“Learning does not reside in a place called comfortable”: Exploring identity and social justice through experiential group work

Woodger, David; Thompson, Naomi and Anastasio, Jean. 2019. “Learning does not reside in a place called comfortable”: Exploring identity and social justice through experiential group work. In: Mike Seal, ed. Teaching Youth Work in Higher Education: Tensions, Connections, Continuities and Contradictions. Tartu, Estonia: University of Tartu/Newman University/Humak University of Applied Sciences/Estonian Association of Youth Workers, pp. 152-159. ISBN 9789985411612 [Book Section]

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Abstract or Description

This chapter explores the process of experiential group work that is central to the youth and community work programme at Goldsmiths. Whilst experiential group work has been pushed out of professional practice programmes more widely over recent decades, Goldsmiths has maintained it as a central focus. The emphasis on social justice within the programme’s curriculum, and the importance of the student group learning from and with each other underpins the teaching methods across the programme.

Dialogue, interaction and sharing experiences lie at the heart of training reflective practitioners who can work successfully with groups and individuals, promote social justice, empowering themselves through exploring their own experiences of oppression and power. This enables them to critically engage and intervene effectively with institutions and be active agents of change.

The method draws substantially on Freire’s work on critical dialogue as well as on models of reflective practice and empowerment. Scholars of the experiential group process in youth and community work training such as Klein (1961), Turkie (1995) and Woodger and Anastacio (2013) have been at the forefront of the Goldsmiths programme over the last fifty years. This approach values collective learning over individual - and the process of learning over its product, representing a challenge to the dominant culture in Higher Education.

Item Type:

Book Section

Additional Information:

Published jointly by the University of Tartu (Estonia), Newman University (UK), Humak University of Applied Sciences (Finland), and Estonian Association of Youth Workers. With the support of the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union.

This chapter has been updated and adapted from by a previous article Woodger D and Anastacio J ‘Groupwork Training for Social Justice’ published in Groupwork Vol. 23(2), 2013

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Social, Therapeutic & Community Engagement (STaCS)


September 2019Published

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

12 Dec 2018 15:54

Last Modified:

07 Jan 2020 12:51



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