23 SES 07 A, Curriculum Policy Reforms and Their Implications (Part 3)
Paper Session continued from 23 SES 06 A
Many European countries are facing increased performance pressures in raising curriculum standards and achievements. Sweden is one such example where the results and outcomes constitute the underlying principle for the new curriculum’s structure, with a close alignment between purposes, content, results and assessment (Swedish National Agency for Education 2011). Generally, a standards-based curriculum means there are clear expectations on students and their knowledge acquirement, that an assessment system that oversees their knowledge acquirement can be offered, and that this assessment is centrally regulated (Sundberg & Wahlström 2012). It also means that the responsibility for education and student learning is decentralised to a local level, and that teachers and schools can be held responsible for deficits in student performance. Recent curriculum research suggests that such standards-based and results-driven curricula have far-reaching consequences for education at large, including teaching and assessment practices. It is therefore crucial to explore this relation further. But although there is much research on student learning in the classroom environment, we do not know very much about how the policies on standardized curriculum requirements affect teaching and assessment practices (Alexander 2001).
There are, however, enough evidence to suggest that recent transnational curriculum discourses have important effects and implications for curriculum making in classrooms. As the premises for decisions on what, how, when etc. are chaining, the understanding of curriculum and assessment are changing. Teachers of today are required to develop a repertoire of assessment skills and knowledge that are linked to the policy context of accountability, auditing and tests. With strengthened accountability demands brought about by global competiveness and testing there has emerged an increase focus on summative assessment, i.e. reporting on learning, that not only evaluate teachers, schools and national systems but also are reshaping the patterns of teaching in the classroom. Although professional expectations on formative assessment, supporting learning, are present, the push towards comparable measureable outcomes may delimit teaching and learning to a downsized, narrowed curriculum with delimited access to powerful knowledge (Young 2008).
In this paper I will explore how policies and processes of curriculum standardisation from external political pressures are influencing Swedish curriculum making and how such standards are being translated into classroom communication and practices. Strong transnational policy trends require that you zoom in on the classrooms events to highlight tensions and dilemmas in translating policy imperatives into teaching. There is a dynamic interplay between the transnational, national regulation and the local that calls to be addressed.
The aim of this research paper is, by using the recent Swedish curriculum reform, Lgr 11 as a case, to highlight, describe, analyse and develop concepts for understanding and explaining relations between (trans-) national curriculum standards at one hand and its curriculum configurations in classroom practice on the other. The research question is:
- What implications of standards-based curriculum reform can be distinguished in terms of pedagogical communicative repertoires, conceptualized as teaching talk and learning talk, by drawing on comparative classroom methodology?
By empirical analyses from social science classrooms (Social science, History, Geography and Religion) in grade six (12-13 year-old students), the study takes a classroom perspective on how teachers may activate tests and ’check of’ to offer a convenient and external (‘objective’, ‘fair’) means of carrying out summative assessments for reporting and adjusting to knowledge requirements of the curriculum. The hypothesis that the standards-based curriculum tends to foster an “assessment afflicted teaching”, with a range of different unintended side effects, is scrutinized.
Alexander, Robin J. (2001). Culture and pedagogy: international comparisons in primary education. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers. Fairclough, N. (2010). Critical discourse analysis: The critical study of language (2. ed). Harlow: Longman. Klette, Kirsti (2009): Challenges in strategies for complexity reduction in video studies. Experiences from the PISA+ study: A video study of teaching and learning in Norway. In: Tomâs Janik & Tina Siedel, eds.: The Power of Video Studies in Investigating Teaching and Learning in the Classroom, pp. 61 - 83. Münster: Waxmann Publishing. Official report (2007: 28). Distinct goals and knowledge requirements in school. Stockholm: The Swedish Ministry of Education. Sundberg, Daniel & Wahlström, Ninni (2012). Standards-based Curricula in a Denationalised conception of Education – the case of Sweden. European educational research journal,11(3), 342-356. Swedish National Agency for Education (2011). Curriculum for the Compulsory School, Preschool Class and the Leisure-time Centre. Lgr 11. Stockholm: The National Agency for Education. Teddlie, C. & Tashakkori, A. (2009). Foundations of mixed methods research: Integrating quantitative and qualitative approaches in the social and behavioral sciences. Los Angeles, California: Sage. Young, Michael F. D. (2008). Bringing knowledge back in: from social constructivism to social realism in the sociology of education. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge
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