Stockholm university

Johan SandahlProfessor, Director of studies

About me

I have been working within the teaching training programme since 2011 as a teacher and researcher, with a specific focus on social science and geography education. At the department, I am the director of research studies in the humanities, social sciences and aesthetics education.

My main responsibilities are within subject matter didactic courses in teacher education. Until 2020 I worked as a teacher and lecturer at Globala gymnasiet – an upper secondary school in Stockholm where I taught social science, history, geography and religion. My research interest is mainly concentrated on how social science and geography education can play a role in citizenship education. In 2021 I was appointed associate professor (docent/reader) in social science education and since 2024 I am a professor.
Previously. I was the principal investigator (PI) in a project funded by the Swedish Research Council with the title Social Science Education on Trust for an Active and Critical Citizenship. The project aimed to examine the processes of teaching and learning for critical citizenship and to investigate how teaching can be designed to promote this goal. Departing from the importance of social and political trust, we used participatory action research and educational design research to examine and develop teaching in collaboration with teachers at two schools.
At the department, I have responsibilities as director for one of the research groups focusing on social science education. I am part of the editorial team at The Journal of Social Science Education (JSSE), one of the leading journals in Social Science Didaktik in Europe. Furthermore, I am a research director at Stockholm Teaching and Learning Studies (STLS) - a collaborative project between schools in the Stockholm area and Stockholm University. In STLS teachers and researchers explore practice-near teaching challenges in school subjects.

Research projects


A selection from Stockholm University publication database

  • Should Government Agencies Be Trusted? Developing Students’ Civic Narrative Competence Through Social Science Education

    2024. Patrik Johansson, Johan Sandahl. The Journal of Social Studies Research 48 (1), 1-16


    Democratic school systems are expected to equip students with the knowledge, abilities, and attitudes needed for life as citizens, particularly through social science education. Disciplinary knowledge, derived from the academic counterparts to school subjects, is essential in developing these skills. However, research has also emphasized the importance of life-world perspectives, where students’ experiences are included and taken seriously in teaching. This study suggests that the theory of (civic) narrative competence can function as a bridge between the disciplinary domain and the life-world domain in its focus on how students’ civic reasoning can be developed through teaching. The article uses narrative theory to explore how the students’ civic narratives changed and became more nuanced after a teaching segment focusing on social and political trust. In the article, we demonstrate how the students’ personal experiences colored their interpretations and orientations before the teaching segment and how their civic narratives were developed through the implemented teaching, which provided them with concepts, a theoretical model, and empirical examples. We found that the students did not discard previous perceptions after the teaching segment, but integrated them into their new knowledge and orientations, thus integrating the life-world and disciplinary domains.

    Read more about Should Government Agencies Be Trusted? Developing Students’ Civic Narrative Competence Through Social Science Education
  • Students' historicisation of the environmental crisis: A narrative of industrialisation, ignorance and greed

    2024. Albin Gripe Sönnergren, Johan Sandahl. Historical Encounters 11 (1), 1-17


    As the field of history education begins to acknowledge the need to respond to the challenges of the Anthropocene, questions arise concerning students' ability to use history to make sense of pressing environmental issues. To address this, 67 Swedish upper secondary school students were asked to historicise issues like global warming and share their ideas concerning the present and the future. Within the framework of Jörn Rüsen's narrative theory, this article analyses how and to what extent these students experienced and interpreted the past and used history to orient themselves in relation to such issues. It also develops on the outcome of this process. While most students historicised the situation, many students made limited use of history. Their typical narrative can be described as a linear story of historical industrialisation driven by the hunger for progression and wealth and facilitated by ignorance. It was told with little detail or reference to evidence and in a way that generally seemed unsupported by historical thinking. Moreover, their typical narrative mostly aligned with the standard science-based Anthropocene narrative, lacking cultural and political perspectives. Although their orientations varied, students focused on technical solutions and lifestyle adjustments rather than civic engagement and politics. Students were worried about the future. However, the narrative of technological and scientific progression and the belief that people in the past lacked awareness and technological alternatives gave students hope. On the other hand, viewing them as informed or inherently selfish contributed to pessimism. Supported by theoretical work, the findings indicate ways school history may support students' ability to deal with Anthropocene issues, helping them to experience and interpret the past and the present in a more nuanced and elaborate way. They also highlight the need for content that aids students' ability to anticipate Anthropocene scenarios and reflect on strategies for engagement.

    Read more about Students' historicisation of the environmental crisis: A narrative of industrialisation, ignorance and greed
  • Can Powerful Knowledge Save Us? Critical Reflections through the Lens of Political Education

    2023. Johan Sandahl, Mattias Björklund. Social Sciences 12 (10), 556-556


    In most Western democracies, there is an ongoing discussion on the role of education, particularly in times of increasingly polarized political views, leading to democratic erosion and social unrest. Citizens have been described as living in echo chambers, relying on, and often receiving, information that confirms their own world views and political ideas. In this climate, education has been emphasized as an important antidote to provide students with knowledge, skills, attitudes and values to strengthen democracy and social cohesion. In most cases, this assignment is primarily tasked with subjects that can be considered political education, such as social studies, civics or social science education. However, there is no consensus on what kind of knowledge, skills, attitudes and values students need to fulfil a “good political education”. Historically, there has been a rift between advocates of progressive ideas such as political deliberation and those who favor an emphasis on disciplinary-based knowledge. The latter perspective has been, for some time now, highlighted in educational sciences through Michael Young’s concept of powerful knowledge, where knowledge from academic disciplines is emphasized in shaping youth into critical thinkers on social and political issues. This article critically examines the ideas of powerful knowledge and its potential for political education in secondary school. An important argument is that powerful knowledge, or disciplinary thinking, is necessary for a good political education but not sufficient in its own right. In order to deal with complex political issues, students need to be invited with their life-world perspectives.

