27 SES 04 C, Social, Civics and Citizenship Education
Critical thinking is a general ideal and normative goal in many curricula in national educational systems of Europe and is a part of the European Union’s key competencies for life-long learning (2006/962/EG). Brookfield (2012) states that critical thinking is key for further studies, for the individual’s development and to guard and further democracy. Social studies subjects has a certain role in citizenship education, both to legitimize existing social order and to contribute to the process of becoming autonomous subjects, where ‘being critical’ or have a disposition or abilities to ‘critical thinking’ is an essential aspect. This study focused on similarities and differences concerning critical thinking in the curriculum of social studies subjects in the Nordic countries. The point of departure is the Swedish curriculum for 7th–9th grade Civics, Geography, History and Religion, which is compared to the equivalence in the other Nordic countries: Finland, Denmark, Iceland and Norway. There are many definitions of what constitutes critical thinking in terms of knowledge and abilities and, consequently, different views on how it should best be taught in school. To what extent critical thinking is situated in different domains of knowledge, and therefore not general, is an ongoing discussion. It is argued that disciplines can be conceptualized as different cultures where epistemological structures and concepts constitutes a context in which critical knowledge is situated, and this is also reflected in school subjects (Kreber ed. 2009; Goodson 1993; Schüllerqvist and Osbeck 2009).
The aim is to gain knowledge about differences and similarities regarding critical thinking depending on subject characteristics and national curriculum context. This study’s comparison of how criticality is conveyed in the curriculum of respective school subjects provides an empirical ground for discussing subject specific forms of critical thinking. However, school subject curricula are constructed in the context of an educational system and are tailored to match a more general discourse of the curriculum. It is therefore also of importance to investigate how the context of the national curriculum influence respective school subjects. Finally, from a broader curriculum theory perspective, the construction of school subjects depend upon which versions of knowledge are selected, framed, and translated into a pedagogic discourse and in this process ideology plays a part (Apple 1990; Deng and Luke 2009). The analysis of the content and construction of the respective subject curricula and the countries national curriculum are based on Basil Bernsteins’ (2000) concepts ‘classification’ and ‘framing’ and also his division between horizontal and vertical discourse (differentiated into horizontal and hierarchical structure).
The process of inquiry contains a comparative analysis of five cases, namely the Nordic countries’ secondary social studies curricula. The Nordic countries share similarities, which enables a comparison, foremost a national educational system and curriculum, but also such as common basic values related to a modern welfare state and resembling cultural, social and, to some extent, historical conditions. Still, challenges of the comparison of variables remains and, based on Backström-Widjeskog and Hansén (2002), I have differentiated between Linguistic, Organisational and Contextual equivalence in comparison. Further, the analysis also contains comparison between the different subjects. Here the Swedish curriculum of the four subjects; civics, geography, history and religion have been used as the point of departure to which the other Nordic countries’ organisations of knowledge in different subjects and areas of study has been compared.
Social studies curricula are constructed in different ways in the different national contexts investigated, ranging from separate curricula for each subject, as the Swedish, to integrated curriculum models, as the Icelandic. One finding is that the concept of ‘critical’ in conjunction to knowledge, abilities, thinking, skills etcetera is used more in the curricula that is an integrated social studies construction than in the curricula that is constructed in separate subject plans. Tentatively, it seems as a stronger classification of in-between the social studies subjects limits general references to criticality and instead focused on procedural knowledge recontextualised into a pedagogic discourse.
Apple, M.W. (1990). Ideology and curriculum. (2. ed.) New York: Routledge. Backström-Widjeskog, B. & Hansén, S-E. (2002). Problems concerning comparative research of curriculum development. In M. Rosenmund, A-V. Fries & W. Heller Comparing curriculum-making processes (pp. 55-71). Bern: Peter Lang. Bernstein, B. (2000). Pedagogy, symbolic control and identity. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. Brodin, E. (2007). Critical thinking in scholarship: meanings, conditions and development. Diss. Lund : Lunds universitet, 2007. Lund. Brookfield, S.D. (2012). Teaching for critical thinking: tools and techniques to help students question their assumptions. (1. ed..) San Francisco, Calif.: Jossey-Bass. Davies, P. (2015) Towards a framework for financial literacy in the context of democracy, Journal of Curriculum Studies, 47:2, 300-316, Deng, Z. C., Luke, A., Lee, J., & Placier, M. (2008). Subject Matter: Defining and Theorizing School Subjects. In The SAGE Handbook of Curriculum and Instruction (pp. 66-90). SAGE Publications. Englund, T. (1986), Samhällsorientering och medborgarfostran I svensk skola under 1900-talet I och II. Uppsala: Pedagogiska institutionen. Franck, O. (2014), ”Gränsöverskridande värden i icke konfessionell etikundervisning: Ämnesidentitet och multidisciplinärt lärande i ämnet religionskunskap”, Nordidactica, 2014:1. Goodson, I.F. (1993), School Subjects and Curriculum Change, 3rd ed. London: Falmer Press. Hjort, S. (2014). Kritiskt tänkande i klassrummet: en studie av didaktiska val och manifesterat kritiskt tänkande i samhällskunskaps- och filosofiundervisning. Lic.-avh. Linköping : Linköpings universitet, 2014. Linköping. Kennedy, M., Fischer, M., and Ennis, R. (1991). Critical thinking: literature review and needed research. In L. Idol and B. Jones (eds.), Educational values and cognitive instruction: implications for reform. Hillsdale: Lawrence Earlbaum Associates Kreber, C. red. (2009), The university and its disciplines: teaching and learning within and beyond disciplinary boundaries. New York: Routledge. Larsson, K. (2013). Kritiskt tänkande i grundskolans samhällskunskap Diss. Göteborg : Göteborgs universitet, 2013. Göteborg. Messer-Davidow, E., D. Shumway & D. J. Sylvan (1993), Knowledges: Historical and Critical Studies in Disciplinarity. Charlottesville & London: University Press of Virginia. Schüllerqvist, B. & C. Osbeck red. (2009), Ämnesdidaktiska insikter och strategier. Karlstad: Karlstad University
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