Volume: 7, Issue: 3


Contemporary models of social education: general and specific
Степанов П.В. [about]

KEYWORDS: pedagogics, theory of social education, pedagogy, epistemology, explanatory models.

ABSTRACT: Within the broader context of social education theory the author discusses problems of educational epistemology and model building as ways to provide a scientific description of a pedagogical reality. The model is presented and understood as a code applied by a researcher to identify the object of research and find answers to particular questions. A number of general and specific social education models are being used as valuable illustrations.

The notion of a model makes it necessary to think of, at least, two things. Firstly, it is the object, or some fragment of a pedagogical reality (let us call it a pedagogical practice or integrated pedagogical expertise). Secondly, strictly speaking, it is a model of the object, or its simplified replica which focuses on the essential elements of the object, discards everything irrelevant, defines key relationships between the elements, and represents a certain object structure.

A question arises if the model represents a true object structure (i.e., the object retains its main characteristics in the model) or the model is just our vision of the given object (in this case, it may be added to other visions or models of the same object). In other words, does the model represent an exact copy of reality or a tool to explore reality, so that this tool may be discarded and replaced with other tools or models by researchers if the former do not meet the research requirements? We believe the second seems to be closer to the truth in terms of the scientific approach to cultural studies.

In one of his publications, Italian epistemologist Umberto Eco mentioned a particularly interesting case. On his trip to the east, Marco Polo came to the island of Java and encountered a very unusual animal identified by the traveler as a unicorn. However, Marco Polo was greatly upset to find out that the animal did not look as beautiful as the medieval European tradition had painted it. It was black, had elephant-like feet, the head of a wild boar and, indeed, “was an ugly beast to see. And it does not resemble his description at all and will not let itself be caught in the lap by a virgin girl” cited from Usmanova, 2000. Clearly, coming across an unknown object, Marco Polo used conventional reasoning strategies to identify it. Today, having completely freed ourselves from the belief in those noble mythological beasts, we are accustomed to a different name – a rhinoceros.

A similar case may happen in researching any pedagogical phenomena. Let us imagine the researcher of social education who has chosen schools as the target of his/her research. Selecting schools which prioritize social education and which have achieved efficient results in this field, this researcher wants to discover a number of similar characteristics. To do this, s/he fixes these characteristics in a certain model. But if s/he knows nothing about the theory of social education systems (imagine that our researcher is a foreigner who is not aware of the language of Russian educational), s/he is unlikely to detect or identify social education systems in the selected schools. Such a researcher will most probably suggest some other model of social education practice s/he is accustomed to, based on a different set of terminology or reasoning patterns other than those offered by the theory of social education systems.

Thus, exploring the object, the researcher simplifies it for the sake of its study, focusing on characteristics s/he finds to be essential and ignoring insignificant ones. In other words, the researcher builds the model of the object, or its simplified semblance. The problem is what the researcher finds to be insignificant (elephant-like feet, black color or a huge head) or otherwise (a large horn) depends on his/her individual attitude defined by one or several of the following factors:

– A prevailing scientific paradigm (some time ago when studying social education phenomena, scholars tried to find universal laws similar to the laws of nature and apply them in building social education models; however, the present day crisis of natural science paradigm in the theory of social education is characterized, among other things, by an obvious decrease of scientific interest to moral education laws and principles).

– The researcher’s affiliation to a particular scientific school (when studying social education practices at some educational institution, the researcher, who is not aware of Novikova’s scientific school, will hardly ask the question which particular social education model is being implemented here).

– The researcher’s personal interests (the practice of amateur school tourism may be seen as a model of school association by some while other researchers will find here a model for preventing juvenile immaturity or a labor education model).

– The researcher’s cultural identity and intrinsic cultural ways to perceive the world (thus, when examining a common practice of a child to try and understand his/her actions, feelings or emotional experience, a European researcher will most probably call it reflection while a Buddhist scholar will find it to be meditation).

Thus, the social education model should be considered as a structural grid subjectively applied by the researcher to a particular fragment of pedagogical reality. A model is kind of a code employed by the researcher to recognize (“read”) the object of the research in order to get answers to the given questions. As Umberto Eco points out, “the development of a model whose hypothetical character is known in advance does not remove the question whether the resulting modeled phenomena truly represent the existing relationships. One may be absolutely sure that the relationships revealed by the structural model do exist, but at the same time admit that there may be other solutions which will appear if the angle of view is changed. And, of course, while working with one model, I am not always aware how many possibilities are still out of my sight” [5, 226].

As it is possible to distinguish general characteristics and details in the object of research, social education models should be considered, at least, on two levels: models which reflect general characteristics in social education (proper social education models) and models which reflect something special in social education (models of particular social education practices).

Models of the first level include those that represent the general structure of social education irrespective of its goals, objects, subjects, resources, etc. Here are the most common models:

– The system model represents social education as a set of interrelated structural components: objectives and the respective activity, participants of this activity, relationships which integrate these participants into a certain unity, the environment explored by the participants, and management which ensures integration of all the components into a wholesome system (see more details of this model developed by Novikova, Karakovsky and Selivanova).

– The culturological model views social education as the process in which the child is introduced into the context of common human culture and acquires an ability to live on a certain level of culture reproducing its achievements and creating new material and spiritual values (actively developed by Schurkova).

– The event-related model that examines social education as a network of pedagogical events, each of which contains a developmental, purposeful and value-oriented meeting of a adult and a child (or a teacher and a children’s collective) or their joint activity (this model is thoroughly explored by Grigoryev).

