This chapter looks at the different challenges teachers may face in working with value creation pedagogy. The content is based on reflections I received from teachers in my research. Succeeding at something really great often requires a lot of hard work. If value-creation for students at school had been easy, it would probably have been done already. We have seen challenges in five areas, see Figure 7.1.

Practical challenges

Taking the first step in value creation pedagogy is often about overcoming challenges of a fairly practical nature. These can range from a good reason to try something new to various how-to questions around time, support, assessment and targets.

Why should I try this new?

The very first step in a change or a new way of working is often the most difficult. The power of habit keeps us humans in a tight grip. We want so much to believe that the current situation is the best, even when it is not.[1] A successful attempt to try something new is therefore quite demanding. Three conditions need to be met and together overcome our inherent resistance to change:[2]

  1. that we are dissatisfied with the current situation
  2. that we have a clear idea or vision of what we want to achieve
  3. that we are clear about the simple practical steps we can take here and now.

These three points are always valid and may be worth considering carefully in any educational change. Therefore, the first part of the book was about painting a vision of what is now possible. The second part was about practical steps teachers can take here and now. However, teachers’ possible dissatisfaction with the current situation is not covered by this book. Let me explain why.

I see a big difference in how quickly different teachers get started with value creation pedagogy. The ones who get started the fastest are those who, for whatever reason, have chosen to invest in the approach themselves. Those who have the most difficulty are those who have been called to a compulsory in-service training day where an external researcher from Chalmers comes and tells them how to do their job. What does Chalmers even know about pedagogy? In my previous book – The Scientific Teacher – I wrote about the evils of giving unsolicited advice to teachers and what can be done about it.[3] There are certainly respectful ways to deal with this, but they are beyond our focus here.

A common reason for teachers not getting started is that they do not see the connection between things they are unhappy with in their professional lives and the solution value creation pedagogy can provide. Teacher Roberth Nordin (2017) jokingly describes a typical study day:

The lecturer offers a great solution to a problem you don’t have. You get something you never asked for or ever lacked. You usually end up with at least a couple of newfound tasks to squeeze into your schedule.

If you recognise yourself here, in relation to value creation pedagogy, I can’t offer a clear solution. Each teacher has to find his or her own personal reasons, based on links between his or her own perceived professional challenges and value creation pedagogy as a possible solution. All those teachers who have the health and who find strong enough personal will to work with value creation pedagogy have been able to overcome all the challenges in this chapter. We have seen this time and again.

If you are one of the teachers who have been ordered here, to Chapter 7, my best advice is to still give value creation pedagogy a chance with your students, at least a couple of times in a school year and on a small scale. As secondary school teacher Madeléne Polfors wrote (2020, p. 40) in her thesis on value creation pedagogy in law teaching recently:

My strongest belief is that once teachers have tried it once, they will try it again because you can’t ignore the positive effects of value-added learning.

Value creation pedagogy, as mentioned, is quite difficult to describe in words. It needs to be experienced emotionally together with the students themselves. The effects tend to be surprisingly strong.

No time for me as a teacher

The most common objection I hear from teachers is that they lack the time to work with value creation pedagogy. I have great respect for the fact that teaching can be a stressful profession. But I still think of what I myself was always told by my boss when I complained about a lack of time in my job as a stressed-out sales manager in IT:

You have just as much time as everyone else. It’s how you choose to use it. This is just a question of your priorities.

Physicist and author Bodil Jönsson calls the perceived lack of time a life lie that is remedied by new choices about priorities.[4] Teachers who say they don’t have time for value creation pedagogy may need to decide how important this new work is, in relation to other necessary work, and then re-prioritise accordingly. It is not a question of one or the other, but of finding a good balance between different, apparently conflicting priorities, for example between duty and pleasure for students. Time to engage in value creation pedagogy is not something teachers have, it is something they need to create for themselves if it is felt to be sufficiently urgent. Ask a colleague to help with the priorities, it is often easier for someone else to find things you can prioritise down.

I also believe that this book can help to reduce the time spent for teachers who want to work with value creation pedagogy. After all, I have now spent twelve years of my life trying to understand this phenomenon, time that no teacher can ever prioritise in their calendar. With a clearer picture of what it is all about, more examples of what teachers can do, and more concrete proven tools that provide clarity and structure, teachers will save time getting started. A particularly important area for time savings is assessment work, read more about this in Chapter 8. There are also teachers who have said that they save time when they allow students to do value-added work. One teacher stated bluntly:

The students are motivated by themselves, and then I as a teacher can work less, because then they work more.

