Jeremy Barnett, Joe Williamson and Robert Janícek
In this chapter two classes in the Swedish school are compared. One is a vocational class, the other an academic class. The careful observation of teachers and students and the use of the spot check reveal some important differences and raises a whole series of questions about motivation, independent learning and the role of the teacher. It prompts our thinking about the balance of teacher intervention and student choice, structure and freedom, challenge and support. Embedded beneath these issues is the question of culture so that what may appear questionable to a British or Japanese or Czech perspective has to be set within the Swedish frame of reference.
This is followed by a short extract comparing two Japanese classes where the quite different responses of students to the same lesson raises questions about undercurrents and dynamics which are not easily observable or explainable but are nonetheless very significant for the quality of student learning.
We observed seven Swedish classes over two weeks and compiled results from five of them. Three classes were from a vocational course with first year students. Two classes were from an academic course with second year students. The general response by the students to our presence in the classroom was in both cases positive. They were helpful, interested and apart from a few minor exceptions took our research seriously.
In this class there were around thirty students. This class is rather exceptional in that it is made up of students who are experiencing some difficulties either in their academic or personal lives. The course is designed to focus on different learning styles and to help students find a method or strategy of learning that will best suit each of them. At the beginning of the course two main learning environments were established, these being a silent room and a room with music playing in the background. If the students wanted to suggest other environments they could.