EARLI SIG 9 conference 2022: Phenomenography and variation theory in practice

A warm welcome to the 2022 EARLI SIG 9 conference, held at Stockholm University in Sweden, August 24th-26th.

The city of Stockholm
The city of Stockholm. Photo: Mostphotos

We are looking forward to three stimulating days where we can present and discuss research, think together around important topics related to the field, network with colleagues, and plan ahead together.

We also hope to create possibilities for new ideas and collaborations to grow – both within the developing field of phenomenography and variation theory research and in relation to other research traditions.

Conference theme

The theme for the conference is Phenomenography and variation theory in practice – addressing educational challenges in a changing world. The world is rapidly changing and issues such as war, climate change, spread of misinformation, refugee crisis, racial injustice and the pandemic become increasingly interwoven with debates about the nature and purpose of education. Such a changing world presents new educational challenges.

The SIG 9 conference therefore offers the opportunity to explore how phenomenography and variation theory can address such educational challenges in conceptual as well as methodological terms.


Conference program

The conference starts at 9:30 on Wednesday 24th August and ends at 13:30 on Friday 26th (including lunch).

Conference Schedule (681 Kb)

Wednesday 24th

09:30-10:00 Registration
10:00-10:15 Opening of the conference: welcome and practical information
10:15-11:15 Keynote 1: Ulla Runesson Kempe
11:25-12:25 Parallel sessions I (2 presentations)
12:30-13:30 Lunch
13:45-14:45 Parallel sessions II (2 presentations)
14:45-15:15 Coffee break
15:15-16:15 Parallel sessions III (2 presentations)
16:20-16:40 Practical information
Evening: Optional social event

Thursday 25th

09:15-10:45 Parallel sessions IV (3 presentations)
10:45-11:15 Coffee break
11:15-12:15 Parallel sessions V (2 presentations)
12:30-13:30 Lunch
13:45-14:45 Keynote 2: Jennifer Case
14:45-15:10 Coffee break
15:10-16:40 Collaborative space
16:40-17:00 Practical information
Evening: Conference dinner

Friday 26th

08:30-09:30 Meet with the professors
09:30-10:30 SIG 9 forum
10:30-10:50 Coffee break
10:50-11:50 Parallel sessions VI (3 presentations)
12:00-12:20 Conference closing and looking ahead
12:30 Lunch

Session I

Room A: Stallet 620

Room B: Stallet 720

11:25-11:55 Sebastian Kilde Löfgren, Jonathan Weidow & Jonas Enger The Mechanical Paul Trap in the Upper Secondary Physics Classroom: A Design-based Approach to Developing Laboratory Exercises Liezle Boshoff, Zachary Simpson & Brandon Collier-Reed A phenomenographic investigation into how engineering students experience learning to think critically
11:55-12:25 Shannon M. Chancea, Mike Mimirinisc & Inês Direito Research on Design and Creation in Architecture and Engineering Nicole A. Suarez & Stanley M. Lo Leveraging the Critical Incident Technique in Phenomenographic Research

Session II

Room A: Stallet 620

Room B: Stallet 720

13:45-14:15 Miechie, Yuen Sze Michelle Tan & Douglas Adler Unpacking Pre-service Teachers’ Novice Experiences of Lesson Planning with Variation Theory Kyriaki Doumas & Gunilla Gunnarsson Lesson studies and teacher students’ didactic reasoning during teaching practice
14:15-14:45 Marlene Sjöberg & Angelika Kullberg The use of variation theory in teacher conversations in a Subject Didactic Group in physical education William Zoppellini A phenomenographic analysis of teacher conceptions and practice of growth mindset pedagogy in British primary schools

Session III

Room A: Stallet 620

Room B: Stallet 720

15:15-15:45 Angelica Kullberg, Camilla Björklund, Ulla Runesson, Jessica Elofsson & Anna-Lena Ekdahl The development of a teaching program for number and early arithmetic skills based on insights from multiple intervention studies with variation theory Pernilla Ahlstrand & Ninnie Andersson On BOUNCE! Practice-based feedback – A study of Theatre, Teaching and Dance Situations
15:45-16:15 Ann-Sofie Jägerskog, Malin Tväråna, Mattias Björklund, Max Strandberg, Sara Carlberg, Robert Kenndal, Therese Juthberg, Per Sahlström, Marie Losciale, Patrik Gottfridsson & Bodil Kåks Visualising the complex and the changing: Identifying critical aspects of social science models Anna Backman Illuminating shadow as a light phenomenon in preschool reading activities

