Using informal education An alternative to casework, teaching and control?


Debates about welfare practice tend to be confined within pro­fessional boundaries: teachers exploring group work will often make little reference to the thinking and experience of social workers and their exploration will largely be conditioned by the experience of one particular organizational or institutional form: ‘the school’. Yet one of the distinctive, and often neglected, features of the current situation in welfare practice is the extent to which certain forms transcend professional boundaries. Thinking and practice in informal education is one such arena.

We would not want to argue that social work is coming to resemble school teaching or youth work. Nor are we concerned here with looking for some grand underlying theory of welfare interven­tion. Rather, we want to enhance the practice of informal education by drawing together some key strands from different areas of welfare. This is particularly important in the case of informal education. Within the mainstream of, say, social work or teaching, informal education may be considered somewhat marginal. Yet when the informal educational activities of social workers are joined to those of probation officers, teachers, community workers, youth workers and health workers, we have a significant body of practice and thinking which reveals the possibilities of informal education as a method in welfare work.

© Tony Jeffs and Mark K. Smith 1990
Reproduced with permission from Tony Jeffs and Mark Smith (eds.) Using Informal Education, Buckingham: Open University Press.

First published in the informal education archives: February 2002.