Back to search

FINNUT-Forskning og innovasjon i utdanningssektoren

Critical Thinking in Sustainability Education

Alternative title: Kritisk tenkning i Utdanning for Bærekraftig Utvikling

Awarded: NOK 10.0 mill.

CriThiSE (Critical Thinking in Sustainability Education) is a cooperation between Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), Karlstad University (The SMEER Centre), Norwegian Centre for Science Education, National Centre for Writing Education and Research, The Nordic Institute for Studies in Innovation, Research and Education (NIFU), and five schools; one in Karlstad, one in Lillestrøm and three in Trøndelag. The project is financed by The Research Council of Norway through the FINNUT programme, and is coordinated by Department of Teacher Education, NTNU. The primary objective of the project is to develop teaching of critical thinking (CT) and investigate the outcomes thereof in primary education. CT is emphasized as a central twenty-first century skill - central in education, work life and civil society. Today's schools therefore needs to educate coming generations in a way that encourage them to reflect critically on their own and others' decisions. This is a crucial issue where elementary school education should contribute in coming decades in order to facilitate continued democratic advance of society, as also recognized in the new Norwegian curriculum and governing documents. In Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) or sustainable education, CT is a very important competence for making informed decisions. In CriThiSE we will longitudinally explore what it means to think critically in school. We will develop and evaluate teaching of CT within different contexts of ESD and within different subjects. In cooperation with teachers, we will develop their CT instructions and investigate if and how these instructions are enacted in the classroom, and further investigate the influence on students' development as critical thinkers. The project started 01.01.2020 and includes a three year intervention in upper primary school (grades 5-7). Before the intervention started, we collected pre-surveys from teachers and students (control schools and intervention schools) and conducted teacher and student interviews (intervention schools). Control schools take part in quantitative data collection, while intervention schools take part in quantitative and qualitative data collection. We have now completed the first year of the intervention, which has mainly been about professional development of involved teachers. From the autumn of 2021, there will be more active testing of teaching arrangements in the classrooms, and follow-up studies of these. For more information, please visit CriThiSE website: (

Globalization and development of technologies have brought a variety of societal challenges that require new competencies, including students’ capacity for Critical Thinking (CT). In contemporary society, many questions concern complex issues revolving around our common future, summarized in the cross-disciplinary concept of Sustainable Development. As a vital tool for making informed decisions, CT is one of the key skills for education to contribute to over the next decades to secure democratic development of society, which is acknowledged in the new Norwegian curriculum. CT is a respected area of research in the educational sciences, and there is a need for future research to help clarify to students, teachers and researchers what it means to think critically in school. In this study we will explore this issue longitudinally: we will develop and evaluate teaching of CT in different contexts of education for sustainable development and strengthen the connection between classroom teaching and everyday life challenges. The proposed CriThiSE project will be a collaboration between NTNU, Karlstad University, the Norwegian Centre for Science Education, the National Centre for Writing Education and Research and The Nordic Institute for Studies in Innovation, Research and Education. The project aim is to map out and develop a pedagogical knowledge framework with which educators/teachers can work towards teaching CT in primary school. Building on a mixed-methods approach, the project will gather and analyse quantitative and qualitative data to answer the research questions: 1. conceptualize the skills and dispositions of CT and develop instruments measuring them, 2.-3. explain and evaluate teachers’ and students’ development of CT skills and dispositions as a consequence of professional development, and 4. investigate how CT is enacted in different contexts in order to determine what are generic and domain-specific CT skills and dispositions.


FINNUT-Forskning og innovasjon i utdanningssektoren