What is action research and how do we do it?

In this article, we explore the development of some different traditions of action research and provide an introductory guide to the literature. contents: what is action research? · origins · the decline and rediscovery of action research · undertaking action research · conclusion · further reading · how to cite this article. see, also: research for […]

Adult education and lifelong learning – southern critiques and alternatives

Adult education and lifelong learning – southern critiques and alternatives. What can northern educators learn from the experience of the south? A review and introductory reading list. Contents: context · resisting colonialism · respecting local forms · looking to the whole rather than the individual · implications for the north  · references · how to […]

Seeking out the gift of authenticity

Seeking out the gift of authenticity: Heather Smith argues that developments in youth work are undermining authentic relationship. She suggests that if we do prize relationships over targets and do truly care about the people we encounter, it is possible to take personal responsibility to seek out the gift of authenticity. contents: introduction · the […]

Pierre Bourdieu on education: Habitus, capital, and field. Reproduction in the practice of education

contents: introduction • Pierre Bourdieu – life • habitus • field • capital • exploring reproduction • developing practice • conclusion • references and further reading • acknowledgements • how to cite this piece Pierre Bourdieu’s exploration of how the social order is reproduced, and inequality persists across generations, is more pertinent than ever. We examine some […]

Researching education, learning and community: building theory

Researching education, learning and community: building theory. In this piece we examine the process of generating theory. We ask ‘what is theory?’ We also look at the process of analysis, integration and imagination. For the last of these we pay special attention to the work of C. Wright Mills. Contents: introduction · what is theory? […]

Calling and informal education

Calling and informal education. The notion of calling, once rather unfashionable, has re-emerged as an organizing idea within education. Michele Erina Doyle examines calling and vocation, and sets them in particular within Christian discourse. She argues that fulfilling our calling as informal educators means we work with others for the processes of knowing, testing, naming, […]

Too few, too many: The retreat from vocation and calling

Photo by Steinar Engeland on Unsplash Tony Jeffs examines some of the uncomfortable questions raised by Victoria Climbie’s murder and subsequent policy responses around the training, recruitment and management of welfare professionals including informal educators such as youth workers and community educators. In particular he argues that face-to-face work has been devalued and constrained; policymakers […]

Caring in education

Caring in education. In this article Nel Noddings explores the nature of caring relations and encounters in education and some of the difficulties educators have with them. She also looks at caring relations as the foundation for pedagogical activity. Contents: introduction · caring relations and encounters in education · why is the relational view difficult […]

Civil society

Civil society. Civil society is much talked about, but rarely understood. Michael Edwards explores the practical and theoretical significance of civil society – and suggests some ways through the issues surrounding its use. Contents: introduction · the civil society puzzle · civil society – gaining some clarity · civil society as associational life · civil […]

Jean Lave, Etienne Wenger and communities of practice

Jean Lave, Etiene Wenger and communities of practice. The idea that learning involves a deepening process of participation in a community of practice has gained significant ground in recent years. Communities of practice have also become an important focus within organizational development and have considerable value when thinking about working with groups. In this article […]

What is community?

Community. What is community and why should educators be concerned with it? We explore the development of theory around community, and the significance of boundaries, social networks and social norms – and why attention to social capital and communion may be important. contents: approaching the theory of community · community and boundary · community and […]

Offering community to children and young people in schools and local organizations

Mark K Smith explores how, in the context of the ‘new normal’, educators, pedagogues and practitioners need to offer community to children and young people. This article is part of a series: dealing with the new normal • offering sanctuary • offering community • offering hope] contents: introduction • friendship • social capital • associational life […]

Reclaiming the radical agenda: a critical approach to community development

In this piece Margaret Ledwith argues we need to be be vigilant about changes in the political context and to get better at weaving theory into our practice. We need to be able to explain why we are doing what we are doing at any stage of the community development process, and so creating knowledge-in-action […]

What is competence? What is competency?

Competence and competency. What is competence? How has it been reduced to competency? What is the impact on education and training? Contents: introduction · what is competence? · competency and product approaches · curriculum as process · conclusion · further reading · acknowledgements · how to cite this article Over the last twenty years the […]


Here we have listed some key texts that develop or explore ‘conscientization’. The idea has been linked with the work of Paulo Freire and Pedagogy of the Oppressed – although Freire used to claim that he had not used the term since the early 1970s as it had been badly misused (Taylor 1993: 52). However, […]

What is curriculum? Exploring theory and practice

Curriculum theory and practice.The organization of schooling and further education has long been associated with the idea of a curriculum.  But what actually is curriculum, and how might it be conceptualized? We explore curriculum theory and practice and its relation to informal education. Contents: introduction · curriculum as transmission · curriculum as product · curriculum as process […]

Dialogue and conversation for learning, education and change

Dialogue and conversation  for learning, education and change. ‘Dialogue’, Freire says, ‘is the encounter between men, mediated by the world, in order to name the world’. Here we explore this idea – and its roots. Contents: introduction · Gadamer – horizons of understanding · emotions and virtues · Habermas: dialogue, power and distortion · Bohm on […]

