We would like to believe that in the Nordic countries and the German-speaking world subject didactics (ämnesdidaktik, fagdidaktik, Sachdidaktik) appears intelligible as a conceptual category and legitimate as a field of scientific enquiry to many, or most, of our colleagues in the faculties of education and the faculties of humanities and social sciences. As to where the specialists of subject didactics are located, there are also in the Nordic countries various organisational and institutional solutions. In some cases subject didactics specialists are mostly found in the faculties of pedagogy or teacher education, in some other they are likely to be in the faculties of humanities and social sciences, depending on their disciplinary background.
These different solutions have both advantages and disadvantages. In the first, there are probably better opportunities to integrative collaboration between specialists of subject didactics of different subjects, and also educational sciences may provide a congenial environment for theoretical, conceptual and empirical work within subject didactics. However in that institutional framework it is also possible that educational sciences, including educational psychology, set the premises to relevant research on teaching and education in such ways that it relegates subject didactics to the margins of educational research and calls it into question as a useful conceptual category. In cases where subject didactics is located in the faculties of ’substance disciplines’, it may be easier for a subject didactics specialist to speak the same language and share interests regarding research topics with colleagues. On the other hand, distance from the world of education and teaching is likely to grow and the opportunities to cross boundaries between different subjects’ didactics may be few.
Under these circumstances it is as important as ever to sustain communities of subject didactics, like the journal Nordidactica and the Nordic NoFa conferences. We urge our readers to contribute to these shared activities and to continue waving the flag of subject didactics in all appropriate – why not also inappropriate – contexts!
This issue is a fine example of several challenges – but also opportunities – that discipline-based education and its didactic research encounter in the Nordic context. It offers interesting examples of the ways in which education of humanities and social sciences can be explored. The issue starts with Jon Magne Vestøl’s article ‘On teaching what cannot be said’. He discusses the ways in which religious education can address themes that transcend the limits of verbal communication. Also the second article of this issue comes from the Norwegian context. Alexandre Dessingué examines how the concept of cultural heritage is defined and used in the curricula of three school subjects: Norwegian language, Religious Studies and Ethics, and Social Sciences. The third article takes us to the Swedish context: Per Eliasson and Kenneth Nordgren ask ‘What are the conditions for intercultural history teaching in the Swedish compulsory school?’ The article is based on the quantitative survey on teachers’ thinking about the subject of History and its conditions. The fourth article examines recent changes in the Finnish comprehensive school curriculum from the viewpoint of geography. Markus Hilander investigates the blurred concept of geo-media that has been implemented in the new curricula for both lower and secondary geography.
We take this opportunity to thank our readers and colleagues for the two years when we have had the privilege of being the editors of Nordidactica!
Jan Löfström & Sirpa Tani