Teachers' interpretation of Bildung in practice: examples from higher education in Sweden and Denmark

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


While higher education is expected to prepare students so they can reflect and act in relation with a changing world, many structural forces instead favour procedural learning. There are fundamental contradictions between the aim of independent thinking and using standardised assessment, as well as between reasoning/speaking as an emancipatory force, and teaching as explanation. Other contradictions exist between holistic and fragmented learning. An important dimension of these contradictions is how we determine
who can become a speaker. What are the terms for negotiating meaning? In this article, ways in which university teachers interpret Bildung are investigated through qualitative interviews. Three teachers were asked how they implement their aims in practice. The three cases are presented as an illustration of practices that may enhance in-depth reflection, holistic understanding and personal development. The teachers’ perceptions of student learning and other outcomes of a Bildung approach are discussed. In particular, the article stresses the importance of a space for negotiation and giving students the opportunity to become speakers.


External organisations
  • Jönköping University
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Educational Sciences


  • speaker, teaching and learning practice, holistic, reflection, Bildung, higher education, negotiation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-20
JournalJournal of Learning Development in Higher Education
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Publication categoryResearch

Bibliographic note

This work was supported in part by a grant from the Gyllenstierna Krapperup’s Foundation,Sweden. Bias: In the article it says: Wihlborg and Jönköping Univ., correct: Lund Univ., Avery and Lund Univ., correct: Jönköping Univ., The editor has been notified. The information about affiliations in this record was updated in December 2015. The record was previously connected to the following departments: Department of Health Sciences (013220000), Social Sciences (000021000), Education (012013003), Faculty of Medicine (000022000), Integrative Health Research (013220005), Arabic (015016005), Health promotion in nursing care (013220011)