The concept of educational social work ©

mar 25 2018

Context of educational social work 1 (All rights reserved)

Abstract: In this paper we present the reasoning of our our author´s innovative concept The educational social work, characterizes the social reality of people in the postmodern age which creates a new identity of social work and a new identity of social client. We based on the assumption that the most effective ways and means of social help is lifelong learning and social education of adults. Justifies the inclusion of the educational social work in the system of social work as the science and emphasize the practical necesity of educational social help to adults.
Key words: Educational social work.Identity of the social client. The educational social help.

Foto: Peter Senko (2017)Foto: Peter Senko (2017)

The identity of social work as a science

The identity of social work as a science is marked by its intersections with the identities of other sciences:

  1. The intersection at the level of general methodology; a generalised way of exploring the relationship of a man and social environment (the general philosophical principle, general principles of knowledge, general questions regarding a man-social environment relation). Given the specific nature of social science, philosophical principles cannot be applied immediately. General principles must be “sieved” through the principles of the social work specific methodology.
  2. The intersection at the level of special methodology, which consists of methodological principles applied in a certain area of knowledge (which means that philosophical principles are specified through the specialised research of social work). The way of knowing is adapted to a more narrow and specific area of knowledge in social work.
    The special social work methodology is created and formed on the basis of the special methodology of social sciences (politology, sociology, culturology, ethics, law, etc.), also the area of exploring a man (anthropology, social medicine, psychology, social pedagogy and social andragogy and others).
    Due to its multidisciplinary science background social work uses a special methodology based on adapting methodology approaches of several sciences about the man and society.
    The identity of social work is an interdisciplinary one –formed by intersections of knowledge and research of several sciences..
  3. The intersection at the level of research methodics; the total of all particular methodology procedures and methods implemented in the research. Methods depend on special methodics of social work and also other sciences. The knowledge and methods of other sciences are – within the interdisciplinary intersection - included in social work as a science.

Social work as a science is, as for Slovakia, at the stage of forming its identity. Let us say it is going thought the identity crisis in a positive way, working on achieving its identity2, which means the identity of theory and methodology that is achieved through research and its results. This way the social work scientific portfolio of individual property is created.

The identity of social work affects the creation of the identity of social workers in social practice, their professionality and professional and social status within society. The systematism, complexity and prediction play a key role in forming the social work identity (in science as well as in professional development and social practice).

The scientific theory of social work

So far social work does not dispose of a coherent science discipline theory. Such theory is necessary to explain dynamic and multisided social features of reality which social work as a science is supposed to learn about and research. Theories of social work are deductive (that means statements cannot be deduced from each other – which is possible in exact sciences). Under such circumstances the theory and research is based on a hypothesis as a theoretical form of knowledge. The research empiric material is related to verification of the theory hypothesis.

We believe that the theory of social work is an open interdisciplinary one with a relatively stable system of knowledge with respect to nowadays state of scientific knowledge of social reality. These are “middle-range theories“ which include more specific areas of social reality. The process of creation and innovation of methodology and the construction of theories in social work as a science runs from individual theories and methodologies to a coherent theory a methodology from a multidisciplinary theory and methodology to an integrated theory and methodology of social work.

Pic.1 Creating the identity of social work at present (M. Machalová, 2013, 2014):

Social situation: Modernity and postmodernity of today.

Character of the period: Significant and fast social and social psychologic changes.

Problems of social work identity – as a science, a field of study and social workers
Present situation: The absence of an integrated theory and methodology of social work. Diversification in theory and methodology of social work – the input of theories and methodologies of various sciences into social work, multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary intersections.
The coexistence of theory and methodology of social work and theories and methodologies of respective social sciences and sciences about man.
The methods of social work with a social client intersecting with the methods of other social sciences, sciences about a man and methods of practical activities in a particular society.
Providing social help - guiding social clients to social self-help – guiding social clients to development of their individual potential and to change in the context of social events and a social problem.

Current nature of social work identity
Received identity – proper social work theory and methodology and accepting theories and methodology of social sciences and methodology of sciences of man.
Moratorium – in the middle of identity crisis, exploring potential to emancipate the theory, methodology and research of social work and social work practical activities.
Diffusion identity – uncertainty, disorientation, lack of motivation, various defences related to social workers.

