Self-formation and emancipation: formative teaching and social criticism in critical-constructive didactics

Thesis event information

Date and time of the thesis defence

Place of the thesis defence

Linnanmaa, lecture hall L5

Topic of the dissertation

Self-formation and emancipation: formative teaching and social criticism in critical-constructive didactics

Doctoral candidate

Master of education Antti Moilanen

Faculty and unit

University of Oulu Graduate School, Faculty of Education, Values, Ideologies and Social Contexts of Education

Subject of study



Professor Tero Autio, Tallinn university


Professor Pauli Siljander, University of Oulu

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Formative teaching and social criticism in education

In my dissertation, I study one of the most important theoretical models of schooling: critical-constructive didactics. I interpret, analyze, evaluate, and develop critical-constructive didactics. It describes how teachers can educate students to independent, active, critical, and empathetic citizens who are able to participate in the development of a humane and democratic society. The critical-constructive model provides teachers guidelines on the principles, goals, contents, and methods of teaching. In my research, I interpret the model of teaching in critical-constructive didactics, and evaluate whether it is justified.

I first reconstruct the historical situation in which critical-constructive didactics was developed. I illustrate what theoretical and practical problems it seeks to address. Second, I elucidate the way in which critical-constructive didactics is grounded on the classical theories of Bildung. These theories are ideas developed in Europe between the 1770s and 1830s. They contain ideals for human development, and they describe how these ideals can be achieved. Third, I explicate the theory of Bildung in critical-constructive didactics. I interpret what Bildung means as a goal of schooling and how it can be promoted through teaching. Fourth, I develop the critical-constructive model of the principles, goals, methods, and contents of teaching that supports Bildung and critical social judgement. I review educational literature on teaching methods and develop a model of methods of teaching that fit the assumptions of critical-constructive didactics.

Fifth, I examine the model of teaching in critical-constructive didactics. I assess whether critical and constructive teaching supports student independent thinking and action, or whether it leads to the adoption of pre-determined political views and ideals. I also evaluate the assumptions of critical-constructive didactics using empirical research on teaching and learning. In other words, I assess whether teaching according to the model promotes students' independence, activity, critical thinking, and empathy. In addition, I review whether students generate in-depth and useful knowledge in the teaching and learning process.

In the conclusions of my dissertation, I define how schooling can support Bildung, freedom, and the development of a humane and democratic society. I argue that students should be educated to solidarity, that is, to care for and help other people. Self-active forms of teaching i.e., open education, discovery learning, meta-teaching, co-planning of education, and student participation, are important. The teacher and the students should analyze power, interests, conflicts, and problems in society. The contents of teaching should represent general principles of reality. If alternatives to the criteria of social criticism are not presented to the students, they can be socialized into particular political views. It would therefore be justified to discuss with students the validity, assumptions, and significance of the taught contents.
Last updated: 21.1.2022