The Early Years Handbook for Students and Practitioners: An essential guide for levels 4 and 5 (2nd Ed). Routledge, Abingdon, Oxon. ISBN Paperback: 9780367724498 Hardback: 9780367724504

Duncan, Mandy (2023) The Lifelong Loan Entitlement: Insights from the Higher Education Short Courses Trial. Higher Education Professional. [Online]

Gallagher, Stuart (2023) Early Childhood Studies in a Polarised Dystopia: Pedagogy as ethical leadership in education' (Chapter 3), in C. Solvason and G. Elliott (eds) Ethics in Education: Contemporary Perspectives on Research, Pedagogy and Leadership, Bradford: Ethics International Press, pp 43-65.

Gallagher, Stuart and Stobbs, Nicola (2023) Creating hope in dystopia: Utopia as Method as social pedagogy in early childhood studies. International Journal of Social Pedagogy, 12 (1). ISSN 2051-5804

Hodgkins, Angela and Prowle, Alison (2023) Strength-based Practice with Children and Families, Critical Publishing.

Hodgkins, Angela and Boddey, James (2023)Supporting parents with empathy and compassion, International journal of birth and parent education, 10 (2), pp. 29-33

Hodgkins, Angela (2023), Chapter 3: Appreciating and Practicing Empathy, In: Solvason, C. and Webb, R. (2023), Exploring and Celebrating the Early Childhood Practitioner: An Interrogation of Pedagogy, Professionalism and Practice, London: Routledge.

Sheehy, Amanda and Solvason, Carla (2023) Teaching lads’ lads and girly-girls: why recognising and tackling gender stereotypes still matters in education. Education 3-13. ISSN Print: 0300-4279 Online: 1475-7575

Solvason, Carla; Watson, Nicola; Tillsley, Jaimie Emily and Correia, Daniel Bizarro (2023) Taking a Collaborative Approach to Our Students’ Research in Education Settings. School Community Journal, 31 (1). pp. 191-210. ISSN 1059-308X

Solvason, Carla; Watson, Nicola; Tillsley, Jaimie Emily and Bizarro Correia, Daniel (2023) Taking a Collaborative Approach to our Students’ Research in Education Settings. School Community Journal. ISSN 1059-308X

Solvason, Carla and Webb, R. (2023), Exploring and Celebrating the Early Childhood Practitioner: An Interrogation of Pedagogy, Professionalism and Practice. London: Routledge.

Solvason, Carla and Elliott, Geoffrey (2023) Ethics in Education: Contemporary Perspectives on Research, Pedagogy and Leadership. Ethics International Press.

Stobbs, Nicola (2023) Gypsy, Roma, Traveller Displacement. In: Narrative Inquiry of Displacement: Stories of Challenge, Change and Resilience. Routledge, 2023, pp. 59-75. ISBN 978-0-367-17371-5

Stobbs, Nicola (2023) Social Pedagogy and Ethics. In: Ethics in Education : Contemporary Perspectives on Research, Pedagogy and Leadership. Ethics International Press Ltd. UK, Bradford, pp. 1-24. ISBN 978-1-871891-61-4

Stobbs, Nicola, Solvason, Carla, Gallagher, Stuart and Baylis, Sue (2023) A human approach to restructuring the education system: why schools in England need social pedagogy. International Journal of Social Pedagogy, 12(1): 8. DOI:

Taylor, Simon, Elders, L. and Hay, P. (2022) Thinking Differently Project Evaluation Report, Meadow Arts


Allies, Suzanne (2021) A reflection on how a work-life balance can be achieved using professional development. Impact, 13.

Adams, K., Lumb, A., Tapp, J. and Paige, Rachael. (2022)Whole child, whole teacher: leadership for flourishing primary schools. In Brundett, M., Beauchamp, G., Latham, P., Mistry, M., Murray, M., Taylor, B. and Wood, P. (Eds) Contemporary Issues in Primary Education: Fifty Years of Education 3-13: International Journal of Primary, Elementary and Early Years Education.