The main challenge related to time is perhaps the time it takes to get up and running with a new way of working. The fact that the start-up takes extra time applies to all new working methods, including this one. A facilitating factor then is if teachers support each other and have a school management that sets aside time for teachers to plan for and get into value creation pedagogy.

No time for students

Students also need time to get into the value-creation approach. It takes months for students to get to the point where tangible value is created for outsiders. Calendar time is at least as important here as lesson time, perhaps even more so. Teachers may need to stretch out time perspectives. An eight-week full-time course may be too short for students to get started in earnest.[5] Half or quarter speed may give students a better chance to get into the mindset. Teachers may also need to collaborate with each other. One course or subject can provide students with an introduction that is then built upon in another course or subject. It is not very difficult for students to find time to work on value creation activities if they are already in the mindset and have built up their capacity to create value for others. We also often hear of students working outside of class time on value-creating activities because they find it so engaging. Also, try giving your students action-oriented tasks as homework. I write about how such assignments can be designed in Chapter 8.

How to keep up with content and assessment?

Crowding of content is a common challenge for teachers, and not just when it comes to value creation pedagogy. It’s about both keeping up with all the content and having time to assess each student. Teachers who have faced these challenges and yet applied value creation pedagogy say afterwards that they did get all the content and were able to assess all the students, but often in a different order and in a different way than before.

Some teachers have chosen to involve students in ensuring that all key content is included. Other teachers, particularly in vocational education, have worked with innovative and digital assessment tools, see Chapter 8. Still others have relied on their long experience as teachers and have felt confident that by the end of the learning process they will have sufficient material to assess each student on each piece of core content. We also see many starting value creation pedagogy small-scale so that the established structure of teaching does not disintegrate. Overall, we see here how something that may initially feel like a detour unexpectedly becomes a shortcut. Teachers here need to try to trust the process and try it out for themselves at a scale appropriate to them, to see if they too can turn the detour into a shortcut.

It is therefore a question of taking courage, daring to venture into the unknown, daring to trust in one’s own abilities as a teacher and daring to try out a new way of achieving the same goals as before, but with much more motivated students, and in this way reaching further in the work with the core content.

How to find real-world recipients of value?

One challenge many teachers highlight is the difficulty in finding real recipients of value. Many lack good contacts in workplaces. They also often lack the time it takes to contact new people in workplaces. This is a challenge for which we must have great respect. At the same time, I hope to contribute some new perspectives. Students can be invited to both look for and make contact with potential recipients outside school. Teachers may of course need to support them here. But if twenty-five students each contact someone, it will almost certainly lead to at least one valuable contact that everyone in the class can work on together. I have seen many examples of this, even in primary schools. Students can also make use of their own networks of contacts – not least among guardians, relatives and their contacts in turn.

Making new contacts with the outside world is basically a kind of salesmanship. This is an area of expertise where practical practice quickly yields good results. There is also a lot of literature to read.[6] The sales pitch describes the value students believe they are trying to create for outsiders. And as in all sales work, it is the number of contacts that determines success. Ten taps a thanks, again. Many outsiders will say no, just like in all sales work. Learning to handle a no without losing heart is an important lesson here about what it means to be persistent. But suddenly the magic happens that someone says yes. Then students can have an analogue ship’s bell in the classroom that they ring to celebrate the wonderful thing. Imagine if, as a sales manager, I had access to a sales force as large as an entire class of students. Then our sales bell would be ringing a lot more often.

Building a sales culture in the classroom might seem a bit odd in school. But it’s always a challenge to connect what someone can offer with what someone wants help with. Not all people want to be helped either. A sales culture among students therefore helps in making contacts. Here, too, salesmanship is done with the laudable aim of enhancing students’ learning.

How to support students’ value creation?

Teacher leadership in the classroom is a hot topic in many schools. How should teachers actually lead students in the classroom? Many books have been written about this. But the question comes into a partly new light when students work on value creation. I can’t say that I have all the answers. But I think it’s very much about a variation on formative assessment, or rather what we often choose to call formative dialogue – confidential dialogues between teacher and student around emotionally powerful events, with the aim of supporting student learning.

In our work with vocational teachers we have seen that formative dialogue is best conducted in the digital space. It allows for more familiarity where not everyone hears everything, and is also time-saving for teachers. Digital dialogue is also better suited to value-creation processes where a lot of the learning takes place outside the classroom and at times when the teacher and student are not even in the same room. We will return to formative digital dialogue in the chapter on assessment.

