I am an active researcher and teacher educator in science and technology education with a specific focus on education for sustainable development and assessment. I have taken part in several major research projects and am currently active in the research environments SMEER (Science, Mathematics and Engineering Education Research, Karlstad), MND (Department of Mathematics and Science Education, Stockholm University) and SMED (Studies of Meaning-making in Educational Discourses, Örebro University and Uppsala University).
As well as being published in international research journals and supervising postgraduate students, I have had central roles in the creation and development of national and international research environments. One of these environments is the Graduate school in Education for Sustainable Development, GRESD), where I was coordinator and deputy scientific leader from 2008 to 2012, with Uppsala University as the host institution.
In parallel to this work I initiated an international collaboration in 2011, which led to the creation of the Environmental and Sustainability Education Research (ESER) Network. In 2013 ESER became an established research network that meets annually in conjunction with the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER). For the first four years (2013-16) I was the link convener for the network, which now consists of some 200 researchers from over 30 countries.
I am also an experienced and certified teacher of mathematics, chemistry, biology and the natural sciences at the nine-year compulsory- and upper secondary school levels. My accumulated skills and genuine interest in didactics have led to me being asked as a researcher and lecturer to run in-service courses and lead national and international educational projects. I have been responsible for development work in Denmark, Finland, India, Indonesia, China, Cameroon, Kenya, Mongolia, the UK, Sweden, Tanzania and Uganda. Research collaborations and presentations also include countries like Australia, Brazil, Canada, Malaysia and the USA.
I am interested in teaching content that integrates the key didactical questions of what, how and why. Teaching content consists of an integrated subject content (e.g. sustainable development) and a socialisation content, both of which are interesting to study from a teaching perspective. When teachers teach complex social issues with scientific content (so-called socio-scientific issues), they argue why these issues are important. The teacher’s answer to a pupil’s question ’Why should we learn this?’ is an important part of the socialisation content.
The answers open up for research studies that in different ways address the main purpose of the teaching, such as whether the pupils understand where the subject content is applicable, who can use it and why it is important to learn it. This also includes understanding which problems this knowledge can help to solve and what kind of knowledge pupils need to participate in the work. Apart from the teacher’s different verbal arguments, the socialisation content is created by how he or she carries out the teaching in practice. The teacher’s different actions are central in my studies: the extent to which the teaching is directed towards the outside world or environment and whether pupils are invited to be active co-creators in the teaching.
Data is collected by means of individual- and group interviews as well as audio- and video recordings in the classroom. The results show that over time teachers often develop different teaching habits based on their own personal views about the long-term purpose of their teaching. Knowledge about habits and anchor points is important in order to increase the possibilities for well reflected changes in their teaching practices.
Another research interest I have developed in recent years is to study teachers’ assessments of pupils’ practical abilities in connection with experimental work. These studies are carried out in the school laboratory during experimental work with the aid of static and mobile video equipment. Small mobile video cameras with microphones mounted on spectacle frames open up a whole new world for researchers to study teachers’ and pupils’ conversations and actions during practical work. The first studies are about discerning and describing the various difficulties and obstacles that teachers encounter when assessing pupils’ individual experimental competencies in a complex environment such as the laboratory.
Future research areas are to further develop the video methodology and conduct in-depth studies on the qualitative aspects of pupils’ practical skills. This research aims at understanding what it means to have good laboratory habits and how important this is for the teaching and learning of science.
My participation in different research projects
2017-2020. Research in subject-specific education, ROSE
Financed internally by Karlstad University following external reviews of different project proposals for the development of excellent research environments. ROSE consists of three research groups (language, history, mathematics and science), which together study the concepts transformation and powerful knowledge in different ways in different learning environments. I have 70 per cent research time for two years in sub-study 2, Consequences of the transformation into pluralism.
Sub-study 2 examines how the concept of sustainability/sustainable development is transformed/changed in connection with the implementation of the subject in nine-year compulsory schools. The preliminary plans/hypotheses are to study the practical consequences for teachers’ work when a pluralistic approach is implemented in education for sustainable development in connection with the changes introduced in the curriculum reform of 2011. As the reform has been in place for some time, some of the consequences of pluralism should now be visible. The research focus in the project is to study whether pluralistic approaches have increased compared to previous research studies. Has the curriculum reform meant that science teachers discuss pluralism in different ways or with different words/expressions when they talk about their teaching? What kind of role does subject knowledge have in a school that works in a more pluralistic way? How obvious is the implementation of a pluralistic approach in policy documents, curricula, national tests and the Swedish National Agency for Education’s annotations?
