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The struggling concept of social issues in social studies: A discourse analysis on the use of a central concept in syllabuses for social studies in Swedish upper secondary school
Högskolan Dalarna.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-4518-0239
Högskolan Dalarna.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-3160-7561
2015 (English)In: Journal of Social Science Education, ISSN 1611-9665, E-ISSN 1618-5293, Vol. 14, no 1, 6-18 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This is a study of how the concept of social issues was used in various ways in syllabuses for the school subject Samhällskunskap (Social Studies) in Swedish upper secondary school from 1965 to 2011. The concept is present in all syllabuses, be it with shifting status and position. A discourse analysis of syllabus texts shows how the concept of social issues in some contexts functions as a subject content among other contents, while functioning as a central, organizing principle in others. This analysis also shows how the use of the concept social issues further indicates what educational philosophies and working methods are advocated in the syllabuses. The use of the concept may in turn be interpreted as part of a discursive struggle of powers between advocators of a differentiated upper secondary school model on the one hand and advocators of a unified upper-secondary school model on the other. In this sense, the study of a single concept used in syllabuses may contribute to a discussion about larger educational discourse and the normativity embedded in education in general and in the school subject Samhällskunskap in particular.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Bielefeld University , 2015. Vol. 14, no 1, 6-18 p.
Keyword [en]
Social issues, Social studies, syllabus, upper secondary school, discourse analysis
National Category
Educational Sciences
Research subject
Educational Work
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:kau:diva-48195DOI: 10.2390/jsse-v14-i1-1374OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kau-48195DiVA: diva2:1083881
Available from: 2017-03-22 Created: 2017-03-22 Last updated: 2017-04-21Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Samhällsfrågor som didaktiskt begrepp i samhällskunskap på gymnasieskolan: En potential för undervisningen
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Samhällsfrågor som didaktiskt begrepp i samhällskunskap på gymnasieskolan: En potential för undervisningen
2017 (Swedish)Licentiate thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Alternative title[en]
Social Issues as a Didactical Concept in Social Studies in Upper Secondary School
Abstract [sv]

Undervisningen i samhällskunskap på gymnasieskolan ska enligt anvisningarna i ämnesplanen bedrivas ”med utgångspunkt i samhällsfrågor”. Vad innebär det? I denna licentiatuppsats diskuteras ämnet samhällskunskap och dess potential, analyserat utifrån samhällsfrågor som didaktiskt begrepp. Studien är en sammanläggning av tre artiklar som bygger på tre studier. I den första studien analyseras begreppet samhällsfrågor i styrdokument över tid. Den andra studien bygger på en enkät som 74 gymnasielärare i samhällskunskap besvarat. Den tredje studien är slutligen en intervjustudie med sju av de lärare som medverkat i enkätstudien. Studiens design medger en successiv förflyttning av fokus från struktur till aktör.

När analysen riktas mot samhällsfrågor som didaktiskt begrepp framträder samhällskunskapsämnet som ett ämne som är öppet för det oväntade och som låter såväl aktuella händelser som elevers genuina frågor forma ämnet. I uppsatsen diskuteras argument för att undervisning som sker med utgångspunkt i samhällsfrågor kan motverka ett instrumentellt förhållningssätt till ämnet.

Göran Morén är verksam som lärarutbildare vid Högskolan Dalarna. Han har tidigare erfarenhet som samhällskunskapslärare i gymnasieskola. Sedan 2013 har han ingått i forskarskolan Skolnära, ett samarbete mellan Karlstads universitet och Högskolan Dalarna.

Abstract [en]

This licentiate thesis examines and discusses the potential of the subject social studies by way of an analysis of the concept social issues. It comprises three articles which are based on three separate studies. The first was a discourse analysis on the concept of social issues in steering documents for social studies in upper secondary school from the 1960’s until the current curriculum. The second was a questionnaire in which 74 social studies teachers answered questions regarding their understanding and teaching of social studies, specifically in relation to the concept of social issues. The third study was based on interviews with seven teachers who had completed the questionnaire.

The study allows for a shift in focus between structure and agency. Whereas the structure dominates the analysis in the first article the teachers, with agency, gradually move into the foreground in the other articles. With a social-constructionist perspective, phenomena like a school subject and teaching practice are seen as formed by both structure, such as discourse, and agents, in this case professional teachers.

The text analysis shows that social issues as a didactical concept is shifting in its meaning and didactical function for the subject depending on the discourse. It is argued that social issues, in the current steering documents, are downplayed in relation to concepts like “core content” and “knowledge requirements”. The questionnaire that followed showed that teachers had an understanding of social issues that challenged the logic of the previous discourse analysis. They seemed to find it possible to combine “teaching with social issues as the point of departure” with the predefined content and knowledge requirements of the subject syllabus. Based on the results of the final interview study the third article argues that the subject social studies, when seen through the lens of social issues, is one that is open, strives beyond the limitations of  core content and calls for  authentic, sometimes controversial content.

The conclusion of the licentiate thesis is that the concept of social issues carries the potential to create a subject that is meaningful for students and that challenges the risk of school becoming instrumental.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Karlstad: Karlstads universitet, 2017. 89 p.
Series
Karlstad University Studies, ISSN 1403-8099 ; 2017:17
Keyword
Social issues, social studies, upper secondary school, Samhällsfrågor, samhällskunskap, gymnasieskolan
National Category
Pedagogical Work
Research subject
Educational Work
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kau:diva-48190 (URN)978-91-7063-775-9 (ISBN)978-91-7063-776-6 (ISBN)
Presentation
2017-06-01, Högskolan Dalarna, Föreläsningssal 5, Högskolegatan 2, Falun, 10:00 (Swedish)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2017-05-11 Created: 2017-04-21 Last updated: 2017-05-11Bibliographically approved

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Morén, GöranIrisdotter Aldenmyr, Sara
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