Research Profile

Welcome to the Section “Theories and Methods of Social Pedagogy”


In the past decades, social work has developed into a practice-oriented profession and scientific discipline that is represented internationally and has developed global standards for its education and practice. In line with the "Global Definition of Social Work", social work sees itself as a profession at the "person-environment" interface and pursues objectives that include "promoting social change, social development and social cohesion, and strengthening the autonomy and self-determination" of clients and addressees. Social justice, human rights, collective responsibility and respect for diversity are considered key guiding principles (International Federation of Social Workers, 2014).
The fields of work of social work are diverse and relate to different biographical life situations and social problems in all life phases of human development. In order to fulfill its tasks, social work needs a scientific basis for describing and explaining social problems, scientifically sound concepts for action and methods, and an ethical foundation. Based on theoretical and empirical knowledge, legal guidelines and socio-political frameworks, social work acts on different levels - both in relation to individual problem situations and in relation to changes and challenges in society as a whole. In doing so, it draws on discipline-specific knowledge as well as theoretical developments in related disciplines such as sociology, political science, psychology, education, health and the humanities. The 'translation' of theoretical and empirical knowledge for case-related practice is a primary concern and is understood as necessary in order to both produce and apply sound knowledge in the practice of social work and to train scientifically thinking, critically reflecting and professional social workers.

The Section

The section “Theories and Methods of Social Pedagogy” is focused on theoretical and empirical questions that are understood as the basis for a discipline that is professionally and methodologically sound. Our understanding of theory reflects the approach of Anglo-American social work and focuses on the practice of social workers, i.e. theory is linked to discussion about methods. Central to this perspective is the question which theories can serve (how) as the basis for the development, utilization and evaluation of methods, procedures and techniques. Questions of interest that are derived from this perspective concern the effectiveness and processes of social work methods, the function of social work within societal and organizational structures, its ethical and normative mandates, methods and ways of understanding in scientific social work, and the professional advancement of the discipline.

In research and teaching, the section principally takes on an international perspective, which is reflected in research projects, collaborations and publications and also influences the conceptualization, implementation and dissemination of locally based projects.

Content Focus

Within the basic orientation described above, the section sets content priorities that are shaped by the respective expertise and research interests of individuals in the department. These currently include: international developments in (therapeutic) residential care and out-of-home care, migration research (especially with women and unaccompanied minor refugees), international social work and transnationalism, evidence-based approaches in social work/knowledge transfer, implementation research, practice theories and professionalization in social work.

In terms of scientific methodology, the department follows established international standards of quantitative and qualitative research and applies research methods in a problem-oriented manner. The department is particularly committed to teaching students systematic methods of literature research (e.g. scoping review, systematic review). Members of the department regularly contribute as reviewers, authors and speakers on a national and international level.