Research lines

The Department of Social Work and Social Pedagogy’s research is focused on the study of social work practices, connecting the English speaking social work tradition with the social-pedagogical research traditions ,and combining it with a broad educational perspective. The department hereby seeks to strike a good balance between a strong discipline and a broader, interdisciplinary approach.

Research in social pedagogy starts from the societal function of social work practices, with themes such as civic education, community building, democratic learning and community development, inclusion and exclusion processes, as well as the focus on the relationship between social work and basic social rights. Through this research, the department considers childhood studies as an interdisciplinary field of research, combining insights from pedagogy, history of childhood, sociology of childhood, children’s rights research and children's geographies.

The social work research starts from the social worker and social work as “policy makers”. The focus lies on social assistance and services. The concept of “discretion” is central, with specific attention to the way in which social services and social workers carry or question broader societal developments.

Research in family pedagogy starts from the study of interventions in family education, including early childhood education. The starting point is the family as a social construction, which has grown historically and contributes to a decontextualized ideal image. This means that family education cannot be studied separately from broader education and practices. The study of interventions in family education in relation to neighbouring fields is also explicitly oriented to international research communities and partnerships.

The research in intercultural pedagogy is focused on the study of how to deal with the tension between “similarities” and “differences”. Herein, diversity is defined broadly, including diversity in migration background, ethno-cultural origin, gender, socioeconomic status, education ...). Together with a human rights approach, we primarily focus on research on the wellbeing of refugees and migrants, in particular minors, both in Europe and in Southern countries, the latter within the framework of the interuniversity research centre, Centre for Children in Vulnerable Situations.

The research in history of education starts from a study of continuities and discontinuities in the development of both educational and instructional practices in order to gain an insight in factors and determinants that define education in relation to social developments and topical questions. By doing so, educational history focuses on concepts and processes such as migration, segregation, poverty and progressivism. Special attention goes to the visual representation of those processes (e.g., through non-fictional film and photography) and the notion of urbanity in relation to both education and socio-cultural/artistic work.

Research in philosophy of education is focused on the central issues of educational sciences: knowledge, truth, correctness, and rightness including what is involved in its being embedded in an ethical and societal context. More in particular it addresses the presuppositions and the structure of the justifications offered in the discourse of the academic discipline of education.

Across the various research lines, the research in the department also focuses on two central themes: poverty research and youth research.

Poverty research focuses on poverty and the construction of social inequality problems within diverse educational and social work practices. Theories are developed on anti-poverty strategies, underpinned by concepts of citizenship and welfare rights. Empirical studies are methodologically based on qualitative and interpretative research in which the interaction between social work actors and the life world of people in poverty are considered as relevant research subjects.

Youth research is mostly developed within the framework of the Youth Research Platform, a policy-oriented centre for research on youth funded by the Flemish Government. This centre is an interuniversity and interdisciplinary collaboration between Ghent University (Department of Social Work and Social Pedagogy), Free University of Brussels (T.O.R. Research group) and KU Leuven (Youth Criminology research line). The Youth Research Platform aims at obtaining a better understanding of the life world, living conditions and activities of children and young people in Flanders and Brussels. The department mainly focuses on the study of (the policy for) young people in relation to the three main educational contexts (family, school and leisure) and the formal and informal support.