Doktorsavhandling, 2016
Högskolan i Jönköping, Högskolan för lärande och kommunikation

Moving together

– conditions for intercultural development at a highly diverse Swedish school

This thesis is a case study of a primary school in a highly diverse urban neighbourhood in Sweden. Basic pre-conditions for intercultural school development are studied by examining the overall organisation of teaching, learning and opportunities for collaboration in the investigated case. The study focuses on the targeted support measures to enhance learning for students with an immigrant background: Mother tongue instruction, Swedish as a Second Language, and tutoring in the mother tongue, as well as looking at pedagogical support provided by the school library. The latter has a mission to promote learning and inclusion, where non-native speakers of Swedish are a prioritised group.

Communities of practice linked to the work organisation at a meso-level are investigated, and the collaborative relationships between professional groups at the school involved in the various support measures. Teacher relationships and categorisations implied by support measures impact the learning spaces that are shaped for students and the teaching spaces within which teachers work. Collaborative opportunities and convergence of concerns in the teaching spaces combine to shape the overall space for intercultural development.

The raw data for the case study consists of interviews, national policy documents and additional information on local work organisation gained through documents and observations. Four articles resulted from the case study, each focusing a specific support measure. An overarching analysis is then made of findings from these articles and the other dimensions of the investigation. The analysis describes the organisation in terms of monocultural or intercultural school cultures, pointing to significant characteristics of the landscapes of practice, with respect to their overall implications for the spaces of school development. In the discussion, findings are considered in relation to research on professional development in education, collaboration, democracy and inclusive schooling.

The relative positioning of languages and cultures is given particular attention, to ascertain if the school culture is monocultural or intercultural in the sense given by Lahdenperä (2008), and to what extent it could enable intercultural development. Such positioning plays a role interms of affordances for identity, participation and engagement discussed by Wenger (1998).

This case study should be understood against the wider background of recent social developments in Europe linked to globalisation and technological changes. It is argued that looking at the concrete specifics which facilitate or obstruct school development, and simultaneously reflecting on how the different forms of teaching interrelate in the overall organisation and in policy may provide a useful vantage point from which structural changes can be contemplated.The discussion underlines the importance of the physical localisation of activities, continuity in personal contacts and time available for joint pedagogical reflection, as basic conditions for effective intercultural dialogue in the organisation. Finally, the impact of policy is considered, looking at connections between levels of policy, expressed in official steering documents, and conditions for teaching and learning at the level of an individual school.