Civic reasoning about power issues: The criticality of agency, arena and relativity




Social science, penomenography, civic reasoning, critical thinking, power analysis


Purpose: The study examines students' conceptions of power and important aspects of teaching for developing the ability to analyse power relations in social science.

Methodology: Phenomenography is used in the analysis of 155 student essays, to identify different ways of analysing societal power issues.

Findings: When conducting a qualified analysis of a societal power issue, it is crucial that students discern that power is tied to an agent, that power is exercised through agency in specific contextual power arenas, and that they understand how power is relative to the power of other agents in the same arena.

Research limitations: The study focuses on Swedish upper secondary students. Comparisons with other groups of learners are welcomed.

Practical implications: The critical aspects identified should be used as a basis for teaching designs. Findings imply that the meaning of power as a concept should be highlighted in social science teacher education.

Author Biographies

Malin Tväråna, Uppsala university

Malin Tväråna, PhD, is a Senior Lecturer at the Department of Education, Uppsala University. Her research interests center on civics and citizenship education, the role of subjectification and agency in critical thinking and democracy, and education development research with a special focus on phenomenography, variation theory and activity theory. Her current research projects investigate digital media literacy in social science, and visual literacy and critical reasoning in social science.

Ann-Sofie Jägerskog

Ann-Sofie Jägerskog, PhD, is a Senior Lecturer and researcher at the Department of Teaching and Learning, Stockholm University. Her research interests are teaching and learning in the social sciences as well as economics, and teaching and learning through visual representations. She is currently coordinator of the EARLI SIG for Phenomenography and Variation Theory and is co-leader of a research project focusing on visual literacy in social science education.


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How to Cite

Tväråna, M., & Jägerskog, A.-S. (2023). Civic reasoning about power issues: The criticality of agency, arena and relativity. JSSE - Journal of Social Science Education, 22(1).