We compile the best available knowledge of educational working methods and practices
Employing a teaching process with a scientific basis places demands on both the content and the working methods and practices used by teachers and preschool teachers. There is an assumption that those working in the school avail themselves of new scientific findings and, having scrutinised them carefully, incorporate the relevant aspects into their own teaching. Once they have chosen and adopted these working methods and practices, the teaching professionals should then evaluate them within their own class or group of children. This should be done in order to ensure that they are actually contributing to the learning and development of the children and students.
If a teacher, preschool teacher or head teacher relies solely upon the results of one single research study, they will not benefit from seeing the whole picture and this can, therefore, be misleading. That said, it is impossible for one single person to stay abreast of, and to compare and evaluate, the results of all current research being undertaken within a given field. For this reason, one of the primary functions of the Swedish Institute for Educational Research is to produce compilations of research findings that summarise the best available knowledge about educational methods and working practices. One of the ways in which we do this is by developing so-called systematic overviews. This means that we use accepted scientific methods and provide a clear account of every step taken in the working process. We conduct this work in collaboration with researchers active within the field in question. Our overviews can affect different parts of the school system. They may concern issues that affect the operation of the entire school, that are common to several subjects or that affect the teaching of one particular school subject.
Our systematic overviews shall act as a support aid for those working in preschools and schools. We ensure, therefore, that we listen carefully to teaching professionals in order to be able to identify the need for overviews and to incorporate their views when working to develop each overview. The Institute’s School Research Board decides which systematic overviews the Institute shall produce.
We distribute funding for practice-centred research
The Swedish Institute for Educational Research is also commissioned to proclaim the availability of, and to allocate, funding for practice-centred research of the highest scientific quality within those areas where such relevant research is deemed to be insufficient. This constitutes an important resource for the development and continuation of work to fulfil the requirements of the Swedish Education Act, which states that teaching must be based upon ‘a scientific foundation’.
Such practice-centred research can be either driven by curiosity or by theoretical development, but its focus must be on results that can be used in practical situations. The research to which the Institute contributes must be based upon the needs and issues of the teaching professionals. It must be relevant to the professionals and be carried out with them. The ultimate objective is to develop and improve the teaching process in order to promote the development and learning of children and students. In other words, the projects financed by the Institute should both contain content that is relevant and give results that can be tested and applied in practice.
The researchers are free to organise the practice-centred research in different ways and may employ different methods. They may conduct the study within a variety of research disciplines and it is advantageous if it is applicable to more than one branch of science. The research may involve teachers and preschool teachers as active participants in the study, and it must always be implemented in practice in the preschool or school. In this way, the teaching profession is able to make use of its knowledge and proven experience to contribute to the projects.
The Swedish Institute for Educational Research announces the availability of research funds once per year. The Institute’s School Research Board is responsible for the announcement. The Board has the opportunity to aim all or part of the announcement at one particular area where the school’s teaching professionals lack the relevant research. Even in such an instance, we take great care to identify the professionals’ needs. The Scientific Research Council of the Swedish Institute for Educational Research makes the final decision of how the funds are to be distributed.