Experience, democracy, community: identifying with John Dewey through youth activism in Scotland

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This article seeks to enumerate the dynamics of young activists’ learning and to elaborate on the efficacy of social inclusion through youth activism. It reflects on experiences of young people involved in discrete community activities in the West of Scotland. Social action for young people is suggested as a catalyst for informal education and as a mechanism of empowerment.

John Dewey’s significance for informal educators rests in four key areas, his belief that education must engage with and enlarge experience; his exploration of thinking and reflection; his concern with interaction and environments for learning; and his passion for democracy.

Drawing on a hermeneutic phenomenological study, the article examines the experiences of a group of ten young activists. Data, collected from semi-structured interviews, afforded an opportunity to examine the experience of young activists in their own words. Interpreting this data elaborates on the degree to which Dewey's theorising resonates with youth activism and informal community based education.

Presenting four short cases, Dewey’s notions of trying and undergoing mirror identity formation and agency illustrated though the experiences of participants. This theorising may therefore have relevance to scholars, educational practitioners and community organisers in the Scottish context and beyond.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)27-50
Number of pages23
JournalEducation in the North
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 31 Oct 2017


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