Course Syllabus

Child Development and Education in Scandinavia

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Child Development in Scandinavia, Core Course

Semester & Location:

 Fall 2021 - DIS Copenhagen

Type & Credits:

Core Course - 3 credits

Core Course Study Tours:

Helsinki, Finland

Corequisite Course:

Child Development and Education in Scandinavia Practicum

Major Disciplines:

Child Development, Education/Educational Studies, Human Development



Faculty Members:

Jonathan Kolding Karnøe and Nanna Duchene

(current students please use the Canvas Inbox to contact)

Program Director:

Neringa Vendelbo -

Time & Place:

Mondays 8:30 - 11:25 in V23-301 

Description of Course

This course focuses on the central aspects of childhood development in Scandinavia. It addresses the contemporary issues facing professionals working with children, as well as how services for children in Scandinavian countries differ from approaches in the rest of the world. Class discussions are addressed through the lenses of public policy, current research, and practitioner perspectives.

Burning issues such as the pros and cons of free play, the role of nature in childhood, teacher/padagog-pupil relationsship, teacher roles, children perspectives and inclusion will serve as the foundation for class discussions, practicum, and field studies. These approaches will also be integrated by using visits on study tours as case studies, within the global context of child developmentn and education.

Overall, this course will focus on theories and practices related to early childhood education and care (ECEC) , up through public school and adolescence (children ages 0-16).   A foundation for the course is exploring the theories for each topic presented, and then applying them to professional practice when working with children in a variety of capacities.   The experiences and observations from study tours and field studies will be integrated into discussions in order to highlight the connections between theory and practice. 

Learning Objectives

By the end of this course students in this class will...

  • Identify the main characteristics of a Nordic pedagogical approach to education as it is understood within a larger international context.
  • Apply the terms and concepts discussed in class to hands-on experiences and observations from field studies, study tour visits, and practical examples.
  • Analyze how approaches to childhood, care-taking and education can be challenged from a cross-cultural perspective.
  • Creatively and critically evaluate how Nordic perspectives can be used to investigate policies, pedagogies, and cultural structures related to education in the US and abroad.
  • Engage with the course material based on their own interdisciplinary perspectives, both individually as an active participant in the course, as well as cooperatively with peers.
  • participate in class discussions with teachers and peers


Jonathan Kolding Karnø: M.A. Project Management and Change Management (MPF, Roskilde University, 2018).  Cand. psych. (Psychologist, University of Copenhagen, 2014). Associate professor at University College Absalon with teaching, research, and training responsibilities within the fields: children with special needs and organizational psychology. Author of several publications about psychology. Experience as a pedagogue from psychiatry, schools for children with special needs, and family-support institutions. With DIS in 2015, and again since 2021. 

Nanna Duchene: Master of Arts (Cand.) in Philosophy of Education 2012 from Aarhus University Denmark.   Associate Professor at University College South within disciplines: Philosophy of Education, Teaching Theory and Children with special needs. Several years of experience as Editor of Journals on Education. With DIS since 2021. 

Class Representatives

Each semester DIS looks for class representatives to become an official spokesperson for their class, addressing any concerns that may arise (in academic or related matters), suggesting improvements and coming up with new ideas. Class representatives are a great way for DIS faculty to ensure better and timelier feedback on their courses, assessments and teaching styles, and as such perform an invaluable role in connecting student needs with faculty instruction during term time. Class Representatives will be elected in class at the beginning of the semester (during the short trip  first study tour).

Guest Lecturers

At certain points in the course, guest lecturers may be invited to provide their experience and expertise on select topics being covered in class.

Approach to Teaching

The class will be seen as a community of learners, who have the opportunity to share interests and learn from one another. The academic content and the socialization among students and teacher are integrally connected, and we use discussions of group dynamics in the class as an element of academic learning. 

A class will be planned based on theory and research articles students have read prior to the class. Different pedagogical and didactical tools will be used, which the group will reflect upon, and students will be asked to bring back ideas, thoughts and reflections from practicum, field studies and everyday life and link these experiences with theory and research discussed in class. Teaching strategies can include peer led discussions, group work, cooperative exercises etc.

Expectations of the Students

You are expected to:

  • Complete readings or other assigned materials prior to each class.
  • Demonstrate engagement, responsibility, and independence.
  • Contribute to an open, respectful, and encouraging class environment where all members of the class community participate actively and thoughtfully.
  • Navigate Canvas to find Assignment Guidelines and Syllabus information throughout the semester.

Study Tours

Core Course week and study tours are an integral part of the core course and the aim is to build the bridge between theory from classes to practice in the field. You will travel with your classmates and DIS faculty/staff on two study tours; a short study tour in Denmark during Core Course Week and a long study tour to Finland.

While on a program study tour, DIS will provide accommodation, transportation to and from destinations, approx. 2 meals per day and entrances, guides, and visits relevant to your area of study or the destination. You will receive a more detailed itinerary prior to departure.

 Travel Policies

You are required to travel with your group to the destination. If you have to deviate from the group travel plans, you need approval from the program director and the study tours office.   

Core Course Week & Short Tour

  • Purpose: Gain a more in-depth understanding of childhood, care and education outside of Copenhagen. The visits will be integrated into the academic content of the course.   
  • Orientation: Activities and visits will be presented the week before departure along with your responsibilities and itinerary for the week.

Long Study Tour

  • Purpose: Explore the programs designed for children in Finland to investigate what the contributing factors are for one of the highest evaluated education systems in the world.
  • Orientation: Activities and visits will be presented the week before departure along with your responsibilities and itinerary for the week.