2013-2016. Language and science in large-scale tests, SONAT
The relation between trends in large‐scale science studies and how teaching and learning are constituted in science classrooms
Financed by the Wallenberg Foundations. In this project I had no research time but received economic support for materials, travel and national and international research seminars.
The results show that teachers dominate the oral space in the classroom, but that there is a tendency for girls to have a little more oral space in comparison to previous studies. It is difficult to find significant differences in classroom studies of the language use of pupils attending schools that perform differently in large-scale assessments. However, it is suggested that pupils at high-performance schools use several and more complicated concepts in their discussions about scientific issues. The studies show that there is a greater epistemological awareness of the conditions for producing and using scientific knowledge. One study shows that teachers find it difficult to make individual assessments of practical abilities in connection with large-scale tests in science.
2011-2014. National tests in biology, physics and chemistry: potential influence on teachers’ instruction and assessment
Financed by the Swedish Research Council. I had 25 per cent research time for the teacher studies. The host institution was Uppsala University. A research collaboration between Uppsala University and Mälardalen University.
The research project studied the significance of the introduction of national tests in science in 2009 and their impact on a school’s teaching and assessment. The results show that teachers consider that a new teaching content, such as argumentation and the planning of experiments, is implemented in schools through national tests. Teachers mainly relate to the content of the tests in three different ways, which can largely be understood with the aid of previous studies of teachers’ teaching habits in science. Groups of teachers discuss these aspects within a scientifically rational discourse when discussing what they consider to be good questions and exercises in national tests.
2013-2014. Green schools’ work to become model schools for sustainable development
Financed by Sida through the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). Research on the implementation of education for sustainable development in WWF’s model schools in East Africa (Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda) and Sagar Island, Sundurban, India.
The result shows that the implemented teaching content in an educational project is changed and adapted by teachers to the actual cultural context. The content changes character from an approach for the future to that of solving present needs.
2008-2012. The Swedish national Graduate school in Education and Sustainable Development (GRESD)
Financed by the Swedish Research Council. I had a 50 per cent work allocation as coordinator and deputy scientific leader. The host institution was Uppsala University. A research collaboration between eight academic institutions: Uppsala University, Mälardalen University, Lund University, Umeå University, Jönköping University, University of Gothenburg, Stockholm University and Örebro University.
Nine PhD students from nine institutions and several associate PhD students took part in three joint research study courses in Uppsala. The majority have now defended and completed their theses.
2009-2011. Implementation of education for sustainable development: the relation between normative supportive structures and student´s moral learning.
Financed by the Swedish Research Council. I had 25 per cent research time for the teacher studies. The host institution was Örebro University. A research collaboration between eight researchers from Örebro University, Mälardalen University, Lund University and Uppsala University.
The project studied the work of three upper secondary schools to implement education for sustainable development. The results showed that the school management played a central role in the long-term implementation work. The schools’ work to develop new approaches to the teaching of complex social issues required the active participation of experienced teachers. A further result was that student participation in the teaching and learning process did not always lead to a pluralism in the classroom discussions, but could also lead to a conformism and impoverishment of viewpoints.
Publications (selection) Per Sund
Eames, C., Sund, P., Gasparetto Higuchi, M. I., O’Donoghue, R., & Torres de Oliveira, H. (2017). Exploring the constitution of Environmental Education as situated critical processes of learning and change: A collaborative synthesis across diverse regional contexts. Brazilian Journal of Environmental Education.
Sund, P. & Sund, L. (2017)“Alla gör fel” – Hinder för lärares bedömning av elevers praktiska förmågor under ett nationellt prov. NorDiNa. No:1.
Lundqvist, E. and P. Sund (2016) Selective traditions in group discussions – teachers’ views about good science and the possible obstacles when encountering a new topic. Cultural Studies of Science Education DOI: 10.1007/s11422-016-9768-y
Sund, P. (2016) Science teachers’ mission impossible?: a qualitative study of obstacles in assessing students’ practical abilities. International Journal of Science Education DOI: 10.1080/09500693.2016.1232500
Sund, P. (2016). Discerning selective traditions in science education – A qualitative study of teachers’ responses to what is important in science teaching. Cultural Studies in Science Education, 11(2), 387-409.