    Read more about Can Powerful Knowledge Save Us? Critical Reflections through the Lens of Political Education
  • Trust as subject content: Advancing students’ reasoning on democracy through displacement

    2023. Maria Jansson, Patrik Johansson, Johan Sandahl. Journal of Social Science Education 22 (3)


    Purpose: The article explores how the tension between embracing and scrutinising democracy can be productively overcome through social science teaching about democracy that focuses on trust as a subject content.

    Design/methodology/approach: Empirical materials were collected through focus group interviews before and after an inquiry-based teaching segment on trust, and the materials were analysed qualitatively through three grounded themes.

    Findings: It is argued that working with the displacement of subject content in inquiry-based teaching about democracy enhances the possibilities for students to deepen their knowledge about democracy, while enabling them to scrutinise the democratic system critically.

    Research limitations/implications: The article reports from a small-scale study of four classes in two upper secondary schools in Sweden, and the study provides tentative observations and conclusions that should be investigated further in future research.

    Practical implications: The article shows how trust as a subject content can contribute to problematising students’ understandings of democracy, and how the displacement of content can be important in formulating compelling questions and in designing inquiries on democracy.

    Read more about Trust as subject content: Advancing students’ reasoning on democracy through displacement
  • Engaging with Scale and Place: Geographical Thinking on Migration in Middle-School

    2023. Johan Sandahl. Journal of Geography education 51 (2), 55-69


    This article addresses the challenges of teaching migration as a complex content in middle-school geography educa-tion. In this collaborative educational design research project between a researcher and teacher in Sweden, students engaged with data and different types of knowledge to develop powerful geographical knowledge. The article provides empirical exam-ples of powerful geographical knowledge through descriptions of how middle-school students’ (12-year-olds) understandings of migration changed through teaching. The article highlights students’ preconceptions about migration and describes the teaching intervention with contextual content, and substantive and procedural concepts. It also addresses how students’ reason-ing developed after the teaching.

    Read more about Engaging with Scale and Place: Geographical Thinking on Migration in Middle-School
  • Teaching and learning financial literacy within social studies – a case study on how to realise curricular aims and ambitions

    2023. Mattias Björklund, Johan Sandahl. Journal of Curriculum Studies 55 (3), 325-388


    Most salient financial literacy frameworks and curricula mainly focus on teaching and learning of simple money management. However, the financial demands placed on individuals today include much more complicated matters, such as buying a home and saving for retirement. Furthermore, financial literacy gives rise to normative questions such as what responsibility should be placed on individuals. In educational terms, this creates an alignment problem where the hopes and expectations placed in financial literacy as mass-education is not met by desirable results. This article uses previous results and the construct of powerful knowledge to discuss how financial literacy education in upper secondary school can benefit from an incorporation into social studies, which is an existing school subject in many educational systems. Findings include that teachers can utilize their existing teaching competence to also teach financial literacy. However, to accomplish results, both curricula and syllabi must guide teachers to abandon the focus on money management to instead focus on teaching students concerning the financial, economic and political issues that affect personal finances, yet at the same time can be affected by democratic decisions. Implications for financial literacy teaching and learning are discussed using the concept Powerful Financial Literacy.

    Read more about Teaching and learning financial literacy within social studies – a case study on how to realise curricular aims and ambitions
  • Between the lifeworld and academia: Defining political issues in social science education

    2023. Nora E. Hesby Mathé, Johan Sandahl. Journal of Social Science Education 22 (3), 1-21



    We identified four aspects for defining political issues.Political issues are collective.Political issues are conflictual in nature.Political issues are contemporary issues.Issues are political due to contextual factors.Purpose: The purpose of this study is to discuss mutual understandings of political issues among students and academics. The aim is to suggest a framework that teachers can use to address politics from both the discipline’s and the students’ perspectives.

    Design/methodology/approach: This study is based on semi-structured interviews with twelve students in six upper secondary schools and eight social science academics in Norway and Sweden.

    Findings: We identified four guiding aspects for defining political issues in social science education to connect disciplinary thinking with students’ views of the political. These aspects are: 1) collective, 2) contemporary, 3) conflictual, and 4) contextual.

    Limitations: This study relied on interviews with a selection of students and academics and what they chose to express. The results may not be applicable to other samples.

    Implications: The framework presented can be used in social science education to understand and discuss the nature of political issues.

    Read more about Between the lifeworld and academia: Defining political issues in social science education
  • Samhällskunskap (social science education) in Sweden: A country report

    2022. Johan Sandahl, Malin Tväråna, Martin Jakobsson. Journal of Social Science Education 21 (3), 85-106



    Social science education is the core subject assigned responsibility for citizenship education and holds a strong position in Swedish schools (policy and teaching).Two reforms of curricula and syllabi through years 1–9 and 10–12 are upcoming.There is a growing community of researchers investigating the purpose, design and conditions of social science education.Research is mainly small-scale and qualitative and there is a lack of large-scale and/or quantitative studies.

    Purpose: This report provides an overview of social science education in primary and secondary education in Sweden with the purpose of introducing the international research community to policy-related issues concerning citizenship education, educational institutions and the scholarly state of the art. The principal topics are: a context of Sweden and its educational setting, the current policy documents and upcoming reforms, the state of teaching and teacher education, and the state of the art of Swedish social science education theory and research.

