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Doing Good?: Interpreting teachers’ given and felt responsibilities for pupils’ well-being in an age of measurement
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Educational Sciences, Department of Education.
Faculty of Education and Business Studies, University of Gävle, Gävle, Sweden.
2013 (English)In: Teachers and Teaching: theory and practice, ISSN 1354-0602, E-ISSN 1470-1278, Vol. 19, no 4, 419-432 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The purpose of this paper is to theoretically discuss a specific aspect of teachers’ responsibilities: their responsibility for pupils’ or children’s well-being. We ask two interrelated questions: firstly, how might (Swedish) teachers’ sense of responsibilities for their pupils’ well-being be understood in relation to ethical theory? Secondly, what does this insight bring to the discussion of teachers’ professional responsibility within the global discourse of educational policy that increasingly stresses accountability and efficiency in an “age of measurement?´


Education can be described as an intervention in a pupil’s life, motivated by the idea that it will somehow improve it. When one implements this intervention, from a legal/political perspective it boils down to a series of responsibilities assigned to teachers, as expressed in current policy documents. However, an exploration of empirical examples in a Swedish context of teachers’ sense of responsibility for their pupils’ or children’s well-being, expressed in everyday situations, indicates that the matter is complex.


In order to find tools with which to better understand such expressions, we turn to the field of SNIP ethics. A thorough inquiry into the various reasoning regarding responsibility reveals that responsibility as socially defined and given is not sufficient to capture the intimacy and relational uncertainties of the teachers’ stories, which is why we turn to the writings of Emmanuel Lévinas and his ethics of responsibility. His ethical language helps to capture relational processes that cannot be predefined and that are based on an infinite sense of responsibility for the other person. We continue by discussing and problematising the increasing importance of measurability and accountability in the field of teachers’ professionalism. Here we illuminate the risks involved with the movement towards the fixed and calculable, since they overlook the intricate ways in which teachers’ given and felt responsibilities are woven together.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2013. Vol. 19, no 4, 419-432 p.
Keyword [en]
ethics, moral responsibility, social responsibility, teacher responsibility, teachers’ work, value issues
Keyword [sv]
etik, ansvar, lärare, professionalitet, värden
National Category
Social Sciences
Research subject
Sociology of Education
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-168358DOI: 10.1080/13540602.2013.770234ISI: 000322755000005OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-168358DiVA: diva2:495718
FAS, Swedish Council for Working Life and Social Research
Available from: 2012-02-09 Created: 2012-02-09 Last updated: 2013-09-09Bibliographically approved

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