Promoted to docent (associated professor) 2014 06 05
Sund, P., & Lysgaard, J. G. (2013). Reclaim ‘Education’ in Environmental and Sustainability Education Research. Sustainability, 5 (Special issue - Sustainability in Education: a Critical Reappraisal of Practice and Purpose, 1598-1616. doi: 10.3390/su5041598
Sund, P., & Wickman, P.-O. (2011b). Socialization content in schools and education for sustainable development- II. A study of students’ apprehension of teachers’ companion meanings in ESD, Environmental Education Research, 17(5), 625-650.
Sund, P., & Wickman, P.-O. (2011a). Socialization content in schools and education for sustainable development - I. A study of teachers’ selective traditions. Environmental Education Research, 17(5), 599-624.
Sund, P., & Wickman, P.-O. (2008). Teachers' objects of responsibility - something to care about in education for sustainable development? Environmental Education Research, 14(2), 145-163
Sund, P. (2008). Discerning selective traditions in the socialization content of environmental education - implications for education for sustainable development. School of Sustainable Development of Society and Technology. Eskilstuna, Mälardalen University. Doctoral thesis, Mälardalen University Press
Sund, P. (In Progress). Implementing a pluralistic ESD teaching approach in an East African context – an issue of social and educational outcomes
Sund, P. (2014). Att välja undervisningsinnehåll. In B. Jacobson, I. Lundegård & P.-O. Wickman (Eds.), Lärande i handling. Lund: Studentlitteratur.
Sund, P. (2008). Discerning the extras in ESD teaching: A democratic issue. In J. Öhman (Ed.), Values and Democracy in Education for Sustainable Development – Contributions from Swedish Research (pp. 57-74). Stockholm: Liber.
Sund, P. (2008). Hållbar utveckling inom lärarutbildning med naturvetenskaplig inriktning vid Mälardalens högskola In WWF (Ed.), Hållbar utveckling och lärande - en inspirationsskrift för universitetslärare (pp. 30-31). Stockholm: WWF education
Nyberg, E., & Sund, P. (2007). Executive summary. How to turn a barrier into a forceful driver for the future - Reflections from the workshop. In I. Björneloo & E. Nyberg (Eds.), Drivers and Barriers for Learning Sustainable Development in Pre-school, School and Teacher Education (Vol. 2007, pp. 13-17). Paris: UNESCO.
Sund, P. (2004). Why about What? Teachers' content selection in EE. In P. Wickenberg (Ed.), Learning to change our world? (pp. 217-221). Lund: Studentlitteratur.
Sund, P. & Sund, L. (2017) Hållbar utveckling – ämnesdidaktisk tematisering för grundskolan. (Sustainable development – thematic subject education for compulsory school for teacher students and in service training). Liber Stockholm.
Sund, P. & Svanberg, S. (2014) A successful implementation of ESD – How to design a seminar. WWF handbook. WWF Sweden, Education
Sellgren, G. & Sund, P et al (2012) Methodologies for the future – a guide to develop education for sustainable development. Stockholm: WWF education
International reviewed conference papers
Sund, P. (2017) Exploring the constitution of Environmental Education as situated, critical processes of learning and change: A collaborative synthesis across diverse regional contexts. Paper presentation at European Conference Educational Research, ECER ”. Reforming Education and the Imperative of Constant Change: Ambivalent roles of policy and educational research”, Aug 22-25 in Copenhagen, Denmark
Sund, P & Sund, L. (2016) ”Alla gör fel!” – Hinder för lärares bedömning av elevers praktiska förmågor under ett nationellt prov. Paper presentation under “Nordisk forskningskonferens om miljö och hållbarhetsutbildning”. 27-28 oktober, Örebro. Sverige
Sund, P. (2016) Assessing environmental and sustainability education in times of accountability, measurement and evidence. Paper presentation at a session European Conference on Educational Research, ECER "Leading Education: The Distinct Contributions of Educational Research and Researchers", Sept 22-26 in Dublin, Ireland
Sund, P. (2015) All Our Relations": Respecting People and Scholarship. Round table, European Conference on Educational Research, ECER ”Education and Transition – Contributions from Educational Research”, Sept 8th -11th in Budapest Hungary
Sund, P. (2015) Science teacher group discussions – the forming of consensus and the exclusion of ESE related Issues, Paper presentation in a symposium European Conference on Educational Research, ECER ”Education and Transition - Contributions from Educational Research”, Sept 8-11 in Budapest Hungary
