Ever since the end of World War II teachers in Sweden and in other Nordic countries have been assigned a stated mission to anchor and to develop democratic values in school and in society (cf. Dahlstedt & Olson, 2013; Edling, 2012; Ekman & Todosijevic, 2003). Although certain democratic values are explicitly articulated in policy documents for education there are reasons to assume that teacher’s views regarding the meaning of such values differ. In relation to this, it is reasonably to suggest that teacher’s different interpretations of values and democracy will influence teaching and their relations to students (cf. Schön, 1983). Student teachers views of what education for democracy should include could therefore indicate how their teaching will take shape in school (Zyngier et al 2015; Zyngier 2016). The purpose of this contribution is to explore student teachers understandings of democracy and to discuss how the conceptions can enrich the desire to teach about, in, and for democracy at Swedish teacher education(s).
The theoretical framework is based on pragmatic text analysis (Östman 2008) in relation to established theories of democracy and education (Dahl, 2002; Dahlstedt & Olson, 2013; Held, 1987). According to a pragmatic text analysis every text is filled with both certain possibilities for social action as well as an absence for other possible actions. A central aim of the analysis is to clarify varieties of meaning making in the material focusing on educational content.
The data constitutes of student texts written as an assignment at the end of a course in teacher preparation: “School's democratic mission in the perspective of values” at Gävle University. As part of the examination the students were asked to reflect about their view of democracy in relation to notions of democracy that teachers should foster today. A collection of 56 course assignments will be analyzed thematically, focusing on the content of answers together with some basic frequencies of student answers.
The preliminary findings show that student teachers’ texts represent a great variety of perceptions both between the students as well as in the texts of the individual student. Democracy is depicted in terms such as solidarity with underprivileged groups; learning skills for democratic communication; knowledge about society as the foundation for action and change; the need for teachers clear manifestation of rules, and equity in relation to individual differences. Such variations are not possible to project only from reading the national syllabus, a document present in their education from their first semester and also discussed in the actual teacher preparation course.
Relevance for Nordic Educational Research:
The tradition of schools as one of the main mediators of democratic values is deeply anchored in Scandinavian countries. However, research about teachers in general and student teachers in particular regarding their interpretations of this compound mission are still scant.
Nordic Educational Research Association, 23-25 March 2017, Copenhagen, Denmark