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Aesthetic dimensions in the school subject Swedish

Conference contribution
Authors Katharina Dahlbäck
Published in NERA konferens 23-25 mars, Köpenhamn
Publication year 2017
Published at Department of Pedagogical, Curricular and Professional Studies
Language en
Keywords Subject Swedish, music, aesthetic, literacy, curriculum, action research, multimodality, participation, critical discourse analysis
Subject categories Educational Sciences


This thesis explores aesthetic dimensions in the school subject Swedish in classroom, curricula and teachers’ perceptions. In focus is the question about young, multimodal pupils’ (7-9 years old) possibilities to use different modalities in order to express themselves, communicate and learn. The overarching aim is to highlight obstacles and opportunities to include aesthetic expressions in the subject Swedish. Aesthetic forms of expression refer to both physical and virtual forms of literature, music, fine arts, film and dance. Using data obtained from action research, curricula and interviews, examined within a framework of sociocultural and socio-semiotic multimodal theory the thesis provides an analysis of pupils´ possibilities to create meaning through different sign systems. Three studies are included in the thesis. Study one, “Music and Language in Interaction - An Action Research Study of First-Grade Pupils” describes the ways children participate, communicate and interact in a structured program with music and language activities. The result shows common features of both music and language, such as sound elements, rhythm, melody, syntax and meaning and how language and music activities in interaction contain a rich variety of communication and semiotic resources. Study two, “Aesthetic interests and communicative forms, a curriculum study of Swedish as a school subject” examines how aesthetic perspectives of the subject Swedish appear in curricula from 1969 to 2011. Critical discourse analysis shows that these communicative forms are included in the curriculum Lgr 80, but reduced in earlier and later curricula. Study three, “Aesthetic interests and subject content, a study of teachers' perceptions of Swedish as a school subject” consider, through critical discourse analysis, how six teachers position themselves in different discourses regarding their view of language and their school context. The combined results of the three studies highlights a tension between different discourses, more specifically between a skill discourse and a multimodal discourse. In these studies written language and it´s hegemonic status is reproduced in classroom, curricula and teachers´ perceptions. Thus, different modalities can be seen in a vertical view, with written language as the “highest” form, or a horizontal view where expressions are equal, but useful for different purposes. The thesis shows that a skill-oriented subject Swedish dominates, but also that there are teachers, and school communities, who include the aesthetic means of expression in their teaching of Swedish. Literacy is associated with learning, social, creative, critical and democratic aspects and thus, discussion of aesthetic expressions is relevant to the Swedish subject. Pupils’ abilitities to participate in, and master, different literacies could be regarded as a democratic right. Hence, the thesis raises the question of possibilities to develop a multimodal subject of Swedish.

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