Course Syllabus

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Semester & Location:

Fall 2023 - DIS Copenhagen

Type & Credits:

Core Course - 3 credits

Study Tours:

Western Denmark

Helsinki, Finland

Major Disciplines:

Child Development, Education/Educational Studies, Human Development



Faculty Members:

Nanna Duchêne (current students please contact via the Canvas Inbox)

Program Contact:

Department email address

Time & Place:

Time: Mondays 8.30-11.25

Classroom: V23-301


Course Description

This course focuses on central ideas and practices when working with children and youth in educational and social contexts in Scandinavia. It addresses the contemporary issues facing professionals working with children and youth, as well as how education, upbringing and care in Scandinavian countries differ from approaches in the rest of the world. Class discussions are addressed through the lenses of public policy, educational theories, and practitioner perspectives.

In class you will investigate burning issues such as how to include children’s and youths’ perspectives on their own lives, and how to implement values such as trust, freedom, independence and solidarity in families, schools and general education in a Scandinavian contexts. In class you will also gain an insight into topics such as pros and cons of free play, the role of nature in childhood development and general education, democracy in schools, the views of childhood and youth in Scandinavian film and literature, family and social politics, and diversity and cultural differences in an educational and social context amongst other.

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) and High Schools.   A foundation for the course is exploring the theories for each topic presented, and then consider how to apply them to professional practice when working with children and youth in a variety of capacities.   The experiences and observations from study tours and field studies, as well as cases and video observations will be integrated into discussions 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 childhood development and 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.

  • practice active participation as seen in a Scandinavian context


Nanna Duchene: Ma. Ed. Phil. (Philosophy of Education 2012 from Aarhus University Denmark). External lecturer  for several years at Aarhus University. Currently also Associated Professor at University College South within disciplines: Philosophy of Education, General Education and Children with special needs. Several years of experience as Editor of Journals on Education. With DIS since 2021. Teaches the subjects: 'Childhood Development and Education - general and practicum' and 'Learning in Scandinavian Classrooms'.


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, 1 meal 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.

Core Course Week & Short Tour

  • Destination: Odense and Billund (Lego-House)
  • Academic visits: An Efterskole, H.C. Andersen's Play Universe, and Lego House
  • PurposeGain 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.   

Long Study Tour

  • Destination: Helsinki
  • PurposeGain an insight into Finnish education and Culture and investigate what the contributing factors are for one of the highest evaluated education systems in the world.

Field Studies

During the semester we will be visiting a Daycare, a Highschool, the Experimentarium, and The Greenlandic House.

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, and reflected on in writing beforehand . 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 field studies, study tours and everyday life and link these experiences with theory and research discussed in class. 

For more specific details see below 'Active participation and engagement'. 

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.

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


Students will be evaluated throughout the term using a variety of methods.  All students are expected to actively participate in class, which will form part of their grading.  Students will also be required to complete various individual or group assignments throughout the term.

Absence from class 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.




Active participation and engagement 



Assignment A (reflection on an observation from CCW)

 See Calendar


Assignment B (Ed. in Finland)

 See Calendar


Assignment C (An article for the CDD Journal) 

See Calendar 





Active participation and engagement. In Scandinavia most teachers base their didactical decisions on the believe that when students experience an influence on the teaching, that is what (content) and how (methods) and with who they might be working together with (organization), it increases their engagement or motivation to participate, and they experience having a more active role. 

At the same time, it also means that the teacher expects and encourage the students to be actively co-determining in their own learning process, that they participate in class discussions, that they provide input in the form of questions to the teacher and peers, that they seek to have an impact on teaching methods, teaching content and overall  curriculum design, and last but not least: that they support everybody's feeling of belonging to a community in the classroom.

Please note that since this course has its center around Scandinavian pedagogy active participation and engagement as described above counts more than usual.

In The first (A) assignment (Observation from Core Course Week) you are to reflect on an observation from the short study tour and your immediate thoughts on differences and similarities between Danish and American views on Child Development and Education. This is an individual and written assignment.

The second (B) assignment (Ed. in Finland) you and your study group presents a topic concerning childhood development and education in Finland. This is a performative assignment. 

