Scandinavian experiments in democratic education

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Ana Marjanovic-Shane
Tina Kullenberg
Mikhail Gradovski


This article is the first of four articles exploring democratic schools co-founded by teenage students in Norway and Sweden. Our larger project explores the relationship between democracy in education and educational dialogism. Both democracy in education and educational dialogism are partially rooted in the idea that education should be a personal meaning-making practice where the participants can create and organize their lives in ways that make sense to them and explore their interests, values, and desires. We describe the processes of founding two schools – one in Oslo, Norway, and the other in Gothenburg, Sweden – in which students practiced the right to democratic governance. We describe the process of the founding of these schools against the background of the students’ movements in the late 1960s and the 1970s and the social and political conditions in Norway and Sweden at that time. We explore the students’ perspectives on the possibility, desirability, and legitimacy of the students’ voices in ethical-ontological dialogues in which the participants jointly examine their relationships with the world, with others, and with themselves. Further, we explore the forms of democratic school governance that Norwegian and Swedish students created and identified tensions that appeared between the legitimacy of individual students’ rights to ownership of their learning, teachers’ ownership of teaching, and the conventional normative educational policies in Norway and Sweden.

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How to Cite
Marjanovic-Shane, A., Kullenberg, T., & Gradovski, M. (2023). Scandinavian experiments in democratic education. Dialogic Pedagogy: A Journal for Studies of Dialogic Education, 11(2), A93-A132.
Author Biographies

Ana Marjanovic-Shane, Independent Scholar, USA

Ana Marjanovic-Shane is an Independent Scholar interested in ethical ontological dialogism and meaning-making in education, democratic education, students’ academic freedoms, and students’ critical and creative authorship in self-education. Her articles in English and Serbian were published in various journals (e.g., Mind, Culture, Activity Journal, Learning, Culture and Social Interaction, Dialogic Pedagogy Journal) and as book chapters in books on play and education. Two recent publications include: Shugurova, O., Matusov, E., & Marjanovic-Shane, A. (2022). The University of Students: A place for joint self-education. Dialogic Pedagogy: An International Online Journal, 10, E1-E42; Marjanovic-Shane, A., Meacham, S., Choi, H. J., Lopez, S., & Matusov, E. (2019). Idea-dying in critical ontological pedagogical dialogue. Learning, Culture and Social Interaction, 20, 68-79, and a book: Matusov, E., A. Marjanovic-Shane & M. Gradovski, (2019). Dialogic pedagogy and polyphonic research art: Bakhtin by and for educators, Palgrave Macmillan. Ana lives and works in the USA.

Tina Kullenberg, Kristianstad University, Sweden

Tina Kullenberg holds a Doctor of Philosophy in Education, currently working at Kristianstad University (Sweden) as a lecturer in teacher education programs and postgraduate courses in Educational Science. Her research focuses on pedagogical communication, applying dialogic and sociocultural perspectives on teaching and learning. Lately, she has been especially engaged in Bakhtin-inspired approaches to education. She also has a special interest in addressing democratic issues with a relational lens, for example, exploring the intricate dynamics of power-relations in educational dialogues between teachers and students or peers, premises for student agency, and other institutionally embedded dilemmas or opportunities in schooling. Moreover, she has a background in the area of music education, in theory, and practice.

Mikhail Gradovski, University of Stavanger, Norway

Dr. Mikhail Gradovski is born in Minsk, Belarus. After graduating from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim as Doctor Rerum Politicarum in 2008 with a thesis devoted to the Norwegian Dialogue Pedagogy, Gradovski has participated in both national and international research projects on doctoral supervision, professional supervision, use of dialogue in education, and mental skill development. Currently, he is a main coordinator of an international EU Horizon2020 project that focuses on the development of Ph.D. candidates’ skills. He has supervised both postgraduate, graduate, and undergraduate students. As a teaching practitioner, he is using a dialogical approach based on an understanding of both teacher and learner as partners with equal rights to make judgments on what is relevant, important, and true.


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