Harris, Kim and Hale, A. (2022) Assessment in Cooper, H. and Elton-Chalcraft, S. (ed.)Professional Studies in Primary Education. London: Sage Publications.

Hale, A. and Harris, Kim (2022) Short, medium and Long-term Planning in Cooper, H. and Elton-Chalcraft, S. (ed.) Professional Studies in Primary Education. London: Sage Publications.

Hibbert-Mayne, Kimberley; Ross, Charlotte and Woodward, Dave (2022) Played in England, Made around the world - exploring the origins of Badminton. Elephant Times, 24.

Hodgkins, Angela (2022) Exploring early childhood practitioners’ perceptions of empathy with children and families: initial findings. Educational Review. ISSN Print: 0013-1911 Online: 1465-3397

Hodgkins, Angela (2021), Early Years Practitioners need emotional support too Nursery Management Today, 21 (2), p33

Hodgkins, Angela (2022), Chapter 3: Parent and Carer Voice: Listening to, Understanding, and Acting on Parental and Carer Perceptions and Opinions, In: Sewell, A. (2022), Diverse Voices in Educational Practice: A workbook for promoting pupil, parent and professional voice. Speechmark: Routledge.

Hodgkins, Angela (2022), Chapter 5: Empathy, Compassion and Emotion In: Richards, H. and Malomo, M. (2022), Developing your professional identity: a guide for working with children and families. St Albans: Critical Publishing

Ross, Charlotte and Woodward, Dave (2022) 'Opening up the world'.........Taking advantage of blended learning opportunities and developing digital literacy for ITTE students. In: University of Worcester Learning and Teaching Conference 2022, 8-9th June 2022, University of Worcester. (Unpublished)

Sheehy, Amanda (2022) Promoting gender equality in primary schools through teachers’ reflections upon their own constructions of gender and the implicit messages that they may convey to pupils. PhD thesis, University of Worcester.

Solvason, Carla and Winwood, Jo (2022) Exploring Drivers and Barriers: Working in Multiprofessional Teams to Support Children and Families. School Community Journal, 32 (1). pp. 105-126. ISSN ISSN 1059-308X

Solvason, Carla and Watson, Nicola (2021) Insights into Positive Approaches to Parent Partnership Working in UK Nursery Schools. Journal of Social Psychology Research, 1 (1). pp. 18-30.

Solvason, Carla, Elliott, Geoffrey and Cunliffe, Harriet (2021) Preparing university students for the moral responsibility of early years education. Journal of Education for Teaching. ISSN Print: 0260-7476 Online: 1360-0540

Solvason, Carla and Proctor, Samuel (2021) 'You have to find the right words to be honest’: nurturing relationships between teachers and parents of children with Special Educational Needs. Support for Learning, 36 (3). pp. 470-485. ISSN 0268-2141.

Solvason, Carla and Cliffe, Johanna (2022) Creating Authentic Relationships with Parents of Young Children. Routledge, Abingdon. ISBN 9781032042626

Sutton-Tsang, Samantha (2022) Valuing Children with Special Educational Needs and Disability. In: Exploring and Celebrating the Early Childhood Practitioner: An Interrogation of Pedagogy, Professionalism and Practice. TACTYC: Research informed professional development for the early years . Routledge, Abington, pp. 53-62. ISBN 9781032071992

Sutton-Tsang, Samantha (2022) Developing Workplace Relationships. In: Developing Your Professional Identity : A guide for working with children and families. Critical Publishing, St Albans, pp. 113-126. ISBN 9781914171536


Allies, Suzanne (2021) Supporting Children's Mental Health through PSHE and R(S)HE. In: Teaching Personal, Social, Health and Economic and Relationships and Sex Education in Primary Schools: Enhancing the Whole Curriculum. Bloomsbury Academic, London, pp. 145-156. ISBN 978-1350129887


