Sambandet mellan kunskap och kritiskt tänkande- en empirisk studie av elevers svar på samhällskunskapsfrågor


  • Kristoffer Larsson Institutionen för didaktik och pedagogisk profession, Göteborgs universitet
  • Klas Andersson Institutionen för didaktik och pedagogisk profession, Göteborgs universitet


Critical thinking, Knowledge, Generalists, Specifists, Social Studies


What critical thinking is and what is required in order to think critically, has been the focus of a long-lasting debate. One central controversy has concerned what role knowledge of the object to be thought about plays when to thinking critically. So called “generalists” have proposed that there is no need for any deeper knowledge regarding the object to thinking critically about; the central thing being to apply generic principles for critical thinking. So called “specifists” have, on the contrary, claimed that knowledge about the object in fact is the vehicle for being able to think critically. What characterize this debate is that it almost exclusively has been held on a theoretical level, with no substantial empirical evidence underpinning neither position. In the study reported we aimed to contribute empirically to the debate. 91 9th grade students participated in the study. Using essay tasks from the Swedish national tests in social studies, the students were asked to think critically about two social issues: wage differences and voting age. At the same time, we tested the student knowledge about these two issues. We used OLS regression analysis to estimate the relationship between knowledge and critical thinking ability for the two issues. The relationship was tested 191 times (90 times for wage differences, 91 times for voting age). The result is inconclusive, with no significant relationship for wage differences and significant relationship for voting age. Thus, the result gives neither the generalists nor the specifists right in their theoretical assumptions about the role of knowledge in critical thinking. The truth might possibly lie somewhere in between. Further research is needed.


Kristoffer Larsson, Institutionen för didaktik och pedagogisk profession, Göteborgs universitet

Kristoffer Larsson has a PhD in subject matter didactics with a special focus on social science. His main research interest is on critical thinking, both the philosophical side and how it can be promoted in educational settings. He also heads the Swedish national tests in religious education.

Klas Andersson, Institutionen för didaktik och pedagogisk profession, Göteborgs universitet

Klas Andersson works as a senior lecturer in subject matter education specializing social sciences. His research interest is focused on teaching and learning social studies, but he is also interested in school and education in a broader perspective. He mainly teaches courses on the Elementary Teacher Program.