Anmeldelser av «Practical Social pedagogy»


«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


Scottish Journal of Residential Child Care



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 with

children 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



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.