Allies, Suzanne (2020) Supporting Teacher Wellbeing: a practical guide for primary teachers and school leaders. Routledge, Abingdon. ISBN 9780367353247

Cliffe, Johanna and Solvason, Carla (2021) The Messiness of Ethics in Education. Journal of Academic Ethics. ISSN Print: 1570-1727 Electronic: 1572-8544

Cliffe, Johanna, and Solvason, Carla (2020) The role of emotions in building new knowledge and developing young children’s understanding, Power and Education, 12(2), pp.189-203

Elliott, Geoffrey (2020) College Based Higher Education: Provenance and prospects. In Kadi-Hanifi, K. and J. Keenan (Eds.) College Based Higher Education: A new hope. An examination of the history, pedagogy, identities and purpose of higher education in the further education sector. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Elliott, Geoffrey and Godfrey, Jonathan (2020) The implications of academisation for English Sixth Form Colleges. Journal of Further and Higher Education, (with Jonathan Godfrey) 45 (3) 363-376.

Paige, Rachael (2020) Creating a Positive Culture within Primary Schools: Whole School Initiatives to Foster Effective Social Learning Relationships. In: Social and Learning Relationships in Primary Schools. Bloomsbury Academic, London, pp. 73-92. ISBN 9781350096066

Ross, Charlotte and Woodward, Dave (2021) Using MS Teams to facilitate engagement, belonging and esteem. In: Worcester Learning and Teaching Conference 2021, University of Worcester ( ONLINE). (Submitted)

Smith, Sharon (2021) What's in a word? Rephrasing and reframing disability. In: Lived Experiences of Ableism in Academia: Strategies for Inclusion in Higher Education. Policy Press, Bristol, pp. 73-90. ISBN 978-1447354116

Solvason, Carla, Hodgkins, Angela and Watson, Nicola (2021) Preparing students for the ‘emotion work’ of early years practice. NZ International Research in Early Childhood Education Journal, 23 (1). pp. 14-23. ISSN 2537-7191

Solvason, Carla, Webb, Rebecca and Sutton-Tsang, Samantha (2021) “What is left…?”: The Implications of Losing Maintained Nursery Schools for Vulnerable Children and Families in England. Children & Society, 35 (1). pp. 75-79. ISSN 951-0605 (print) 1099-0860 (eISSN)

Solvason, Carla (2020) Building a positive community culture: the role leader collaborations across primary schools can play in developing community cohesion. In: Social and Learning Relationships in Primary Schools. Bloomsbury Academic, London. ISBN 9781350096066 (hardback) 9781350096073 (ebook)

Taylor, Simon (2020) Harnessing the power of the white cube: The contemporary art gallery as a liminal space for multi-sensory learning. In Campbell, L. (ed) Leap into Action: Critical Performative Pedagogies in Art and Design Education. New York: Peter Lang

Watson, Nicola (2021) In praise of creativity. Early Years Educator, 22 (6). pp. 21-23. ISSN Print: 1465-931X Online: 2052-4617

Watson, Nicola (2020) What happens next? Early Years Educator, 22 (5). pp. 22-24. ISSN Print: 1465-931X Online 2052-4617

Watson, Nicola (2020) Deep and meaningful. Early Years Educator, 22 (4). pp. 21-23. ISSN Print: 1465-931X Online: 2052-4617

Watson, Nicola (2020) Identifying Opportunities. Early Years Educator, 22 (3). pp. 21-23. ISSN Print: 1465-931X

Woodward, David, Earley, L.; Gunn, B. and Smallwood, E. (2020) What makes great physical education teaching? Application of evidence-based research to the training experience of ITE students. Physical Education Matters, 15 (3). pp. 77-79. ISSN 1751-0988

Highlighting Research - Dr Alison Prowle

'Thank you for asking me about my story': An exploration of the perspectives of forced migrant parents, practitioners and strategic actors in South Wales

Last year, I finally completed a doctoral study at Cardiff University, focusing upon the experiences of refugee and asylum seeking  families in Wales, and the practitioners who support them.  Here is a bit about the research.

