The term social pedagogy has been used to describe a range of work straddling social work and education. Often more holistic and group-oriented than dominant forms of social work and schooling, social pedagogy (sozial pädagogik) has its roots in German progressive education – and is sometimes translated as ‘community education‘ or ‘education for sociality‘. Here we explore its history and current status.
As an idea sozial pädagogik first started being used around the middle of the nineteenth century in Germany as a way of describing alternatives to the dominant models of schooling. However, by the second half of the twentieth century social pedagogy became increasingly associated with social work and notions of social education in a number of European countries. Within the traditions that emerged there has been a concern with the well-being or happiness of the person, and with what might described as a holistic and educational approach. This has included an interest in social groups – and how they might be worked with (see social groupwork). In this piece we explore the historical development of the concept, and some of the issues that inform its usage.