    Findings: Social science education holds a strong position as the main agent of citizenship education in Swedish schools and is a mandatory subject in every school year. The current and upcoming syllabi both emphasise disciplinary knowledge as well as citizenship education. Sweden has a growing community of researchers, but this community is somewhat fragmented because researchers originate from different disciplines. 

    Read more about Samhällskunskap (social science education) in Sweden
  • Överdrivna slutsatser om gymnasieelevers demokratikunskaper

    2022. Johan Sandahl (et al.). Skola & Samhälle [S.O.S] Webbtidskrift


    Rapporten från Stiftelsen Rättsfonden om gymnasieelevers kunskaper om demokrati har både metodologiska och teoretiska brister. Eftersom rapporten saknar stöd för flera av de rekommendationer som lämnas är risken att föreslagna förändringar inte gör någon skillnad eller i värsta fall leder i fel riktning, skriver Johan Sandahl med flera, alla forskare i samhällsvetenskapernas didaktik.

    Read more about Överdrivna slutsatser om gymnasieelevers demokratikunskaper
  • Inviting students to independent judgement: Teaching financial literacy as citizenship education

    2021. Mattias Björklund, Johan Sandahl. Citizenship, Social and Economics Education 20 (2), 1-19


    Many financial literacy educational efforts mainly focus on teaching money management. However, money management alone do not address financial prerequisites concerning home ownership, savings or retirement planning since these issues are governed by agents outside households, namely the financial system and policy makers. This study examines students’ response to a financial literacy teaching that treats financial issues as controversial and contextually bounded to the financial and societal systems. Data consists of 36 students’ conversations during a financial literacy teaching intervention. Results show that students are capable of grasping and relating to financial concepts where association to the financial system and policy-making produce elaborate understanding. Furthermore, students that contest given financial concepts and system do not only present constructive alternate solutions for the future, but these students also seem to grasp current financial and societal systems in more advanced ways and thereby demonstrate a possible convergence between financial literacy and citizenship education.

    Read more about Inviting students to independent judgement: Teaching financial literacy as citizenship education
  • Organising concepts in geography education: a model

    2021. Lotta Dessen Jankell, Johan Sandahl, David Örbring. Geography 106 (2), 66-75


    This article presents a model for

    organising geographical concepts that aims to

    support teachers’ choices of what to teach and how

    to organise a cohesive and appropriate teaching

    plan for school geography. The model is a result of a

    collaborative research process between researchers

    and Swedish teachers. The purpose was to explore

    how the core concepts of geography, which are

    implicit in the Swedish syllabus (Örbring, 2017), can

    be used in teaching as powerful tools for learning

    (Brooks, 2018) and to develop epistemic teaching

    practices for school geography to counterbalance

    the traditional focus on content (Eriksson and

    Lindberg, 2016; Knorr-Cetina, 1999). During

    professional development seminars, teachers’

    experiences were linked to procedural concepts in

    geography (i.e. concepts that mediate specific

    geographical ways of thinking and doing (Lambert,

    2011)), used at an organisational level in line with

    models introduced by Taylor (2008). This article

    describes a model that integrates geographical

    concepts and suggests how they could be used as

    tools in relation to each other as well as to specific

    content. Here, we present the considerations behind

    the structure and functions of the model, and

    teachers’ reflections on producing and using it in

    class as a way to develop students’ geographical


    Read more about Organising concepts in geography education: a model
  • Opening up the echo chamber: Perspective taking in social science education

    2020. Johan Sandahl. Acta Didactica Norge - tidsskrift for fagdidaktisk forsknings- og utviklingsarbeid i Norge 14 (4)


    Public discourse is increasingly polarised when it comes to contemporary political andcontroversial issues. The debating climate has been described as an “echo chamber”where we tend to find arguments supporting our own established truths rather thanhaving our horizons broadened. Consequently, the challenge of taking the perspectivesof others can be seen in classrooms when political discussions and topics surface withinsocial science education. Teaching offers important arenas for deliberation, butclass-roomscan be as homogeneous as online filter bubbles, particularly in highly segregatedurban school settings. One way of challenging students’ one-sided views is to engagein, and practise, social perspective taking (SPT), a second-order concept engaging withdifferent cultural and ideological understandings of political issues. This study examinestwo classroom interventions in an upper secondary school with the aim of contributingwithempirical data about the components of SPT and how perspective taking can helpstudents broaden their views on political issues. With a starting point in theory on SPT,students’ interactions and reflections in the classroom, collected in written students’ logsand follow-up interviews, are analysed. The results suggest that SPT segments caninfluence students’ understandingof standpoints other than their own and increase theirengagement in class, but that contextualisation is specifically important in this process.

    Read more about Opening up the echo chamber: Perspective taking in social science education
  • Financial Literacy as Citizenship Education – a viable prospect?

    2020. Mattias Björklund, Johan Sandahl. Journal of Social Science Education 19 (3), 4-20


    Purpose: This article aims to discuss what kind of teaching is required to enable students to critically review financial issues in a way that is in accordance with a broad citizenship education.

    Method: Content analysis where an assessment of students’ answers was compared and aligned with Westheimer & Kahne’s (2004) theory driven conceptions of citizenship.

    Findings: Findings demonstrate that students’ understandings correspond with the three conceptions and give important indications of what needs to be included in teaching in order to address financial issues as citizenship education.

    Implications: Focus in financial literacy education should be widened to include political and social aspects of the relation between households and the financial systems.

