The overall aim of this study is to understand the impact of Swedish education policy-making on teacher education post-1945. The study explores the relationship between national structures and changes affecting teacher education, its relationship to research, and in particular, implications of policies for teacher educators at Umeå University in northern Sweden. A combination of top-down and bottom-up research approaches was used and included analysis of policy documents, research literature and micro-level perspectives. This included interviews with 57 teacher educators and senior managers, who had been or remained responsible for teacher education programmes.
The research draws on a variety of theoretical frameworks, which aid the exploration of the relationship between various parts of teacher education and higher education more generally. In so doing, relationships of power, discourse and gender are seen as particularly important, as are the sociological perspectives of Bourdieu, Bernstein, Foucault and Connell among others. Prosopography was used as a methodological approach, by which biographical details were collected and analysed in order to illuminate the social relations of the field of teacher education.
The study showed that in Sweden, research for teacher education was a major issue in post-war education policy in connection to reforms of the school-system, and widening access to research. ‘Practical Pedagogy’ was specifically created as a sub-discipline of Pedagogik (Educational Studies), and established in the 1950s and 1960s at the new teacher colleges. The relationship between educational research and teacher education remained weak, however, and traditional research structures were largely maintained despite reform intentions. Also, reform of higher education and inclusion of teacher education in the university system in 1977 paradoxically meant that teacher education, given its new university status, lost its research subject and avenue into research. The weak relationship between research and teacher education was thereafter repeatedly taken up in state committees until the late 1990s. Simultaneously, from the early 1990s onwards, various discourses on the importance of professionalism in teacher education emerged. Internationally, from the 1990s the separation of structures for research and teacher education also became a topic of growing concern. In Sweden, the clear discrepancy between rhetoric and practice eventually resulted in a parliamentary decision in 2000 to create a nationally valid research structure for teacher education, which was to be implemented in 2001. Umeå University was the first university in the country to establish a Faculty (Board) of Teacher Education, which enabled the introduction of new research structures and a cross-disciplinary research approach related to teacher education and teachers’ work.
The study suggests that discourses of research development (for vocational subject areas such as teacher education), and new classifications are likely to meet with resistance from a number of directions and established university hierarchies. However, it is argued that ‘discursive breaks’ can open up a questioning about the right to discourse and ‘truth’ about knowledge and research and the conditions whereby changes can be put into place. The study also suggests that men and women have different perceptions of research in teacher education; male staff tended to rely on practice-based experience, while female staff saw research as a means of expanding their knowledge base.
The prosopography indicates that social class distinguishes the field of teacher education from other university disciplines, with its generally lower social backgrounds of students and proportionately more women as staff and students. Teacher education also has generally low status within the university, which is both the cause and consequence of reduced access to research development and funding. Finally the study shows that the struggles of teacher education over knowledge and power, constitute a multilayered process involving a variety of actors at different levels. In the case of Umeå, this meant that teacher education was eventually able to claim the right to establish new and different research paradigms, for its own benefit.
Umeå: Matematik, teknik och naturvetenskap , 2005.
Teacher education, research, interviews, discourse, power, knowledge, gender, professionalism, prosopography