Idealistic assertions or realistic possibilities in community and youth work education

Sinéad Gormally*, Annette Coburn, Edward Beggan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
17 Downloads (Pure)


Community and youth work (CYW) practice has been articulated as striving towards a more socially just and equal society and is theorised as a catalyst for social change that seeks to overcome power differentials. Yet, despite these claims, there is limited empirical evidence to inform knowledge about the extent to which ‘equality work’ is featured and practiced in CYW programmes in higher education. This article draws on perspectives from current and former CYW students in the UK which routinely claim critical pedagogy as the bedrock of professionally approved degree programmes. Utilising a survey approach, our aim was to examine the experiences of students to find out if teaching, learning and assessment practices in professionally approved CYW programmes can be argued as helping students to articulate practice as emancipatory. The findings indicate that there was coherence and a strong understanding of core theories that confirmed CYW programmes as helping students to articulate emancipatory practice. In relation to teaching and learning, programmes were not as aligned with critical pedagogy, inclining more towards traditional and formal methods than alternative or informal methods. Finally, an imbalance between the persistent use of standardised assessment methods over more flexible and creative assessments suggested a reluctance to seek, or develop, more emancipatory sustainable assessment alternatives. The article concludes by arguing that informal education and, specifically, CYW programmes are well-placed to drive institutional and social change forward.

Original languageEnglish
Article number561
Number of pages14
JournalEducation Sciences
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 18 Sept 2021


  • community and youth work
  • constructive alignment
  • critical pedagogy
  • equality
  • social justice


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