What to do in my subject?

Apart from a few examples from different subject teachers here and there in the book, I have chosen not to have specific descriptions for each subject in my book. I see it as a bit of an impossible task for me as a generalist to give didactical tips in mathematics, social studies, physics, biology or any other subject. Nevertheless, many teachers can probably transfer the ideas described here to their own subject. Teachers can also help each other. Use your established channels and venues for subject didactic exchange, and this challenge will probably be handled well.

Books have also begun to appear in Sweden in which teachers give tips on how to work more concretely in the classroom. The two most concrete examples I have seen are Jennie Bengtsson’s book Real Recipients, about value-creating language teaching, and Maria Wiman’s second book on value creation pedagogy – Handbook of Value creation pedagogy. I think these two books can help many teachers to get started, and should probably be translated into more languages. It is also a book format that can inspire more teachers who might be thinking of writing about their experiences.

There is also a lot written in Swedish about value creation pedagogy from a subject didactic and special education perspective, for example in mathematics (Falkstål 2018; Sjödén 2021), law (Polfors 2020), technology (Hih 2021), sustainable development (Nelson 2021), economy (Christoffersson & Fredriksson 2021), leisure education (Johansson 2018), vocational training (Littke 2020) and special education (Grenander 2018). Subject didactics and different pedagogical orientations are important focus areas for further research on value creation pedagogy.

It seems complicated and vague

Progressive pedagogy has for centuries faced challenges of complexity and vagueness. There are very different demands on teachers working with cross-curricular projects and authentic problems based on students’ own interests. No two situations are the same, constant adaptation is required, each student’s learning needs to be uniquely assessed and the curriculum many learning objectives need to be ticked off in a kind of non-linear backward process. Smith and Ragan (1999, s. 295) conclude:

Although a few talented teachers have done well, the talent and energy required is extremely rare. The failure of progressive pedagogy can be attributed to the impossible demands that successful implementation placed on teachers, especially given the tools available in the early and mid-20th century.

The stark message ends on a cautiously positive note. Could the future bring tools and methods that make it possible to realise the progressive pedagogy dream of meaningful learning? A perfectly reasonable answer to that question is probably value creation pedagogy. Here comes a long-awaited simplification and clarification of the purpose, objectives and working process. Now teachers can finally be supported in how traditional and progressive pedagogy can be combined in everyday life.[7] The various tools and methods described in part two of the book provide teachers with concrete guidance and simplification. Assessment can also be facilitated through digital ways of working, see Chapter 8.

Let me draw a parallel to Freinet’s work at the beginning of the 20th century. I like both his focus on various technological solutions that facilitate teachers and his basic idea of pedagogy of work. But his thirty constants are, for me as an engineer and IT geek, a bit too fluffy.[8] Among other things, Freinet writes: away with caretakers and authorities, away with teachers’ explanations and lectures, away with control and grades. No wonder the Freinet movement is marginal.

I think we need to move from thirty to three constants – value creation, interaction and fine-grained mixing – as I wrote about in the introduction to the book. Teachers need fewer principles, not more, to work from. The whole philosophical playing field of education also needs to be included, see Chapter 2. Schools still need janitors, lectures and grades.

Perhaps we see here the the greatest mistake of progressive education over the centuries – to make things immensely more complicated and at the same time throw the baby out with the bathwater.

It doesn’t suit all my students

Not all people are equally ultra-social. Some prefer to keep to themselves, or dislike making contact with strangers. Others have difficulty with social interaction and empathy, or are simply shy. Still others are so used to clear structures and traditional, predictable teaching that they are not at all comfortable with a way of working that makes new, emotionally challenging and unpredictable demands on them. These students may protest and criticise their teacher.

Over the years, I have received many reflections from teachers who have tried value creation pedagogy and discovered exactly this, that it does not work equally well for everyone. And it would be strange if we had found a pedagogical idea that suited everyone. I don’t think there is such an idea. Just as some students find traditional pedagogy as meaningless and unmotivating, there are students who find value creation pedagogy problematic. This gives us yet another reason to pursue educational philosophy balance in schools. Some lessons suit some students, other lessons suit other students. Overall, pedagogical variety makes us hopefully reach all students.

