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Progressive education and grammar schools in Sweden: Mother tongue, History and Biology teaching in the 1940s
Karlstad University, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (starting 2013), Centre for the Studies of Social Sciences Didactics (from 2013). Karlstad University, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (starting 2013), Department of Political, Historical, Religious and Cultural Studies (from 2013). (CSD)ORCID iD: 0000-0002-5716-2372
Karlstad University, Faculty of Health, Science and Technology (starting 2013), Department of Environmental and Life Sciences (from 2013). (SMEER)ORCID iD: 0000-0001-8735-2102
Karlstad University, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (starting 2013), Department of Educational Studies (from 2013). Karlstad University, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (starting 2013), Department of Language, Literature and Intercultural Studies (from 2013). (CSL)ORCID iD: 0000-0002-2872-4102
2019 (English)Conference paper, Oral presentation with published abstract (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

The first half of the 20th century saw the breakthrough of the idea of democratic education with an emphasis on accessibility of education for all citizens. Also John Dewey's ideas that the content and form of instruction should be based on democratic principles influenced many school systems. In Sweden, these ideas had an impact not least on the school reform initiated in Sweden during the 1940s, as manifested in the School Commission report (SOU 1948:27)

Research into this period has primarily focused on two educational levels. The first level deals to a large extent with policy and the character of curricula (Labaree, 2005; Popkewitz, 2006), while the second level concerns teaching in general with a special focus on how reform pedagogy has been implemented, for example, in studies of student influence and interaction (Cuban, 1993). In Sweden only the curricular level has been studied (Englund, 1996) leaving a knowledge gap regarding the reform pedagogics on the enacted curricula. In this study we fill this gap by investigating previously unexplored historical documents of teachers reports on their practice collected by the Swedish school commission from 1930s to the 1940s.  

In addition, in this study we also focus on how different subject teachers handled the expectations of student-centred teaching in their subjects. Admittedly, we are inspired by the approaches above, but apply a comparative subject-specific perspective on reform pedagogical teaching by using the perspective of didactic transposition (Chevallard, 2007).

The general approach of this study (and the project) is based on the education research tradition in which the voices and experiences of the members of the profession serve as a basis for generating new knowledge of specific professional issues (Schön, 1983; Lortie, 1992; Ball & Goodson, 1985)

The overarching aim of this paper is to study how secondary education teachers in mother tongue(MT), history (HI) and biology (BI) conducted their teaching inspired by reform pedagogy. The following questions guide our study:

What similarities and differences are there between the three subjects regarding

-          Students' opportunities to study on their own (StudentPart)

-          Student interaction (StundInter)

-          Using the surrounding community as a resource (SCPR)

A comparative perspective allows for more nuanced knowledge of the facets of reform pedagogy. It also adds to the field of history of education as it enables a better understanding of how different subject traditions influence how reforms are interpreted. The results presented here are part of a major project recently launched and are so far tentative. 

 The study particularly highlight the importance of professional practitioners’ own reflections on their work. Such reflections are assumed to generate new concepts and theories. Ball & Goodson, (1985), Goodson & Hargreaves (1996) and Ball et al (2012) are central regarding teachers’ work in general and the changes made in a reform context. They work on the assumption that teachers’ accounts and experiences contribute to understanding key aspects of the profession. This also applies to the historical development and current challenges.

In 1946, the School Commission started collecting teachers' experiences of teaching. The Swedish schools received a circular requesting teachers to submit their accounts, and this request was also made in teaching magazines. A total of 850 accounts written by teachers were submitted to the commission (SOU 1948:27). The material consists of written accounts by elementary school teachers and grammar school teachers. These reports are now stored in the The Swedish National Archives (RA). The texts are divided into all the school subject blocks. In a pilot study, we went through all the reports that all have a narrative or story character in which the teachers describe how they enact the reform pedagogy in the classrooms. The “stories” can be categorised as related to history (N=83 stories), mother tongue (N=130 stories) and biology (N=38 stories) in grammar schools. Altogether, there are over 251 stories available in these categories in the archive. Note that this number represents about 10 per cent of the entire teaching staff in 1946, i.e. making up a substantial representation of the teachers at that time. The stories mostly includes detailed accounts of the teaching practised and its relation to the pedagogical approach of the reform. Recurring elements are perspectives on the role of the pupil, the organisation of instruction etc. The stories cover between one page to 100 pages and often include lesson plans, and student responses. There are descriptions of their own teaching, often in a historical perspective. In this proposal, we present our first initial comparison of the teaching reported in the stories of history, mother tongue and biology reports. The comparative aspects are developed in a forthcoming in-depth analysis. The basis of a comparison is that the “cases” should be different but at the same time similar enough to be interesting to compare in terms of similarities and variations. Using more than one case (e.g. only history teachers) increases the chances to theorise and generalise. In this case the variable was the context of reform, as all teachers and subjects were under pressure to make changes in preparation of reform implementation. In identifying subject-specific teaching perspectives in relation to democratisation of instruction, the analytical frames from Cuban (1993) to describe reform pedagogy were used. In this particular study we analyse three specific criteria of reform pedagogy as defined by Cuban: student participation, student interaction and surrounding community as pedagogical resource.

Below, we present some general descriptive results based on the first quantitative analyses of the material, which focused on how teachers in different subjects relate to Cuban’s teaching criteria as mentioned in the method section. We present the results as frequencies as well as their relative distribution in per cent (%) of the three subjects of the three group of school subject reports of history, mother tongue and biology, see Table 1. If an instance of the specific criteria could be identified in a teacher story of their teaching it was included. Tabel 1 Distribution of reform pedagogical activities in the different school subjects. Frequency (per cent) StudPart Studinter SCPR Total HI 27 (33) 28 (34) 29 (35) 84 (34) MT 65 (50) 61 (47) 14 (11) 140 (36) BI 20 (53) 14 (37) 29 (76) 63 (55) T 112 (45) 103 (41) 72 (29) (Source Swedish National Archives) As can be seen in Table 1 the total results including all the three criteria of progressive teaching shows that the Biology teachers in average report far more reform pedagogic activities (55%) than Mother Tongue teachers (36%) and history teachers (34%). All in all, the first analysis shows that progressively oriented teaching occurred in upper secondary schools early in Sweden. It is also clear that there were variations between subjects. The differences should be understood as a result of various subject traditions that are enacted differently, which should be studied further by using qualitative in depth studies of the various didactic transpositions taking place in the different subjects. Further, studies will reveal whether these activities are an expression of a more close connection to the academic discipline, or a true influence of reform pedagogics

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2019.
National Category
Social Sciences
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:kau:diva-75280OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kau-75280DiVA, id: diva2:1360610
Conference
Oral presentation at ECER (European Conference on Educational Research) held by EERA (European Educational Research Association) in Hamburg, Germany 2-6th of September.
Available from: 2019-10-14 Created: 2019-10-14 Last updated: 2019-11-19Bibliographically approved

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Samuelsson, JohanGericke, NiklasOlin-Scheller, Christina

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Centre for the Studies of Social Sciences Didactics (from 2013)Department of Political, Historical, Religious and Cultural Studies (from 2013)Department of Environmental and Life Sciences (from 2013)Department of Educational Studies (from 2013)Department of Language, Literature and Intercultural Studies (from 2013)
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