Democracy and science: two sides of the same coin?

  • Øyvind Wistrøm University of Southeast Norway
  • Janne Madsen University of Southeast Norway


Democracy and science, according to a number of researchers, share several basic characteristics
like critical thinking, public discourse, open debate, free flow of information, mutual respect, and
the critical role of inquiry and evidence. The core curriculum for primary school in Norway, specifically
states the importance of democracy in the natural sciences subject. In this paper, we explore
the question: Did pre-service teachers experience or learn about the connection between natural science and
democracy during their compulsory education?

The analysis builds on theory relating to thick and thin democracy, about the shared characteristics
of natural science and democracy, and of democracy in the Norwegian curriculum. The
informants are 18 pre-service teachers studying natural science didactics and who all studied
science in their higher education. These students were influenced in their compulsory education.
When we write about pupils being taught democracy, it is about our informants as pupils
before attending teacher education. The data were collected by a questionnaire based on a template
developed by the international Global Doing Democracy Research Project (GDDRP).
Although this study includes only 18 pre-service teachers, the study indicates that students
during the compulsory education in Norway acquire a rather thin understanding of democracy
and without any connectedness between the natural science subject and the concept of democracy.
The study concludes that science teachers in primary school and in teacher education have
to put more emphasis on a thick understanding of democracy and the connectedness between
natural science and democracy, for the science curriculum to be properly implemented in

Citation: Øyvind Wistrøm and Janne Madsen «Democracy and science: two sides of the same coin?.» Nordisk tidsskrift for pedagogikk og kritikk, Vol. 4, 2018, pp. 50–68.

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Øyvind Wistrøm, University of Southeast Norway


Faculty of Humanities and Education

Dep of Science Education

Janne Madsen, University of Southeast Norway


Department of Pedagogy and school development

Pob 7053

3007 Drammen


Hvordan sitere
Wistrøm, Øyvind, & Madsen, J. (2018). Democracy and science: two sides of the same coin?. Nordisk Tidsskrift for Pedagogikk Og Kritikk, 4.
Emneord (Nøkkelord)
thin thick democracy, citizenship, coherence, didactic, curriculum