Student centredness and learning from a perspective of history of the present

Olsson Ulf, Petersson Kenneth, John Benedicto Krejsler

Research output: Contribution to book/anthology/report/proceedingBook chapterResearchpeer-review


The overall aim of this chapter is to problematize the comtemporary transnantional discourse about learning and pupil-centred learning, which during recent decades have become givens or, perhaps it vcould be said, have become established as dogmas in the conversations, writings and thinking about ourselves, others, education,work and society. The purpose of this approach is to shake up what is to a greater or lesser extent taken for granted at the present. We do this by showing that ideas such as student centredness can be seen in other ways than is the case in contemporary narratives. Theoretically, we draw on Foucault's concepts of genealogy and history of the present. This means that we reflect contemporary conceptions, in this case the ideas of student centredness, in relation to how similar phenomena have been practiced within other narratives about education/training. Empirically we use different types of education texts such as policy documents, investigations, textbooks and scientific reports. We start with contemporary documents from transnational as well as Swedish sources, followed by documents from three different historical periods: (1) the 1940/1950s, (2) the 1970s and (3) the narrative of the French teacher Joseph Jacotot, from the beginning of the nineteenth century about teaching for the intelectual liberation as retold by Jacques Rancière. The genealogical analysis shows that contemporary narrative about learning is neither more nor less pupil or student centred than that of yesteryear. It is rather that this phenomenon is given different meanings within the framework of different historical discourses about education. In the present time, the concepts are given meaning in the context of educational policy work and reforms in an era of transnational governance.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEducational Governance Research
EditorsElisabeth Hultqvist, Sverker Lindblad, Thomas S. Popkewitz
Number of pages12
Place of publicationCham (CH)
Publication date1 Jan 2018
ISBN (Print)978-3-319-61969-9
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-319-61971-2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2018
SeriesEducational Governance Research


  • Foucault
  • Governmentality
  • Jacques Rancière
  • Learning
  • Student centredness


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