Sund, P. (2015) The constitution of critical environmental education processes. At the 13th Invitational seminar on environmental education research, What is critical about contemporary ‘critical’ environmental education research: theoretical challenges, tensions, applications, methodological implications? July 13th -17th , Bertioga, Sao Paulo, Brazil
Sund, P & Lysgaard, J. (2015) Reclaim “Education” in Environmental and Sustainability Education Research. World Environmental Congress, WEEC8, ‘Planet and Planet- How can they develop together?’, June 29th – July 2nd , Gothenburg Sweden
Sund, P (2015) Reclaim “Education” in Environmental and Sustainability Education Research - continuity and change. Symposium at the World Environmental Congress, WEEC8, Planet and Planet - How can they develop together?’, June 29th – July 2nd , Gothenburg. Sweden
Sund, P. (2014) Socio-scientific issues in national tests – discerning selective traditions science teaching. On The ECER Conference. The Past, Present and Future of Educational Research in Europe. Sept 2nd- 5th, Porto, Portugal
Sund, P. (2013) The way from being a ‘green school’ to become an ‘ESD-school’ – A comparison of teaching between Sweden and East Africa. On The ECER Conference ‘Creativity and Innovation in Educational Research’. Sept 10-13th, Istanbul, Turkey
Lundqvist, E.; Lidar, M.; Almqvist, J. & Sund, P. (2013) National tests in biology, physics and chemistry: potential influence on teachers’ teaching practices. On the National Association for Research in Science Teaching (NARST) Conference, April 6-9th Puerto Rico, USA
Sund, P. (2012) ESD-school teachers’ anchor points for their arguments regarding teaching purposes, on the“The Need for Educational Research to Champion Freedom, Education and Development for All”, Sep 18-21 Cádiz, Spain
Sund, P. (2011) Teachers’ Value-laden Content and Teaching Traditions in Environmental Education, on the 5th Beijing International Forum on Education for Sustainable Development – “Philosophy and Educational Reform for Sustainable Development”. October 16 – 18, 2011 Beijing, P.R.China
Sund, P (2011) Study of Teachers’ Value-laden Socialization Content, The European Conference on Educational Research, ECER, Urban Education, 13-16 September, Berlin, Germany
Sund, P (2011) Workshop session: Swedish trends and voices – building a critical mass of scholars, research for values, pluralism, democracy at 11th Invitational seminar on research development in environmental and health education – Positioning Environmental Education Research for 2015 and Beyond: Knowledge Value and Integrity, Intergenerational and Globalization Issues, July 13th – 16th, Monash University, Australia
Sund, P (2010) The extras: content communicated through teachers’ ESD-Approach. The International conference on ’Education for Sustainable Development’, Aug 30-Sep 3, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
Sund,P. (2009) Discerning the socialization content of environmental education – implications for education for sustainable development, World conference on environmental education, May 10-14, Montreal, Canada.
Sund, P. (2008) The extras: content communicated to students through teachers’ ESD-Approach, All our Futures, Sep 8-11, Plymouth, UK
Sund, P. (2007) Introducing ESDA and the importance of socialisation content: an empirical study which defuses the worry for ESD teachers at school level. Paper presented at the 4th International Conference on Environmental Education. Environmental Education towards a Sustainable Future – Partners for the Decade of Education for Sustainable Development, Nov 24-28, CEE, Ahmedabad, India
Sund, P. (2007) What and how: extras in ESD communicated by teachers. Paper presented at the ESERA-conference Aug21-25, Malmö University, Sweden
Sund, P. (2007) The Extras in Education for Sustainable Development: Content Communicated by Teachers. Paper presented at the 13th Annual International Sustainable Development Research Conference. June 10-12, Mälardalens University, Sweden.
Sund, P. (2006). Content issues in ESD: Teachers' Content Emphases and the Progress of Content. Paper presented at the IOSTE XII Symposium, Science and Technology Education in the Service of Humankind, July 30- Aug 4 Penang, Malaysia.
Sund, P. (2004). What and Why? Upper Secondary Teachers' Content Selection in Environmental Education. Paper presented at the XI IOSTE Symposium, "Science and Technology Education for a Diverse World- dilemmas, needs and partnerships", July 25th-30th, Lublin, Poland.