thinking about intensity

The work involves differing degrees of depth. What does this mean when organizing informal education?

photo: kings cross detached youth work projectSometimes we are making new contacts and maintaining relationships. Here we may simply greet people, ask how they are getting on, or talk about some TV programme or what they were doing last night. In terms of evaluating our work and reporting it to managers we can discuss this in terms of the number of contacts we make.

At other times we put on sessions or take part in activities and groups. This involves a more intense working relationship. We are looking to the processes in the group or the exchange; thinking about the subject matter; and trying to foster opportunities that can help people to gain better understandings, develop skills and to explore their values and feelings. We can think about these situations in terms of participants in sessions.

Last, there are times when we are dealing with sensitive questions - perhaps one-to-one or in a small group. We could describe this as counselling - but we prefer 'working with'. This is because we take counselling to be a specialist activity drawing heavily on psycho-dynamic insights. Educational approaches make some use of such insights but draw mainly from other, developmental, traditions. Examples here may be working with individuals around their family relationships or their strategies when dealing with social security officials. Here we may think of people as ‘clients’ and describe it as ‘casework’. This term may indicate a long-term approach that seeks to explore how individuals can handle problem relationships and situations.

From this we can see that the work of the same person may fall into different categories at various moments. To do casework we have to be known and to have contacts. The need for particular projects may emerge out of casework or from casual conversation. Each is dependent on the other. Again we are brought back to the false separation of informal and formal approaches.

infedcov.jpg (18462 bytes)Taken from Tony Jeffs and Mark K. Smith (2005) Informal Education. Conversation, democracy and learning, Nottingham: Educational Heretics Press.

© Tony Jeffs and Mark K. Smith
First published November 1999. Last update: July 08, 2014