23 SES 01 C, Perspectives on Inclusion
This paper examines Swedish upper secondary teachers’ activities besides classroom teaching, here termed mentoring work. Today virtually all Swedish 16-20-year-olds are engaged in upper secondary education, which has become a part of the mass education system (Forsberg, 2008). At the same time, as in most Western countries, the school system has taken a neo-liberal turn, including market-based customer choice agendas and individualisation (Lindblad and Goodson, 2011; Lundahl, 2000; Lundahl et.al., 2010). These changes have had implications for teachers’ work and have initiated new tasks on top of the existing workload (Parding & Berg-Jansson, 2016).
From 1994 onwards, there are political expectations that every Swedish school organisation and student should take greater responsibility for the educational design of the student’s individually chosen education (SFS 2010:800; SNAE, 2011). In each upper secondary school, under national policy, teachers’ mentoring work has become one way of dealing with this (SOU 2016:77). However, the National Agency for Education SNAE reports on ambiguity and difficulties in implementing the mentoring assignment (SOU 2016:77; SNAE, 2010). The teachers’ union organisations also complain about problems associated with this aspect of teachers’ work (Skolvärlden 2016, No. 3).
From a research perspective, upper secondary teachers’ mentoring work is somewhat unexplored. In the light of the expansion and restructuring of the educational system, previous research tends to focus on intended curriculum changes in teachers’ work, or at the implemented, enacted or experienced curriculum changes in teaching or advertising activities (Parding & Berg-Jansson, 2016). There are some studies with a special educational perspective putting forward teachers’ mentoring work as a possibility for developing every individual student’s learning and participation in his or her education (e.g. Nordevall et.al., 2009). Further research analysing the dialogue between mentors and students as processes of governmentality (Asp-Onsjö, 2011). Focusing on students’ institutional identities, the mentoring work is then mainly explained in terms of discipline, power and control, as opposed to support of students.
Still, it seems unclear why there are problems associated with this part of teachers’ work, as SNAE and the teachers’ union point out. Neither is it clear in what way the mentoring assignment is integrated in teachers’ work, or what implications it has for teachers’ over all every day work. Therefore, departing from a dialectical activity-theoretical approach, the study presented in this paper analyses teachers’ mentoring actions in a cultural historical context. The aim is to examine what teachers try to accomplish in their mentoring actions. The objective is to reveal what kind of problems that appears and how they are resolved.
Since, the paper focus in what teachers are trying to construct and conceptualize and towards what the most dominant motives for their actions are directed the study is designed with regard to a dialectical Activity Theoretical Approach (Engeström, 1987/2014, 2001). The historically evolving activity system is driven by communal motives that are often taken for granted and difficult for the individual participants to articulate. The analysis can be summarised with the following five principles (Engeström, 2001:136; 2009:56): (i) The activity system is the prime unit of analysis, (ii) an activity system is multi-voicedness, (iii) an activity system take shape and get transformed over lengthy periods of time and therefore it is necessary to study it historically, (iv) contradictions are historically accumulated structural tensions within and between activity systems and the driving force of change in activity, (v) activity systems move through long cycles of qualitative transformations. Transformations sometimes emerge when new objects for the activity system occur and challenge the established thoughts, practices and tools (Engeström, 2001:136).
The study was carried out in two different upper secondary schools in Sweden. In brief, the data consists of field observations, interviews and policy documents. At each school, I participated in twelve teachers’ daily work. The field work consists of notes from a total of twenty-four teachers’ interactions in classroom instructions, mentoring meetings, workplace meetings, team meetings, parental meetings, lunch meetings, hall meetings, etc. I also formally interviewed each teacher about their mentoring work. The interviews were recorded and transcribed. Finally, the studied documents include national policy documents, as well as local instructions for teachers’ mentoring work at the two schools. Since the data was analyzed by an activity theoretical approach (Engeström, 1987/2014), the analysis focus what the teachers were trying to construct and conceptualize, what kind of tools they have used and towards what the most dominant motives for their actions were directed. Therefore, I began by identifying disturbances or manifestations of contradictions in the teachers’ actions. Seeing contradictions as the driving force of change the analysis so to say tries to capture trajectories of political and historical changes as they appeared in the twenty-four teachers’ mentoring activities.
