Leka, lära, öva, arbeta, verkskapa: Elsa Köhler en österrikisk aktivitetspedagog i Sverige

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (monograph)


This thesis is mainly about the life and work of the Austrian teacher and psychologist Elsa Köhler (1879-1940), but also about the work of her followers on the Swedish West coast. It traces the influences of pedagogic progressivism and the Central European school-reform movements, on the Swedish school and pre-school system, during the first half of the 20th century. These ideas as laid down in the reports of the 1946 school commission, are being actualised today in the reports, SOU 1997:21 and SOU 1997:157, where the 1996 school committee gives the common guidelines for the future work in Swedish schools and pre-schools. The ‘Activity Pedagogics‘ are since the 30s a concept in the Swedish school reform discussions. Elsa Köhler and her followers on the Swedish West coast introduced, formulated and gave the concept its concrete meaning in the school and pre-school practise. Elsa Köhler started her didactical development work in the framework of her own daily practise as a language teacher. Her particular form of the; then revolutionary; ‘direct method‘ for teaching the French language was based upon the independent work of pupils mutually helping and supporting each other, accompanied by ‘psychological research in the pedagogical situation‘. Elsa Köhler later carried out a number of projects based on her form of action research in Germany, Sweden and Norway. The thesis mainly concentrates upon the particular contribution to pedagogics of Elsa Köhler and what is left of her legacy in the Swedish educational system of today. It parts from a description and analysis of what Elsa Köhler represented: her roots in the ending Habsburg empire and in the radical school reforms and institutions of Red Vienna - the atmosphere, the ideas, the thoughts, the traditions, the dynamics and even life-style, she carried with her and further developed in her Nordic surroundings. It gives some ideas about the concepts from the development-psychology of the Vienna Psychological School around Karl and Charlotte Bühler, that Elsa Köhler particularly introduced into the training of Swedish pre-school staff. The aim of the thesis is thus to fit in the Swedish form of activity education into its context of European and international progressive heritage.


  • Lars Karlsson
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Educational Sciences


  • Elsa Köhler, school-reform, women, activity learning, action research, school reform, Red Vienna, Political and administrative sciences, Varberg, education
Original languageSwedish
Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Assistant supervisor
  • [unknown], [unknown], Supervisor, External person
Award date1998 Jun 4
  • Lund University Press
Print ISBNs91-7966-535-7
Publication statusPublished - 1998
Publication categoryResearch

Bibliographic note

Defence details Date: 1998-06-04 Time: 10:15 Place: Edens hörsal, Paradisgatan 5H, Lund External reviewer(s) Name: Ödman, Per-Johan Title: Professor Affiliation: [unknown] ---