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Photo: Lars Andersson
Anna Sigvardsson. Photo: Lars Andersson View original picture , opens in new tab/window

National tests impairs teaching poetry

Published: 14 June 2016

Requirements for measurable results and focus on national tests is problematic for poetry teaching. This according to new research from Luleå University of Technology.

– Sweden has more national tests than many other countries and there is a general pressure on measurable results within school systems throughout the Western world. International research shows that when the national tests are given more space they take time from a more qualitative poetry teaching, says Anna Sigvardsson, PhD student at Luleå University.
Anna Sigvardsson has conducted a literature review of international research on the teaching of poetry readings for older pupils. The results were recently published in the Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research. The article presents and discusses topics of articles published between 1990-2015.

Time taken from poetry teaching

Influences from new public management and neoliberal tendencies have influenced school policy towards more measurable skills and demands of clear results which led to more national test but not necessarily better knowledge. The most common example of increased testing of countries' school performance is the OECD's PISA measurements started in 2000. Many national tests does not correlate with high performance in PISA. Research from the UK and Ireland indicate how the increased testing has affected poetry teaching negatively.

– There is no longer time to work in several different ways with poetry, but more and more time is spent on preparing students for the exams. Time is also taken from the poetry teaching to other test preparation. Teachers feel that teaching loses much of its meaning when they are being redirected in their work, says Anna Sigvardsson and continues.
– International research points to the need to take up education policy shift towards increased testing already in teacher training for teachers to become better equipped to meet these requirements.

Test reduces poetry reading

In Sweden, teachers and teacher trainers has responded in the trade press.

– Among other things, the Swedish Teachers' Association Chairman Nils Larsson wrote that the national tests reduces poems to banalities in the journal Swedish teacher. The Swedish national tests are just indicative of teachers' rating, and one wonders if Swedish teachers should have to put so much time and energy on administration and documentation of the test, says Anna Sigvardsson.

Neighboring Finland has chosen a different path to follow pupils' knowledge.

– There they select a small number of schools that do a test to get a picture of how the level of knowledge looks. Then they do not need the whole country's schools to participate in the testing. A sampling could save time and money. Today answers sometimes leak on the net, making the samples toothless, says Anna Sigvardsson.