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Photo: Lars Andersson
Ulrika Bergmark, assistant professor of Education at Luleå University of Technology. Photo: Lars Andersson View original picture , opens in new tab/window

Collaboration strengthens the school's scientific foundation

Published: 18 December 2019

For two years, Ulrika Bergmark, assistant professor at Luleå University of Technology, has worked as a flexite scientist at Piteå municipality. A form of collaboration where the university's research is moved out into society with the aim of building bridges between academia and school activity.

The service funded by the Riksbank's anniversary fund has meant that Ulrika Bergmark has been employed at Piteå municipality's educational administration where she has worked as a school researcher for the organization's employees. She has supported the administration's development work while also conducting her own studies on the work of teachers and principals for a more research-based activity.

– All research activities have been based on issues that the teachers and principals themselves have identified as development areas. During the course of the work we have been able to see that the participants have developed both their teaching skills and their teaching, which is largely due to the fact that the projects are clearly integrated with the teaching in the classrooms, says Ulrika Bergmark and emphasizes the importance of a scientific approach in the school.

Develops professional practice

– The school law is clear that teachers must build teaching on a scientific basis and proven experience. Through this collaborative model, we have learned a lot from each other while the teachers feel safer and more competent in relation to the assignment.

Over the years at Piteå municipality, Ulrika Bergmark has studied the organisation's strategies for achieving scientifically based teaching and handled a number of action projects that the teachers themselves initiated based on perceived challenges or development areas.

– It has been about everything from philosophical conversations with preschool children to literature studies in high school and working methods at the Music & Dance School. The preliminary analyzes show the projects created better relationships with the students, which is especially evident with the older students who work with literature. There, many say that they experience the conversations as a free zone from everything else going on in school, even though all work has support in research and educational findings, says Ulrika Bergmark, noting that teachers' driving forces behind development work and research-based teaching extend beyond the legislation.

– When I asked about motives no one mentioned the school law, but it is clear that the important thing is the desire to develop the profession, help the students and in the long term raise the status of the profession.

Can not rely on external funds

Piteå municipality is widely regarded as a national example in the work of building the school on a scientific basis. For example, the municipality has a scientific leader for the school operations as well as a master's program aimed at teachers in collaboration with Umeå University. However, Ulrika Bergmark is convinced that all municipalities have the opportunity to invest in a school safely founded in research and science.

– A crucial condition is that the work is organized within the existing budget at each municipality. It is not possible to rely on external funds, the only viable way is that school leaders allocate time and resources from their own budget otherwise it will not be sustainable in the long run. But if this is done, all municipalities can take steps towards complying with the legal requirement for science in the school.

Created rings on the water

The flexite researcher service extends over three years where the first two years are spent directly in the business, in this case Piteå municipality, and ends with one year at the university. Consequently, Ulrika Bergmark is currently back in service at Luleå University of Technology where she will compile research results from the years within the school operations in Piteå municipality. A time that created rings on the water.

– Luleå University of Technology is now signing a collaboration agreement with Piteå municipality which means that I will be able to continue working a number of percent of my time in Piteå municipality and in addition a doctoral student from our research school PROFS has been linked to an ongoing action project in Piteå municipality's school operations.