Previous projects

  • Conditions of existence for pupils who suffers from social anxiety

  • Daycare Education In A Time Of Crisis

  • Teacher Work and Social Pedagogy

  • The “disturbing” child as field of intervention for professionals in and around the school. A study of the dynamics of professional knowledge between pupils, professionals and state

  • Welfare Work towards Children in Care

  • Welfare work with failed asylum-seeking families and children

  • Welfare work with ‘immigrant and refugee women’ – a study of the dynamics and relations of welfare work

  • Experienced coercion: experiences of self-determination, care and coercion by persons with intellectual disabilities in residential care


Pupils’ communities and included pupils’ ways of being and becoming pupils and classmates after the act of inclusion

The project is carried out by PhD fellow Malene Kubstrup Nelausen, Section of Education, University of Copenhagen. The project is funded by the Danish Research Council for Independent Research: Culture and Communication (DFF/FKK)

The aim of the project is to characterize and examine pupil-formed communities in an inclusive school context and the project has a special focus on children’s perspectives on school life in inclusive education. The PhD-project takes its part of departure in an Act of Inclusion which was passed by the Danish Parliament in 2012. The act means that children with special needs (e.g., children diagnosed with ADD, ADHD and autism) have to attend the common public school instead of special needs classes or special schools.

The project is  based on an ethnographic inspired fieldwork in a public school and the focus is on children in two different school classes and their everyday life in the school, in the after school day care and in their spare time. The empirical material contains field notes, interviews with pupils, pupils’ drawings and photos taken by the pupils. The project applies a poststructuralist/social constructionist frame of reference and has an analytic focus on narratives and positioning. 

The role of psychiatry in the schooling system in the welfare state (2017-2020)

This project is carried out by Associate Professor Bjørn Hamre, Section of Education, University of Copenhagen. The project has been supported by the Research fund at Aarhus University (AAUF).

The aim of this project is to contribute with a historical analysis of the importance of psychiatry in the differentiation process in the schooling system as well as in the Danish welfare state as a whole. Whereas a number of analyses have examined the historical significance of educational psychology in the sorting of students in schools, the function of child psychiatry and school psychiatry in the process is underexposed. The hypothesis of the project is that the emerging psychiatry and the foundation of the collaboration between professions around children considered problematic was of significant importance as a normalization power in the schooling system and in the welfare state. The project constructs the school as a field in which images of normality and deviation can be analyzed. Analytically, the differentiation processes of the schooling system and welfare state is constructed from a historical and poststructuralist position that draws on concepts such as biopolitics, discipline, security, governance and problematization.

Psychiatry's presence in the schooling system from the 1930s onwards can thus be analyzed in the form of interactions with other professionals of the school and the welfare state (teachers, school psychologists and social workers), as well as through the establishment of different types of institutionalization. These include counseling clinics, testing practices, school psychiatric consultancies and child psychiatric treatment departments at hospitals. In the constitution of collaborations between professionals and in the formation of the new institutional practices, psychiatry became important in the development of technologies addressing deviancy in the emerging welfare state.

The mindset of child psychiatry in Scandinavia in the 1940s onwards was influenced from psychoanalysis and the international mental hygienic movement.  This influence problematized the assumptions of degeneration that characterized psychiatry at the beginning of the 20th century, and led to a more environmental-oriented interpretation of mental illness. This mindset developed in interaction within Danish and Nordic networks in which psychiatrists, educational psychologists and progressive educators were participating. Through the establishment of new professional collaborations, research practices and institutional contexts, new ideas of the individuality of the child developed and were transformed into new ways of handling, differentiating and institutionalizing deviation in schooling and in the construction of the welfare state's concept of normality.

In line with a poststructuralist view, the state can be analyzed as a power producing constructions of normality and discipline as well as constructions of deviation and security technologies to handle and prevent problems to arise. The function of psychiatry is analyzed as a discourse and field in the tension between mechanisms of discipline and security. The project includes a quantitative and qualitative analysis of psychiatry categorizations of pupils in the period 1950-1980, as well as how the categorizations relate to the problems of other professionals: teachers, psychologists and special aid teachers.

Methods and materials: methodologically the project draws on qualitative and quantitative document analysis of journals, policy documents and files from the City Archives of Aarhus and Copenhagen. These archives include materials concerning the establishment of school psychiatry as an institutional practice in the two municipalities. In addition, in the Copenhagen City Archives, 164 files on students referred to the school psychiatrist of the municipality in the period 1950-1983 are part of the analysis. These files include documents about the student from teachers, psychologists, psychiatrists and special aid teachers.

The analysis of the project will be communicated through publication in relevant Nordic and international journals like: Nordic Journal of Educational History, History of the Human Sciences and Paedagogica Historica.

Interdisciplinarity, problem based learning and school management in public school practice

The project is conducted by Associate Professor Trine Øland during the period from 2019 to 2020

Quests for interdisciplinarity in school has been voiced throughout the 20thcentury. First as part of alternative movements such as New Education Fellowship that from the 1920s promoted child psychology, thematic work, and caring environments as opposed to the organization of school in separate subject areas. From 1960, pursuits for interdisciplinarity was institutionalized in Danish statutory instruments, in 1993 a project assignment was introduced in the statutory law for the Danish public school’s final exam, and in 2014, the idea of a flexible public school with a focus on learning management was launched as part of a new statute.

This project explores the practices that accompany the avowed ‘flexible school’ and ‘school without a timetable’ as it is enacted in relation to the concept problem based learning. Focus is on how such a school is produced by engaged agents through processes, situations and manifestations in the everyday life of the school. Using anthropological and postmodern perspectives, and post-Enlightenment thinking, the project will illuminate how educational welfare work creates and recreates school structure by means of coordinating activities. Simultaneously un-coordination and disorder are defined in this context. The project will disclose how ‘the gathering’, ‘passion and boredom’, and ‘sociability’ may be seen as analytical points around which school practice forms and transforms, and make up the child and the meaning of school.

Foundations for analyses are literature on school management, observations of problem based learning projects in third-fifth grade, and interviews with the team of adults involved.