It is often said that traditional teaching is not always fun for students, but that it is good for them and that they need to learn a lot of things by heart. I totally agree. But the same is true for value creation pedagogy. We all live in a relational society. All students therefore need to practice social interaction, relationship building, initiative taking, uncertainty management, perseverance and self-awareness. A modern approach to education also includes exploring how we relate to others.[9] Objections from students who do not like value creation do not therefore mean that they should be allowed to get away with it. However, teachers may need to give some students a little extra support. It is also possible, through teamwork, to distribute tasks across the group so that those who find it most difficult to make new social contacts do not have to do so quite as often. Indeed, value creation is at its most powerful when students draw on each other’s complementary strengths.

When it comes to students with different disabilities or diagnoses such as adhd and autism, it is difficult to generalise. Some teachers say value creation pedagogy works poorly for this group, others say they have finally found something that works really well. Diagnoses are over-represented among entrepreneurs and can provide a superpower that others don’t have.[10] A high level of activity, a desire to go their own way and a penchant for digging into a narrow issue can be very beneficial in value creation processes. Sometimes, however, schools may find it difficult to turn a disability into an opportunity. This is where I believe value creation pedagogy can help. But it would need more research. A good starting point could be Lina Grenander’s (2018) well-written study of entrepreneurial competences in secondary special schools. Another starting point could be the only research article that ever made me cry, written by Roth and Lee (2007). It is about a boy named Davie with an ADHD diagnosis and severe concentration difficulties in mathematics.

When Davie got involved in trying to save a stream near the school, he became the obvious focal point of the class and taught important skills to his classmates. His symptoms disappeared and he began to perform well above average, even in maths. I think Davie probably had a low tolerance for meaninglessness and that value creation pedagogy solved that problem for him. Perhaps one aspect of adhd is that you simply don’t take on meaningless tasks as credulously as others? Perhaps adhd is a diagnosis that should be equally given to schools – an inability to capture via meaningful activities the attention (AD) and activity (HD) of certain students?

Psychological challenges

Some of the challenges of value creation pedagogy are more psychological. The idea makes sense but feels a bit heavy in the stomach. Not daring, not wanting or not being able to try something new and unknown is quite human and can probably be found in just about every profession. For many people, it’s scary to dare to try something they’ve never done before.

How dare, how will, how can we work like this?

How do we actually become braver? Perhaps the three conditions for change at the beginning of this chapter can help teachers to dare to try? Instead of focusing on the psychologically heavy resistance, the focus shifts to one’s own dissatisfaction with the current situation, the vision of how things can be better, and the simple steps to take here and now. Then we circumvent our troublesome gut feelings.

Then again, someone may have decided that they simply don’t want to work with their students in a value-creating way. As a researcher, I have to respect that. But what do you do as a teacher if it’s one of your closest colleagues who just doesn’t want to? In a workplace, we are often dependent on each other. Here I think that teachers’ professional ethics can be invoked, written down by the teachers’ unions.[11] Teachers need to develop their pedagogical work and their skills on the basis of current research and proven experience. Teachers also need to support each other and protect the team. Thus, all teachers need to give a new approach a chance from time to time and try it out in practice at least once or twice, especially if colleagues so wish.

But sometimes you just can’t. Maybe you’re on the verge of stress exhaustion or depressed for other reasons. Maybe it’s hard in your personal life. There can be many reasons why you don’t have the energy to tackle a new issue right now. But maybe next semester you can? Perhaps the school principal or a close colleague can provide support in the work? Maybe you can try something small?

I am new to the profession

Some teachers feel insecure for the simple reason that they are new to the profession. It can be particularly difficult to try out yet another new idea. After all, everything is new. Here too, I think peer support and starting small is a way forward. Some teachers stress the importance of being confident in their subject and profession in order to be able to work in a value-creating way. I can understand that, but I think it should still be possible on a small scale.

What will colleagues, managers, carers say?

Even in the workplace, we humans are ultra-social. What will others say if we single-handedly start doing something very different from how our colleagues do? This is where the available research can provide reassurance. If there are questions from colleagues, managers or carers, there are many different publications to refer to. We at Chalmers have written a number of research articles on the subject. There are also more and more books from teachers describing their experiences and giving tips. Then there are also new theses every year in which prospective teachers write about value creation pedagogy. So, being the only teacher working on value creation pedagogy in a school does not mean that you are alone. Also look for Facebook groups of teachers discussing value creation pedagogy, where you will find like-minded people to share your experiences with.

Daring to let go of control

We have already talked a bit about this, about letting go of control. I think it’s basically a combination of courage, judgement, tools, methods and confidence in the profession. Courage to dare to try something new. Assessment that captures students’ skills in different and complementary ways. Tools and methods you as a teacher can lean on in your work. Confidence that, as a competent teacher, you will be able to put the whole picture together at the end of a project despite the uncertainty of a new approach.