Vision of creating social work
Achieved identity – intellectual property of social work – the integrated theory and methodology of social work with interdisciplinary aspect as well as its own practical methods of social work with social clients and a well-defined context of knowledge and research of people´s social reality.

Pic.2 Creating identity of a social client at present (M. Machalová, 2013, 2014):

Social situation: Modernity and postmodernity of today.
Character of the period: Significant and fast social changes in terms of family, work, self-realization

Problem of identity of a social client (a person, group, community
Current state: The problem of multifactorial social discrimination, disadvantage and social exclusion of social clients.
Social clients and their potential to handle stress social situation and socially determined life problems.
The increase and accumulation of personal, group and community social problems.
Inputs of various social sciences and sciences of man: multidisciplinarity and interdisciplinary intersections in approach to social clients – which means the application of theory and methods of social work with social clients and application of theory and methods of social sciences and sciences of man in social work with a client.

The potential and limitations of social and mental adaptation of social clients with respect to influence of social transformations on social clients.

Active participation of social clients in the process of social help – self-help – in the development of their own individual potential for the sake of social change and achieving psychosocial maturity.

Current nature of a social client identity
Received identity - insecurity resulting from the transformation processes in the society, when individuals are aware of means but not the aims. The extent of social changes, not each of them can be reacted to actively. Psychosocial immaturity.
Increasing uncertainty, increasing risk connected to making personal decisions, individualization and pluralization of all areas of life and values. Unification in social and cultural area. The age of simulation, i.e., the end of steady relationships and their emptying, indifference, social indifference, the retreat of personality.
Moratorium - in the middle of identity crisis. An unsolved conflict between society expectations and their own expectations, needs, motives, values. Creating of their own opinion and attitudes and their stabilization, the way to social independence. Psychosocial immaturity.
Diffusion identity – Choice of negative identity connected to refusing social roles preferred by society or family. Creating of a self-image which is not in harmony with one´s personal dispositions. Unsuccessful search for truth about oneself. Psychosocial immaturity.

Vision of creating a social client identity
Achieved identity - Conscious identification of a personality with their own self-image, detection and learning about their own social identity, orientation in social relationships and communication, handling social roles, event, social problems. Their own challenges regarding reflecting one´s life journey. Psychosocial maturity.

The concept – Educational social work

This article presents the theoretical concept as the system of abstract ideas, theoretical constructs and indicators of educational social work and also as an aspect of its empiric reality. But the theoretical concept requires accuracy improvement and specification based on the operationalization of theoretical terms, which means achieving their maximum possible accuracy in connection with empiric reality.

The purpose of educational social work is to use educational activities to support development and cultivation of one´s creative potential in emergency social events and situations, to support a creative person. (Homo creans).

Social work is defined as a theoretical and applicative scientific discipline, a multidisciplinary profession and a practical social activity. Its task is to develop tools of efficient social help for individuals, groups, communities. Social work is considered a multidisciplinary area of the scientific knowledge, a research area and a specialized practical activity.

A.Tokárová (2003,p.52) is of the opinion that “transdiciplinarity is an attribute characteristic for sciences that are open to accepting knowledge of other sciences able to process, transmit and transfer innovated knowledge of other sciences not only those they originally drew impulses and knowledge from“. (translated by the author)

The attributes of social work follow the trends in the development of social work as a science and also “from the complexity of social dynamics and multifactorial conditioning of practical problems that are the subject of its research and at the same time the object of social work as a professional activity“. (A. Tokárová, 2008, p.111.) (translated by the author).

The concept of educational social work expresses:

  1. the reflection of how theoretical and empiric aspects of social work get intertwined with its auxiliary educational sciences such as social pedagogy and social andragogy. We assume that social work as a science shows potential for cooperation with various other sciences as the knowledge and methods intertwine. In general, (A. Tokárová, 2008, p.111) firstly an independent theoretical concept, in our case educational social work is formed and the concept may then be established as a social work branch.
  2. the reflection of how social work practical activity and education get intersected – in other words the intertwining of educational instructional and counselling activities with the reality of social work practice.
  3. the reflection of how social work is diversified and subsystems are created. One of them is the subsystem of educational social work. The theoretical and practical anatomy of educational social work is created on basis of the social function of adult education.
    The diversification happens as a result of a high variability and multicausality of social events, situation and problems in society.

