Teaching skills in practice – innovation in Swedish education

Our colleagues in Sweden have embarked on an initiative aimed at improving the quality of teaching and learning.

The initiative, Teaching skills in practice, is already gaining traction in a number of Swedish schools and municipalities. It was launched by Mats Rosenkvist alongside Urban Hansson and Bernt Friberg in February 2022.

Mats, CEO of Successful Schools Sweden/BRAVOLesson, says that since 2011 his co-authors Urban and Bernt have been carrying out classroom observations and coaching teachers both as head teacher and in the case of Urban, whilst working for the Swedish Schools Inspection.

Bernt in particular has for many years been interested in school improvement and in particular the role that pedagogy and didactics play. He has rigorously researched the subject and as a result of this research and their experience in schools, both have a broad and deep understanding of what aspects of teaching lead to effective learning both within the Swedish context and internationally.

THE TEN DIMENSIONS

Initially these aspects were divided into seven dimensions, which after further analysis became ten. The first version of the ten-dimension form was created in 2017. It has since been tested in more than 1800 lesson observations carried out by Bernt and Urban in schools all over Sweden. Each observation has been followed up with an individual didactic talk with each teacher. This has been followed in all schools by a seminar for all staff and the management team in which the overall findings about teaching at the school were presented and debated.

The feedback from this process has provided Bernt and Urban with the evidence to confirm the nature of each dimension and provided for each defined observable teacher actions in the classroom. These they have subdivided into four progression levels of skilful teaching.

Mats has also worked for a number of years to develop the quality of teaching and learning in Swedish and Nordic schools through his company BRAVOLessons, which provides an IT based observation framework. Mats, Bernt and Urban started working together in 2020 for a number of reasons. The first was a shared interest in improving the quality of teaching and learning in Swedish schools. Another was that since 2017, Mats has been looking for evidence-based classroom observation forms that could be an alternative to the one provided by the Swedish School Inspection Authority. He observed a need for an alternative as a basis for teacher dialogue and with more depth. He found another two Swedish evidence-based forms which were copyright protected so would not be available to all schools. He did, however, find strong alternatives in other countries, for instance the UK, and translated them.

Capturing the students’ perceptions and validating their approach

In 2020, Bernt started additional work into the research concerning what students demand from their teachers, and specifically what they consider their ”best teachers” do that supports their learning. Hirsh (2020) among others have had that focus.

They also compared their ten dimensions against the ten dimensions that lead to effective pupil learning which emerged from the meta findings of Hattie & Zierer (2019). In both cases they found that their emergent approach corresponded with the findings from these two key research documents.

Since then they have further collaborated their work by carrying out their own interviews with pupils and have found equivalent comments from them compared to the findings of Hirsh. This has allowed them to provide for each dimension an expression about what students say that they expect from their teachers.

The form also contains references to the appropriate research and is designed so that the learning processes and the execution are separated to make them more manageable when filling in. Longer observation forms with many dimensions are often left incomplete, leading to a non-systematic approach to improving teaching.

https://www.bravolesson.se/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/Pressrelease-New-observation-form-10022022.pdf


We are very grateful to Mats, Bernt and Urban for sharing their important work with us. Those who read this journal on a regular basis will know that we have been championing, through the writing of Mats, the need for schools in Sweden to take a systematic approach to classroom observation as a building block to school improvement.

Richard Lockyer and myself know from our work at OLEVI in developing the quality of teaching and learning across our global community that there are a variety of methods used to improve the quality of teaching and learning through a dialogue centred around classroom observation. This process is critical for our theory of action as it allows the teacher to make their own actions explicit, validate their judgement of how their outcomes compare to the espoused theory of the school against those of a peer and to access the knowledge and insights of their colleagues. Then by reflecting on this, in most cases, ensuring that the next actions they take are more successful in improving their students’ learning than in the past.

We intend to follow this development in the future.

Take care and stay safe

George

Professor Sir George Berwick, CBE

Hirsh, Å. (2020). Relationellt ledarskap i klassrummet – så skapas magi. Stockholm, Natur & Kultur.

Hattie, J. & Zierer, K. (2019). 10 Mindframes for Visible Learning. London-New York, Routledge

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