The Reluctant Change Agent - Change, Chance and Choice among Teachers, Educational Change in the City

Pernille Berg

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (monograph)

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This dissertation critically analyses the discourse on educational change. By placing educational change in
the context of globalisation and innovation the author argues that the current discourse on educational
change is un-nuanced and omits the important perspectives on change.
The author has analysed an educational district in Sweden and one of its projects on competence
development, named 'Striving for Action Teachers' in the dissertation. The project has involved 75 teachers
and both pre-school, primary, secondary and special ed. schools.
By interviewing some of the participating teachers and analysing their reflections on the competence
development programme the author is able to develop four different types of categories of teachers and
their perception on change and teaching. The four categories consist of the change agent, the reformer, the
passionate pioneer and the dedicated teachers. These four different types of teachers are placed in the
spectrum of top-down initiatives and focus areas encompassing teaching to the school as an educational
By providing this research the author is thus able to elaborate on the research regarding educational change.
By analysing the proposed four categories the author critically assesses the way in which top-down change
initiatives may fallaciously assume that change can be brought about. The author presents different
explanations to why change initiatives may be rejected and argues that when change is represented in a
physical manifestation in one teacher supposed to be the vector of change, the teachers expected to assume
this role of change end up rejecting this responsibility.
In critically discussing the research on educational change and innovation the author situates the discourse
on educational change in the growing research and discourse on innovation, especially public and social
innovation. The author addresses similar concern when it pertains to innovation as previously purported in
relation to educational change. The discussion illustrates the problematic tendency that the ambiguity
inhibiting these debates leads to obfuscation. This obfuscation manifests itself in the way in which
educational organisations address and respond to these demands.
With the four categories of teachers the author argues for a further debate and nuanced perspective on
innovation and educational change in order to continuously ascertain and critically assess the why’s, the
who’s and the how’s behind each innovation and change.
The dissertation is based in a cross-disciplinary field of theories: innovation, globalisation, sociology of
education and organisational theories. Methodologically the dissertation is based within qualitative
methods: observations, interviews and written materials.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Sociology
  • Persson, Anders, Supervisor
Award date2011 Jun 1
Print ISBNs91-7267-331-1
Publication statusPublished - 2011

Bibliographical note

Defence details

Date: 2011-06-01
Time: 10:15
Place: Kulturens Auditorium, Tegnérsplatsen, Lund

External reviewer(s)

Name: Denvall, Verner
Title: Professor
Affiliation: Linnéuniversitetet och Socialhögskolan, Lunds Universitet


Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology)


  • Educational change
  • innovation
  • globalisation
  • change agent
  • competence development
  • drivers of change
  • sociological study and qualitative reserach methods.


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