Of Pedagogy

Perhaps the failure of teaching  to establish itself as a profession on a par with medicine or the law rests with the absence of a clearly defined realm of expertise.

Teaching involves translating a body of knowledge so that it can be presented in an appropriate and effective manner. The term to describe this process is pedagogy. Pedagogy encompasses a substantial amount of decision making and a demand for expert judgements that is surely the equal of medicine or law.

Pedagogy is little used by the profession at large and when it is, often describes but one element of the process. This ‘selective’ tendency is perhaps one reason why the term has not established itself as the true descriptor and champion of the teaching profession. Other theories suggest that the term has been appropriated by the academic world (and therefore treated with caution by schools), another that government, as paymasters and keepers of the social status quo, are reluctant to encourage a true process of professionalism. If Pedagogy, as an iconic term, was more dominant, it could greatly assist not only the status of teaching, but also of the training and development of teachers.

The meaning and origin of the word pedagogy  is from the Greek for the slave that walks the child to school, i.e. the deliverer of education. So how can we outline the expertise of pedagogy? It is possible to  identify 4 inter connecting spheres of pedagogy involving knowledge of subject (Epistemological), knowledge of how such subject content can be presented for learning (Educational), relating to managing groups of children and young people (Social Pedagogy) and fourthly, the ability to reconcile and balance the competing vested interests at play in the classroom (Critical Pedagogy).

Teaching does not provide the concrete outcomes more easily accessible to medicine and the law. However, the complexity and diffusion of outcomes prevalent in education, should be recognised as contributory elements of a high professional standing, to which the term pedagogy does justice.

Social Pedagogy


Social Pedagogy covers the realm of Community Education and is essentially a blending of the approaches to social work and education. The origin of the concept lies in progressive European ideas that encompass the concepts of social skills and democratic entitlement. The latter idea has been developed by both Dewey and Freire in relation to democratic or critical pedagogies, particularly for disadvantaged groups in society.

Social Pedagogy is proving a useful concept to support the Every Child Matters agenda in the UK. To be seen as valuable, such approaches will need to address some of the perennial issues that emerge for young people often caused by a lack of parental support and family instability, peer pressure and community ethos, motivation, weak social and language skills, with the resultant impact on achievement, mental and physical well being.

The new training agenda for the Childrens Workforce will be a good place to begin to shape a local, context specific social pedagogy.