The motivation

In 2016, I had the privilege of visiting the Dunkirk humanitarian camp.  In the Children’s Centre there, I met parents and listened to their accounts of homes destroyed, livelihoods lost, and relatives killed or displaced. They discussed fears for their own safety and for the futures of their children whilst reflecting on lengthy and perilous journeys, the details often hazy as the parents recalled the countries crossed. They told me of life in the camp, the hardships and tedium, and the challenges of parenting in such an adverse environment. The described their time in the camp as a liminal space; suspended between their past lives in the countries they called home, and their future home in the UK. 

The parents’ aspiration was to settle in the UK, which was perceived as a tolerant nation, with a legal system and welfare state that treated citizens well; a place where jobs were plentiful, education and health services were excellent, and where they could build positive futures.

 I gained a sense of the strength and resilience of these families, who had overcome incredible odds to leave their countries and reach Dunkirk.  However, past trauma and the harsh realities of life in the camp had left a discernible mark on the families. Some parents talked of depression, fatigue, and ill health. Others told me about their anxiety for their family’s future or their guilt at leaving loved ones behind in unsafe conditions. The children, living on the French coastal plain, painted pictures of national flags or the mountains of home, and acted out smuggling scenarios and police brutality within their play.  Practitioners discussed the need for practical and therapeutic intervention to support the families to make a successful transition into their new lives in Europe.

I returned to the UK in June 2016, in the fortnight leading up to the referendum on continued European Union (EU) membership.  The media was a frenzy of arguments and counterarguments. Different voices clamoured for attention; we should remain in the EU for fear of economic collapse; we should leave so that we could control our own borders and reduce levels of immigration.  Many commentators highlighted an undercurrent of xenophobic sentiment, with this view supported by a rise in reported hate crimes (Home Office 2017). The media circulated confused messages about immigration, asylum seeking and refugees, and raised concerns about the nation’s infrastructure and the continued pressures on public services that were already depleted by years of austerity policies (Fetzer 2020). 

The juxtaposition of the experience of the camp and my return to the UK led me to ponder what the future held for parents and children arriving in the UK.  In Dunkirk, I had witnessed incredible human resilience in the face of multiple difficulties and challenges.  Much of my professional life (as a manager of services for children and families) to this point had been concerned with supporting the needs of families challenged by multiple adversity. I thought that I had seen and witnessed most things that life could throw at a family. However, the stories from the camp challenged that assumption. I considered how the needs of families could be better understood and met and wondered how forced migrant families could be better supported to integrate within a society currently characterised by so much tension, misunderstanding, and conflicting values. Hence, this research journey began.

About the research

The research took the form of a multi-disciplinary, qualitative study of how the needs of refugee and asylum-seeking parents in Wales are supported. The study  adopted a stakeholder approach,  focusing on the perspectives  of  ten parents who had experienced migration,  along with 33 practitioners  and 15 strategic actors (Members of Parliament, Members of Senydd, Council Leaders and heads of Refugee organisations) .

I was keen for the research to explore the lived experiences of asylum-seeking parents in Wales, often characterised by constrained circumstances, uncertainty, lengthy waits for asylum judgements, alongside the challenges of integrating into a new society and grieving for what has been left behind. One of the biggest challenges for families and the practitioners that support them, was negotiating bureaucratic and often opaque Home Office procedures. These systems, all too often, stand in stark contrast to the Welsh Parliament’s vision of Wales as a Nation of Sanctuary. For things to improve significantly, Welsh Government would need an extension to existing devolved powers, to move their vision beyond rhetoric and into reality. However, the rhetoric of sanctuary does have some impact, and most parents in the study liked living in Wales and found it a welcoming host nation. Nonetheless, there was some evidence that the Brexit vote in 2016 had contributed to some parents feeling less welcome. There was significant scope for developing approaches that focused on fostering dignity, choice and autonomy, celebrating diversity and supporting wellbeing and belonging.

