Recently, the middle years of compulsory school in Sweden experienced major reforms. These reforms required that pupils received grades and performed national tests in Biology, Physics and Chemistry, for the first time at Y6. Some Y6-pupils are taught by a class teacher within a Y4-6 system, whereas other pupils are taught by subject specialist teacher within a Y6-9 system. Intentions with the reform include making education fair and equal, but the system causes a dilemma since pupils get different prerequisites. The purpose is to examine teachers’ views of what constitutes "good" science education and investigate how the introduction of grades and national tests affects teachers’ practice.
Dewey’s concept of habits is used as a way to capture the process and tensions that may emerge when enacting the reforms. Depending on your habits of teaching and views of science, a reform will have different consequences for your teaching practice.
The study draws on interviews with 13 science teachers and address teacher’s experiences in connection to carrying out the first round of national tests and setting grades in Y6. The sampling of teachers was made to ensure a broad variation in teaching experience, educational background and school settings.
The results show how the teachers’ personal goals can be characterized in terms of science-focused or student-focused. A majority mention the clarity of national expectations in the tests as an affordance in relation to their work. Even though grading is said to contribute to preciseness about a student’s development, some teachers feel the grading of students forces them to assess more often, which can be stressful. The teachers are in different ways struggling to balance local teaching autonomy with external assessment-driven reform, however it is striking that almost all the teachers accept the reforms as a positive element in their professional work.