I think that the need for control is a transitory challenge. As both you and your students become more comfortable working in a value-creating way, the sense of control will soon return. I guess it’s a bit like learning to ride a bike. To dare to take that crucial step into the unknown, to dare to step on it and pick up speed, to dare to defy the feeling that you might get hurt. Then you find your balance and a strong “aha” feeling sets in. And you’ve gained a wonderful new way forward.

My students are not mature or knowledgeable enough

A slightly different psychological challenge concerns the student view we inherited from older psychological research on children’s cognitive development. Researcher Kieran Egan (2002) writes in his book Getting it wrong from the beginning that we have inherited an erroneous view of adolescent development from child psychologist Jean Piaget. Egan’s criticisms are wide-ranging and multifaceted, so I thought I would highlight only one of his objections here.

According to Piaget, young people develop cognitively in distinct stages that can be defined relatively well in terms of both scope and age. Therefore, teachers should choose material and activities for which students are mature, based on their mental and age levels. However, Egan argues that cognitive development is not at all as linear and predictable as Piaget has claimed. Piaget’s theories are often wrongly used by teachers to judge what students should not be allowed to do or learn at a certain age. A stage-based view of children’s cognitive development has led many teachers to underestimate and limit their students.

I sometimes meet teachers with a Piaget-inspired view of students in relation to value creation pedagogy. Their students are probably too immature, they say. Or maybe the students need to acquire a little more knowledge first. Then they can create value for others. This is a psychological misconception that Egan helps us trace to Piaget. I hope more teachers give their students the chance to reject Piaget’s theories. Perhaps one of Piaget’s foremost critics can then be put to use – the scientist Lev Vygotsky.[12] He argued that students learn knowledge best when they are put into action with others.[13] He also emphasised the importance of giving students access to different tools to work and think with. I think Vygotsky would have loved the entrepreneurial toolkit I write about in Chapter 6. Perhaps Vygotsky would also be a professor of entrepreneurial education if he were alive today?

Organisational challenges

In many schools, the organisational conditions for value creation pedagogy are initially lacking. Teacher Katrine Nyqvist’s story on page _ about changing jobs to a workplace where the management does not actively work with value creation pedagogy is probably quite typical. There are ways forward, but it may take time.

How to get colleagues and school management on board?

I think Tomas Lindh in Växjö has a good point when it comes to how we get colleagues and managers involved in a new way of working, see interview on page _. The discussion can be based on the challenges and needs of your school. Few schools have no challenges in terms of motivation to study, desire to learn, student achievement, student conflict, classroom safety, values or, indeed, teacher recruitment. In all these challenges, value creation pedagogy can be a small or major part of the solution. Try to get your colleagues and school management to try this particular approach to the challenges facing your school. Use different texts and videos from researchers, teachers and others. Then, hopefully, a decision will be made to develop the work and value creation pedagogy will become a natural part of the next academic year’s professional development of the whole team or school. Many or all teachers will then be able to try it out for themselves, and the effects will surprise many in a positive way.

The schedule limits us

Scheduling issues can constrain an approach such as value creation pedagogy, which does not always fit into strict time and subject divisions. However, if more and more teachers start to recognise the powerful effects, it may over time be possible to discuss possible changes to the timetable to facilitate cross-curricular collaboration and pedagogical co-planning, see examples of arrangements in the interview with principal Josefin Nilsson on page _.

One way to get colleagues on board with schedule changes can be to lead the way and work in a value-creating way with your own students. As secondary school teacher Madeléne Polfors writes (2020, s. 28) about it:

It was also nice that other teachers came to me and told me that they had heard about my “little project” (which I had to explain is the students’ project). The teachers were curious about the approach because the students had asked if they could do similar things in their subjects as well.

But it is not a given that other teachers react with curiosity. As one teacher who works with her students in a value-creation way told us (Lackéus & Sävetun 2016, s. 43):

Then there’s the challenge of being a freak at school, you do some weird stuff.

Semantic challenges

Any attempt to broaden our horizons with new concepts is likely to be met with resistance from those who take issue with the existing conceptual apparatus. Don’t we have enough words already? What is the difference? These are natural and important questions we are now coming to.

Another concept – what does value mean?

Do we really need another concept in school? I have spent many years pondering this question and have come to the conclusion that this is indeed the case here. No other concept focuses on the knowledge-based creation of value for another person. Then the very element that causes the strongest effects we have seen on student learning and motivation risks being lost in a stressful school life.