Session IV

Room A: Stallet 620

Room B: Stallet 720

09:15-09:45 Ani Henttonen, Kristina Ahlberg, Max Scheja, Margareta Westerbotn & Bjöörn Fossum Deconstructing students’ different ways to experience the writing of a bachelor’s thesis Jenny Svanteson Wester Teaching mathematics with small-group discussions integrated in whole-class discussions
09:45-10:15 Sanela Lazarevski A Phenomenographic investigation into students’ conceptions of independent digital learning Ulf Ryberg Investigating validity and generalizability of small-scale intervention studies: on teaching and learning the derivative
10:15-10:45 Xiaoxia Wang & Julie-Ann Sime A phenomenographic analysis of the variation of HE academic’s experience of designing MOOCs Åke Ingerman, Ulf Ryberg, Jenny Svanteson Wester & Ahoo Shokraiefard Learning study-developed designs for negative numbers and matter in two forms of teaching - A systematic comparison of whole-class teaching and small-group discussions

Session V

Room A: Stallet 620

11:15-11:45 Martha Whitfield, Mike Mimirinis, Danielle Macdonald, Tracy Klein & Rosemary Wilson A Phenomenographic Exploration of Nurse Practitioner Capability
11:45-12:15 Hanna Knutson & Angelika Kullberg What is afforded and what is required?

Session VI

Room A: Stallet 620

Room B: Stallet 720

10:50-11:20 Maria Nord Teaching "the same" lesson about subtraction to first graders Mike Mimirinis & Elina Wright Variation in Black British students’ conceptions of academic support
11:20-11:50 Sophia Hutchinson How do students with Autism Spectrum Disorders experience groupwork in a Higher Education context? Nicole A. Suarez, Song Wang, Stacey Brydges & Stanley M. Lo Identity, Power, and Legitimacy: Higher Education Instructor Conceptions of Diversity in the United States

Keynote speakers

We have the privilege to present two keynote speakers for the conference: Ulla Runesson and Jennifer Case.

The impact of phenomenography and variation theory on addressing educational challenges? Looking back – and forward

One of the most important challenges in education is to help learners to handle novel situations in powerful ways (Marton, 2015). Contributing with knowledge that can help educators encountering these challenges is the ultimate aim for the phenomenographic research approach and its theoretical extension, variation theory (PHVT).

  • What are the features and strengths of PHVT to giving such contributions?
  • What has been the impacts of PHVT research on practice?
  • What are the challenges in the future?

In my keynote I will look back on four decades of PHVT research and give personal reflections on these issues.

Ulla Runesson
Ulla Runesson Kempe

About Ulla Runesson Kempe

Ulla Runesson Kempe is professor emerita at Jönköping university. Her research interests are learning and teaching, particularly in mathematics and the teaching profession in general. She was involved in introducing Learning study – a theory-informed version of lesson study – in Sweden. Over the years she has been responsible for several research projects involving teachers as researchers, funded by the Swedish Research Council. Her PhD was the first one where variation theory of learning was used as an analytical framework and she has been engaged with the development of the theory since then. She has been involved in several international research projects studying and comparing classrooms in different countries.

Four decades on: How are Phenomenography and Variation Theory shaping up in the globalized 21st century?

The world has changed tremendously since the word Phenomenography first appeared in the scholarly literature in the early 1980s, and the emergence of Variation Theory in the late 1990s. With the end of the Cold War, geopolitics saw a massive shift in terms of the locations of political and economic power, and globalization of trade and the development of the web saw a revolution in connectivity. Education also changed dramatically over this period; higher education most notably saw unprecedented increases in the number of young people enrolled in post-secondary education in nearly every part of the world.

This keynote surveys how the use of Phenomenography and Variation Theory has developed over these decades in response to these dramatic changes in education and society. Four decades on we live in a time characterized by rapidly evolving crises in the geopolitical area, coupled with the urgency of the climate crisis, renewed urgency in relation to race and equity in many countries, and we are also only just emerging from a global health pandemic.

The keynote asks pertinent questions about the potential contributions of Phenomenography and Variation Theory in relation to pressing educational research questions of the moment. Specifically, it considers contemporary pressing issues of the climate crisis, a global health pandemic, and an urgency about issues of racial equity – to ask the question of how this field of research is bringing forward important insights that are relevant, and how it might potentially strengthen this contribution.

