UC130P-VT10-P8/Assignment 1

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The assignment texts can be downloaded here.

Maneuvering room

What are some contemporary views on maneuvering room for teachers teaching at Swedish preschools, in preschoolclasses and at schools? This report will discuss the views of Karin Rönnerman and Eva Gannerud, Ingrid Carlgren, Göran Brante, and Agneta Knutas.

Karin and Eva highlight the often less known work tasks that are also part of teachers' jobs. It takes a lot of additional time. They argue that teachers' day-to-day work really looks the same no matter the age of the students. The differences are more due to preconceived ideas than practical fact. They argue that because of these preconceptions, the goal- and steering documents don't take enough time in account, that teachers need to do everything that is informally and subconsciously expected of them. They also exemplify the problem of being the lone teacher with limited possibilities to leave ones class unattended. All this causes less than intended maneuvering room for teachers.

Ingrid highlights our collective lack of knowledge about what really happens in school. She argues that the research focus has been too heavily on what the school should be like and how we should change it to comply with our intentions. Too little focus has been at researching how the school really is. One of the consequences of having this unbalanced focus, she argues, has been that we seldom have stopped to think if we should've maybe rethinked the goals themselves. Having unrealistic goals indirectly has the consequence of less than intended maneuvering room for teachers. She also mentions that todays teachers aren't expected to strictly use researchers' proposed way of teaching, but instead find an own way to teach, which increases the teachers' maneuvering room. On the other hand, the closer that history approaches contemporary time, the greater is the divide between those doing research and those doing the teaching. Nowadays teachers are expected to teach and not do any research on their own. That decreases their maneuvering room, should they wish to do some research.

Göran presents the idea that the primary reason for students' decreasing school achievements, is the increased government desire to control many aspects of teachers' work. Less teacher maneuvering room leads to lesser student achievements. He specifically mentions the removal of trust-time and how that made teachers feel questioned, mistrusted and as a consequence, insecure in their own abilities. This feeling of insecureness eventually lead to increased sick leave and loss of enthusiasm. Students picked up on that and they too became significantly less motivated, which in turn lead to lesser achievements. He explains how he sees a future of even stricter goal- and resultsteering, which will lead to even less maneuvering room, and thereby lesser student achievements.

Agneta informs us of the problem that teachers are expected to consider rules over creativity. They are expected to teach the same way for the purpose of giving everyone an equal education. According to her research, teachers are good at protesting and giving their opinions on how to teach. That means that teachers are at least given maneuvering room in terms of being allowed to express their views on matters. She encourages teachers to not settle with little maneuvering room, and instead actively lobby for their opinions and reasons for having them.

All of the above mentioned people except for Ingrid give strong arguments for increased maneuvering room to teachers, and argue in different ways how that would lead to better student achievements. Ingrid discusses a more abstract form of maneuvering room than the others. She thinks that teachers should be allowed to do more research on their own teaching. That would lead to more of the important self reflection and in the long run to better student achievements.

Actual goal- and resultsteering impact

The purpose of the report authored by Gunnar Åsén and Lena M. Olsson has been to encourage increased discussion around whether it is a good idea to implement a national curriculum in preschools.

Their report discovered a discrepancy between preschools' actual needs and their allotted budget. The amount of money they got depended more on the municipality's available resources than on the preschool's actual needs. The citizens needs differ from municipality to municipality and so does their budget. Ultimately this leads to unequal teacher maneuvering rooms.

The intention of implementing a national curriculum also in preschool, has been to increase the focus on teaching but also to keep the mission of developing children emotionally, socially and encourage their joy for learning. The focus-shift was not intended to necessarily have children reach educational goals. The education goals were intended to be endeavored, not necessarily reached. The municipality leaderships as well as preschool leaderships tended to implement result-goals instead of the intended endeavor-goals.

The institutions have had a desire to find ways to measure children's development. In the authors' opinion that has unintentionally shifted focus on "what is wrong with the children" instead of "how can we improve our way of doing things".

It seems as if the report focused on bringing the negative consequences of implementing a national curriculum into light, to give a counterweight to the current consensus that the consequences have been primarily positive. This would lead to more discussions which was their original intent.

The report claims that "more than half of all municipalities report that the amount of children in need of extra support has increased". Strictly speaking that could mean that 50.1 % reported an increase, and that 49.9 reported a decrease. Therefore that particular statement is not significant. It could also mean that 54.9 % reported an increase and that 45.1 % reported that there was no change in the need. In that case it would be a highly significant and interesting metric.

Aside from the above minor rhetorical (mathematical?) mistake I'd say they accomplished their goal very well.

Central concepts and definitions

The reader is expected to understand the Swedish concepts in the below translation table. Explaining them is beyond the scope of this course assignment.

English Swedish
maneuvering room handlingsutrymme
mission uppdrag [Skolans uppdrag]
preschool [student age < 6] förskola
preschoolclass [student age 6-7] förskoleklass
school [grade level 1-12] skola
goal- and resultsteering mål- och resultatstyrning
trust-time förtroendetid
endeavor-goal strävansmål
result-goal uppnåendemål
national curriculum läroplan
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