Alternative sites of learning: educational youth work as a paradigm and process

Annette Coburn

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


Educational Youth Work, as distinct from the provision of leisure activity, creates the possibility for young people being empowered and to make autonomous decisions about their lives. This paper reports on an ethnographic case study which examined perceptions and experiences of equality within one educational youth work setting. Research methods, including semi-structured interview, electronic diary and observation, were used to explore young people’s views and enabled them to reflect on their perceptions. The findings illustrate how the youth work paradigm facilitates the creation of a powerful learning environment. Young people’s experiences were interpreted, by themselves and by the researcher, as central to the construction of knowledge and understanding of equality. The young people reported on how their perspectives changed over time. Their considerations of the setting, illustrated how the youth work site enabled alternative educational processes through which young people can learn and flourish. There was evidence that the formation of trusting relationships, with other young people and youth workers, facilitated learning within this site. The findings also noted how such relationships, contributed to the creation of informal educational sites for, ‘experimentation, creativity and possibility’ (Giroux, 2005, p 151). The concept of critical pedagogy provided a framework for understanding educational youth work as both a social and a political process (Freire, 2004; Giroux, 2005; Kellner (2000). As a catalyst for social change, critical pedagogy is discussed within this paper in relation to the youth work curriculum.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2009
Event16th International Conference on Learning - Barcelona, United Kingdom
Duration: 1 Jul 20094 Jul 2009


Conference16th International Conference on Learning
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


  • critical pedagogy
  • educational youth work
  • alternative learning sites
  • equality


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