    Read more about Financial Literacy as Citizenship Education – a viable prospect?
  • Samhällskunskapsundervisning i en digital tid

    2020. Johan Sandahl.


    Vårt samhälle är föränderligt, men samtidigt uppvisar det en påtaglig kontinuitet. I tider av stora förändringar kan vi lätt uppleva att allting är rörligt och att det aldrig har varit så omtumlande som precis just nu. Många historiker har påpekat att varje generation upplevt att just deras tid är föränderlig på ett sätt som aldrig tidigare. Samtidigt är det svårt att blunda för att samhällets digitalisering verkligen är genomgripande och ställer oss samhällsmedlemmar inför både utmaningar och möjligheter. Som samhällsomvandling har digitaliseringen jämförts med andra stora historiska förändringsprocesser som påverkat hur vi organiserat våra samhällen ekonomiskt, socialt och politiskt. De digitala förändringsprocesserna har framhållits som den största förändringen av vårt samhälle sedan industrialiseringen (SOU 2016:89). Att förstå, ta del av och möta utmaningarna med denna förändring kräver olika former av kunnande, men vi kommer här framförallt beröra de kunnanden som kan utvecklas i samhällskunskapsundervisningen.

    Read more about Samhällskunskapsundervisning i en digital tid
  • Elevers erfarenheter i samhällskunskapsundervisning

    2020. Johan Sandahl, Patrik Johansson.


    I digitaliseringens tidevarv beskrivs ofta unga människors politiska engagemang som minskande – inte minst när det gäller traditionella former som ungdomsförbund och föreningsliv. Undersökningar om ungas engagemang och tilltro till det politiska systemet ger otvivelaktligen en sådan bild. Inom statsvetenskaplig forskning pågår emellertid en debatt om hur allvarligt läget är. Förenklat kan vi säga att det finns två perspektiv som präglas av pessimism respektive optimism vad gäller framtiden. Pessimisterna menar att den unga generationens minskande engagemang utgör en potentiell risk för det demokratiska samhället eftersom de demokratiska institutionerna fortlever genom nya generationers engagemang och aktivitet i föreningar, intresseorganisationer och politiska partier. Ur ett sådant perspektiv riskerar nu demokratin sin framtid genom att inte kunna locka till sig en ny generation politiskt aktiva ungdomar. Optimisterna pekar å sin sida på att engagemanget och intresset finns kvar, men att det skiftat form: borta är unga som engagerade sig ideologiskt i politiska partier, men de har ersatts av en generation med lika brinnande intresse för ensaksfrågor och alternativa påverkansformer. Det politiska partiengagemanget i det inomparlamentariska systemet kan alltså sägas ha ersatts av politiskt engagemang i sakfrågor i det utomparlamentariska systemet. Frågan är då vilken roll skolan och särskilt samhällskunskapsundervisningen – kan spela i ett sådant förändrat landskap.

    Read more about Elevers erfarenheter i samhällskunskapsundervisning
  • Social Studies Education From the Socialisation, Qualification, and Subjectification Perspectives

    2020. Johan Sandahl. Political Identity and Democratic Citizenship in Turbulent Times, 186-202


    In most countries, social studies education is the assigned subject responsible for citizenship education, that is, developing students’ attitudes, experiences, knowledge, abilities, and the skills that they need to be active participants in a democratic society. The role of social studies can be defined using Gert Biesta’s three concepts of the domains of education: socialisation, qualification, and subjectification. First, schools have a role in socialising students into society, passing on values and knowledge. Second, the school system should contribute to students’ qualification as citizens by helping them enhance their civic and critical literacy. Third, education should equip students with the necessary skills to allow them to develop their own political identity. Each of these domains gives rise to challenging questions related to educational outcomes. This chapter theoretically examines how Biesta’s educational domains relate to social studies education in a synthetic understanding.

    Read more about Social Studies Education From the Socialisation, Qualification, and Subjectification Perspectives
  • Towards a Financial Literacy Teaching as Part of Citizenship Education

    2020. Mattias Björklund, Johan Sandahl. Paper Summary


    This paper departs from Westheimer & Kahne’s (2004) three citizen conceptions and investigates students understanding of an individual’s financial situation in terms of responsibilities, agency and societal change. In line with calls from previous research, it aims to discuss what kind of teaching is required to enable students to critically review financial issues in a way that is in accordance with a broad definition of citizenship. The data consist of 97 accounts collected in collaboration with teachers where students discuss who ‘should’ be responsible (cf. Davies & Lundholm, 2012). Findings demonstrate that students’ understandings correspond with the three conceptions and give important indications what needs to be included in teaching in order to address financial issues as citizenship education.

    Read more about Towards a Financial Literacy Teaching as Part of Citizenship Education
  • Privatekonomiundervisning som medborgarbildning – Är det möjligt?

    2020. Mattias Björklund, Johan Sandahl. Nordic Conference in Social Studies Didactics 2020, 30.3–1.4.2020 in Vaasa, 21-22


    Sedan 1990-talet har individens privatekonomiska ansvar ökat beträffande sparande till pension, försäkringar för sjukvård och lån för bostadsköp. Detta har förbundit individen med det finansiella systemet, men även ökat individens privatekonomiska utsatthet vilket samtidigt ställer nya och högre krav på privatekonomisk utbildning (Lucey & Bates, 2012).