– The environment-related model looks at social education as the environment organization in developing a child’s personality while the environment turns (by means of the teacher’s work with such environment units as “niches” and “elements”) into the means of diagnostics and designing certain educational results (Manuilov, Orlov, etc.).

– The activity-based model considers social education in terms of general activity theory and emphasizes teacher’s social education activity, his/her needs, structure of acts and operations, as well as transition dynamics from goals to motives, acts into activity and vice versa. Despite the popularity of the activity theory terminology, the activity-based model of social education is just at the start of its development (Polyakov; Shustova; Stepanov).

Models of the second level include those of specific social education practices which will differ in the subject, object, goals and means of social education, etc.

Depending on which element is prioritized in social education practice (either due to the specific nature of this very practice or because of the researchers’ interest in it), various models come to existence. Below are the names of just some of them.

– Models ranging according to the specific nature of the social education subject, e.g. models developed by teachers of different school subjects (a number of practical models were suggested by teachers of Moscow School No. 825), extracurricular pedagogues (one of such models was designed by Grigoryev and Stepanov to serve as recommendations for teachers in implementing new Russian National General Education Standards), homeroom teachers (the most popular among currently known models were developed by Eu. Stepanov, Schurkova, and Yasnitskaya), school faculty members (widely known are social education models of the Baumansky Lyceum in the city of Yoshkar-Ola, Moscow School No. 825, Perm School No.145), and social education models for universities (e.g., Schelina and Yakushkina) or summer camp models (e.g., in Orlyonok and Mayak camps), etc.

– Models varying due to a specific nature of the social education object, e.g. models designed for working with orphans (Troitskaya), juvenile delinquents (one of the most well known models was earlier developed and implemented by Makarenko), students of different ages, etc.

– Models varying due to a specific nature of social education goals, e.g., models to shape students’ Russian identity (Shakurova), to develop students’ independence (Grigoryeva), models of pedagogical support of children’s self-development, self-identification and self-realization (Gazman, Mikhaylova, Yusfin), etc.

– Models ranging according to a specific nature of social education means, e.g., models of social education through games (Shmakov, Anikeeva, Kupriyanov), collective labor (Ivanov and his successors), production (developed and currently implemented by Makarenko’s successors), etc.

All the aforementioned models may be considered as both alternatives and complementary “readings” or interpretations of such a sophisticated and multidimensional humanitarian phenomenon as social education. At the same time, the phenomenon itself as well as various existing social education practices may be described through models. Thus, social education practice of Moscow School No. 825 may be represented as a model of “humanistic social education system”, a model of “students’ citizenship identity formation” or a model of “social education based on creative team activities.”

Social education models based on certain structured character-building practices may not only describe a pedagogical reality but also generate it. If there is a thorough structural description and practice-oriented methodological elaboration, models may become objects of reflection for teachers who are designing their own social education practices and, consequently, act as tools of their development. That is, the somewhat read and interpreted pedagogical reality (prototype) becomes a text (model), whose reading and interpretation will, in turn, generate a new pedagogical reality (in fact, not necessarily matching the prototype).

The theory and practice of social education system may serve as an example of such movement. Let us have a closer look at it.

Analysis of the innovative and experimental experience of Moscow School No.825 contributed to the development of the aforementioned model of social education. Character building is represented here as a set of interrelated structural components: objectives and the respective activity, participants of this activity, relationships which integrate participants into a certain unity, the environment explored by the participants, and management which ensures integration of all the components into a wholesome system. A detailed description of this model can be found in Upbringing? Upbringing… Upbringing! 2,  publication of which brought popularity to the system model.

The system model triggered the development of the second level models, or the models of particular social education practices: the social education system model of a lyceum (Kuleva), of a children’s sanatorium (Baranova), of a business school Karpushina), the of supplementary education (Alieva), and various social education system models of comprehensive schools, etc.

Based on these particular models, teachers launch different social education practices, develop social education systems of various types of comprehensive schools, plan and carry out social education activity.


  1. Grigoryev, D.V., Stepanov, P.V. (2010). Vneurochnaja dejatel'nost' shkol'nikov. Metodicheskij konstruktor: Posobie dlja uchitelja [Students’ afterschool activities. Educational designing set: Teacher’s manual]. Moscow: Prosveshchenie Publishing House.
  2. Karakovsky, V.A., Novikova, L.I. , Selivanova, N.L. (2000). Vospitanie? Vospitanie... Vospitanie!: Teorija i praktika shkol'nykh vospitatel'nykh system [Upbringing? Upbringing… Upbringing!: Theory and practice of school social education systems]. N.L. Selivanova (Ed.). 2-nd revised edition. Moscow.
  3. Polyakov, S.D. (2009). Dejatel'nostno-tsennostnoe vospitanie v dejatel'nosti klassnogo rukovoditelja: nekotorye itogi eksperimentirovanija [Activity and value based education in the homeroom teacher’s work: some results of the experiment]. Klassnyj rukovoditel' v realijakh shkoly. – Nauchno-metodicheskaja serija “Novye tsennosti obrazovanija” [A homeroom teacher in the school reality, “New educational values” research series]  2.
  4. Usmanova, A. R. (2000).  Umberto Eco: paradoksy interpretacii [Umberto Eco: interpretation paradoxes]. Minsk: Propilei. Retrieved from URL: http://www.e-reading-lib.org/chapter.php/1006462/19/Usmanova_Umberto_Eko_paradoksy_interpretacii.html (Accessed on 14.02.2013).
  5. Eco, U. Otsutstvujusсhaja struktura. Vvedenie v semiologiju [The Absent Structure. A Theory of Semiotics] (1998). St. Petersburg: TOO TK Petropolis.

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