Swedish school study highlights need for return to learning
Work continues on a ground-breaking study to gauge the quality of education in Sweden, aimed at improving standards across-the-board.
Over in Sweden, Mats Rosenkvist continues with his development of a systematic approach to improving the quality of teaching and learning in Swedish schools. This is becoming quite a body of work.
Mats, CEO of BRAVOLesson – improving teaching through collaboration, now has the observations from more than 1,000 lessons to draw from, and has been able to draw a number of conclusions around the quality of teaching in the classroom.
Below we’ve reproduced Mats’s latest report on his findings, which examine the situation in more detail.
Unknown quality crisis in Swedish schools during 75 percent of the lessons, the focus is not on learning.
We have systematically observed the teaching during 2100 lessons in Swedish classrooms during which we have seen many examples of fantastic and skillful teaching. However, we have seen even more teaching that was not skilled, that was not based on what research over time has shown lead to learning and that was not compensatory according to the overall assignment for Swedish schools. This teaching provided little support for pupils’ learning progression and especially for disadvantaged pupils who need a lot of support.
One example: During 75 percent of a series of 500 observed lessons in 28 elementary schools, the focus during the lesson was not on learning but on doing or finishing, for instance a set of questions.
The large amount of data from observations focusing on evidence-based teaching in Swedish classrooms that we have systematically collected has, as far as we know, not been collected by anyone else in recent decades. Researchers at University of Linköping have therefore decided to analyse our data. Their analysis will be presented during a seminar on 22nd of November 2023.
We have chosen to publish this document now, before the School Parliament on May 8-9 because we feel that in Swedish schools and in the ongoing debate there is too little focus on what, everyone agrees, has the greatest impact on pupils’ learning, the quality of the teaching carried in the classrooms.
Many school managers and headteachers that we meet agree that it is the most important, but say that they do not have time to prioritise it now, despite low student results year after year and despite the Swedish Education Act’s writings about equivalent teaching based on research.
However, more schools have started to prioritise teaching quality, but there is still no sense of urgency and it does not seem to be important to systematically develop evidence-based teaching. As the days of the academic year roll on with more than 560,000 new lessons every day, what an opportunity is being missed!
In our view it is essential that we raise awareness of the importance of the quality of teaching ahead of the next academic year, during which another 100 million lessons will be conducted in Sweden’s primary and secondary schools which, with our effective evidence-based intervention, could lead to greater learning gains.
In addition Mats has sent this excerpt from his organisation’s appeal to Sweden’s School Parliament Conference on 8-9 May 2023:
Our document is based on raw data from a series of 500 lesson observations. Data that describes what we have observed when we have focused on the important details that research has repeatedly shown over a long period of time has shown to lead to a learning environment, motivation, learning and higher pupil outcomes.
- During 10 percent of the lessons, the teacher checked that the students understood what they were supposed to learn during the lesson.
- 25 percent of the lessons focused on learning. 60 percent of the lessons had a focus on doing/finishing questions or equivalent and in 15 percent there was no focus at all.
- During 40 percent of the lessons, the teacher’s leadership was focused on inspiration and motivation for learning. During 50 percent of the lessons, the teachers led with conventional leadership based on control, rewards and sanctions.
- During 33 percent of the lessons, the teacher had deliberately organised some form of cooperative learning where the students learn together. This means that the majority of students have to sit alone during many long lessons. Many teachers do not have time to support all students and feel inadequate. The teachers make far too little use of the pupils’ ability to support each other and learn together.
Those who suffer the most based on these examples are the disadvantaged pupils who need the most support to learn. This means that the teaching is not compensatory, or that the teaching is not carried out in a compensatory way. Teaching is not based on evidence according to the School Act.
Since the Swedish school is largely conducted in a homogeneous context, based on research on generalizability, it is reasonable to assume that several of the observations above from 500 lessons in 28 schools can also apply to many other classrooms in Sweden.
It is important to note that none of the four points above are about resources in the form of money or the number of teachers/adults in the classroom.
We are pleased to be able to support Mats and his colleagues in their ambition to improve the quality of teaching and learning in Swedish schools and we look forward to continuing to report their progress.
Take care and stay safe.