Anmeldelser av «Practical Social pedagogy»


Scottish Journal of Residential Child Care, October 2013 – Vol.12, No.2

Social pedagogy has become a widely discussed topic throughout the UK in recent years. It has begun to have a significant impact in residential child care in particular, although it is also being explored in relation to youth work and the early years’ sector. The fact that the topic has moved from the conference and seminar to the university and the workplace can be gauged by the emergence of a number of textbooks – Practical Social Pedagogy being one of three published in 2013 so far. What makes it of particular interest is that it has been written in Norwegian and in English by Jan Storo, who works and writes from Norway. Some other books have been written by British authors seeking to interpret social pedagogy for the British context and audience: with this book we are able to see what it looks like from the ‘inside’, as it were.

Storo is a professor with many years’ experience of residential work. One of his principal aims is to link theory and practice, and he writes in an accessible, almost conversational manner. What makes the book accessible is that each chapter is constructed with several different sections and types of writing; there are real-life case studies, practice examples to illustrate a point, text-boxes, and a ‘question and answer’ style used throughout. In other words there is a great deal of ‘dialogue’ built into the book, a typical social pedagogic trait, and practitioners will soon realise that the person writing this book has worked with children for many years.

Social pedagogy –like other broad concepts such as social work or education – is not easy to define, but one of its key features is that it is an approach to the care and upbringing of children which draws on theories and concepts from a number of disciplines; these include sociology and psychology, education, philosophy, advocacy and community development, among others. Storo tackles this challenge head on and has chapters on ‘theoretical perspectives’ and ‘from theory to practice’. Other chapters have simple -and helpful – goals: ‘Who is the social pedagogue?’, ‘What does the social pedagogue do? and ‘Where does the social pedagogue work’? There is also a comprehensive introductory chapter which explains key words and concepts. The last chapter is a very effective description of key social pedagogy practices, under the heading, ‘What are the tools of the social pedagogues’ trade?’ In my opinion these are all interesting and solid chapters which will repay careful reading. One benefit of this structure is that readers can dip into it wherever they like, and then move back and forward. I think that starting with chapters 4 and 5 – ‘Who is the social pedagogue?’ and ‘what do they do?’ may be a good way in for those who don’t know too much about social pedagogy.

An extract from Chapter 4 (‘Who is the social pedagogue?’) exemplifies the author’s engaging style and his capacity to make interesting observations, when he answers the question, ‘is the social pedagogy a researcher?’:

In this book, I am making the point that an important part of social pedagogic work is that it both ordinary and systematic. The systematic aspect points in the direction of certain tasks and ideals that look like those of a researcher. Before doing anything, the social pedagogue needs to investigate (p.66).

The fact that residential care is all about ‘relationships’ is constantly espoused, but what we mean by that is often not analysed. Storo provides us with some very valuable contributions. Chapter 5 contains some excellent analysis and explanation of what we mean by ‘relationships’ in the context of milieu work, and the importance of ‘credible’ relationships being offered to clients:

Making oneself available to the client in a relationship capacity can be hard work. Whoever offers themselves to a client in such a role must appreciate that getting personally involved can be difficult. One has to expect being disappointed, and that the disappointment will not be understood by others…

..Having said that, it is, of course also important that the social pedagogue actually does have a personal reaction, that is, that he reacts with himself, with his own emotions. Anything else could easily be seen as mechanistic and ‘robot-like’. Only when the contact between client and social pedagogue also contains spontaneity will it be perceived as real (p.86).

Chapter 5 really is a stand-out for me as it provides an analysis of what social work interventions are all about; it identifies three main aspects: ‘relationships, structure and change’. It contains some excellent analysis and reflections on the link between the personal and professional goals of relationship-based care work, and it can be applied to many settings.

Readers trained in social work, and indeed teaching and youth work will find familiar topics explored in a recognisable but fresh way. This is a substantial book, albeit one with a very practical focus – it is for students and professionals who want to study and work with children and young people. It is a very accessible, one-volume account of the theory and practice of social pedagogy, and it will allow UK professionals to engage more fully in international dialogues about social pedagogy practice. Its publication is very timely and there is nothing else like it on the market at the moment.

Ian Milligan International Lead CELCIS




Book review: Practical social pedagogy: theories, values and tools for working with children and young people. Article in European Journal of Social Work · April 2015. By Xavier Úcar, Professor of Social Pedagogy at Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona



JAN STORO (2013). Practical social pedagogy. Theories, values and tools for working withchildren and young people. Bristol: The Policy Press


I would like to start by saying that this book seems to me one of the most interesting that has been written in recent years on social pedagogy; this will be my position throughout this review. Like any good book, this work has challenged me from its opening pages and has made me reaffirm or call into question many of my own previous ideas. But let me warn you, however, that I am speaking from southern Europe and from the socio-pedagogical tradition that has been built-up here over the last century. For this is a tradition that, as will be seen, differs in certain regards from what the author suggests.

I think that this is an honest and realistic book. The author locates himself clearly, from the outset, within the place from which he reflects, constructs knowledge and writes. For this reason he decides, for example, not to enter into a definition of social-pedagogy –one of the most challenging issues still unresolved in our field- but to define, instead, social pedagogical practice. It is in this sense that the two main objectives of the text are posed; these are: (1) to write about a Social Pedagogy oriented towards practice; and (2) to investigate whether social constructionism theory can expand fundamental thinking on social pedagogy. On reading the book, it becomes clear that the author achieves both objectives.