Jennifer Case
Jennifer Case

About Jennifer Case

Jennifer Case is Professor and Head of the Department of Engineering Education in the College of Engineering at Virginia Tech. Prior to this appointment in 2017 she was a Professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Cape Town in South Africa, where she retains an honorary appointment. Case was a pioneer in the nascent field of Engineering Education Research (EER), commencing her scholarship in the mid 1990s in the context of post-apartheid transformations in the system of engineering education in South Africa.

With a unique synthesis of practically-grounded curriculum reform, drawing on research in higher education studies and focused clearly on advancing learning outcomes in engineering programs, Jennifer Case developed a strong international reputation in Engineering Education heading to the leadership role that she now occupies at a leading US Department in this field. Her work has been widely published and well cited, with over 50 journal publications and two monographs. She is a joint editor-in-chief for the top international journal Higher Education.

Case spent 21 years at the University of Cape Town (UCT), teaching in its undergraduate program in Chemical Engineering, as well as leading in program administration and curriculum reform. She was a founder member and then Director for the Centre for Research in Engineering Education at the University of Cape Town. She was the founding president of the South African Society for Engineering Education (SASEE). In 2011 she was a Mandela Mellon fellow at Harvard University. At Virginia Tech she leads a vibrant Department that has a prominent and still expanding national and international reputation in Engineering Education.

Jennifer Case continues to teach at both undergraduate and graduate levels and advises Ph.D. students in the context of a lively research group. She is a sought after speaker and advisor in both Engineering Education and Higher Education both in the USA and abroad.


Book of Abstracts (2026 Kb)


One of the great things with meeting at a conference is the possibility to have deepening discussions with colleagues in the field, allowing time for new ideas to grow and find new collaborations. On Thursday afternoon during the conference, we will have a session called Collaborative space.

The idea with this session is to provide an opportunity for just this – deepening discussions concerning both ongoing and future research projects as well as methodological issues. This can facilitate larger group discussions, or allow time for small groups to collaborate.

During the collaborative space session there will be a couple of parallel sessions with different themes. The themes can focus on methodological issues to be discussed as well as on a more specific content area. As a conference participant we welcome your suggestions topics for those sessions – themes you would like to discuss with colleagues in the field.

If you have any ideas or suggestions concerning themes, please send an email to earlisig9.did@su.se.


Participants register to the conference through the EARLI website. Deadline for registration is August 10th.

Register here

Early bird (registration before 6th June 2022)

Registration fee: 230 € for EARLI members, 250 € for non-members
Registration fee for doctoral students:150 € for EARLI JURE members, 170 € for non-members

Standard registration (after 6th June 2022)

Registration fee: 300 € for EARLI members, 320 € for non-members
Registration fee for doctoral students: 200 € for EARLI JURE members, 220 € for non-members

  • The conference fee includes lunches, coffee as well as conference dinner on the Thursday evening.
  • Fees will not be refunded once paid, due to administrative issues.

Practical information

The conference will be held at the Department of Teaching and Learning at Stockholm University, which is located at Svante Arrhenius väg 20A:

See Google Maps

Stockholm University - Arrhenius
Photo: Eva Dalin

The easiest way of getting to Stockholm University is by tube. The nearest tube station is Universitetet on the red line towards Mörby centrum (line 14). It takes 10 minutes to travel by tube from the Central station to Stockholm University. In order to plan your trip with public transportation you can use the following website:

SL - Stockholm Public Transport

The two hotels below (Elite Hotel Arcadia and Elite Hotel Stockholm Plaza) can be booked with a conference discount. The links for booking found below are created for the conference, so when a room is booked via the link, you will automatically get the discount.

  • The links for booking will be open until July 23rd.

Elite Hotel Arcadia

Elite Hotel Arcadia is situated 2,5 km from Stockholm University. You can either walk to the university (approximately 30 minutes) or take the tube one station (from Tekniska högskolan to Universitetet).

Price per night (including breakfast): 1368 SEK/night

Book with a conference discount

Elite Hotel Stockholm Plaza

Elite Hotel Stockholm Plaza is situated in the city center, approximately 4 km from Stockholm University. You can either walk to the university (approximately 50 minutes) or take the tube three stations (from Östermalmstorg to Universitetet).

Price per night (including breakfast): 1537 SEK/night

Book with a conference discount


If you have any questions concerning the conference, please contact us on any of the following email addresses:


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