ERG SES G 07, Innovative Intercultural Learning in Education
This paper aims to explore the experiences of international teachers of mathematics in Swedish schools. According to the Swedish National Agency for Education, teacher shortage is a major problem in Sweden, and, in the next five years, the Swedish education system will need to employ up to 77,000 teachers in order to meet demand (Skolverket, 2017). At policy level, one proposal to address this teacher shortage has been to increase investment in the recruitment of international language teachers from abroad. While international teachers have received little attention in empirical research, teacher mobility overseas has increased considerably over the years due to trends in the globalisation of education and the internationalisation of labour markets (Dunne, 2015; Roskell, 2013; Yaylaci & Islam 2013). Of the limited studies which do exist, most focus on the experiences of language teachers, especially English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) teachers, or international and native staff in International Baccalaureate (IB) schools (Barratt Hacking, Blackmore, Bullock, Bunnell, Donnelly & Martin, 2018). Given the potential international mobility offers to issues of teacher supply, however, there is a need to understand how overseas-trained teachers of core curriculum subjects have been integrated and developed within their host national education systems. Moreover, since mathematics is currently a high priority subject in Sweden (Skolverket, 2019), in part due to the historical reports of a decline in Swedish students’ results in international comparative tests such as the Performance for International Student Assessment (OECD, 2015; 2012; 2009), this research could also contribute to subject development within the schools under investigation and more widely.
Situated within a sociocultural paradigm this research will explore the experiences of international mathematics teachers employed in Swedish schools. Sociocultural theory highlights the significance of social interactions to teacher development. For international teachers, however, there is a need to consider how these interactions are culturally and interculturally shaped (Dunne, 2015; Roskell, 2013; Yaylaci & Islam, 2013). In examining how international mathematics teachers have adapted to their new professional context, this study will aim to show i) which interactions have contributed most to their social and professional development ii) how these interactions take place within the school or classroom context and ii) future areas for improvement in cultural /intercultural transitions. My main research questions are therefore:
1. What are the experiences and perspectives of international mathematics teachers in Swedish classrooms?
2. What were the perceived challenges and successes of working in the Swedish education system?
3. How might current international staff and principals better prepare for the arrival of new international staff?
This comparative case study examines international teachers’ adjustment to and social interactions within three school contexts in Sweden. The qualitative approach enabled the exploration of a social phenomenon in depth. The schools selected for this research are all free schools (friskolor) within the same free school company. While the findings cannot therefore be generalised to the entire school sector, this exploratory study could later be extended to incorporate different free school school companies and municipal schools. Through purposive sampling, twelve international teachers of mathematics were identified from a range of English-speaking countries such as Canada, the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with international teachers to understand their experiences of teaching mathematics within their specific school context and the wider Swedish school system. These interviews took place at the University of Stockholm. The interviews consisted of a range of hierarchically focused questions, which were both closed and open-ended. They began with biographical questions on their reasons for becoming a teacher, experiences of teacher education pedagogical practice in their home country and then continued with questions related to their personal and professional motivations for work overseas and experiences of the Swedish system to date. To triangulate these data, interviews were later conducted with school administrators. All the interviews were recorded digitally and transcribed for subsequent analysis. All interviews – including those with administration – were conducted in English. Adopting an inductive approach to analysis, interviews were coded individually into concepts and categories. These codes were then analyzed comparatively and thematically. To make the analysis richer, field notes, which included observations from the interviews, were closely examined.
At the time of writing this submission, this research project for my Masters’ dissertation is still in progress. While previous studies have used different sample groups and conceptual frameworks, many focused on the experiences of ESL teachers reveal struggles in cultural transition and intercultural interaction within their respective social settings (Yaylaci & Islam, 2013). As Roskell (2013) has claimed, teachers who have not succeeded in cultural transition and have experienced poor intercultural interactions are at risk of having their professional side reflect that. By contrast, studies conducted on IB teachers, for instance, have noted the importance of leadership and the development of professional learning communities to the positive experiences of international teachers (Lalor, 2014; Mancuso, 2010; Barratt Hacking, Blackmore, Bullock, Bunnell, Donnelly & Martin, 2018). Although tentative, I expect my findings to reveal similar tensions in the personal, social and professional development of international teachers within these Swedish school contexts.
Bryman, A. (2016). Social Research Methods. New York , USA: Oxford University Press. Dunn, A. H. (2015). Searching for the 'American dream': international teachers in the United States. Bildung und Erziehung, 68(4), 431-444 Garcia, I. (2018, April 19). Moderaterna vill rekrytera lärare utomlands. Retrieved from https://sverigesradio.se/sida/artikel.aspx?programid=83&artikel=6934541 Hacking, E. B., Blackmore, C., Bullock, K., Bunnell, T., Donnelly, M., & Martin, S. (2018). International Mindedness in Practice: The Evidence from International Baccalaureate Schools. Journal of Research in International Education, 17(1), 3-16 Lalor, B., & Abawi, L. (2014). Professional learning communities enhancing teacher experiences in international schools. International Journal of Pedagogies and Learning, 9(1), 76-86 Mancuso, S. V., Roberts, L., & White, G. P. (2010). Teacher retention in international schools: The key role of school leadership. Journal of Research in International Education, 9(3), 306-323 Roskell, D. (2013). Cross-cultural transition: International teachers' experience of 'culture shock'. Journal of Research in International Education, 12 (2), 155-172 Skolverket (2017, December 18). Stort Behov Av Fler Lärare. Retrieved from www.skolverket.se/om-oss/press/pressmeddelanden/pressmeddelanden/2017-12-18-stortbehov-av-fler-larare Skolverket (2019, January 30). Sveriges negativa trend bruten PISA. Retrieved from https://www.skolverket.se/skolutveckling/forskning-och-utvarderingar/internationella-jamforande-studier-pa-utbildningsomradet/pisa-internationell-studie-om-15-aringars-kunskaper-i-matematik-naturvetenskap-och-lasforstaelse#h-SverigesnegativatrendbruteniPISA Yaylaci, Y., Islam, A. (2013). Teaching across cultures: considerations for international language teachers in Kazakhstan. Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences. In 13th International Educational Technology Conference 26 November 2013
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