Some Basic Concepts 2: The Common Third

“It is not possible to teach.
But it is possible to create situations,
Wherein it is impossible not to learn.”

The concept of the ‘Common Third’ is central to social pedagogic practice. Essentially the Common Third is about using an activity to strengthen the bond between social pedagogue and child and to develop new skills. This could be any activity, be it cooking pancakes, tying shoelaces, fixing a bike, building a kite, playing football together, going on a fishing trip together.

Any of these activities can be so much more than merely doing something. It is about creating a commonly shared situation that becomes a symbol of the relationship between the social pedagogue and the child, something third that brings the two together: they are sharing an activity, and to be sharing something, to have something in common, implies in principle to be equal, to be two (or more) individuals on equal terms, with equal rights and dignity.

The Common Third also means that the social pedagogue is authentic and self-reflective, bringing in their own personality as an important resource. It is about finding an activity in which the social pedagogue and the child are both genuinely interested. In this sense, the Common Third suggests a child-centred approach and full participation of the child into every step. The child has to be involved on equal terms in all project phases, from the beginning to the end.

What makes the Common Third especially likeable is an understanding of holistic education that also includes the social pedagogue themselves. An equal relationship means that both share also a common potential of learning, on a basis of activity and action.

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