At the practice level, parents were supported by committed, passionate, empathetic, and culturally aware practitioners. However, high workloads, insecure funding and budget cuts were ever present challenges. At a strategic level, there was a strong recognition of the importance of providing a supportive welcome to forced migrant families. However, this was too often constrained by austerity policies, post-Brexit uncertainties, competing priorities and limitations of current devolved powers.  The study highlighted the potential for developing a strength–based and distinctly Welsh approach to hosting forced migrant families, focusing on agency, autonomy and reciprocity.

What next?

The parents and practitioners generously shared their stories and experiences with me, even though they were often painful, hard to listen to and even harder to tell. Ardita, a survivor of human trafficking and modern-day slavery, at the beginning of her  time with me said this:

“Thank you for asking me about my story. Where to start? It is not a happy story... so much happening and so much hurting…. but now we are here… maybe it is okay? If people listen to this story, maybe things will be better…...?”

 I now feel a compulsion to share  the messages from the research  in order to help make things just that little bit easier for  parents like Ardita.  Hence my next steps will involve developing articles and training sessions to  help raise awareness of the issues facing the families.

  • Fetzer, T. 2020. Austerity and Brexit. Intereconomics. 55(1) pp27-33.
  • Home Office.  2017. Hate Crime, England and Wales, 2016/17. Statistical Bulletin 17/17

Highlighting Research - Dr Amanda Sheehy

Dr Amanda Sheehy is a primary school teacher, researcher and trainer. She conducts academic research and works as an associate lecturer at the University of Worcester. Amanda also delivers professional training to educators in promoting gender equality in schools.

PhD Research: Promoting Gender Equality in Primary Schools Through Teachers’ Reflections

Focussing specifically on teachers’ reflections on their own attitudes to gender and how these can impact on their practice, this social constructionist study furthers understanding of how teachers’ promotion of gender equality in the classroom can be enhanced through seeking to explore and evaluate the attitudes of a sample of teachers.

Fourteen primary school teachers were interviewed about their gender construction, life experiences, influences, childhood and attitudes towards gender equality. They reflected on the implicit messages they may convey to their pupils concerning gender and how they could improve their practice in this area, considering language, learning environment, resources and curriculum content.

What emerged from the interviews was the power of the reflective process itself and the findings suggest that inviting teachers to reflect on their pedagogy in this way has potential to be a powerful tool in promoting gender equality when teaching children.  

Sheehy, Amanda (2022) Promoting gender equality in primary schools through teachers’ reflections upon their own constructions of gender and the implicit messages that they may convey to pupils. PhD thesis, University of Worcester.



What does social pedagogy have to offer a wide range of professions? (Networking Event - June 2023)


Our University of Worcester led social pedagogy networking event brought together a vibrant group of people from a diverse range of professions; from adoption services, to play advocates to those lecturing in the field of business management. Everyone who attended was united in the core purpose of recognising the richness and potentiality of the individuals that they encounter daily, particularly the marginalised. This gathering was part of an international delegation, one of many taking place simultaneously in different locations across the UK and Europe, with each separate network event connecting with one another during the day to share ideas, tell stories and build community.

The event introduced and explored some core values that underpin social pedagogy. We listened as experts in their field discussed how they came to hold their beliefs about human beings and their potential to impact positively on one another, challenging our propensity to define individuals by their need.

The delegates then split into small groups and took part in a creative activity involving drawing a chalk outline of a child/person who may be considered marginalised. Inside the silhouette the groups wrote words associated with qualities that make people rich. After a short time, the groups then wrote words outside of the image that depicted society’s attitudes towards marginalised people. The delegates were given time to actively review and record their experience using Greenaway’s Four Fs (2015) as prompts, specifically,

1. Facts: what have you noticed based on your observations and what you’ve seen in other groups’ artwork?
2. Feelings: what emotions does this bring up in you?
3. Findings: what learning are you taking from the activity?
4. Futures: how can you help draw out people’s inner richness and make this more visible?