That’s why I think the term value creation is both fully justified, uniquely contributing and absolutely essential. Without that very term, the impact on student learning risks being weakened or absent. But introducing a new concept obliges. It needs to be defined, delineated, explained, clarified, exemplified, contextualised. I myself fell into the trap of not even writing anything in my thesis about what the little word value means. Even creation needs to be defined carefully. I hope that my book can clear up some of these questions. I have also written a whole research article on the word value in relation to education, see Lackéus (2018). It’s a bit nerdy, but it’s available.

Of course we already work like this

I often hear from teachers that they are already working with value creation. But when they explain what they are doing, I often find that relatively few of the eight legs of the spider diagram in Chapter 6 are present. Usually the all-important waist of the spider is also relatively narrow. The value created is perhaps modest or vague. The interaction with outsiders may be missing altogether. Then the strong effects go missing. This is probably one reason why the form in Chapter 6 is so popular. Teachers are keen to develop their teaching, and the form clearly supports this.

There are definitely many teachers who are already working in a value-creating way with students. Especially in the aesthetic subjects, as pointed out earlier. But in the vast majority of cases, so much more can be done, and with relatively minor means. That’s why I can’t stop talking about value creation pedagogy when I hear teachers saying that they already do this. Usually they get many new ideas relatively quickly on how to go further with what they are already doing.

Some think value creation pedagogy is a set of self-evident principles for good teaching. I disagree. The vast majority of teachers I have studied in my research do not yet work on a day-to-day basis from the three basic principles in the introduction, or from the dimensions of the spider diagram and diamond model in Chapter 6.

What’s really new here?

Value creation pedagogy is a kind of action-based learning. Students learning-by-doing. There are many different such learning traditions. A few years ago, I was asked to write a paper on what is new about entrepreneurial and value creation pedagogy compared to more established options. The text was published in a digital encyclopedia of educational innovation, see Lackéus (2020b) and is also available on my research blog.[14] I won’t go into the details here, but in the article I asked the surprisingly rarely asked question learning-by-doing what? I went through the action-based learning traditions that are usually discussed, see table 7.1 below. The table is my way of illustrating that none of the established learning traditions have the same focus as value creation pedagogy.

The question of what is new about value creation pedagogy engages many teachers. So let’s also review some commonly used concepts and examine them based on the centre of the spider diagram in Chapter 6 – creating value for others and interacting with outsiders.

Is it possible to work thematically, interdisciplinary and with projects without students ever having to try to create value for others or interact with outsiders? Yes, it is possible and it happens all the time. The word value creation makes a unique contribution here.

Is it possible to work problem-, change- or challenge-based with authentic content without creating value for or interacting with outsiders? Yes, it is possible. Here again, the value-creation term helps.

Is it possible to work with authentic or real beneficiaries in real projects or real cases without creating value for or interacting personally with the beneficiaries? Unfortunately, I think so. There is a risk that the very element of students creating something concrete of value for recipients is lost when the phrase “… of value” is not explicitly stated. There is also a risk that the word real is misinterpreted as something other than that the students should create real value for and interact relationally with the recipients. Perhaps that the recipient is real, flesh and blood. But that is not enough.

Is it possible to work with entrepreneurial learning without creating value for or interacting with others? It depends on what we mean by “entrepreneurial”. By definition, if we define the word according to the diamond model, it shouldn’t be possible. But most of the examples in schools that I have studied myself unfortunately fail to have an external recipient with whom students can interact on a relational level and try to create value for. Not least because many in schools have difficulty with the word entrepreneurial in general. Very few teachers who have received in-service training in entrepreneurial learning act according to the three basic principles of value-creating learning. My conclusion is simple – the semantics need a major upgrade.

Ideological challenges

The last category of challenges is about ideology. No matter how much evidence we produce through scientific studies and good examples, there are still some who are not convinced. The challenges are probably more ideological.

This sounds too good to be true

Sometimes it is said that when something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. As a researcher, it is also part of the job to be critical of most things. Even of oneself and one’s own impressions. There is something called confirmation bias, an unconscious and overly focused search for things that confirm what you believe, want to see and often think about. Like the new parents who suddenly see prams everywhere in town. Or as in filter bubbles where social media algorithms mainly present information that fits with what we believe.

