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The aim and vision of the programme

The programme is held together by a shared knowledge interest:

Phenomenography is the study of qualitatively different ways in which learners see, experience, or understand objects of learning (things they learn, or learn about). The point of departure is that powerful ways of acting spring from powerful ways of seeing. Variation theory is about how it can be made possible for people to learn to see things in powerful ways. It is assumed that developing a way of seeing amounts to discerning the features of the object of learning that are critical for making it ones own, and focus on those features simultaneously. For every feature to be discerned for any object of learning and for any group of learners there is a pattern of variation and invariance that is necessary to experience. In order to experience such a pattern, it must exist for the learners. It is exactly by contributing to offer such a pattern in teaching that we can create necessary, but not necessarily sufficient, conditions of learning. Learning study is a theoretically based arrangement for teachers’ collaborative production of their own professional knowledge, which has been found powerful to develop both teachers’ and students’ intentional learning when combined with variation theory as a theoretical point of departure.

The programme currently engage a group of approximately 20 members of staff at PCPS, ranging from PhD students to professors. Our aim is that the programme continues to have its “home” at the department, and that:

  • The programme be a strong and visible centre nationally and internationally for phenomenography, variation theory and learning study research and development. This includes taking a central role in a number of international networks related to the knowledge interest.
  • The group will have a good “competence structure”, i.e. engage both senior and junior researchers, as well as active PhD students, and that most members of the group are engaged in research and teaching as well as societal collaboration.
  • Continuous and externally financed research, which is regularly published in international journals and at conferences, will be conducted.
  • Established and active structure for collaboration with teachers, schools and society will be brought about and maintained

Within the programme activities are organised to further internal collaboration, creative development of ideas and commitment to quality in research, teaching and societal collaboration. For example, this includes

  • Two established forums for discussing research and ideas related to the knowledge interest. The variation theory meetings focus primarily on phenomenographic and variation theory studies in general, while the learning study meetings focus on learning studies more specifically.
  • Collaborative approach to scientific leadership between associate professors and professors.
  • Coordination of current projects, applications, and conference representation.

Description of research programme
The research area phenomenography and variation theory has great impact, nationally and internationally, as well as a long and successful history at the department. The area focuses some of the key issues in education: learning, teaching, and in particular their relationship, having in mind that learning is always the learning of something. These issues have been researched mainly by describing different ways of understanding different concepts or phenomena. The research approach and its results have had a strong influence on the understanding of what it takes to learn and what it takes to teach throughout the sectors of education, from pre-school to university. The questions addressed center on the ways in which learners understand the educational situations they find themselves in and the ways in which teachers can mould the situation to afford learning in the sense of bringing attention to critical features of the object of learning. Qualitative variation is a central concept: the empirical research seeks to reveal qualitative variation in ways of experiencing aspects of the object of learning and its context; variation theory addresses the structure and meaning of such experience; and learning studies seek to exploit that structure and meaning by building a pedagogy around variation and invariance. The tradition upholds both theoretical and practical knowledge interests. It is precisely this combination – to develop knowledge of the conditions that are necessary for learning something and how to use and develop it in practice (in school, pre-school or higher education) – that characterizes the tradition.

Organization and seminars
The Phenomenography and Variation theory group focus on questions that is related to teaching and learning in institutional settings. The research approach and its results have had a strong influence on the understanding of what it takes to learn and what it takes to teach throughout the sectors of education. The present research is foremost in Mathematics education, Physics and Technology education, Social sciences education, Education for sustainable development and general theoretical and methodological questions within and outside our field of interest. The research group has regular meetings (VT-meetings) during the year to discuss, analyze and critique each other’s work. The group consists of around 30 persons, of which about 20 are actively involved. Professors, docents, senior and junior lectures, PhD students and teachers are involved in the group.

The Learning study group (LS) is an interest group for researchers, teacher educators and teachers that are interested in learning study as a model to gain knowledge about student learning and to contribute to teachers’ and student teachers’ knowledge. The aim of the group is to be a bridge between research and practice of teachers. In this group about 30 persons are involved. The group is visited by members of the VT-group, of faculty members that are not part of the research group and researchers from other affiliations. A learning study website has been developed to support teachers and for teachers to share their work. A grant for a research school in learning study makes it possible to have five licentiates’ students.

Previous and current projects
The research environment was established 1970 and today it consists professors, PhDs and PhD students. The group is tightly integrated with other similar research groups within and outside Sweden. Group members are continuously taking on commitments for the benefit of the scientific community nationally and internationally, such as editorial work, peer review, in networks, invited talks, PhD examination, international exchange etc. In 1997 the most ambitious evaluation of Swedish research in Education was published by a group of international experts, commissioned by the Swedish Research Council (Rosengren, 1997). Phenomenography was named in the report as one of the two research specializations in Sweden that have contributed most significantly to scientific knowledge about education world-wide. Two of the strongest research environments within the Faculty of Education have developed through hiving off from the research environment.

Current research projects include two projects funded by the Swedish Research Council (2011-2013, project leader Mona Holmqvist ..., and 2012-2014, project leader Åke Ingerman (ETSC project home page). The group also is a key member of the learning study licentiate research school for teachers (GU project coordinator Mona Holmqvist)...,.

Description of educational programme
The members of the group are frequently involved in teaching at the department and other departments at the university. Members of the group are involved in teaching at the teacher education programme, in-service training, international master’s programme, PhD programme and teaching at other faculties. Literature, written by members of the group, have been used at different courses at the teacher education programme and other courses, Members of the group have developed special courses for learning study for in-service training, and are trying to establish a regular PhD course about Phenomenography, variation theory and learning studies. Members of the group are also involved with supervision of PhD students and student teachers final thesis at the teacher education programme.

Description of contacts with the society
Members of the group are regularly working with teachers in schools (for instance with learning studies) and are giving lectures at schools. Members of the group are taking part in the public discussion through TV, radio and magazines.

Mer information

Åke Ingerman
Telefon: 031-786 2637
Personlig presentation

Angelika Kullberg
Telefon: 031 786 2067
Personlig presentation

Joakim Magnusson, sekreterare


Kunskapsbank för Learning study och Lesson study


Fenomenografi, Variationsteori och Learning Study

Institutionen för didaktik och pedagogisk profession,
Box 300, 405 30 Göteborg

Pedagogen Hus B, Läroverksg 15

Sidansvarig: Johanna Gunnarsson|Sidan uppdaterades: 2012-11-15

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