Knowledge gleaned through religious-education research is of great interest not only to the research community but also to educational practitioners, and thus it is of relevance to several teacher-education programs. At our department (HSD), research includes studies on religious education in both Swedish (public) and denominational school settings. Here the tension between what is conceived as confessional and non-confessional in religious education is of particular interest.

HSD’s practice-based research enhances the capacity of relevant parties to understand, explain, and develop various arenas for teaching and learning about religions. In this regard, Thérèse Britton (2014) researches teaching about religions in Swedish schools in relation to RE-pupil fieldtrips to various religious sites – for example, mosques, churches and temples. These studies provide valuable insight regarding the challenges as well as the opportunities that such fieldtrips can entail; they also examine the potential benefits of this type of teaching in terms of developing students’ understanding of religion and religiosity. Caroline Gustavsson studies parishes within the Church of Sweden, focusing on the meaning of teaching and learning as well as participation. Through the examination and analysis of teaching, learning and participation in a church context, Gustavsson’s studies serve to highlight and conceptualize the ongoing process of change that is occurring within the Church of Sweden (2018). Björn Falkevall is particularly interested in the professional skills of teachers; among other things, his studies explore the manner in which the concept of life questions is used both in training teachers and in syllabi for primary and secondary schools (2010).

Apart from the studies described above, the department’s religious education research includes various types of comparative studies. Several such studies, conducted by Jenny Berglund, a specialist in this field, examine the relationship between denominational and secular school education. In this regard, an intriguing bit of research studies the experiences of both Swedish and British Muslim students as they participate in, and move between, secular schooling and Islamic supplementary education (2017; 2018). Berglund’s research provides a greater understanding of this dual-educational experience and its impact on the identity formation of young Muslims. Maria Olson's research, which studies the school subject of social orientation as it relates to democratic and citizenship education in Sweden’s compulsory and vocational schools. By comparing the subject of religious education to other social orientation subjects, such as history, geography, and social science, Olson highlights the unique features of RE in contrast to these (2013; 2017).

Providing knowledge of how things operate in countries other than one’s own is important not only because it helps to develop an international perspective, but also because it brings that perspective to bear on the choices one’s own country has made. When it comes to the state funding of religious education, for example, one finds a diversity of approaches from country to country throughout the world. As compared to other countries, the Swedish model can be considered somewhat unusual: it is mandatory and non-confessional; it provides knowledge about various religious and non-religious traditions; and it arranges for students of diverse backgrounds to study together. Through his study of Indian school education, and how religion is treated in this context, Kristian Niemi calls attention to the peculiarities of the common Swedish understanding of religion and secularity, which to some degree informs the Swedish approach to religious education in public schools (2015; 2018). In another of her publication, Berglund points out how this Swedish model, which is often depicted as being neutral and objective, has been more or less “marinated in Lutheran Protestantism” (2013). She also suggests, in several comparative international studies, that a given country’s approach to state-funded religious education can serve as a type of litmus test regarding the relationship between church, state and society in that country (2017). Berglund’s research has been largely focused on minority religious education in general and on European state-funded Islamic education in particular (2015; 2018). In recent years, Geir Skeie has researched inter-religious relationships both inside and outside the school setting. His studies in different arenas provide an understanding of different traditions of religious education and an opportunity to learn from them as well. Cecilia Eskilsson is interested in understanding how a teacher identity develops. Her focus is on the process when a student becomes an RE-teacher and how students relate to the school subject being non-confessional while when the heart of the subject is based on confession.

HSD researchers also have contributed to the field of conceptual development. Working with the concepts of life view and participation (2016a; 2016b; 2018), for example, Caroline Gustavsson has developed a conceptual device that makes room for context in meaning making (2013, 2016c); the device is based on the concepts of existential and shared configurations. Taking the notion of “threshold concepts” as his departure point, Kristian Niemi (2018) has identified concepts that Study of Religion students find particularly difficult; his claim is that by focusing on these sorts of threshold concepts, both teaching and learning can be improved. Marie Hållander focuses on theoretical and ethical questions in the field of education, examining the significance of “testimonials”. Her studies highlight the importance of the personal story to the field of religious education (2017).

National and International Cooperation

HSD’s researchers are part of an extensive network of colleagues that collaborate through the National Forum for Religious Education (NFR). HSD also has a tradition of collaboration with religious education teachers in public schools. In 2018, we became part of a national network that organizes meetings with religious education teachers (Nationell Religionsdidaktisk mötesplats). The meetings are organized in collaboration with the National Forum for Religious Education (NFR) and the Association of Religious Education Teachers (FLR).

Britain’s Robert Jackson, from Warwick’s Religion and Education Research Unit, has been a guest professor at HSD for several years. He is currently working on a project that examines the relationship between intercultural and religious education; the project has involved several HSD researchers (2019). Jackson has also provided HSD with valuable international contacts.