I definitely feel that I am at risk for such bias. Value creation pedagogy has affected me on an existential level before I became a researcher. Everywhere I look now as a researcher, value creation seems to have strong effects on students. But am I living in a self-inflicted filter bubble? Is this too good to be true? Some teachers have written to me that they feel this way. I have also written myself that it feels a little too good in one of my recent research articles.[15] It seems almost unrealistic that a pedagogical idea can have such a strong impact, be so widely applicable, so clearly defined and offer such low thresholds for teachers to get started and spread the idea and approach.

The problem is hard to get around on my own. My approach to this challenge has therefore been to leave it to others to continue the work, to see what they come up with. For example, you can do what in research language is called replication studies. Can our results be replicated elsewhere, by other researchers and with other methods? There is also a lot more to do, test and find out that we have not done in our research.

The work has slowly begun. Researchers in Denmark, Finland, the UK, Belgium, the Netherlands, France, Spain, Pakistan, Australia, Iran, Indonesia, the USA, Mexico, China and certainly some additional researchers I do not know of are currently working on research closely related to value creation pedagogy as a pedagogical idea in various forms.[16] The future will tell what these researchers come up with. Teachers are also increasingly taking over the practical work and writing books about their experiences. [17]

Judging by the interest, there certainly seems to be something magical about the idea of value creation pedagogy. Our research, which in turn builds on the work of many other researchers, has been disseminated, read and applied globally. Exactly how magical value learning is, and in what situations more specifically, remains to be seen. We will simply have to come back later to the question of whether value-added learning is too good to be true or not.

I don’t believe in the progressive school, it’s a hoax

Sometimes value creation pedagogy is dismissed for no other reason than that it represents yet another pernicious version of flunky schooling. This is a dishonest argumentation technique based on guilt by association – that everything about promoting student motivation is fluff. This technique is often used by school debaters who have already decided in advance on a particular view on school issues. In the past, I engaged in polemics, without ever achieving anything. Nowadays, I usually just walk away quietly and avoid being drained of energy. This kind of criticism says a lot about the polarised times we live in, but nothing about value creation pedagogy as a phenomenon.

It is not aligned with current school policy

In terms of school policy, value creation pedagogy is an idea with rather bad timing in Sweden right now. We Swedes live in a consumer society where the individual is in focus. Students are educated at school to act as consumers in a market and to choose the path that creates the most value for themselves. Swedish schools have thus become a kind of institutionalised egoism, which is then patched up and repaired with values-based work. If there is a risk that students’ time is spent helping others, when it could be spent giving them what they themselves are entitled to according to the curriculum, then Sweden’s neo-liberal social system and subconscious thought patterns say stop.

Another political trend that discourages value creation pedagogy is the authoritarian and even fascist winds blowing in politics both in Sweden and internationally, with Trump, Putin, Erdogan, Åkesson, Le Pen and other authoritarian conservative leaders.[18] Authoritarian political winds at the national level then blow into classrooms via conservative school debaters. This makes student participation and the teaching of democracy less interesting to work with, at least from a school policy perspective.

Taken together, these two political trends constitute a liberal conservatism[19] that unfortunately clashes with the ideas of collectivism and democracy on which value creation pedagogy can be said to rest. I won’t politicise the issue much more than that, but I can say that in my twelve years as a researcher I have only met one leading school politician who has shown great interest in our research on value creation pedagogy – Karin Pleijel, a Green Party member and teacher in Gothenburg. Other teachers I have met have reflected that students who create value for others remind them of the political winds that blew in the 1970s, before neoliberalism swept the world.[20] However, the situation may vary internationally. One home language teacher told me that on her street in the Middle East, most people think more in terms of creating value for others than we do in Sweden, which nowadays has one of the world’s most market-oriented school systems.[21]

Control systems require something else from me

Philosopher Jonna Bornemark became almost a celebrity when, in a summer radio talk and via her book The Renaissance of the Unmeasurable (2018) advocated that employees in the relational professions should micro-resist against the over-prescription, measurement hysteria and bureaucratization that has afflicted health care, care for the elderly, social services and not least schools. Bornemark (2018, s. 52) describes paper-isation as “every part of the activity must be documented and put into a general language that can be displayed to those who are not present in the activity”. The aim is to give managers an overview and a sense of control. Also researcher Gert Biesta (2009) has described how an increased focus on the easily measurable crowds out other values in schools. The pursuit of greater efficiency in the public sector through various measurement methods and competition based on performance measures is known as New Public Management, or NPM. In an international comparison, Sweden has a strong NPM focus.[22]

I’ve often heard from teachers myself that they like the idea of value-creating students, but that they worry that control systems will punish them if they spend time on this. The measurement focus often ends up on standardised and therefore partly dumbing down performance measures that do not capture the positive effects of value creation pedagogy on students.[23] Many teachers then think that time spent on value creation pedagogy can be punished when guardians, school leaders and school inspectors then exercise their increasingly strong power of control over teachers.