    Detta hörsammades tidigt av OECD:s vars definition på privatekonomisk litteracitet med fokus på hushållskunskaper (OECD, 2016) däremot ansågs vara för snäv från forskarhåll (Davies, 2015). Detta hjälper inte individen att förstå de ekonomiska och finansiella systemen (Berti, 2016) utan reser frågor när privatekonomi ska undervisas och läras inom ramen för ett medborgarbildande ämne som samhällskunskap. I Sverige verkar dessutom samhällskunskapslärare uppfatta privatekonomiinslaget som kopplat till hushållskunskaper (Björklund, 2019), men samhällskunskapsämnet strävar, å andra sidan, mot en vidare uppfattning av medborgarbildning syftande till personligt deltagande i samhälleligt förändringsarbete (Sandahl, 2015) som överensstämmer med Westheimer & Kahnes (2004) medborgarkonceptioner.

    Denna studie utforskar relationen mellan privatekonomi och medborgarbildning och undersöker hur undervisning kan utformas för att elever ska kunna förändra sin uppfattning om privatekonomi från något givet och individuellt till något dynamiskt och samhälleligt.

    Undersökningen bestod av en förtestfråga där elever år 1 på gymnasiet fick svara på en fråga rörande presumtivt ansvar för en förändrad privatekonomisk situation. Resultaten pekar mot att elever uppvisar fyra kvalitativt skilda uppfattningar där tre av dessa typer av uppfattningar överensstämmer med Westheimer & Kahnes (2004) medborgarkonceptioner. För att utveckla elevers förståelse av privatekonomi mot en mer elaborerad medborgarbildning föreslår vi att det finansiella systemet ska diskuteras som en samhällsfunktion vilken kan förändras via demokratiska styrmedel.

    Read more about Privatekonomiundervisning som medborgarbildning – Är det möjligt?
  • Samhällskunskapsämnet och det kraftfulla kunnandet

    2020. Johan Sandahl.


    Lärarstudenter i samhällskunskap ska samtidigt lära sig sitt ämne och reflektera över vad det kunnande består i då de själva ska lära ut ämnet till elever. Tidigare forskning visar att studenter i liten utsträckning får ta del av det disciplinära kunnandet på ett systematiskt sätt, särskilt i början av sin utbildning. Detta projekt adresserar studenternas förståelse av ämnesinnehållet i samhällskunskap och de inslag som undervisningen måste adressera för att öka studenternas förståelse av disciplinärt kunnande. Utgångspunkten är det utbildningssociologiska begreppet ”kraftfullt kunnande” (powerful knowledge, se Young, 2008) som använts för att stimulera studenternas reflektioner kring vad ett kunnande i samhällskunskap innebär. Projektet undersöker studenternas (n = 34) förförståelse som sedan använts för att designa undervisning inom ramen för studenternas ämnesdidaktiska utbildning. Eftertesterna visar att studenternas reflektioner utvecklas, men att undervisningsdesignen skapade nya problem i relation till kunskapsbegreppet.

    Read more about Samhällskunskapsämnet och det kraftfulla kunnandet
  • Studying Politics or Being Political? High School Students’ Assessment of the Welfare State

    2019. Johan Sandahl. Journal of Social Science Education 18 (1), 153-171


    Purpose: This article examines high school students’ understanding of the welfare state as a political issue and discusses how it can be approached in the classroom. The study was conducted within a social-science educational context and departs from a perspective from which educational goals can be seen as intrinsic (goals closely connected to the academic disciplines) or extrinsic (goals formulated by the political sphere, e.g. students’ deliberation on political issues). These variant goals can pose a dilemma for teachers and students alike as they engage in highly political topics.

    Design & methodology: To explain the structure of the dilemmas of teaching issues that can be understood politically in a social-science context, this paper focuses on students’ assessment of such topics before teaching and how they generally reason different political views on the welfare state. The data consist of written documents produced by tenth-year students in response to two accounts of the best welfare state. Using a qualitative content analysis, the data were analysed to identify students’ approaches to a political issue and their normative reasoning.

    Findings: The results display an understanding of the welfare state that is consistent with extrinsic goals, i.e. as an issue to engage with as a political entity rather than exclusively as a social scientist. It was noted that students experience difficulty in recognising the difference between politics and the study of politics.

    Practical implications: The study contributes to an understanding of the influence of normativity on students’ thinking and represents an attempt to bridge the difficulty of combining intrinsic and extrinsic goals in social-science education.

    Read more about Studying Politics or Being Political? High School Students’ Assessment of the Welfare State
  • Geografi som medborgarbildning

    2018. Johan Sandahl. Geografiska Notiser 76 (4), 98-108


    Vår samtid erbjuder stora utmaningar inför framtiden. Frågor om naturresurser, migration, segregering och inte minst allt mer ansträngda ekologiska gränser för vår planet är bara några av de stora och osäkra frågor som vår tid måste handskas med. Dessa frågor och många andra angelägna utmaningar ligger inom geografiämnets domän och geografiämnet har därmed en särskilt viktig funktion i att erbjuda eleverna såväl holistiska perspektiv som fördjupade kunskaper där de kan utveckla sitt rumsliga medvetande i en globaliserad värld. Men utmaningarna möts inte bara med kunskap. Lika viktigt är deras engagemang för världen omkring dem och viljan och modet att använda kunskaperna för att aktivt delta i det medborgerliga livet. Att utveckla elevernas kunskaper, attityder och förmågor för att delta och agera som aktiva och ansvariga medborgare under och efter sin skoltid kan beskrivas som medborgarbildning (Campbell, 2012; Sandahl, 2015). Centralt för denna medborgarbildning är handlingskompetens, det vill säga en förmåga att göra väl underbyggda och medvetna val, både veta vad som ska och kan göras, färdighet att kunna göra det och veta varför. I den här texten kommer jag att argumentera för en geografiundervisning med ett tydligt mål: att skapa handlingskomptenta elever som tror på sin framtid samtidigt som undervisningen är ärlig med problemens komplexitet.

