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Research projects

How to Counteract Racism in Education. A qualitative study of teachers' anti-racist actions

About this project

Project information

Project status

In progress 2016 - 2019

Research subject

Research environments

This project seeks to empirically investigate different anti-racists actions developed and used by teachers. During the last decade, racism and ethnic discrimination have become increasingly salient and controversial issues in many European countries. For long, the general view in Sweden was that the country was quite unaffected by these developments. The domestic political development of the last decade, as well as research on different forms of racism in Sweden, has undermined this picture. As in many other European countries, there exists widespread intolerance, structural discrimination of ethnic minorities and growing right-wing parties advocating for reduced immigration.

In the midst of all this turbulence we find Swedish schools. Previous research indicates that in Sweden many teachers and school leaders are unsure about how to act or address these challenges (Arneback 2012, Arneback & Jämte, forthcoming, Jämte 2012). Earlier research has also shown that both racism and anti-racism in education is a complex phenomenon and that there is a need for “a whole school approach”. There is no quick fix” for anti-racist education. However, little research has been conducted on the anti-racist actions that teachers develop and deploy.

Both policy and the law are clear that schools should counteract racism and promote anti-racist ideals (Lgr 11, SFS 2008: 567, SFS 2010: 800). However, it is not clear how different forms of racism are manifested and when and how schools should interfere. Given the lack of research on the practice of anti-racism in Swedish schools, this project will contributes by produce knowledge and theory on how to counteract racism in education that will benefit pupils, teachers, school leaders and policymakers. The project is specified by the following research questions:

1) What kind of anti-racist actions are developed and used by teachers in Swedish upper secondary schools?

2) What experiences influences teachers to act in ways they do?

3) How do teachers experience the risks, merits and potential outcomes of different anti-racist actions?

4) How do different anti-racist actions counteract different forms of racism?

In order to study how anti-racist actions are developed and used by teachers in upper secondary schools, we will interview 25-30 teachers in upper secondary schools three times each over one and a half years. We will also conduct teaching materials used in their teaching with relevance for the project and study the context that surrounds teachers' work. We will use a three step meaning analysis method (Kvale & Brinkman 2009) in our qualitative analysis of the transcripts and texts. By relating pragmatism to the field of racism and anti-racism in education, our project also aims to contribute to the field by highlighting the variety and complexity of racism and anti-racism in education.

The project will be led by Emma Arneback, who together with Jan Jämte has expertise on racism and anti-racism in education, albeit from two different disciplines (education and political science). Andreas Bergh, Tomas Englund, Asgeir Tryggvason, Matilda Wiklund will provide additional competence to the project. David Gillborn (University of Birmingham, UK) and Gloria Ladson- Billings (University of Wisconsin, Madison, USA) will contribute to the project as an international board.

The project will extend over three years, in which different research questions will be highlighted. (1) In the first year we will undertake a selection process and begin to collect empirical data from the teachers and the policy arena. (2) This process will continue during the second year, after which we will begin to analyse the anti-racist actions used and developed by teachers and what experiences that influences their anti-racist actions. (3) In the third year we will analyse the consequences of anti-racist actions and focus on reporting our results. The project will end in 2018 with an international conference on “Anti-racist education”.

Research funding bodies

  • Swedish Research Council