01 SES 08 C, Building Mentoring Relationships
During the two last decades school segregation in Sweden has become increasingly evident (OECD 2015; OECD 2017). In particular, students with low social economic backgrounds and/or with migrant backgrounds struggle in school. Consequently, large groups of young citizens risk experiencing deceasing life choices. International studies like PISA and PIRLS have also shown that Sweden lags behind when it comes to literacy performance. Therefore, in 2015, a five year long, nationwide professional development (PD) program Läslyftet (eng. Enhancing literacy) was initiated by the Swedish Department of Education, targeting all subject teachers from primary to upper secondary school. The program aims at” improving students’ reading, writing and learning skills” (The Swedish Board of Education, 2015, p. 5). Since good literacy skills are crucial to succeed in most school subjects, it is being assumed that an improvement of students’ reading and writing skills will lead to an overall increase in attainment results. Läslyftet also aims at implementing a model where mandators and principals give conditions for continuing and long term systematic quality work concerning students’ literacy development, based on local needs and conditions.
Läslyftet is characterized by collegial learning – in the Swedish context an umbrella term for professional development expected to occur when teachers, through structured collaboration and reflective dialogue about teaching issues, gain new insights, knowledge and skills – and where the notion of learning as a social process is central. International research in the field often define learning as participating in social practice (Levine, 2010) and the concept Professional Learning Communities (PLC) are often used. In Stoll et al (2006) successful PLCs are characterized by reflection, collaboration and shared values, visions and responsibility for students’ learning. It is often emphasized that PLCs need to concentrate on the learning of the students: “The goal of their actions is to enhance their effectiveness as professionals for the students’ benefits” (Stoll et al., 2006, p. 223).
The construction of Läslyftet corresponds with Timperley’s (2008) model Teacher inquiry and knowledge-building cycle (see below) where students’ attainment level is expected to increase by their teachers’ professional development. During Läslyftet teachers are expected to read articles, watch instruction films and try out and evaluate various teaching activities. The teachers are organized in groups, led by a colleague, a teacher of Swedish, who functions as the group literacy mentor. The mentors are trained at a local university, supervised by the Swedish Board of Education.
The construction of Läslyftet, where literacy mentors lead the learning of their colleagues, can also be a means of developing their own schools. The role of the internal school developer has recently been emphasized (Blossing, 2013). The internal developer can have various labels. In this study the concept agent for change (Blossing, 2013) has been chosen.
The focus in our study is the literacy mentors’ approach to the role they are given by the training program they take aiming at facilitate leading the learning of their colleagues. We also examine the potential for the literacy mentors to function as an “agent for change” for a continuing school development work. Our research questions are:
- What is/are the role(s) of the mentor in relation to what is expected of them, compared to what is experienced and performed by them?
What are the opportunities for the mentors to function as future long term “agents for change” when it comes to schools’ development work?
During 2016 and 2017, 61 literacy mentors answered questionnaires. The main part of the mentors has comprehensive experience of teaching, up to 40 years, and claim having a special interest in literacy development. 24 of them are Lead Teachers, 15 of the mentors are Literacy Coordinators and 38 of them have previous mentor experience. The questionnaires embraced three themes: the role of the literacy mentor, the collegial group discussions and Läslyftet as a model for developing students’ literacy competence. In addition to the questionnaires, our data consists of seven recorded mentor group discussions from two separate groups. One of the groups was homogenous and consisted of seven secondary school Swedish teachers. The other group was more heterogenous, containing a cross-curricular team of ten teachers at an upper secondary school. The two data categories enable an overall examination of the role(s) of the literacy mentor. We have categorized the roles into the expected, the experienced and the executed one. (Thornberg, 2013). The data has also been analyzed and interpreted in relation to Timperley’s (2008) model for professional learning, since the organization of Läslyftet resembles that model. The model starts off with an analysis of the students’ knowledge that is set in relation to the goals to attain in the curriculum. In step two the teachers’ knowledge and instruction skills are analyzed. In the third step teachers develop theoretical knowledge and teaching skills to meet the need of the students. In the fourth step teachers try out innovative ways of teaching that are expected to improve the learning of the students. The model is concluded by the teachers’ examination of the effect of their adapted teaching methods on the students’ learning outcomes.
