Maria Wolrath-Söderberg

Maria Wolrath-Söderberg

Associate Professor

Senior Lecturer

I am a docent i Rhetoric. My research is about reasoning and driving forces behind climate transition. I also work with Teaching and learning in higher education.

+46 8 608 40 56 +4686084056

Culture and Education


Maria I am associate professor in Rhetoric and director of the Higher Education Development Unit at Södertörn University. My special field of interest is in the area between rhetoric and pedagogy - how we negotiate meaning and knowledge, how we think with the help of discursive tools and how teaching can be designed to best promote learning.

For some years I have been focusing on such issues in relation to climate change and sustainability. Here you can read about my current research project about how we justify passivity in climate issues: External link.

The Higher Education Development Unit conducts courses and manages and supports development work. As a director, I am passionate about pedagogy that develops student independence and critical citizenship. I believe in research-integrated education where students not only consume research but participate in research processes and develop a scholarly approach to their subject or future profession. Another perspective that I found fruitful is community-integrated education where one tries to link the theory and teaching design with societal challenges that need to be dealt with. The purpose is to create authenticity and meaning at the same time as contributing to the surrounding community.

I also have good experiences of active student participation, which means that students are involved not only by participating in councils or course evaluations, but also in planning and teaching. Within our teaching and learning courses for faculty we often work experience-based. This means that the participants explore and problematize their own teaching experience and develop new approaches, which then are tested under supervision.

I like to work experimentally. Right now, for instance, I am engaged in the development of a new programme on sustainability issues, based on participatory critical rhetoric, which means a pedagogy where lecturers and students work together with different stakeholders, adding a rhetorical research perspective on current issues.

My research within rhetoric has had a focus on higher education development. My dissertation, 2012, had the title: Topoi as Meaning Makers: Thinking and Learning through Argumentation – A Rhetorical Perspective. It is about how we can work open minded but at the same time critically with many concurrent perspectives, something that is relevant today in a society with increased pace of change, extensive cultural meetings and difficult goal conflicts related to challenges such as climate threats. The Aristotelian theory of topoi has seemed to offer an opening to this problem. The teaching of topos is a rhetorical method for idea generation and perspectival change. Topos theory was developed as a cognitive toolkit to for thinking and reasoning about contingent and multifaceted matters, such as practical political issues or moral dilemmas where one cannot readily lean against general principles. It proceeds from the assumption that issues can be fruitfully addressed through themes, arguments and reasoning methods previously shown to work for similar issues. The merits of the various topoi could then be debated, thus allowing diverse perspectives to be tried out and scrutinized. In my dissertation, I develop a modern theory of topoi and investigate how academic teachers can facilitate the inclusion of different perspectives that challenge one another in the classroom, while at the same time upholding standards for critical thinking.

DiVA (Digitala Vetenskapliga Arkivet) is Södertörn University's system for digital publishing and for registering publications produced by researchers, teachers and students.


The researcher is not participating in any projects at this moment.