Between the lifeworld and academia: Defining political issues in social science education

Date of publication: 07/21/2023




social science education, political education, lifeworld, political issues



  • 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.

Author Biographies

Nora Elise Hesby Mathé, Department of teacher education and school research, University of Oslo

Nora Elise Hesby Mathé is associate professor of social science didactics at the Department of Teacher Education and School Research, University of Oslo. Her main research interests are classroom research in social science education in secondary school, the subject’s potential in students’ lives and students’ perceptions of the subject.

Johan Sandahl, Stockholm University

Johan Sandahl is an associate professor, senior lecturer, and head of the Research Group in Social Science (Samhällskunskap) at Stockholm University. His main research interest is social science education and its role in advancing students’ attitudes, knowledge, skills, and abilities in terms of citizenship education.


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How to Cite

Mathé, N. E. H., & Sandahl, J. (2023). Between the lifeworld and academia: Defining political issues in social science education: Date of publication: 07/21/2023. JSSE - Journal of Social Science Education, 22(3).