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Research presentation

Silvia Edling

Silvia Edling, professor i didaktik.

Research presentation

Silvia Edling

PhD, professor in curriculum theory, Excellent teacher

Research subject: Curriculum studies
Research domain: Educational Science

Silvia Edling graduated as a primary school teacher (years 1-7) of Swedish and civics and later followed a teacher training programme in history and English. Since 2003 she has worked as a teacher educator, first of all at Uppsala University (graduate student/lecturer) and then as a lecturer in education at the University of Gävle. Edling defended her PhD thesis at Uppsala University in 2009, which was entitled Ruptured narratives. An analysis of the contradictions in young people’s responses to issues of personal responsibility and social violence in an educational context. The thesis highlighted young people’s sense of responsibility for others. From a curriculum perspective, the aim of the thesis was to acquire an in-depth understanding of the prerequisites for working with ethics, equal treatment and bullying in education.

In her role as an associate professor at Uppsala University, Edling was able to both broaden and deepen her research in areas such as history didactics/didaktik, policy/convention on children’s rights, democracy issues in teacher training, the teaching profession and leadership and maintain her original interest in democracy, ethics and social justice.

She writes that:

One of the challenges that we face now is not to fall into the simplistic black/white thinking that often characterises today’s debate (Lukacs, 2005), where there is a tendency to adopt extreme positions without taking the multifaceted knowledge of the field into account. This could be a one-sided focus on practice or theory, and knowledge or values/emancipation in education. What is instead needed is to create bridges between theory/science and practice, since everything we do in practice is based on ideas. This link needs to be made more visible in order to change and improve the practice. What is more, communities do not only need confident individuals, but also those with the necessary knowledge to address societal challenges. The space between either poles can be understood as a complex and existential difficult place where neat solutions are elusive. It can be tempting to ignore the opposition, allow others to think or lead or aggressively annihilate that which is perceived as difficult or complicated. The question to be asked is therefore: How can we stand in this space where the secure and insecure meet and help each other to deal with the challenges with the aid of the rich flora of scientifically-based knowledge that already exists? This is where my main contribution and commitment to the field lies.


Meetings between history and moral reflection

Theoretical and empirical points of intersection between historical consciousness and moral consciousness from a didactic perspective of history

This is a four year project (2018-2021) funded by the Swedish Research Council and  hosted by Linnaeus University, with Professor Niklas Ammert as the project manager. Participants in the project are Associate Professor Silvia Edling, University of Gävle, Associate Professor Jan Labiana, University of Helsinki, Finland, and Associate Professor Heather Sharp, Newcastle University, Australia. The project collaborators and sponsors are experts in historical consciousness and/or moral consciousness and contribute a rich comparative material and knowledge of the field to the project. The project’s strength lies in its potential to develop a robust research field and the possibility of using frameworks and didactic tools to promote the teaching of history in its mission to nurture democratic citizens.

The Gävle model: challenges and opportunities

The objective of this long-term project, which started in 2019, is to investigate why some schools in Gävle Municipality experience more bullying than others.  The project, which takes its starting point in the Gävle anti-bullying model, is part of the practice-based research funded by Gävle Municipality, ULF [Utveckling, Lärande, Forskning/Development, learning, and research] and the University of Gävle. The Gävle model was initiated in 2012 and is a collaboration between the University of Gävle and the municipality. The aim is to systematically combat bullying at the schools, to review anti-bullying policies and to take account of the knowledge that is available in scientific research. Those responsible for the Gävle model are tasked with helping schools to combat bullying by means of a systematic data collection and regular contact with the staff.

Read the news article Gävlemodellen effektiv mot mobbning svt.se

Bokprojekt för Routledge: Democracy and Teacher Education: Dilemmas, Challenges and Possibilities.

The book Democracy and Teacher Education: Dilemmas, Challenges and Opportunities is written for Routledge together with Associate Professor Geraldine Mooney Simmies from Limerick University, Ireland. The book project is funded by the University of Gävle and plans to be published in the spring of 2020.


Silvia Edling’s research is based on a holistic and relational approach to teaching, in which questions about knowledge, equality and socialisation are intertwined and interdependent. More specifically, Edling studies educational environments with a particular focus on how ideas/perspectives and actions work together, the requirements and conditions for the teaching profession, terms and conditions, the content of teaching and its democratic dimension. Linked to these are interdisciplinary meetings and movements between proximity (qualitative interpretation of the mobile practice) and distance (meta/evidence-based studies), which are important for understanding education in depth and tackling the current challenges in educational practice.

Her research themes include: a) perspectives on sustainable development, b) the teaching profession, c) ethics/morals, d) violence and peace research, e) bullying and equal treatment, f) children’s rights, g) democracy, h) history didactics, i) policy and j) leadership. She has experience of scientifically scrutinising national and international journals, lecturing, organising conferences and symposia, taking part in examination boards and initiating and forming research groups and networks. At present she is the scientific manager of the higher seminary in educational sciences at the University of Gävle.

Examples of completed projects

Towards an integrated theory of historical consciousness and moral consciousness

Workshop and research networks: Towards an integrated theory of historical consciousness and moral consciousness has been financed by the Bank of Sweden Tercentenary Foundation. Responsible for the workshop were: Associate Professor Jan Löfstedt, Professor Niklas Ammert, Associate Professor Silvia Edling, Professor Gudmundur Frimannsson and Associate Professor Liisa Myyryn. The workshop resulted in a special theme issue:

Read the article Bridging historical consciousness and moral consciousness at University of Helsinki homepage.

Children’s rights and violence at boarding schools

This project has been ongoing since 2013 and has studied the incidence of recurring violence at a boarding school in Sweden from different perspectives: methodological, leadership, student, teacher and policy perspectives. Several conference papers have been presented (e.g. AERA, ECER and AARE). An article has been published and a further article is about to be published. The project is financed by the University of Gävle.

A discursive analysis of media debates on teacher education between 2016-2017

The study was funded by the University of Gävle and carried out in collaboration with Associate Professor Johan Liljestrand at the University of Gävle. The study was presented at a conference and as a keynote lecture. An article is currently being planned.

The teaching profession and democracy

The aim of the project was to study student teachers’ understanding of the teaching profession in relation to 'democratic values'. The study was conducted with Associate Professor Johan Labrador and was financed by the University of Gävle. The project has resulted in a publication, a conference presentation and a book chapter commissioned by Routledge.

A comparative policy study of teachers' democratic professionalism of teacher education in Sweden and Ireland

The study was funded by the University of Gävle and carried out in collaboration with Associate Professor Geraldine Mooney Simmie at the University of Limerick. In addition to numerous conference papers at AERA and ECER, four articles have been published and a textbook for Routledge is in the making.

Published by: Camilla Haglund Page responsible: Camilla Niss Updated: 2020-03-20
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