One way to deal with this attempt to de-professionalise teachers that is going on in schools[24] is to fight against it and not give it too much space. If we see control systems for a moment as a way of taking control of teachers’ professional practice from above, or as ideologically motivated projects of limited value to students, then perhaps we can settle into a slightly more relaxed approach when working on something we believe in. No teacher has ever been fired for a little value creation pedagogy. On the contrary, it is often a pathway to great appreciation from students, school leaders and caregivers alike. It also rests on values such as humanism, empathy, responsibility and democracy. I don’t know how school inspectors relate to value creation pedagogy, but my call is still a bit rebellious: Dare to resist micromanagement from above. Wiggle out of the NPM shackles every now and then. Replace an assessment matrix lesson here and there with an hour of planning value creation pedagogy, without saying anything. Feel good about your pursuit of a balanced school between matrices and motivation. Rest in the fact that it will work out.

What happened to the value of knowledge?

A focus on what is valuable to others in society can be criticised for being overly utilitarian. One critical teacher argued that an excessive focus on the practical utility and “market” value of knowledge can diminish the intrinsic value of knowledge and thus become a kind of antithesis to education.[25] I can understand the logic behind such a criticism, even if it is perhaps a little exaggerated. Value-creating activities will never dominate schools as we know them. We will never land in the utilitarian philosopher Jeremy Bentham’s hedonistic vision of a society where utility, happiness and pleasure are maximised, at the expense of other values.[26] It is also a common misconception that students’ value creation for others is primarily a market-driven act motivated by their selfish self-interest. Just as primitive peoples often give gifts without direct expectation of reciprocation, students can create value for others without it having to be interpreted as a market transaction.[27] Instead, we can see it as the famous anthropologist Marcel Mauss saw it – that selfless giving is a natural way to build loving relationships between people.[28] Students who are able to create value for others then strengthen their capacity for compassion, respect and openness towards other people.

Again, this is the balance I want schools to strive for. A little more value creation for others is probably what students could have use for, as it is often completely lacking. But it shouldn’t crowd out a focus on knowledge. Rather, it should be a relational means that reinforces learning and allows students to learn knowledge and skills for life, not just for the test.

[1] See Jost et al. (2008).

[2] See Gleicher’s change formula described by Cady et al. (2014).

[3] See Lackeus (2021, s. 100–104).

[4] See Jönsson (2002, s. 19).

[5] See for example Polfors (2020).

[6] My personal favourite is an old goodie of a book written by Rackham (1989).

[7] Read more about this in Lackéus, Lundqvist and Williams Middleton (2016).

[8] A light-hearted presentation of them is given by Temple and Rodero (1995).

[9] See Biesta (2002).

[10] See Wiklund, Patzelt and Dimov (2016) and Wiklund et al. (2017).

[11] See Teachers’ Union and National Union of Teachers (2006).

[12] For an interesting comparison of Piaget and Vygotsky, see Cole and Wertsch (1996).

[13] See Strandberg (2009).

[14] See or search for “entrepreneurial education unique and novel”.

[15] See Lackeus (2020a, s. 957–961).

[16] See mainly Jones, Penaluna and Penaluna (2020), Bell (2020), Neck and Corbett (2018), Brahe-Orlandi (2019), Yousafzai (2019), Stenholm et al. (2021), Bacigalupo et al. (2016), Le Pontois (2020) and Baggen, Lans and Guliker (2021). See also Larsson and Holmberg (2017).

[17] See mainly Wiman (2019, 2022), Bengtsson (2021) and Remvall (2021).

[18] See Albright (2018).

[19] See Apple (2000) who writes about how neoconservatives and neoliberals are forming a kind of unexpected but creative alliance in school policy.

[20] A fascinating text on how neoliberalism took over was written by Peck (2008).

[21] According to Dahlstedt and Fejes (2018, s. 9).

[22] According to Karlsson (2017).

[23] See Lindblad, Pettersson and Popkewitz (2018).

[24] Hultén (2019) describes this well, as do Jeffrey and Woods (1998) and Ball (2013).

[25] See Bruér (2019).

[26] For a good discussion of Bentham, see Heberlein (2014).

[27] See Graeber (2001).

[28] See Graeber (2001, s. 161).


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