The Department of Theory and History of Education was formed in 1986 with the fusion of the former departments of Systematic Pedagogy and Comparative History and History of Education. Its intellectual and academic heritage, however, dates back to the Seminari de Pedagogia, founded in 1930 by Joaquim Xirau i Emili Mira and home to teaching staff of considerable prestige, such as Dr Alexandre Sanvisens (1918-1995).
As the department’s name suggests, its teaching and research activities are primarily concerned with knowledge and reflection on the fundamental principles of educational practice and their historical roots. This twofold approach, combining the theory and the history of the discipline, warrants further examination. First, the theoretical framework within which the department works is intended to ground critical reflection on educational action in educational practice itself, mindful of the risks of a purely speculative approach. Second, an awareness of the history of education and pedagogic thought, beyond the scholarly acquisition of facts and figures, is viewed as a critical tool for correctly interpreting the present educational reality.
In addition to research and teaching in disciplines directly linked to the theory of education (philosophy, anthropology, etc.) and the history of pedagogical thought and practice, the department is renowned for its expertise in many other areas of knowledge, in particular social education. Long before the official introduction of the specific undergraduate degree course in this subject (first the diplomatura degree and more recently the EHEA bachelor’s degree), the department had already taught specific courses, as well as making several notable scientific contributions in more specialized branches such as socio-cultural animation and learning through leisure, environmental education, non-formal and informal education, lifelong learning and adult education, and gerontological education.
The ethical dimension of educational practice is a key interest, and one on which the department places particular emphasis. Moral education and value education, axiology, human rights and civic education are directly addressed through a range of subjects taught by lecturers at the department, who have also made numerous theoretical, methodological and material contributions to the field that have been widely heralded across Spain and internationall.
Another specialist area of teaching and research at the department is comparative education and international pedagogy, which adds geographical perspective to the historical understanding of educational systems. To address descriptive, comprehensive knowledge of educational systems, the department also provides tuition in subjects such as the sociology of education, educational policy and education economics.
Finally, mention should be made of a further teaching and research area to which the department has made a significant contribution: educational technology. Its work in this area can be charted from the pioneering studies of Dr. Alexandre Sanvisens on cybernetic education to current research into e-learning and virtual learning environments.