Key take-away points from the day included:

Process of drawing- its significance for supporting understanding and engagement
The physical action of drawing the outline of the person and writing words inside to depict their inner richness seemed to enable participants to mentally inhabit the life-space of the imaginary, disadvantaged person. Several delegates noted that they had reflected on their own lived experiences as a way of making the activity more concrete for them. Words describing the inner richness of the marginalised person included, “playful”, “curious”, “loved” and “kind”, as well as “complex” and “unique”, evidence that delegates were avoiding thinking in two dimensions.

When the groups added the deficit words, such as “snowflake”, “disruptive”, “demanding” around the outside of their drawing, the impact was felt personally. Reflecting on this later using the Four Fs (Greenaway 2015) delegates’ feelings ranged from “sad” and “disappointed”; “anger” and “rage,” to “hope”, “empowerment” and “radicalism”. Although there was anger directed at society, some participants noted that we all have prejudices, and so should guard against the polarising action of labelling anyone, including those whose values and actions we might dislike. At the same time there was hope and a feeling of empowerment in joining forces with like-minded others to take a stand against such prejudice and injustice.

The importance of relationships
This related both to the delight of connecting with others who held similar values and hopes, as noted by the comment “We’ve found our tribe”, as well as the wider aspect of relationships. One observation about the importance of “community” reminds us of the power that comes when we feel we belong. Positive relationships enhance our confidence, boost resilience, development, and growth (Kyridis, 2015: Vincent, 2016) and are at the heart of social pedagogy.

Challenging assumptions and the power of ‘pause’
Several of the groups noted the need to challenge assumptions and reflect on where our prejudices originate. They wrote that before thinking, speaking, or making judgements about people we should “pause”, and ask, “what is their lived reality?” Pausing is a powerful tool that creates a “deliberate gap” before impulsively reacting to an emotional trigger, allowing us to redirect our responses to ones that are more intentional (Segail, 2023, no page) and aligned to our Haltung.  During a pause we can take a breath and mindfully interrupt a cycle of learned behaviour, adjusting negative thoughts to be more empathetic and emotionally in-tune with others. The simple action of pausing can provide a space for us to have more authentic relationships with others.

Get to know the individual
Quite a few groups wrote that a way to find the richness in people was to get to know them as an individual before being tempted to make judgements. One group discussed how potential is often hidden, lying latent within a person, suggesting that it sometimes takes effort to discover it. Social pedagogy proposes that everyone possesses “inner richness and potential” (Eichsteller, nd, p.1), and creating the conditions for this to thrive is our role as social pedagogues.

Insight into how this might be achieved was addressed by several groups. One proposed that valuing diversity and celebrating differences, rather than merely accepting them was important.  This reminds us how language can influence attitudes in subtle ways; the word ‘accept’ implies politely enduring. It is a passive behaviour whereas when we ‘celebrate’ individuals’ differences we actively show support, love and admiration for them. A tight smile versus party poppers.

The active nature of fostering human richness through positive relationships was evidenced by groups who included comments such as “Dialogue,” “Active listening”, “Sharing”, “Respecting”, “Questioning”, “Having a genuine interest” and being “Open to learn” as future actions. These verbs suggest a need to invest something of our ‘self’, responding nimbly to how others are presenting in the moment. This can be both exhilarating and exhausting, and while relationship skills can be taught, (Barton 2014) it is the desire and courage to break down barriers and initiate relationships, particularly with the marginalised, that is perhaps the starting point for coming to know people as individuals. Engaging effectively requires a combination of both skills and disposition.

When we consider this, it is little wonder that another group included “Reflection” and “Self-awareness” as guiding principles for those seeking to “get to know the individual”. Using the Three Ps as a framework (Professional, Personal and Private selves) can help ensure that we bring genuine emotion to the relationship, using our personality and personability in a professional way, but judging when personal aspects of our lives would not enhance the marginalised person’s experience, and so should be kept private (Eichsteller and Holthoff, 2011).

