Non-affirmative theory of education as a foundation for curriculum studies, didaktik and educational leadership

Michael Uljens, Rose M. Ylimaki

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

26 Scopus citations


This chapter presents non-affirmative theory of education as the foundation for a new research program in education, allowing us to bridge educational leadership, curriculum studies and Didaktik. We demonstrate the strengths of this framework by analyzing literature from educational leadership and curriculum theory/didaktik. In contrast to both socialization-oriented explanations locating curriculum and leadership within existing society, and transformation-oriented models viewing education as revolutionary or super-ordinate to society, non-affirmative theory explains the relation between education and politics, economy and culture, respectively, as non-hierarchical. Here critical deliberation and discursive practices mediate between politics, culture, economy and education, driven by individual agency in historically developed cultural and societal institutions. While transformative and socialization models typically result in instrumental notions of leadership and teaching, non-affirmative education theory, previously developed within German and Nordic education, instead views leadership and teaching as relational and hermeneutic, drawing on ontological core concepts of modern education: recognition; summoning to self-activity and Bildsamkeit. Understanding educational leadership, school development and teaching then requires a comparative multi-level approach informed by discursive institutionalism and organization theory, in addition to theorizing leadership and teaching as cultural-historical and critical-hermeneutic activity. Globalisation and contemporary challenges to deliberative democracy also call for rethinking modern nation-state based theorizing of education in a cosmopolitan light. Non-affirmative education theory allows us to understand and promote recognition based democratic citizenship (political, economical and cultural) that respects cultural, ethical and epistemological variations in a globopolitan era. We hope an American-European-Asian comparative dialogue is enhanced by theorizing education with a non-affirmative approach.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationEducational Governance Research
PublisherSpringer Science and Business Media B.V.
Number of pages143
StatePublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameEducational Governance Research
ISSN (Print)2365-9548
ISSN (Electronic)2365-9556


  • Bildsamkeit
  • Didaktik
  • Discursive Institutionalism
  • Educational Leadership Studies
  • Modern Education Theory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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