Dialogue, conversation and praxis

In this piece Paul V. Taylor examines: dialogue as a norm of behaviour; dialogue as a theory of knowledge; dialogic competence; conversation and interpretation; and praxis as action and reflection. Contents: introduction · dialogue and conversation · communicative competence · the I and the you of dialogue · interpretative dialogue · dialogue and citizenship · […]

Dialogue – a proposal

The full text of the very influential paper by David Bohm, Donald Factor and Peter Garrett contents: dialogue – a proposal · why dialogue · purpose and meaning · what dialogue is not · how to start a dialogue · dialogue in existing organizations · copyright notice David Bohm (1917-1992) was a distinguished physicist who […]

What is education? A definition and discussion

Education is the wise, hopeful and respectful cultivation of learning undertaken in the belief that all should have the chance to share in life. Mark K Smith explores the meaning of education and suggests it is a process of inviting truth and possibility. contents: introduction • education – cultivating hopeful environments and relationships for learning […]

Encounters for learning, education and change

Encounters for learning and change. Pedagogues, animators and informal educators work for encounters – face to face meetings. They also work for encounter – relation or engagement with themselves and others. Contents: · seeking situations of co-presence · co-ordinating activities · encounter and personal growth · encounter and relation · further reading · how to […]

Evaluation for education, learning and change – theory and practice

Evaluation  for education, learning and change – theory and practice. Evaluation is part and parcel of educating – yet it can be experienced as a burden and an unnecessary intrusion. We explore the theory and practice of evaluation and some of the key issues for informal and community educators, social pedagogues youth workers and others. In […]


Experience. Is there is a difference between ‘having an experience’ and ‘knowing an experience’? ‘Experience’ can be quite is a problematic notion. It is a well-worn term that is often used with little attention to meaning. In the twentieth century is, arguably, the work of John Dewey has done much to help rescue the notion […]

Facilitating learning and change in groups and group sessions

Facilitating learning and change in groups and group sessions. Just what is facilitation, and what does it involve? We explore the theory and practice of facilitation, and some key issues around facilitating group sessions. Contents: introduction · what is group facilitation? · core conditions and the facilitator · the facilitator’s role · core values ·  […]

Using focus groups in evaluation and research

Using focus groups in evaluation and research. Focus groups have been part of market research for many years. Their popularity in advertising and marketing – and their use to find new ways of getting us to buy particular products or ideas – puts off a lot of people. However, they are a very useful tool […]

Friendship theory: some philosophical and sociological themes

Friendship: some philosophical and sociological themes. Many people’s understanding of friendship in northern societies is rather thin. We explore some classical views of friendship, the development of theory and practice in ‘modern’ societies, and some key aspects of the current experience of friendship. On a linked page we examine some of the implications for educators. […]

Full-service schooling

Photo by Paul Hanaoka on Unsplash The idea of full-service schooling aroused considerable interest. In the United States a range of initiatives were taken; and it has been considered as a serious policy option in Britain and Australia. But what is it and what issues surround it? contents: introduction · what is a full-service school? […]

Globalization: theory and experience

Globalization: theory and experience.’Globalization’ is a favourite catchphrase of journalists and politicians. It has also become a key idea for business theory and practice, and entered academic debates. But what people mean by ‘globalization’ is often confused and confusing. Here we examine some key themes in the theory and experience of globalization. Contents: introduction · […]

Globalization and the incorporation of education

Globalization and the incorporation of education. Here we draw out some of the profound implications of globalization for education and the work of educators. As part of this we also look at some of the issues surrounding the increased presence of corporations and branding in education. Contents:  introduction · globalization, commodification and the corporate takeover […]

What is a group?

What is a group? How are we to approach groups? In this article we review the development of theory about groups. We look at some different definitions of groups, and some of the key dimensions to bear in mind when thinking about them. contents: introduction · the development of thinking about groups · defining ‘group’ […]

What is groupwork?

What is groupwork? While many practitioners may describe what they do as ‘groupwork’, they often have only a limited appreciation of what groupwork is and what it entails. In this piece we introduce groups and group work, define some key aspects, and suggest areas for exploration. In particular we focus on the process of working […]

Happiness and education – theory, practice and possibility

Happiness and education – theory, practice and possibility. What makes us flourish – and what does not? We explore the theory, practice and possibilities of putting happiness at the centre of education and helping. Contents: introduction – why all the interest in happiness? · what is happiness? · what makes us happy and unhappy? · […]

Helping relationships – principles, theory and practice

Helping relationships – principles, theory and practice. In this article we explore the nature of helping relationships – particularly as practised within the social professions and informal education. We also examine some key questions that arise in the process of helping others. In particular, we focus on the person of the helper. Contents: introduction · […]

A brief introduction to holistic education

A brief introduction to holistic education. What is holistic education? What are the primary philosophies that distinguish it from traditional education? Who were the pioneers in holistic education? Ron Miller provides an introduction. Contents: · holistic education · holistic education resources · links to holistic organizations and schools · how to cite this article Holistic […]

What is hope? How can we offer it to children and young people in schools and local organizations?

