23 SES 02 B, Teachers and Teaching
Today, within the OECD-countries, education policies and practices promote reforms aimed at teachers’ work; reforms for professional development, including research-based knowledge are considered as needed to increase the quality of the education system in the respective countries (OECD, 2018). In Sweden, different reforms over the last decades (Carlgren & Klette, 2008; Hansson, 2014, Alexiadou et al., 2016) have effectively placed ‘the teacher profession under great pressure’, according to the title of a Swedish government report (Swedish Government, 2009).
Since the early 1990s, Swedish education policies are based on a system of management by results (‘goals- and results’), including policies for decentralization, school choice and public financing of private free-schools (Gov. bill 1992/93:100). Ensuing school reforms include new curricula, new syllabi and a new grading system along with increased emphasis on national tests and documentation of student performance (Rönnberg, 2014; Gov. bill 2009/10: 219, 2010/11: 20). With the aim to transform education by competition between providers, the reforms reflect a market oriented policy model (Lundahl et al., 2013; Skolverket, 2012).
In the 2000s, different signs of weaknesses of the Swedish school system were associated with growing inequities and segregation (Skolverket, 2009, 2010; Andersson et al., 2012. Negative trends included, for example, dramatic drop of student performance in the PISA and TIMMS assessments (Wiberg & Rolfsman 2013), increased student ‘drop-out’ (Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions, 2012) and ‘grade-inflation’ (Skolverket, 2016). Successive reforms to support teachers’ professional development include new career paths, a national certification system and national programmes for in-service training (Gov. bill 2009/10: 219, 2010/11:20; Skolverket, 2017). Specific training programmes are also directed to head-teachers. Since 2011, all teaching should be evidence-based, formulated in the Education Act (SFS 2010:800) as ‘scientific based knowledge and proven experience’ (Skolverket, 2013). Parallel, a national teacher education reform (Swedish Government, 2008) entitled ‘Best in Class’ (Gov. bill 2009/10:89) emphasizes the strengthening of relevant knowledges and competences among teachers.
Against this backdrop the aims of this study concern how to understand challenges and dilemmas related to policy demands on ‘scientific-based knowledge’. For this purpose we pose the following research questions:
- What is the problem? Why the emphasis on evidence-based education and needs of academisation of teachers in policy documents related to teaching and teachers?
- What forms of academic attitudes and knowledges are expected in policy documents?
- In what ways are teachers expected to teach in line with the policies on scientific- based knowledge?
- How are teachers positioned?
For understanding national and local policies on evidence-based education we
use Foucault’s concept of ‘governmentality’ (Foucault 1991) as analytical tool, further developed
by Dean (2010). Following Foucault, governmentality provides a wider
understanding of government and governing by including power as social control,
as well as what knowledge counts in school as an institution. Following Dean, governmentality
entails a problematization of regimes of government by calling ’into questions on how we shape or direct our own and
others conduct’ (Dean 2010, p. 38).
This study is conducted within a specific, recently started research and development (R&D) project which is conducted and financed in collaboration between a small-town municipality and two Swedish universities. The overall aim of the R&D project is to support and problematize meetings between policy and teaching practice in research-based education projects. In practice, endeavors for research-based school development are shaped and enacted in various programmes for teachers including career paths, part-time academic studies and classroom action research. For this study, we analyse a variety of official policy documents at national and local policy level. National policy texts include Swedish Government reports, governmental bills, the Education Act and various reports and documents provided by the National Agency for Education (‘Skolverket’), further complemented with a report of the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions. Policy documents at the local municipality level include reports, policy visions, strategies and working papers/briefing material. In line with Dean (2010) we analyze the polices in four analytic dimensions: 1) visibility of government; 2) technologies and practices of government; 3) forms of knowledges and expertise employed in practices of governing; and 4) formation of identity and subject positions.
