Igniting social pedagogy through learning and teaching partnerships in a higher education context

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Partnership as an approach to pedagogic practice and co-creation in higher education is an orientation towards relationship-centred education. There is little exploration of social pedagogy in the higher education (post-secondary) context, yet recent research studied the similarities between the guiding principles underpinning learning and teaching partnerships and those of social pedagogy. This article presents the results of this empirical research, which explored the complexities of engaging ‘students as partners’ in learning and teaching in a UK university. This research found that partnership was used as an approach to democratise entrenched power relations in faculty–student relationships, empower a diverse student body to become co-creators of knowledge and foster inclusive learning communities that respect diversity and social inclusion. The three key concepts of democracy, agency and community are pillars of social pedagogy. Through this exploration of social pedagogy within the higher education context, there is significant potential for knowledge-exchange between disciplines traditionally allied to social pedagogy, such as social work, K-12 education, youth work and higher education. The article develops a unique definition and conceptual framework for the case of learning and teaching partnerships, utilising social pedagogy as a guiding theoretical lens. An overview of the novel methodological approach of situational analysis is given, followed by a discussion of the key implications for higher education that: (1) learning and teaching partnerships are situated, relational and inherently complex; (2) ‘trajectories’ provide a helpful metaphor to conceptualise individuals’ unique journeys through the process of partnership; and (3) relationship-centred higher education practices involve heightened awareness of the role of emotions.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal of Social Pedagogy
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 12 Jul 2023


  • relational learning
  • students as partners
  • higher education
  • partnership
  • compassionate pedagogies
  • social pedagogy


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