Mark K Smith explores how, in the context of the ‘new normal’, educators, pedagogues and practitioners need to offer hope to children and young people. This article is part of a series: dealing with the new normal • offering sanctuary • offering community • offering hope] contents: introduction • what is hope? • being hopeful • building hope […]

Hope, utopianism and educational renewal

Hope, utopianism and educational renewal. In this piece David Halpin offers an analysis of the nature of hope and its significance for educational practice. He identifies three ways in which a renewed optimism of the will can be nurtured among educators, despite the current talk of professional decline. These ‘three ways’ involve taking seriously: ‘hopelessness’; […]

Informal learning, home education and homeschooling (home schooling)

Informal learning, home education and homeschooling (home schooling). Most families who start out “doing school” at home find that what works in school does not transfer easily to the home. Of necessity, home educators find themselves pioneering new educational approaches, nearly always less formal ones. They provide convincing evidence for the potential of informal learning. […]

informal non-formal and formal education – a brief overview of some different approaches

Many of the debates around informal and formal education have been muddied by participants having very different understandings of basic notions. Here we explore three different approaches commonly found in the literature. contents: introduction · looking to institutions: informal, non-formal and formal education · turning to process: conversation and setting · a question of style: […]

Informal, non-formal and formal education programmes

In this piece Paul Fordham explores the emergence of the influential typology of education programmes as informal, non-formal and formal. The notions are considered in relation to the concern to foster economic development. Particular attention is paid to the characteristics of non-formal education in relation to participation, purposes and methods. Debates around ‘top-down’ and ‘bottom-up’ […]

Informal and non-formal education, colonialism and development

Informal and non-formal education, colonialism and development. The place of informal and non-formal education in development – the experience of the south. Contents: introduction · the indebted south · education in the south · the question of colonialism · non-formal and informal programmes · literacy programmes · conclusion: informal and non-formal education and development · […]

What is informal education?

So what is informal education? Here Tony Jeffs and Mark K Smith cut a path through some of the confusion around the area. They focus on informal education as a spontaneous process of helping people to learn. Informal education they suggest, works through conversation, and the exploration and enlargement of experience. It’s purpose is to […]

Informal learning: theory, practice and experience

Informal learning: theory, practice and experience. In recent years a number of researchers and policy pundits have rediscovered ‘informal learning’. But is there really such a thing? We explore the theory and practice of ‘informal learning’ contents:  introduction · informal learning · non-formal learning · tacit knowledge · situated and distributed learning · informal education […]

Aristotle on knowledge

Aristotle on knowledge. Aristotle’s very influential three-fold classification of disciplines as theoretical, productive or practical remains an excellent starting point for exploring different forms of knowledge. Contents: introduction · the theoretical · the productive · the practical · further reading and references · links · how to cite this piece Aristotle, along with many other […]

David A. Kolb on experiential learning.

David A. Kolb on experiential learning. David A. Kolb’s model of experiential learning can be found in many discussions of the theory and practice of adult education, informal education and lifelong learning. We set out the model, and examine its possibilities and problems. Contents: introduction · david a. kolb · david kolb on experiential learning […]

Learning in the community and community learning

Learning in the community and community learning. The idea of learning in the community has been around for some time. But what is it, what does it involve, and how does it relate to the notion of community learning – popularized in Scotland? Contents: introduction · learning in everyday life and formal instructional settings · […]

Lifelong learning

Lifelong learning. Lifelong learning – along with ideas such as ‘the learning society’ – has become popular with politicians and policymakers in a number of countries. But what do people mean by it? Is the idea of lifelong learning helpful? Contents: · education is life · lifelong education · lifelong learning · conclusion · further […]

Lifespan development and lifelong learning

Lifespan development and lifelong learning. ‘Development’ is one of those familiar concepts that seeps almost unnoticed into the conversations of educators. They are self-evidently concerned with the development of people. But what is development? Are there particular stages that we pass through in our life course? Contents · introduction · development · stages · gender, […]

Learning in organizations – theory and practice

Learning in organizations. In recent years there has been a lot of talk of ‘organizational learning’. Here we explore the theory and practice of such learning via pages in The encyclopedia of pedagogy and informal education. We examine some key theorists and themes, and ask whether organizations can learn? contents: introduction · learning · learning […]

The learning organization: principles, theory and practice

The learning organization. Just what constitutes a ‘learning organization is a matter of some debate. We explore some of the themes that have emerged in the literature and the contributions of key thinkers like Donald Schon and Peter Senge. Is it anything more than rhetoric? Can it be realized? contents: introduction · the learning society […]