The predominant expected role of the literacy mentor is to lead discussions. Models for leading group discussions comprise the main contents of the training, and it is also the role of leading group discussions that is being communicated and emphasized by The Swedish Board of Education. The literacy mentors themselves also claim that this is the role they are supposed to take. A more implicit expected role of the literacy mentors is the expert - in the mentors’ undergraduate education literacy is emphasized and their working experience and skills suggests expertise in the field. Still the role of the expert is rejected by the mentors: …“ in the training we have learnt that we are supposed to avoid the expert role”. To sum up, leading the group discussions - and avoiding the expert role - is both the expected and experienced roles. The executed role of the mentors is more multifaced – besides distributing speaking time they occasionally act as an expert. They also function as project manager, ambassador for Läslyftet, confessor and the equal colleague. The solid backgrounds of the mentors, their optimism about the effect of Läslyftet and their positive experiences of the mentorship give the conclusion that they have the potential to function as agents for change to improve future development work in their schools. Therefore, we find the role of the literacy mentor, as emphasized by The Swedish Board of Education, too restricted. For future development work there is, however, a need to stay closer to a development model, i.e. Timperly (2008) where focus on students learning is more clearly elucidated than in Läslyftet. The crucial factor characterizing successful PLCs is a mutual and shared understanding among teachers – and principals – that the main task is to continuously develop teaching in a way so students’ attainment improve.
Blossing, U. (2013). Förändringsagenter för skolutveckling: Roller och implementeringsprocess. Pedagogisk Forskning i Sverige, 18(3–4), 153–174. Levine, T. H. (2010). Tools for the study and design of collaborative teacher learning: the affordances of different conceptions of teacher community and activity theory. Teacher Education Quarterly, 37(1), 109–130 OECD (2015). Improving schools in Sweden. An OECD perspective. http://www.oecd.org/edu/school/Improving-Schools-in-Sweden.pdf OECD (2017) Education at glance. Country notes - Sweden. http://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/docserver/download/9617041ec068.pdf?expires=1517314839&id=id&accname=guest&checksum=DC981D507FD8874BA217477C59C8D304 Skolverket (2015). Planera och organisera för Läslyftet – Diskussionsunderlag. https://www.skolverket.se/polopoly_fs/1.250435!/PlaneraochorganiseraPDFjan16.pdf Stoll, L., Bolam, R., McMahon, A., Wallace, M. & Thomas, S. (2006). Professional learning communities: a review of the literature. Journal of Educational Change, 7, 221–258. Thornberg, R. (2013). Det sociala livet i skolan: socialpsykologi för lärare. 2. uppl. Stockholm: Liber. Timperley, H. (2008). Teacher professional learning and development. Educational Practices Series 18. Brussels: International Academy of Education.
00. Central Events (Keynotes, EERA-Panel, EERJ Round Table, Invited Sessions)
Network 1. Continuing Professional Development: Learning for Individuals, Leaders, and Organisations
Network 2. Vocational Education and Training (VETNET)
Network 3. Curriculum Innovation
Network 4. Inclusive Education
Network 5. Children and Youth at Risk and Urban Education
Network 6. Open Learning: Media, Environments and Cultures
Network 7. Social Justice and Intercultural Education
Network 8. Research on Health Education
Network 9. Assessment, Evaluation, Testing and Measurement
Network 10. Teacher Education Research
Network 11. Educational Effectiveness and Quality Assurance
Network 12. LISnet - Library and Information Science Network
Network 13. Philosophy of Education
Network 14. Communities, Families and Schooling in Educational Research
Network 15. Research Partnerships in Education
Network 16. ICT in Education and Training
Network 17. Histories of Education
Network 18. Research in Sport Pedagogy
Network 19. Ethnography
Network 20. Research in Innovative Intercultural Learning Environments
Network 22. Research in Higher Education
Network 23. Policy Studies and Politics of Education
Network 24. Mathematics Education Research
Network 25. Research on Children's Rights in Education
Network 26. Educational Leadership
Network 27. Didactics – Learning and Teaching
The programme is updated regularly (each day in the morning)
- Search for keywords and phrases in "Text Search"
- Restrict in which part of the abstracts to search in "Where to search"
- Search for authors and in the respective field.
- For planning your conference attendance you may want to use the conference app, which will be issued some weeks before the conference
- If you are a session chair, best look up your chairing duties in the conference system (Conftool) or the app.