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Consequences of individualized teaching for students' motivation to learn and achieve-ments over 50 years: educational reforms and societal changes (IMP)

A basic idea with the introduction of the 9-year comprehensive school in Sweden in the early 1960s was that the curriculum goals should be individualized. That is, adapted to all children’s prerequisites and needs within the framework of the regular class/group. A comprehensive school system in Sweden thus refers to a unified, unstreamed school system, where all students despite academic and economic background, are enrolled in the same age-based school. In 1991/1992 the Swedish school system went through a series of educational reforms which are historically the largest since the 1940s.

In the late 2000s, the Swedish National Agency for Education concluded that the increasing differences in student achievement and the larger achievement drops for some student groups observed in both national and international knowledge evaluations such as NU and PISA, took place at the same time as the educational reforms were introduced into the Swedish school system (Skolverket, 2009). Among the four main reasons for these achievement drops that were suggested are a) increases in ability grouping, along with an increase of special solutions outside the regular class (see also Giota & Emanuelsson, 2011; Giota, Berhanu & Emanuelsson, 2011; Giota, 2013) and b) individualization, defined as an increased proportion of independent work, where students had been left alone to plan and take responsibility for their own learning with no active support from the teachers (see also Vinterek, 2006).

The project aims to investigate the appearance and extent of different teaching me-thods/practices such as individual work, group work, discussions with the teacher, instructions given to the whole class or individually with start in the 1960s until today. One question to be investigated is whether the individual forms of work have increased over time and if so, how these changes are related to the motivation to learn and school achievements of different student groups.

Another study aims to investigate how municipal and independent schools organize their special education support. One question is whether support in special education classes/groups outside the regular class has increased since the 1960s until today and whether these changes can be related to changing conditions for schools at the municipal and/or societal level.

Of special interest is also to follow the progress of students with learning disabilities, who according to cognitive test results, would have been placed in special education schools, but have attended classes/groups in the regular school. This study will be based on replications of a study conducted by Sonnander, Emanuelsson and Kebbon (1993) on students with low study prerequisites, involving students born in 1967. The same analyses will be conducted using other student cohorts as an attempt to study effects of inclusive/exclusive teaching practices and special education support until today.

The project intends to shed light on questions such as whether the individualized teaching practices and special education support measures that have been practiced in Sweden for half a century have been of such extent and form that students with different prerequisites, needs and interests in school have acquired equal opportunities to enter upper secondary school and thus attain quality of life as adults after school. The question is also to what extent different opportunities can be attributed to various educational reforms, economic changes and societal conditions over time.

The statistical analyzes will be based on data such as administrative data, surveys, cognitive tests and achievement scores collected within the longitudinal and nationally representative research program Evaluation through follow-up (IS/UGU) and register data within The Gothenburg Educational Database (GOLD) comprising information from 9 cohorts (students born in 1948, 1953, 1967, 1972, 1977, 1982, 1987, 1992 and 1998).

Research environment

Prerequisites, Education and Outcomes - FUR


Joanna Giota, professor in education, project leader
Ingemar Emanuelsson, professor emeritus in special education
Post doc

Financial supported

The Swedish Research Council – Vetenskapsådet, VR

Project duration and total funding

2015-2018. Total 6.5 million SEK


Joanna Giota: joanna.giota@ped.gu.se



Professor Joanna Giota
+46 (0) 31 786 2124

Contact Information

Department of Education and Special Education

FUR, PO Box 300, SE 405 30 Gothenburg

Visiting Address:
Pedagogen Hus A, Västra Hamngatan 25

+46 (0)31 786 0000

Page Manager: Anders Åkerström|Last update: 10/2/2015

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