The preliminary results of policy document analyses is presented through four dimensions of governmentality. Concerning visibility on government, the policies are directed to the teaching force, stressing the need for transforming education based on research and proven experience. The state mandates needs of academisation of teachers; the endeavours are supposed to solve the problem with decreased quality in Swedish education. Technologies and practices of government are enacted in policies on career paths, certification of teachers, increasing control of student performance, implementation of research findings into school practice and reform of teacher education. Forms of knowledges and expertise employed in practices of governing, involve in the policy documents a focus on content knowledge, based on rational and linear scientific views of knowledge. At the same time, emphasis on teachers’ proven practise in line with ideas of “evidence-based” and “what works best”. Formation of identity and subject positions of the teacher that are presupposed and promoted. The policy documents suggest multiple and even contradictive subject positions of teachers. The teacher is assigned the role of problem solver to handle overall negative trends, particularly decreasing student performance. Simultaneously, the teacher is presupposed to have ‘a lack of knowledge’ that will be remedied by ‘new’ scientific knowledge and proven experience. The teacher is further assigned the subject position of a highly responsible and competent change agent, with high expectations from the government. Parallel, due to the increased focus on control and accountability teachers’ autonomy and professional judgement are undermined, including health risks in the subject position as a “puppet-on-a-string” as the medium for implementation of governmental rationalities . The overall results indicate that the investigated policies move along a continuum between mistrust- or trust rationalities. Accordingly, these rationalities hamper or reinforce teachers´ discretionary powers and their enactment of policies.
Alexiadou, N., Dovemark, M., Erixon Arreman, I., Holm, A.S., Lundahl, L. & Lundström, U. (2016). Managing inclusion in competitive school systems: The cases of Sweden and England. Research in Comparative and International Education, 11(1), 13-33. Andersson, E., Malmberg, B., & Östh, J. (2012). Travel-to-school distances in Sweden 2000–2006: changing school geography with equality implications. Journal of Transport Geography, 23, 35-43. Carlgren, I., Klette, K. (2008). Reconstructions of Nordic Teachers: Reform policies and teachers' work during the 1990s. Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research, 52:2,117-133. Dean, M. (2010). Governmentality. Power and rule in modern society. London: Sage. Education Act (SFS 2010:800). Swedish government. Foucault, M. (1991). "Governmentality." In (Eds.) G. Burchell, C. Gordon & P. Miller The Foucault Effect. Chicago: University of Chicago, 87-104. Governmental bill (2009/10:89). Bäst i klassen - en ny lärarutbildning. Stockholm: Ministry of education. Governmental bill (2009/10: 219). Grades from school year 6 in the compulsory school. Stockholm: Ministry of Education. Governmental bill (2010/11:20). Certification for teachers and pre-school teachers. Stockholm: Ministry of Education. Hansson, K. (2014). Skola och medier. Aktiviteter och styrning i en kommuns utvecklingssträvanden. Umeå: Umeå University. Lundahl, L., Erixon Arreman, I., Holm, A. S., & Lundström, U. (2013). Educational marketization the Swedish way. Education Inquiry, 4(3), 497-517. OECD (2018). Teaching in Focus. http://www.oecd.org/edu/school/teachinginfocus.htm Paris: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Rönnberg, L. (2014). Justifying the need for control. Motives for Swedish national school inspection during two governments. Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research, 58(4), 385-399. Skolverket (2009). Vad påverkar resultaten i svensk grundskola? Stockholm: Swedish National Agency for Education. Skolverket (2010). Konkurrensen om eleverna. Stockholm: Swedish National Agency for Education. Skolverket (2012) Mapping the School Market. Stockholm: Swedish National Agency for Education. Skolverket (2013). Forskning för klassrummet. Vetenskaplig grund och beprövad erfarenhet i praktiken. Stockholm: Swedish National Agency for Education. Skolverket (2016). Skolkonkurrens skapar betygsinflation. Press-release. Stockholm: Swedish National Agency for Education. Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions (2012). Studieavbrott från gymnasiet kan undvikas. Stockholm: Sveriges kommuner och landsting. Swedish Government (2008). En hållbar lärarutbildning. Stockholm: Ministry of Education. Swedish Government (2009). En kår i kläm. Läraryrket mellan professionella ideal och statliga reformideologier. Stockholm: Ministry of Finance. Wiberg, M., & Rolfsman, E. (2013). School effectiveness in science in Sweden and Norway viewed from a TIMSS perspective. Utbildning och Demokrati, 22(3), 69-84.
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