In the third (D) assignment (An article for our CDD Journal).  In this assignment you are to Write an article suitable for publication in the magazine The Comenius Journal. The Comenius Association is an international network of European institutions of higher education specialized in Teacher Training and Social Education and every year The Comenius Journal is being published by this association. All student articles will be collected in a Class publication ( CDD Journal) and will be handed out at the end of the semester.


The texts for this course can be found in 'Modules' through Canvas. In Calender you can see which text to prepare for each class. Note that some of the text mentioned below will be optional.

  • Bowlby, J. (1988). Chapter 7: The role of attachment in personality development. A secure base: Parent-child attachment and healthy human development, 119-136.
  • Brogaard-Clausen and Ringsmose (2017): The Professional Identity of the Danish Pedagogue: Historical Root in an Education with Focus on Democracy, Creativity, Dannelse and a ‘Childhood Logic’. In: Nordic Social Pedagogical Approach to Early Years
  • Bundy, A. (2010). Ten Ways to Restrict Children's Freedom to Play: The Problem of Surplus Safety. Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood, 11(3), 263-277.
  • Hedegaard-Sørensen, Lotte and Sine penthin Grumløse (2021): …But it is a completely different school - The status of inclusion in the Danish Folkeskole in a learning-focused school policy (p.74-82). You’re welcome. An introduction to the Danish Folkeskole. UP Nr.2.
  • Horst, Christian & Thomas Gitz‐Johansen (2010): Education of ethnic minority children in Denmark: monocultural hegemony and counter positions, Intercultural Education, 137-151.
  • Hygum, Erik (2010): To be or not to be – the child as a human being. In: Erik Hygum and Peter Møller Pedersen: Early Childhood Education - Values and Practices in Denmark. Hans Reitzels Forlag.
  • Højholt, Charlotte (2018): Children’s perspectives and learning communities: Hedegaard (Ed.):Children, Childhood, and Everyday Life: Children’s Perspectives, 2nd Edition, 2018 (p.93-111).
  • Jensen, B.B. & Schnack, K. (1994). Action Competence as an Educational Challenge. I: K. Schnack (red.), Action and action competence as key concepts in critical pedagogy (s. 5-18 af 214 s.). Royal Danish School of Educational Studies.
  • Kragh-Müller, Grethe and Rebecca Isbell (2017): Children’s Perspectives on Their Everyday Lives in Child Care in Two Cultures: Denmark and the United State. In:  C. Ringsmose, G. Kragh-Müller (eds.), Nordic Social Pedagogical Approach to Early Years, International Perspectives on Early Childhood Education and Development.
  • Ministry of Children and Education (2022): Early Childhood Education and Care system. The Danish ECEC System & Primary and Lower Secondary Education. The Folkeskole, private schools and more.
  • Ministry of Children and Education (2022): Ministerial directions for Sex Education
  • Oetingen, A. von (2021): Terrible Play. Terrible pedagogy. Reitzels forlag, Copenhagen
  • Oettingen, Alexander von: Didaktik and Citizenship - principles for a didactic on citizenship (p. 17-28). In: UP (2021). You're welcome. An introduction to the Danish Folkeskole. UP Nr.2
  • Sandseter, Ellen and Olav Lysklett: Chapter 7. Outdoor Education in the Nordic Region. In:  C. Ringsmose, G. Kragh-Müller (eds.), Nordic Social Pedagogical Approach to Early Years, International Perspectives on Early Childhood Education and Development 
  • The national wellbeing survey amongst Danish children and youth (2022).
  • Volmari: Basic education in the Nordic region. similar values. Different politics.
  • Wagner, J. T. (2006). An outsider’s perspective. Childhoods and early education in the Nordic countries. W: J. Einarsdottir. JT Wagner (red.), Nordic childhoods and early education, 289-306.
  • Wilson, R. (2012). Nature and young children: Encouraging creative play and learning in natural environments (second edition).  New York,
  • Winther-Lindqvist, D. A. (2017). The role of play in Danish childcare. Nordic social pedagogical approach to early years(pp. 95-114). Springer, Cham.


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