This research project explores the work of pedagogues, including the professional identity and competencies of the profession in particular in relation to the well-being, development and life opportunities of the children and youth in the pedagogical institutions connected to children and youth leisure-time life, here specifically leisure-time centers/SFO and leisure and youth clubs.
For several years, leisure-time pedagogy has been strongly deprioritized as setting of importance on the social as well as educational policy agenda. Large expenditure cuts in the leisure-time pedagogical area as well as an increased focus on longer school days and school achievements have dominated and gained significance for the leisure-time pedagogical institutions. At the same time, several studies show an increase in the number of reports of children in various forms of dissatisfaction, when children start school. Just as research studies show that more children and youth are dissatisfied with e.g. anxiety, loneliness, self-harming behavior and increased risk of being referred to assessment of psychiatric diagnoses, an issue that also not appear less in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
These issues raise a particular awareness of leisure-time pedagogy and the professional identity of pedagogues as a pedagogical effort that can help to prevent and support the well-being, development and life chances of children and youth. Several research studies, especially in an international context, have shown that leisure-time pedagogy gives very special opportunities for children and youth. Here they have physical locations for interaction in communities with other children and youth and especially in institutional contexts where pedagogues are able to support, organize and help to provide good conditions for the wellbeing of children and young people.
Several international research studies also show that the leisure life of children and youth in educational settings can prevent experiences of loneliness, dissatisfaction and social exclusion as well as support life opportunities of children and youth through other forms of learning than traditional school learning, including development of skills through artistic and sporting activities. These competences seem to contribute to increased wellbeing, joy of life, but also life opportunities in relation to school, leisure jobs and, in the longer term, educational opportunities.
The aim of the research project is to explore the professional identity and competencies of pedagogues in leisure-time pedagogy and the impact of leisure-time pedagogy related to the wellbeing of children and youth. The research results are expected to present novelty in the following key areas within leisure-time pedagogy:
The theoretical framework of the research project is based on profession theories that pave the way for exploring pedagogues' professional identity, pedagogical competencies and actions as situated in and integrated in the specific pedagogical practice.
At the same time, the project is based on the wellbeing, development and life opportunities of children and youth as closely related to the educational institutions that form a unified and integrated part of the Danish welfare state for all children and youth. The wellbeing, development and life opportunities of children and youth can thus not be understood as detached or isolated from the institutional contexts and communities in which they are part, but must be explored in the context of pedagogues' work in organizing pedagogical everyday life and communities for children and youth.
The research project’s is based on ethnographically inspired field studies, focus group interviews with children and youth, a larger questionnaire survey aimed at children and youth as well as focus group interviews and individual research interviews with pedagogues, management and parents based on a practice research perspective. Within the practice research perspective, it is argued that pedagogues, management, children, youth and parents are actively involved subjects participating in the research project as co-researchers. The project includes one SFO, five leisure clubs and four youth clubs, which include approx. 1000 children and youth and their parents.