Educational social work enters the social work system as follows:

  • The theory of educational social work as a subsystem of the social work as a science.
  • Methodology and methodics of educational social work as a subsystem of social work research.
  • Practical activity of educational social activity as a subsystem of the social work practice.

Educational social work is presented by participating on solving social events and problems of people in stages of their: identification, prevention, solution and the assessment of the efficiency of the solution. Educational social work comes in different forms (M. Machalová, 2013, 2014):

  • Preventative educational social work – as a specialized support of primary prevention (social education, awareness)
  • Socializing and re-socializing educational social work – as a professional support of secondary prevention (social education, educational social counselling, sociotherapy).
  • Rehabilitation educational social work – as a professional tertiary prevention support (social after-care, self-help groups and activities)

The algorithm of the implementation of educational social work:
Indication ↔ prevention ↔ suggestions of solution ↔ intervention ↔ assessment of people´s social problems solutions, through targeted activities and within the lifelong social education and lifelong educational social counselling is according to us one of many thought processes used in creating a theoretical background forming a base for the creation of educational programs focused on potential and real clients of social help and social services. From the individual point of view, the content and tolls of social help within the scope of educational social work are related to the fact that people´s life has a social aspect and requires them to adapt constantly through learning. This should be stimulated by educational social programs. The influence of social education (education, instruction, counselling) in social help and social services cannot be ignored as any form of solving material or social need represent an intervention into social and mental adaptation of people as well as the integrity of social client´s personality. The use of educational tools is usually an experiment aimed at correction and change of the client´s personal attitude towards their life situation, social event, social problem. From the social point of view, education is a systematic help to people. Education has also always played a key role in socialization, personalization and enculturation of people.

The purpose of educational social work

The concept of educational social work is the outline of (M. Machalová, 2013, 2014):
an innovative kind, content and methods of processes of education and instruction in social work. The starting point is the fact that a person is a permanently developing system that lives and presents as a whole and unity of:
The body ↔ Psyche (experiencing and action) ↔ Spiritual aspect (meaning of life) ↔ Social aspect (communication and relationships).

The purpose of educational social work from the client´s point of view is:
Social help to clients ↔ Guiding clients towards self-help ↔ Development of each client´s individual potential.

Educational influence, instruction and counselling strive to achieve spiritual, mental, psychological and social maturity of people, i.e. to achieve an individual level of one´s rational, emotional, value and social competences and maturity.

Psychological maturity, which means spiritual, mental and social maturity is reflected in one´s behaviour and actions. It is seen in the way one copes with social stress situations psychologically.

The task of educational social workers is to guide and accompany social clients towards their self-help if a social client asks for it because they feel to be socially endangered by being exposed to what they perceive as unbearable social deprivation, frustration, social conflict and stress.

Pic. 3 Educational social work as prevention as the social help for the adults (In: M.Machalová, 2013, 2014)

The concept of educational social work includes the intertwining of:
Social reality and educational reality; social environment and educational environment; social processes and educational processes. It emphases the social function of education which is connected to the social development of people and their personal development.


The basis for social prevention within educational social work is the fact that a social problem is oftentimes a visible consequence of a handicap in a social client´s education therefore a social problem is bound to be educationally determined. The solution will depend on the revitalization of the client´s educational needs, on the “tailored “ education of a client and the quality of educational environment.

The point of the theoretical concept of Educational social work and its efficient implementation in educational social practice will be visible when social clients, having undergone educational activities, realise the need to change and start to act so that they could achieve the desirable social change in their lives. It is good to lead people to accepting their share of responsibility and motivate them to take initiative and be active. The following words by the philosopher Seneca may express the reason for a personal and social change: “Throughout the whole of life one must continue to learn to live. “

Author: Prof. PhDr. MÁRIA MACHALOVÁ, PhD


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1 The concept of Educational social work the author of this article published in these monographs:
MACHALOVÁ,Maria. 2013.Preventívna sociálna práca - Edukačná paradigma v sociálnej práci. (Preventive social work – Educational paradigm in social work.) Prešov: Prešovská univerzita, 2013.
MACHALOVÁ,Maria.2014. Edukačná sociálna práca.(Educational social work.) Prešov: Prešovská univerzita, 2014.

2 The identity statuses “received identity, moratorium, diffuse identity, achieved identity“ are stated in ATKINSON,R.L. – ATKINSON,R.C. et al. Psychologie. Praha 2003.

Book Educational Social WorkBook Educational Social Work