Trust as subject content: Advancing students’ reasoning on democracy through displacement




social science education, trust, citizenship, democracy, displacement


Purpose: The article explores how the tension between embracing and scrutinising democracy can be productively overcome through social science teaching about democracy that focuses on trust as a subject content.

Design/methodology/approach: Empirical materials were collected through focus group interviews before and after an inquiry-based teaching segment on trust, and the materials were analysed qualitatively through three grounded themes.

Findings: It is argued that working with the displacement of subject content in inquiry-based teaching about democracy enhances the possibilities for students to deepen their knowledge about democracy, while enabling them to scrutinise the democratic system critically.

Research limitations/implications: The article reports from a small-scale study of four classes in two upper secondary schools in Sweden, and the study provides tentative observations and conclusions that should be investigated further in future research.

Practical implications: The article shows how trust as a subject content can contribute to problematising students’ understandings of democracy, and how the displacement of content can be important in formulating compelling questions and in designing inquiries on democracy.

Author Biographies

Maria Jansson, School of Humanities, Education and Social Sciences, Örebro University

A, Maria Jansson is an associate professor of Political Science and professor of Gender Studies at Örebro University. She has worked on several transdisciplinary projects related to social science education and teaching, with an emphasis on the role of teaching and education in reproducing or challenging structural inequalities. She also researches policy and women’s conditions at work, most recently in two projects about the cultural industry. 

Patrik Johansson, Department of Teaching and Learning, Stockholm University

B, Patrik Johansson (PhD) is a teacher–researcher at Globala Gymnasiet in Stockholm and a researcher at Stockholm University. His main research interests are related to history education and social science education, with an emphasis on critical thinking and citizenship education. 


Johan Sandahl, Stockholm University, Department of Teaching and Learning

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 developing students’ attitudes, knowledge, skills and abilities in terms of citizenship education


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How to Cite

Jansson, M., Johansson, P., & Sandahl, J. (2023). Trust as subject content: Advancing students’ reasoning on democracy through displacement. JSSE - Journal of Social Science Education, 22(3).