Activism as future action, with a caution
Delegates in many groups identified a desire to challenge societal attitudes towards the marginalised and key to this was developing confidence. It was acknowledged that supporting marginalised people is easier said than done, and that once we see injustice, we need to look for strength both inwards and outwards from our support networks to rally our confidence, rather than quietly look away.

This take away for the future was extended by another group who saw the need for “tackling barriers- not just individual; structural issues,” highlighting that effective action requires lobbying those who are able to make policy changes on a macro level as well as providing support for the individual: “Political awareness and individual resourcefulness collectively and individual development”, agreed another group.

Delving deeper into the complexities of activism some delegates added that the stance of “saviour” should be avoided. This is a pertinent reminder of the need for continual self-reflection to ensure that we are ethical in our work with marginalised groups, honestly questioning our motives to establish if we are looking for a personal dopamine hit disguised as a worthy quest to “make a difference” (Cole, 2012. No page). In our first responsibility to “do no harm” we should enable the people we work with to feel empowered by including them in decisions that affect their lives, trusting their competence to be involved and ensuring that we “work with” others rather than “do to” them. When we encourage individuals to look to, and to utilise, their own community’s strengths, we can avoid creating a dependence that might be well-meaning, but ultimately becomes debilitating. Eichsteller and Bradt (2019, p.15) argue that although we may act as “the lifeline in crisis” on occasion, it is vital that we are also “strengthening people’s safety net and helping them recognise that they, in turn, can be part of other people’s safety net too”. It is important to remember that our ultimate aim is to make ourselves redundant, so that what is done together the first time is done independently the second time (Storo, 2013).

So, what does social pedagogy have to offer a range of professions?
The delegates at the event came from a broad range of professions and it was energising to feel the buzz as inspiration and insight into how social pedagogy might apply to each person’s context were sparked. There are few job roles that do not involve working with people, and feedback from delegates reflected the potential of social pedagogy to offer “an integrative and coherent perspective on supporting learning, well-being and social inclusion both through relationship-centred practice and structural efforts to address social inequality and promote social change.” (Eichsteller and Bradt, 2019, p.14).

If we were to create a metaphorical Pinterest board of life in the UK over the last seven years or so we would perhaps conclude that the local and global political situation has often divided people and exacerbated the difficulties in their lives (or life worlds). Social Pedagogy may not be a panacea to all these problems, but perhaps if we adopted social pedagogical values instead, our future might look a little different. Social pedagogy seeks ways to build common ground, bridging previous divides in an attempt to construct interdependent common futures. Adopting a collective and agreed Haltung across all professions and institutions, committing to enhancing financial, cultural and human capital in communities would surely be a positive start. Social Pedagogy offers huge potential to all professions and professionals who are invested in the betterment of our world. A potentiality that we will continue to explore here at the University of Worcester as part of our Social Pedagogy Research Group.

If you would like to find out more about our Social Pedagogy Research Group, then please contact Carla Solvason (Group Lead) at:

And look out for our book which is in production, Social Pedagogy: Possibilities in Education, edited by members of the research group.

Barton. E. (2014) The secret of nimble workplaces. BBC online. Available from: accessed 18.07.23

Cole, Teju. 2012. The White Savior Industrial Complex. The Atlantic Monthly Online 21: 1–2

Eichsteller, G. [nd] Social Pedagogy – Discovering Young People’s Potential. ThemPra Social Pedagogy CIC. Available from: accessed 18.07.23

Eichsteller, G. & Holthoff, S. (2011). Conceptual Foundations of Social Pedagogy: A Transnational Perspective from Germany, in Cameron, C. & Moss, P. (2011). Social Pedagogy and Working with Children and Young People. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Eichsteller, G. & Bradt, L. (2019). Social Pedagogy as a Meaningful Perspective for Education and Social Care. Anglesey: Thempra Social Pedagogy.

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