Skip main navigation

The characteristics of social pedagogy

Read about the characteristics of social pedagogy practice, which concerns the way we interact with children and young people.
Boy smiling at man
© Alan Bailey ,

What is social pedagogy?

Social pedagogy is a form of thinking about how we care for, interact with and work alongside children and young people which is being increasingly thought about in discussions about the children’s workforce in the United Kingdom.

Social pedagogy is commonplace as an approach in countries such as Norway, Finland, Sweden, Germany, France and the Netherlands. In most of these countries, there are degree-level qualifications to train and educate people in social pedagogy and they are subsequently employed in a variety of child care settings as social pedagogues. Settings can involve youth work, early childhood settings and residential child care.

Socially constructed

Social pedagogy is socially constructed and exists in different forms in different countries, taking into account cultural and societal norms and expectations. This means it is not an off the shelf methodology which can be picked up and applied. Instead, it asks us to think about how it could be applied in our country, our settings, our cultural context.

So, what does social pedagogy consist of and what is distinctive about it? Simply put, social pedagogy is concerned with the way in which a society thinks about their children, how they care for them, how they educate them, how they bring them up.

Education in the wildest sense

Social pedagogy has been defined as ‘education in the widest sense, a holistic approach towards children’s experiential learning. It is about constantly creating and providing opportunities for learning through interaction with children; joint activities; being in a relationship and connection to others.

Social pedagogy is concerned with holistic learning, wellbeing and happiness, empowerment and relationships.

In contrast to the way much practice and thinking has developed in the UK in response to issues of abuse and child protection, social pedagogy has at its centre a requirement for adults and carers to form close and intimate relationships with the children and young people they are responsible for. Social pedagogy is well summed up by the following quote from Gabriel Eichsteller and Viki Bird:

Social Pedagogy, it could be argued, is all about ‘being’ – about being with others and forming relationships, being in the presence and focussing on initiating learning processes, being authentic and genuine, using one’s own personality, and about being there in a supportive, empowering manner. Social pedagogy is like an art form; its not just a skill to learn but needs to be brought to life through the social pedagogues ‘Haltung’ (her mind set or attitude). In other words, social pedagogy is not so much about what you do, but ‘how’ you do it. This perspective of social pedagogy means that it is dynamic, creative and process-orientated rather than mechanical, procedural and automated. This means it requires a social pedagogue to not be just a pair of hands, but a whole person.
If you’d like to learn more about social pedagogy, check out the full online course from the University of Strathclyde, below.
© University of Strathclyde
This article is from the free online

Caring for Vulnerable Children

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Reach your personal and professional goals

Unlock access to hundreds of expert online courses and degrees from top universities and educators to gain accredited qualifications and professional CV-building certificates.

Join over 18 million learners to launch, switch or build upon your career, all at your own pace, across a wide range of topic areas.

Start Learning now