    Read more about Geografi som medborgarbildning
  • Vart bör samhällskunskapsdidaktiken gå? Om ett splittrat forskningsfält och vägar framåt

    2018. Johan Sandahl. Nordidactica (3), 44-64


    Social Science (Samhällskunskap) is the assigned school subject with the major responsibility for political education in year 1-12 (Sandahl, 2015c; cf. other Nordic countries in Christensen, 2011; Børhaug 2011). Even though Social Science is considered important and well established in schools, it has been described as in a “stage of crisis” for several decades due to its lack of a academic equivalent (Bronäs & Selander, 2002). Furthermore, researchers interested in social science education come from different communities of enquiry such as pedagogy and political science resulting in a diverse and sprawled research community. Departing from Michael Young’s (2013) notion of ‘epistemic community’, this article discusses the need to define and demarcate the research field of social science ‘didaktik’. Moreover, the article suggests a field of research interest that might help shape a community where researchers from different backgrounds can contribute. The argument is that a strong research community can provide answers to the alleged crisis of the school subject.

    Read more about Vart bör samhällskunskapsdidaktiken gå? Om ett splittrat forskningsfält och vägar framåt
  • Att tydliggöra lärandemål och kunskapskvaliteter

    2018. Johan Sandahl. Att bli lärare, 94-100


    De senaste åren har betyg- och bedömningsfrågor kommit att bli en allt större del av lärares arbetsliv. Frågorna är inte nya utan har varit en del av den formella skolans uppgift från allra första början, inte minst i skolans färdighetsämnen. Men de senaste åren har utvecklingen eskalerat – också i SO-ämnena. Det här är ett försök att diskutera några perspektiv och en modell för att koppla bedömningsarbetet till SO-undervisningen.

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  • What on Earth is going on – Students’ Understanding of Climate Change and the Possibilities of Teaching

    2018. Johan Sandahl, Lotta Dessen Jankell, Patrik Johansson.


    Vi sägs leva i antropocen - människans tid. Mänskliga aktiviteter har fått följdverkningar i form av försurade hav, förändrade biokemiska flöden och klimatförändringar, vilket väcker viktiga frågor om planetens gränser (Steffen et. al., 2015). Som undervisningsfråga är klimatförändringar inte nödvändigtvis en kontroversiell fråga. Vetenskapssamhället är överens om att människan orsakar de stora förändringarna (Hess, 2009, ss. 117-122; jfr. Steffen et. al., 2011). Det kontroversiella ligger snarare i hur klimatförändringarna ska hanteras, vilket kräver såväl tekniska som sociala, politiska och ekonomiska åtgärder. I lösningarna ryms även värdefrågor och ställningstaganden. Litteraturen beskriver klimatförändringarna som ett så kallat “wicked problem”. Det vill säga en komplex fråga där behovet av lösningar är akuta; där aktörerna som söker lösningar bidragit till att ge upphov till dem; och där det saknas en central auktoritet som kan leda arbetet framåt (Brown et al., 2010; Levin et. al., 2012). I undervisningen behöver sådana frågor studeras tvärvetenskapligt för att hantera både den faktiska och den normativa dimensionen. Tidigare forskning har visat på spänningar mellan dessa dimensioner i elevernas förståelse av klimatfrågan (Sternäng & Lundholm, 2011; Rickinson, Lundholm, and Hopwood, 2009; Kramming, 2017), men diskuterar i mindre utsträckning hur slutsatserna kan användas för att designa undervisning. Denna artikel undersöker elevers (n=72) förståelse av orsaker och konsekvenser av klimatförändringarna före undervisningen och diskuterar viktiga designprinciper för hur en tvärvetenskaplig undervisning om klimatfrågan skulle kunna se ut. Elevernas förförståelse undersöktes genom ett skriftligt förtest som omfattade frågor omorsaker till klimatförändringarna, dess konsekvenser och argument för olika lösningar avklimatfrågan. Elevsvaren har analyserats kvalitativt med fenomenografi (Marton, 2015). Elevernas svar visar på såväl ideologiska och normativa förståelser som faktisk vetenskapligförståelse av klimatproblematiken. Resultatet kommer att användas för att designa en tvärvetenskaplig undervisning som syftar till att utveckla elevernas kunnande och handlingskompetens.

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  • Powerful Geographical Knowledge and Students’ Understanding of Global Migration in Times of ‘Crises’

    2018. Johan Sandahl, Lotta Dessen Jankell. American Educational Research Association (AERA), New York, April 13-17 2018


    This study examines Swedish students’ understanding of migration in the aftermath of the European “refugee crisis” and discusses what subject resources geography education might contribute with in order to understand global migration. Previous research on young people’s knowledge on migration is limited, but studies show that students are strongly influenced by media reporting which they internalise with own lived experiences. The data consist of 51 accounts on global migration and demonstrate a narrative of migrants as refugees. Departing from Michael Young’s (2013) concept of “powerful knowledge” we discuss how geographical thinking might advance students’ understanding beyond their everyday experience. The contribution is twofold: it gives educational insight into young people’s understanding on migration and discusses the possibilities of subject resources.

