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Innovations and developments - Sweden

Self-assessment is of importance in the Swedish school system. The Labour Unions for Teachers are arguing for these methods to work with internal quality work. Self-assessment is supposed to be based on the issue raised by the teachers and pupils. To be meaningful the assessments and evaluations must start within the daily work in the school. Therefore the self-assessment will vary both in shape and content. The professionals decide what will be assessed and why. Tools for self-assessment can be observation, interviews, reflective discussion, collegial supervision or pedagogical documentation. The schools and the teachers decide what to assess and evaluate and why. The school will own the result. It is also of great importance that pupils have the tools and routines so that they can reflect upon their learning situation and the outcome of such and to give the parents the possibility to express their opinions.

Self-assessment is designed to give more knowledge and better understanding about own working culture, therefore making it easier to create long-term school development. Researchers in the field of educational assessment and evaluation mean that the principal motivation in all pedagogical-revival work is the communication and interaction between teachers and pupils. They also mean that this work must be done by competent and motivated teachers . If self-assessment is to be a good support in developing the pupil’s daily work at school, then the methods and tools used must not be too sophisticated and time-wasting. Otherwise, self-assessment risks being just an activity that takes place now and then, rather than being a component of a systematic assessment. 

The Swedish National Agency for School Improvement gave 20 schools in Sweden the opportunity of developing their way of working with individual planning and documentation .

The report from this commission describes how the schools work with different kinds of documentation such as log-books, portfolios, reflection books, IEP, EAP etc. In the analyses it points out that the pedagogical documentation can be a good tool to identify and analyse the working culture, to support the pupil, to involve parents in school work and so on. The demand is, though, that the documentation is used in the daily pedagogical work and not just something besides the daily work in school. The teachers have to organise the work and create a culture for collaboration, reflection and communication. 

The pedagogical documentation can be a base for continuous assessment in the school to describe the situation right now and this can be done in several ways. Assessment can also point out the teachers, pupils, and parents pictures of the school and discover structures that have influences on the quality.

When the different kinds of documentation are the basis for reflection, then there will be a pedagogical documentation. 

In the 1990’s there was a distinct political striving toward re-apportionment of power and responsibility in Swedish schools. The present governing system, management by objectives and results, presupposes with its strong emphasis on freedom for schools and teachers that solutions will be found locally in how to reach national goals. The power to act has been delegated. The policy model contains an expressed desire for decentralisation of responsibility. In the shift of responsibility onto teachers, they are also expected to become the driving forces in the job of change. The teacher’s responsibilities included interpretation and precise definition of the curriculum goals, and on the basis of these to design local plans and carry them out, as well as to document and contemplate their work. This presupposed knowledge is based on the factual data which is  developed via assessment, evaluations and quality analyses. 

An important foundation for management by objectives and results is in fact the idea of an “empirical attitude”. This means that knowledge about what happens in the operation should be the basis for development; it is the factual basis that constitutes the starting point for dialogues between the state, the municipality, the politicians and then the professionals. 

A complex system as the school must be designed so that it is built up at least partially from beneath by having the school staff actively participate in knowledge processes and constantly try to define their own roles. Governing professional systems like the school with demands of extensive planning documents and breakdown of goals shows an underestimation of school’s complexity. The school’s operation makes demands on individual and situation-adapted problem solving – no school is like any other. 

Sweden is now however, showing a trend towards an increase in national tests, evaluations, follow ups, audits and accountability. Since the introduction of the new curricula in 1994, the system of national assessment has focused on supporting teachers and their pedagogical choices in the classroom, assessment for learning. In recent years, an increased demand for information about the school system and its performance has put increased demands on the national test system to provide information for various stakeholders, school agencies, parents and the general public. The trend has been towards a national test system as a tool for assessment of learning. It is unclear whether this trend will continue and intensify, or whether other alternatives will be favoured.



  • Swedish National Agency for Education. (2005). National Assessment and Grading in the Swedish School System
  • Alexandersson, Mikael (2003). Värdera och utvärdera, Pedagogiska Magasinets skriftserie nr 2, 2003.
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