The overall analysis reveals that the teachers’ investigated mentoring actions affect their entire working conditions and also how political and societal expectations have created an ambiguous instability in teachers’ work that is hard for teachers to handle. On the one hand, the results show that the teachers’ mentoring actions stabilise and protect the teaching activities and the schools’ schedule. On the other hand, the mentoring actions destabilise the organisation by offering individualised flexible educational solutions for the mentoring students to prevent dropouts and secure the finance of the overall school organisations. Despite different school organisations, the problems and disturbances the twenty-four teachers have to face in their mentoring work tend to be the same. The teachers’ mentoring work tends to be time-consuming, unpredictable, and hard to define and schedule. The reason is that the teachers’ mentoring actions to a great extent are influenced by the mentoring students’ individual wishes and needs. Moreover, the analysis demonstrates how teachers’ mentoring actions are directed towards two different, partly overlapping contradictory objects. Firstly, the teachers try to stabilise school activity by trying to integrate the mentoring students into the ordinary education provided. Secondly, the teachers try at the same time to create an individualised flexible school organisation, to prevent dropouts and ensure the economic survival of the school. These overlapping contradictory objects demonstrate how the mentoring actions to a great extent are unpredictable and control division of labour, content and time in teachers’ work.
Asp-Onsjö, L. (2011). Dokumentation, styrning och kontroll i den svenska skolan. Educare, 2011(2), 39–56. Engeström, Y. (1987/2014). Learning by expanding: an activity theoretical approach to developmental research. Doctoral Thesis. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Engeström, Y. (2001). Expansive learning at work: toward an activity theoretical reconceptualization. Journal of Education and Work, 14(1), 133–156. Forsberg, E. (2008). Framtidsvägen – en huvudled eller en skiljeväg? Utbildning och Demokrati, 17(1), 75–98. Lindblad S. & Goodson, I. F. (2011). Researching the teaching profession under restructuring. In I. F. Goodson & S. Lindblad (Ed.), Professional knowledge and educational restructuring in Europe. Rotterdam: Sense Publications. Lundahl, L. (2000). A new kind of order. Swedish policy texts related to governance, social inclusion and exclusion in the 1990s. In S. Lindblad & T. Popkewitz (Ed.), Public discourses on education governance and social integration and exclusion. Analyses of policy texts in European contexts. Uppsala reports on Education 36. Uppsala: Department of Education. Lundahl, L., Erixon Arreman, I., Lundström, U. & Rönnberg, L. (2010). Setting things right? Swedish upper secondary school reform in a 40-year perspective. European Journal of Education, 45(1), 46–59. SNAE (Swedish National Agency for Education) (2010). Risk för IG – gymnasierektorer om skolors stöd till elever som riskerar att inte nå målen. Stockholm: Fritzes. SNAE (Swedish National Agency for Education) (2011). Läroplan, examensmål och gymnasiegemensamma ämnen för gymnasieskola 2011 LGY 2011. Stockholm: Fritzes. Nordevall. E., Möllås.G. & Ahlberg. A. (2009). Läraren som mentor i en skola för alla. In A. Ahlberg (Ed.), Specialpedagogisk forskning. En mångfacetterad utmaning. Lund: Studentlitteratur. Parding, K. & Berg-Jansson, A. (2016). Teachers’ Working Conditions amid Swedish school Choice Reform: Avenues for Further Research. Professions & Professionalism, 6(1), 1–16. SFS 2010:800; (Swedish Education Act). Skollagen. Stockholm: Ministry of Education. Skolvärlden (2016, No. 3). Lärarnas Riksförbund. (Teachers’ Union Magazine) SOU 2016:77; En gymnasieutbildning för alla – åtgärder för att alla unga ska påbörja och fullfölja en gymnasieutbildning. Stockholm: Ministry of Education.
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