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Understanding, acting, verbalizing and persevering - Swedish teachers' perspectives on important ethical competences for students

Journal article
Authors Annika Lilja
Christina Osbeck
Published in Journal of Moral Education
ISSN 0305-7240
Publication year 2019
Published at Department of Pedagogical, Curricular and Professional Studies
Language en
Keywords Ethical competence, teachers’ perspectives, ethical voices, compulsory school
Subject categories


The delicate question of teaching ethics in compulsory school regained urgency in Sweden in 2013 when national tests were introduced in religious education, of which ethics is a part. In this article, a variety of ethical competences that teachers want their students to develop are presented, based on group interviews with 46 teachers. Grounded theory analyses show four main categories of ethical competence—to understand, to act, to verbalize and to persevere—which furthermore differ in what they are being directed towards. In addition, the categories are interpreted in relation to the ethical voices of Benhabib, Nussbaum, Løgstrup and Singer. The study shows that teachers view ethical competence as a combination of specific competences and certain directions that these competences work in defence of, indicating a broader perspective than the one shown in the national syllabus, which in turn supports previous research emphasizing teachers’ nuanced understanding of ethical concepts.

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