Glossary of terms used on this site

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Term Definition
social capital

a term from the work of Pierre Bourdieu (1930-2002) which refers to the sum of resources held by a group or individual by virtue of possessing a network of (valuable) relationships.

social class

a grouping in society which share the same broad economic social and cultural status. It is still hugely influential in educational outcomes (see middle class  working class)

social construct(ion)

a concept term or category created by humans in society as a way of making sense of experience but which may not have objective reality or existence in nature (see socially constructed)

social constructivism

a term originating in the work of Lev Vygostky (1896-1934) for the process by which the child or learner comes to construct and understand experience through a reciprocal relationship with the social environment. Although sharing much of the constructivist thinking of Jean Piaget (1896-1980) it lays more stress on the social nature of the creation of knowledge and how culture affects perceptions.

social contract

an implicit (theoretical) agreement by members of society to cooperate for mutually beneficial purposes and to sacrifice certain elements of individual liberty in return for state protection. It features in the work of such theorists as Hobbes Locke and Rousseau as a way of explaining and justifying political obligation such as the duty to keep laws.

social control

in education the way schools are said to impose on learners values attitudes and behaviours which suit dominant political and cultural forces. Schools are thus seen as a means by which the social status quo is maintained.

social Darwinism

the theory that humans both as individuals and groups are subject to the same laws of natural selection as Darwin found in plants and animals. So it is held that human development also demonstrates such phenomena as the 'survival of the fittest'.

social democracy

a political theory which advocates or a system of   socialist government achieved by democratic means rather than revolution.

social engineering

in education the attempt to effect significant social change through manipulation of the education system and its processes. It is generally used in a pejorative sense with implications of control and authoritarian methods.

social imaginary

      the ways in which people understand their social existence: how they fit with others  how they      interact and  the  expectations  they  hold   a  common understanding that enables everyday      social practices. It may be largely implicit but may also include a normative element of how      things ought to be.

social inclusion

a political goal whereby marginalised or disadvantaged groups come to be full participants in society in terms of employment education health material wellbeing citizenship and other social benefits.

social justice

fairness or equality especially in terms of state distribution of resources opportunities and benefits.

social loafing

the phenomenon of an individual contributing less to a group activity than would be expected. Other similar terms are 'passenger' or 'free rider', in cases where the person seeks benefit merely through reliance on the efforts of others in the group.

social mobility

the ability of an individual or group to move (upwards) in social status.

social pedagogy

      a term more common in mainland Europe for the work of professionals dealing with the care      and welfare of children and youth. It is a holistic approach supporting and fostering  the      personal development    social education and overall welfare and care of the whole child (or       sometimes young adult). One of its principles is that it is possible and desirable to influence      social circumstances and positive social change through education.

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