Maria Wolrath-Söderberg


Senior Lecturer

I am assistans professor in Rhetoric and direcotr of the Department of Teaching and Learning In Higher Education. My current research is on climate rhetoric.

+46 8 608 40 56 +4686084056

Culture and Education


I am a lecturer 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.
At the moment, I focus on such issues in relation to climate change and

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 problems
that need to be solved. 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. This could mean, for example, that students conduct
seminars and supervise each other (with the teachers guidance), that they
participate in designing the exams, that they work with formative valuation,
etc. 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 am engaged in educational policy issues both within the university and at a
national level. Internally, it is often about the teachers prerequisites for
good education (eg resources, organization, incentive structures and technical
infrastructure). Externally, it is for example right now about police teachers
opportunities to research and about the establishment of a body that can
support university education development and research.

I have initiated and participated in several educational development projects
and like to work experimentally. Right now, I am testing far-reaching active
student participation and writing about it. I am also 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.

As I said, my background is in rhetoric. Together with Lennart Hellspong, I
started the department of rhetoric at Södertörn University College in 1997. I
was director of education between 1999 and 2006. During my time at Södertörn University,
I have developed many courses. Some examples are Rhetorical Didactics, The
history of rhetorical ideas, The Rhetoric of Science and Memoria.

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 and extensive cultural meetings. 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.

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