Subject curricula of the Swedish school start with a section devoted to “Goals to aim for” or learning outcomes. The outcomes here described are more often than not generic skills or adherence to certain values with the purpose to serve as a foundation for future learning and development. Typical examples are the ability to consciously form and express ethical standpoints based on knowledge and personal experiences or to empathise with and understand other people’s situation.
In addition there is another section headed “Goals to be achieved” or learning objectives closely coupled to assessment criteria. These objectives can relate to content as well as to skill, but in both cases they can be described in a final form, as knowledge either gained or not gained. The teacher/examinator should be able to assess to what extent the pupils have attained these objectives and translate it into grades.
This double set of goals is, in it’s way, both natural and unavoidable. But an unforeseen consequence is that it renders the Swedish school system a certain degree of ambiguity which in turn can be seen as reflecting a transition from one paradigm of learning to another: one focussing on learning as content and product and the other on learning as process and development. At present the “learning as product paradigm” and a strive for accurate and reliable assessment criteria (that in turn could be used for quality assessment and accountability) dominate the political agenda.
The preliminary findings from a survey conducted in 2006/2007 indicate that History teacher vacillate between the content/product and the process/development mode of learning. Teachers express a certain degree of disappointment with the dominating learning tools – the textbooks – that in their opinion focus mainly on content. Working towards the learning outcomes of the curricula will therefore require that textbooks are supplemented with other learning material. The survey results, however, indicates that supplementary learning material plays a limited role in everyday teaching and as a consequence learning objectives rather than the desired learning outcomes become guiding principles. The teachers’ reluctance to step outside the boundaries created by the textbook may at least partly be explained from the fact that the theoretical base of the concept of learning as process and development is of recent date and therefore has had limited impact on teacher education.
The aim of the study is to contribute to the understanding of relations between educational goals and educational experience but also, hopefully, to add some useful items to the toolbox of History teaching practice.
Göttingen: V&R Unipress, 2010. 107-120 p.
Peer reviewed volume.