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The extent of ability grouping in Swedish upper secondary schools: a national survey
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Special Education.
2016 (English)In: International Journal of Inclusive Education, ISSN 1360-3116, E-ISSN 1464-5173, Vol. 20, no 7, 685-710 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Differentiation among students according to ability has been a topic of interest in educational systems all over the world for a long period of time. This study focuses on the extent of ability grouping in Swedish upper secondary schools, using a total population survey that covers all upper secondary schools. Previous research on the effects of ability grouping on students and groups of students gives a quite clear picture and the relation between ability grouping and issues of inequity and undemocratic values is an often-raised issue, where low-achieving students are especially adversely affected. Results from this study show that many (43%) upper secondary schools use ability grouping as a way to differentiate students in educational settings. It is found that it is more frequently used within the foundation subjects and especially in mathematics. No particular group of schools reports using ability grouping at a significantly higher rate, but the schools that reported using it to a very large extent differ on many school-level variables. These schools are focused on specifically. The extent of ability grouping is discussed in relation to previous research and issues of equity.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2016. Vol. 20, no 7, 685-710 p.
Keyword [en]
ability grouping, differentiation, equity, upper secondary school, total population survey, special education
Keyword [sv]
nivågruppering, differentiering, gymnasieskola, totalundersökning, specialpedagogik
National Category
Pedagogy
Research subject
Special Education
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-106522DOI: 10.1080/13603116.2014.929187ISI: 000375916700001OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-106522DiVA: diva2:736909
Available from: 2014-08-11 Created: 2014-08-11 Last updated: 2017-12-05Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Special Education in Swedish Upper Secondary Schools: Resources, Ability Grouping and Organisation
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Special Education in Swedish Upper Secondary Schools: Resources, Ability Grouping and Organisation
2015 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This dissertation aims to examine some aspects of special education in Swedish upper secondary schools. The availability of special education resources, the occurrence of ability grouping and the organisational modalities of special education support are investigated. The further aim of the thesis is to discuss how these phenomena can be understood on the basis of democratic educational theories and theories of social educational justice.

The study describes how special education support was organised in 764 upper secondary schools in Sweden in the academic school year 2010/2011, with a response rate of 80.4% (n=764). The design of the study is a cross-sectional total population survey, where data have been collected by way of questionnaires and supplemented with public statistics.

The results of the study show that about 37.5% of upper secondary schools lack special education resources in terms of special educators or special education teachers. Special education support is not provided in 68% of the independent schools compared with 10% of the public schools. This uneven balance between public and independent schools can be interpreted to be a threat to an equivalent and democratic school, since students in need of special support do not have the same opportunities to receive such support in all schools. Furthermore, schools with a higher average parental educational background have shown higher availability of special education resources. It seems that students with parents who have higher educational backgrounds have to a greater extent access to special education resources.

Ability grouping is used in about 43% of the schools. It is most commonly used within foundation subjects, particularly in Mathematics. The schools that use ability grouping to a very large extent have lower and more varied merit rating values and greater availability of special education resources.

Special education support is primarily provided outside the students’ regular teaching groups. This is also the case with support provided by other school staff: indeed, 87% of the schools report that the majority of special education support is provided outside the students’ regular teaching groups. This can be understood as a way to organise special support in which heterogeneity and pluralism are not considered important. Based on democratic theories, the support provided outside the regular teaching group might be a risk to the creation of a democratic school where all students are given opportunities to meet and interact.   

Overall, the results from this thesis show that special education resources are unevenly distributed among independent and public schools; that 43% of the schools use ability grouping; and that special support is primarily provided outside the students’ regular teaching groups.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Department of Special Education, Stockholm University, 2015. 147 p.
Keyword
special education, upper secondary school, democracy, social justice, ability grouping, marginalisation, support, total population survey, Sweden
National Category
Pedagogy
Research subject
Special Education
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-115778 (URN)978-91-7649-137-9 (ISBN)
Public defence
2015-05-29, David Magnussonsalen (U31), Frescati Hagväg 8, Stockholm, 10:00 (Swedish)
Opponent
Supervisors
Note

At the time of the doctoral defense, the following paper was unpublished and had a status as follows: Paper 3: In press.

 

Available from: 2015-05-07 Created: 2015-03-31 Last updated: 2015-06-23Bibliographically approved

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