”Förskola för hållbar utveckling. Förutsättningar för barns utveckling av handlingskompetens för hållbar utveckling”.

Hedefalk, M.
Digital Comprehensive Summaries of Uppsala Dissertations from the Faculty of Educational Sciences. Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis.


This dissertation aims to contribute research about conditions for children's meaning-making in relation to sustainable development in Swedish preschool practices (”förskola”). The study aims to answer the following research questions: 1) How is teaching carried out in preschool practices? 2) How do children find meaning in teaching situations at preschool (e.g. questioning and discussing the things that are taken for granted)? 3) What are the preconditions for preschool children to develop action competences with regard to sustainable development? Examples of action competences can range from cleaning a beach (practical) to discussing moral issues (abstract).




The results of the first research question as to how teaching is carried out in preschool practices show that preschool teachers do not teach in the traditional sense if traditional teaching means the transfer of facts. Instead the children learn to examine subjects and surroundings, and the preschool teachers' role is more about guiding the children's attention in specific directions. Moreover, the preschool teachers are able to influence the children's meaning-making processes, and the children are good at complying with the requirements from the preschool teachers, even when they seem implicit.


With regard to the second research question – what critical actions look like within preschool teaching, and the preconditions for children to create meaning in connection with the content of teaching – the study shows that situations in which children experience critical actions involve value assessments. A value assessment occurs when it is not possible to resolve a problem on the basis of facts, for example deciding which action is fair.


Results relating to the third research question about sustainable development show that the three teaching principles (fact-based, normative and pluralistic) support specific actions assessed as “correct” by preschool teachers. Fact-based teaching principles favour action in which children learn to deal with facts. The normative teaching principle aims at teaching children to act morally correctly and therefore favours actions that correspond to pre-defined, morally appreciated values. The pluralistic teaching principle favours skills that enable the children to critically evaluate alternatives and values.


Education in sustainable development at preschools has changed focus from teaching facts about the environment to scientific projects, in which the children learn to view facts and actions critically. Further to this, the results show that the preschool teachers focus on a pluralistic education content, in which the content consists of value assessments. Emphasis is on the variations of views and on whether the children have the courage and feel confident to express other views than those of their preschool teachers and peers.


The study consists of four sub-studies. The study builds on preschool practices in four departments at two different preschools. The empiricism consists of field notes and video footage of teaching situations in "regular" practices at the two preschools. In one of the preschools, observations were carried out of staff and children over three days. In the other preschool, practices were filmed over 17 visits. The children represented in the observations were between 1 and 6 years old.


The first study is a review of 53 articles in 22 journals published from 1996-2011. This study identifies the overall research question of the study and enables identification of different fundamental teaching methods and different teaching content.


The second study examines Swedish natural science teaching at a primary and lower secondary school (laboratory experiments in the 8th year of a primary and lower secondary school) and teaching practices at the two preschools. The material consists of field notes and video footage from both the school and the preschools, analysed for differences and similarities.


The third study describes and analyses privileged and excluded actions in preschool activities. Meaning-making is analysed through practical epistemological analysis of filmed activities. Moreover, the preschool practices were compared with three teaching principles – one based on facts, one with a normative approach and one with a pluralistic approach – which occur within education for sustainable development.


The fourth study examines the conditions for children's critical conduct in preschool practices. This was examined by comparing the observed practices and the three teaching principles. Thus the study concludes by identifying privileged practices and excluded practices.


Hedefalk, M. (2014). ”Förskola för hållbar utveckling. Förutsättningar för barns utveckling av handlingskompetens för hållbar utveckling”. Digital Comprehensive Summaries of Uppsala Dissertations from the Faculty of Educational Sciences. Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis.

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