Students in this course are required to take the Child Development in Scandinavia Practicum class as a co-requisite. Students will be placed in a Danish childcare or school for 40-45 hours during the semester, where they will work directly with children. 

Please see the Practicum syllabus for more details.


To be eligible for a passing grade in this class, you must complete all of the assigned work. If nothing else is mentioned, an assignment is due before midnight on the mentioned date.

Methods of Evaluation



Attendance & Participation






Academic Presentations (long tour)

On tour


Final Presentations 

End of semester





Assignment Submission

Assignments are submitted via Canvas unless otherwise noted. It is your own responsibility to check if assignments are correctly uploaded. If you have any Internet - or computer trouble you are expected to contact the instructor and make arrangements for handing in the submission. 

Attendance & Participation (20% in all)

Attendance is mandatory for all scheduled classes and field studies. This grade includes presence in class, being on time, and handing in papers on time. The final attendance grade will build on the system presented below:


Points deducted out of 100

Excused late class

2 points

Unexcused late

5 points

Excused absence

10 points

Unexcused absence

15 points

Late assignments

5 points for each late day (submission will receive an F if it is more than 1 week late)

These point deductions are applied to classes, but ALSO study tours, study tour visits, and field studies.

Absence will only be excused in serious situations, but informing your faculty regarding your attendance is always necessary. Unexcused absences include travelling or an absence that has not been discussed with the faculty.  Regardless of whether lateness is excused or unexcused, it is still disruptive to the class and you miss out on relevant information. Please note that missing one class is equivalent of missing two classes in other courses, since this course only meets once a week.

You are expected to complete the required readings prior to each class, and to engage in class and group discussions. Active participation also includes showing interest and a well-prepared attitude towards the subject and a respectful attitude towards the class environment, peers and faculty. To achieve a high participation grade (and to accommodate both introvert and extrovert students) you will have to contribute to class discussions often, both in class and through Canvas.  This includes:

  • Active and verbal participation in class discussions, group work and field studies.
  • Engagement during study tours + field studies; asking good questions and paying attention (also when it becomes hard, everyone is tired and things feel slow).
  • Being attentive towards supporting the flow of the class.
  • Sharing connections and ideas during group work (in an individual dialogue/smaller setting).
  • Active support and facilitation of other students’ contributions (display listening skills, open-mindedness, and support).
  • Uploading reflections or comments on Canvas – including related articles or materials you find elsewhere.
  • Actively commenting on peer uploads or other contributions on Canvas.

Portfolio (20%)

During the course you will work in/fill out a portfolio. This work will be done in groups and other students as well as faculty members will have access.

The goal with the portfolio is to:

  • apply the theory
  • scaffold your work  before, in and after class
  • enhance group collaboration in relation to topics

There will be a variety of task in the portfolio. I can be discussions, application of theory, research exercises and other ways of supporting the learning process for the groups as well as for the individual student. 

There will not be given feedback on the portfolio, but your faculty members will continuously follow your work progress in the portfolio. 

Academic Presentations (Long Tour) (30%)

Prior to the study tour to Helsinki you will investigate one or two academic topic related to childhood, education and care in Finland. You will present this topic along with your group in class the week before departure.  

The investigated topics (one topic per group)

  1. The school system (NOT ECEC) + PISA, Achievement
  2. Teacher Education
  3. Welfare State 
  4. Finnish approaches to the Special Needs area
  5. ECEC Curriculum – children 0-5
  6. ECEC Curriculum – children 5-6

The expectations and group sign-ups will happen during a workshop before the first travel break, in order to review assignment requirements and allow enough preparation time.  See course calendar for more information.

Final Presentation (30%)

At the end of the semester, you will write a paper and present it orally in class for faculty and peers. The final presentation is done in group.

The paper should be 5 pages long (1 page = 2.400 characters with spaces). The paper should consist of a research problem related to a self-experienced case from your practicum.

The goal is through a research problem to understand your own case. You are expected to use theory in your analysis of the case. So, by using theory you try to answer your research problem. The research problem (and theory) can relate to one or more of the following three topics: didactics, relation work or classroom management.

You will receive guidance in relation to the paper writting.


Use of Laptops or Phones in Class

Computers are allowed in class for note-taking purposes or other use that supports the class or personal learning. Using laptops for private means, such as social media, emails or internet surfing, will have a negative impact on your participation grade. Phones are expected to be turned off and kept away during classes. You are also expected to keep phones away during your practicum visits and on study tours during visits and meals. Make sure you have other ways to take notes.



There are two textbook for this course:

Ringsmose, C., & Kragh-Müller, G. (Eds.) (2017). Nordic social pedagogical approach to early years. Cham: Springer. International perspectives on early childhood education and development, Vol.. 15

UP (2021). You're welcome. An introduction to the Danisch Folkeskole. Årgang 82, Nr.2. 

The remaining texts for this course can be found online through Canvas. Texts listed under the ‘Course Schedule’ are expected to be read prior to the specific class. 


We all have a collective responsibility to avoid the spread of COVID-19 at DIS.  Please monitor yourself carefully for symptoms of COVID-19 (dry cough, high temperature, breathing difficulties, sore throat, headache, muscle pain).  If you experience any of these symptoms, please stay at home and inform your instructor that you won’t be in class or at a field study – this will count as an excused absence.  Do keep up with your coursework and join activities via distance learning, if you are able to.  If you are too sick to do work, please reach out to the DIS Care team at for medical support and coordinate with faculty about how you can make up missed class time. 

Academic Regulations  

Please make sure to read the Academic Regulations on the DIS website. There you will find regulations on: 

DIS - Study Abroad in Scandinavia -

Course Summary:

Date Details Due