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  • Students as Political Animals: Exploring Students’ Understanding of a Political Issue in Social Science Education

    2017. Johan Sandahl.


    ABSTRACT: School subjects such as social science have versatile goals that can be described as internal and external. The internal goals are closely connected to the academic disciplines and the external goals are formulated by the political sphere and include, among other things, the democratic values society wants students to be incorporated in as well as students’ engagement in public deliberation. These different goals can give birth to dilemmas for both teachers and students when they engage in highly political topics. In educational research these challenges have been discussed as epistemic cognition, motivated reasoning and conceptual change but correspond mainly to internal goals of school subjects. In order to understand the structures of the dilemmas this paper focuses on students’ understanding prior to teaching and how they reason about different political views on the welfare state. The data consists of written responses, year 10 students, on two different accounts of the best welfare state, one liberal and one social democratic. The data was used to identify students’ approaches to a political issue and their normative reasoning. Even though several students recognise ideological ideas, few students approached the topic from a social science perspective, distinguishing facts from opinions. One key issue is that students have problems recognising the difference between ‘politics’ and ‘the study of politics’. The study contributes to the understanding of the influence of normativity on students’ thinking and an attempt to bridge the dilemma of combining internal and external goals in social science education.

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  • Vart bör samhällskunskapsdidaktiken gå?

    2017. Johan Sandahl.


    Samhällskunskapsämnet (samfundsfag, samhällslära) återfinns i samtliga nordiska skolsystem och framhålls ofta som det viktigaste skolämnet i elevernas politiska bildning (Christensen 2011, Børhaug 2011). Samhällskunskapsämnet tillkom efter andra världskriget i ett hopp om att förhindra totalitära och odemokratiska tendenser hos elever (Hartman 2012), men har alltmer kommit att kretsa kring de samhällsvetenskapliga disciplinernas frågeställningar. Samhällskunskap saknar dock en motsvarande disciplin på universitetet och har därför utmålats som ett splittrat och osammanhängande ämne från högskoleperspektiv, medan lärarna själva ser ämnet som sammanhållet (Bronäs & Selander 2002, Olsson 2016). Dessa förhållanden visar sig tydligt i den samhällskunskapsdidaktiska forskningen som är svagare och mindre sammanhållen än många andra ämnesdidaktiska traditioner i Norden. Forskare har primärt närmat sig samhällsämnet från två perspektiv. Ett första är det allmändidaktiska/pedagogiska perspektivet där lärandefrågor stått i förgrunden och där det samhällsvetenskapliga innehållet blivit fallstudier för generella frågor kring lärande och undervisning (t.ex. Marton & Pang 2005). Ett andra perspektiv är det statsvetenskapliga där samhällskunskapsämnets frågor kring demokrati och politik stått i centrum och därmed blivit ett fall av elevers inställningar till statsvetenskapliga intresseområden och undervisningens möjliga påverkan på dessa inställningar (t.ex. Broman 2009). Denna spretighet i förhållandet till samhällskunskapsundervisning gör att samhällskunskapsdidaktiken saknar vad utbildningssociologer kallar för en ”epistemisk gemenskap” (Young 2013), det vill säga en gemensam kunskapsinsamling där forskare tillsammans utvecklar problemformuleringar, teorier och metoder som är centrala för det vetenskapliga fältet. Detta paper diskuterar några viktiga skiljelinjer för vad samhällskunskapsdidaktik är, kan och bör vara i förhållande till såväl allmändidaktik som de samhällsvetenskapliga disciplinerna (jfr Ongstad 2006:33). Vidare föreslås några problemområden som jag menar belyser samhällskunskapsdidaktikens centrum – ett centrum vilken en framtida gemenskap kan byggas för en grupp forskare med skilda metodologiska och teoretiska bakgrunder.

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  • Undervisa i samhällskunskap

    2015. Ingegerd Ekendahl, Lars Nohagen, Johan Sandahl.


    Undervisa i samhällskunskap är en ämnesdidaktisk introduktion till undervisning och lärande i skolämnet samhällskunskap. Med utgångspunkt i vardagsnära beslutssituationer synliggörs hur ämnesdidaktiken kan fungera som en reflektionsarena för läraren inför de frågor och utmaningar som samhällsundervisningen ställer.

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  • Social studies as socialisation, qualification and subjectification

    2015. Johan Sandahl.


    In most countries, social studies is the assigned subject responsible for political education. Schools’ overall assignment can be defined using Gert Biesta’s three concepts of the functions of education: socialisation, qualification and subjectification. Firstly, schools have a role in socialising students into society, passing on values and knowledge. Secondly, the school system should contribute to students’ qualification as citizens, helping them advancing their civic and critical literacy. Thirdly, education should give students’ the possibility to be independent individuals. The functions, or dimensions, are separate, but meet in all kinds of education and generally aim at societal participation. In the intersections between the dimensions friction arises and teachers are faced with several educational challenges. One example is the meeting between legitimising perspectives and critical thinking; teachers should both uphold democratic values and trust of political institutions as well as allowing students to critically review them. Thus, there is a tension in allowing students to “be citizens” as well as qualifying them, thus seeing them as “citizens to be”. This paper theoretically examines how Biesta’s educational functions relate to social studies teaching and what challenges this poses for social studies teachers.

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  • Medborgarbildning i gymnasiet

    2015. Johan Sandahl (et al.).

    Thesis (Doc)

    The school subjects of history and social science are expected to contribute with historical and social scientific knowledge, skills and abilities: that is, subject knowledge. The subject knowledge that students achieve during their schooling is not only meant for future studies, but is also expected to inform a life as democratic citizens. However, the curriculum and syllabus have not always been explicit about this aim, and the relationship between subject knowledge and citizenship education is only vaguely explained. This thesis investigates this relationship within the context of history and social science education in Swedish upper secondary school. The educational dimensions of Biesta – socialisation, qualification and subjectification – are used as an approach to this investigation.

