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Preparing for Citizenship: The Value of Second Order Thinking Concepts in Social Science Education
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Centre for Teaching and Learning in the Humanities (CeHum).
2015 (English)In: Journal of Social Science Education, ISSN 1618-5293, Vol. 14, no 1, 18-29 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

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.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2015. Vol. 14, no 1, 18-29 p.
Keyword [en]
Social Science, Social Studies, Civics, Didactics, Second Order Concepts, Second Order Thinking Concepts, Citizenship Education, Civic Literacy
National Category
Educational Sciences
Research subject
Subject Learning and Teaching
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-113652OAI: diva2:786758
Available from: 2015-02-06 Created: 2015-02-06 Last updated: 2015-02-12Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Medborgarbildning i gymnasiet: Ämneskunnande och medborgarbildning i gymnasieskolans samhälls- och historieundervisning
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Medborgarbildning i gymnasiet: Ämneskunnande och medborgarbildning i gymnasieskolans samhälls- och historieundervisning
2015 (Swedish)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Alternative title[en]
Citizenship Education in Upper Secondary School : Subject Knowledge and Citizenship Education in History and Social Science Education
Abstract [en]

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.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Institutionen för etnologi, religionshistoria och genusvetenskap, Stockholms universitet, 2015. 118 p.
social science education, history education, social studies education, didactics, second-order thinking concepts, citizenship education
National Category
Didactics Educational Sciences
Research subject
Subject Learning and Teaching
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-113655 (URN)978-91-7649-102-7 (ISBN)
Public defence
2015-03-13, De Geersalen, Geovetenskapernas hus, Svante Arrhenius väg 14, Stockholm, 10:00 (Swedish)
Available from: 2015-02-19 Created: 2015-02-06 Last updated: 2015-02-24Bibliographically approved

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