Many authors have insisted over time that social pedagogy lies, or has lain, between the theoretical and the practical or, as the author has it, that there are two ways of understanding this: Social Pedagogy as work with people and social pedagogy as theoretical perspective (p. 3).

 I think that this book tries to position itself in what is in effect a difficult balancing point between the one and the other, not only with respect to the content itself but also in the very way it has been written. The book begins with a two people, one theoretical and the other practical, discussing Social Pedagogy by revealing their different relative positions. The dialogue runs on in an inter-connected way into chapters two and three, with case studies or practice situations that illustrate the author’s argument at every point.

The book is organized into eight chapters. Through a case study, the introductory chapter deals with the main terms and concepts used throughout the book. The subsequent chapter questions the theoretical perspective underlying social pedagogy and opts to locate itself within the perspective of «social constructionism». From their point of view, practical social pedagogues cannot wait for good theories to come along, but must instead act in the ‘here and now’. For this very reason, the theoretical perspective taken here is so appropriate. The author is aware, however, that his scope is very broad and that it represents both a problem and an opportunity.

In chapter three, the author tries to build connections between theory and practice. In my view, this is one of the book’s most complex chapters and is where the author makes a number of its main contributions. Chapter four considers the identity of social pedagogues, questioning what motivates them to seek boundaries, connections and overlaps that place them in relation to other professionals such as social workers, psychologists, sociologists, philosophers, lawyers, researchers or entrepreneurs.

The fifth chapter sets out to ascertain just what it is that social pedagogues do. This creates a socio-educational context built on three pillars: those relations that are the means by which action takes place; the structure that represents place and manner (and, indeed, the means) in which this happens; and, finally, change, which is the aim of that action.

Chapter six relates to social pedagogues’ actions take place; from the author’s perspective, these are focused on the individual, group and social levels.

Chapter seven highlights the tools that social pedagogues make use of in their actions. From the most general or transversal, such as the systematic character of action, language and practical interventions to what the author calls “local methods», i.e., negotiated social constructions that are put into in place in the relationship between social pedagogues and children or adolescents with whom they are interacting. It should be noted that this chapter (in a practical manner while remaining theoretically grounded) addresses the problem facing social pedagogues in their daily work. Issues such as authority, conflict and negotiation, among others, are worked on within the framework of social and pedagogical relationship.

Finally, chapter eight concludes the book by highlighting the complexity of the profession; this relates, on the one hand, to the fact lying halfway between theory and practice and, on the other, to contextually situated negotiations between professionals and participants that are a fundamental axis of social pedagogy.

Following other authors and despite recognizing the controversial nature of the term, Storo choose to speak of the «client» in referring to the participant in the socio-pedagogical relationship. This decision matches that of social workers in southern Europe, but it should be pointed out that this terminology is not used by social pedagogues and social educators. The latter refer instead to the «learner» or «participant», as the term “client” has business and commercial connotations that are not entirely appropriate to the contents of sociopedagogical relationships.

I agree with the choice of the term «intervention» as the core of the social pedagogue’s work. This is an open discussion today in which some people prefer the term «action», which conveys a supposedly less «invasive» nature for the term. The greater imprecision of this usage, however, and the tradition of applying «intervention» and its own etymological meaning (Carballeda, 2002) to the field of social pedagogy are arguments that, from my point of view, justify the use of “intervention”.

I also share one of the key ideas in this book, namely, remarking the importance of theory by stating that practice should always be informed if it is to be ‘good practice’. Herein lies one ofthe major challenges of social pedagogy: [to] include reflection in the execution of practice and use it actively to develop practice (p. 44). This, in my view, is a solid contribution: approaching social pedagogy as Values/Theory-Methods/Action.

It could be said that the relationship between social work and social pedagogy is one of the oldest and most traditional discussions in our field. The author differentiates the two professions—rather too readily in my view—noting that the second focuses on children and young people while the former does not. Although this follows the line defended in recent years from Anglo-Saxon ambit with respect to social pedagogy, this is not what has been proposed from central and southern Europe, where it has a clear social vocation that transcends ages and areas, as various texts clearly reflect (See, Kornbeck / Rosendal Jensen, 2011, 2012).

One of the ideas with which the author finishes the book is particularly interesting to me: adapting methods to the context where one Works is an important function. Social pedagogy practice is contextual and has to be tailored to the individuals in question (p. 138). On balance, my view is that Storo’s book is a useful contribution to all of use who, whether from research or theory or practice, are interested in social pedagogy.



Carballeda, A. J. (2002). La intervención en lo social. Exclusión e integración en los nuevos escenarios sociales. Barcelona. Paidós.


Kornbeck, J.; Rosendal Jensen, N. (Eds.) (2011). (Eds.). Social Pedagogy for the entire humanlifespan. Vol I. Bremen, Europäischer Hochschulverlag GmbH & Co. KG.


Kornbeck, J.; Rosendal Jensen, N. (Eds.) (2012). (Eds.). Social Pedagogy for the entire humanlifespan. Vol II. Bremen, Europäischer Hochschulverlag GmbH & Co. KG.