    The aim of the study is to explore, analyse and discuss the role of history and social science teaching for students’ citizenship education. This is done by investigating curricula, teaching and educational discourses and by using both empirical methods and content analysis. The thesis is a compilation of five articles, all exploring subject knowledge and its connection to students’ citizenship education. The first two articles investigate possible second-order concepts in social science education, which are described and discussed using theories and concepts from history didactics. The findings in these articles work as a basis for further study in following articles, where the subject knowledge and its connections to citizenship education are explored in more depth. Taken together, the articles present a rich picture of the complex reality of teaching and provide a basis for understanding better how teachers, students and curricula express subject knowledge and how this is related, or not, to citizen education.

    The contribution of the thesis is a more developed theoretical and conceptual understanding of history and social science education, especially through concepts that can be used in practical teaching in order to strengthen and develop citizenship education.

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  • Preparing for Citizenship

    2015. Johan Sandahl. Journal of Social Science Education 14 (1), 18-29


    Social Science as a school subject aims at making students knowledgeable in societal issues as well as preparing them for citizenship. Despite the strong position of Social Science in the Swedish school curricula, little research has been done in the field. Previous research has mainly concentrated on factual knowledge and conceptual learning, or the role of deliberation in class activities. Less research has focused on the role of disciplinary thinking and how that might promote learning to think like a social scientist while at the same time preparing students for citizenship. By using a conceptual framework from history didactics, Social Science education is in the following text explored in search of second order thinking concepts. Also, the relationship between these concepts and democratic socialisation is discussed. By focusing on one substantial case, this study tries to reach beyond the various topics commonly covered in Social Science education. The research was conducted by observing teaching in Social Science and interviewing six experienced teachers. Using this conceptual framework, ideas on how to organise, analyse, interpret and critically review discourses in society were constructed as six proposed second order thinking concepts of Social Science: social science causality, social science evidence and inference, social science abstraction, social science comparison and contrast, social science perspective taking and the evaluative dimension. The argument is that when students work scientifically they develop a way of thinking about society and they challenge their set opinions about different topics. Therefore, second order thinking concepts are important for learning Social Science and at the same time preparing students for a life as citizens.

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  • Civic Consciousness

    2015. Johan Sandahl. Historical Encounters 2 (1), 1-15


    In history didactics the concept of historical consciousness has become an important theoretical framework in developing a meaningful history education. One significant aspect of historical consciousness is to give students a “usable past” to orient to possible futures. Previous research has shown that history is important when students think about the future but that their use of history in meaning-making is simplistic and based on present-day-thinking. Much research has focused on advancing students’ ability to use history in orientation to possible futures, but less attention has been focused on contemporary studies and its role in the process of orientation. By introducing a tentative concept, civic consciousness, the issue of students’ orientation is explored by studying students’ perspectives on democracy in past-present-future. The data consists of 142 narratives and reveals a pattern of normative stances, process orientation and action orientation. These aspects are considered to be important components of civic consciousness and these have implications for how social studies educators should address the challenges of preparing students for the future.

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  • Samhällskunskap och historia i svensk gymnasieskola: ämnenas roll och relation i diskurs och ämnesplaner

    2014. Johan Sandahl. Nordidactica (1), 53-84


    Abstract: The adoption of new syllabuses in history and social science in the new Swedish curriculum raises questions on the relationship between the two subjects. Social Science and History as school subjects have previously been described as both competing and complementary. The competing aspect has mainly been descibed in terms of citizenship education and the complementary aspect has been described in terms of content, abilities, and temporality. This article discusses how history and social science relate to these four topics in didactic discourse and in the new syllabuses. In the didactic discource both subjects underline the importance of making subject matter useful in life outsideschool. However, the new syllabuses are very differently formulated in this sense. History is closely connected to citizenship education and describes content, abilities and temporality in such a context. Social Science on the other hand downtunes the traditional role as a subject important for citizenship. Instead, focus is aimed at disciplinary thinking and using knowledge to understand social science methods and theories. This development is seen as very problematic and challenging for a meaningful teaching of Social Science in upper secondary school. In response to this challenge, the author proposes interdisciplinary didactic development, especially in developing "dynamic concepts" within Social Science didactics.

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  • Being Engaged and Knowledgeable: Social Science Thinking Concepts and Students’ Civic Engagement in Teaching on Globalisation

    2013. Johan Sandahl. Nordidactica (1), 158-179


    The question of whether or not school makes a difference in preparing students for democratic citizenship has been debated for a long time in political science and curriculum studies. These discussions are mostly based on the results of international surveys measuring students’ political attitudes, values and participation. However, we first need to define what kind of prepared citizens are needed. This article takes on the definition issue and presents new perspectives by exploring howteachersin Social Science (Samhällskunskap) and their students in Sweden reason about engagement when they address complex societal issues such as globalisation. Based on interviews with a number of teachers and students I will argue that in order to understand what is going on in school we need to interpret Social Science teaching in terms of first-and second-order concepts,where the second-order concepts could be seen as “how to think like a social scientist”. I will make a case that there is a didactic dilemma for teachers trying to educate students who are both trained in disciplinary thinking and leave school as politically engaged. However, this dilemma is not unsolvable and I will hold a position that it might contain answers to some of the questions that political scientists deal with in terms of engagement

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