An introduction

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It has been said that in 1899, the head of the US Patent Office, Charles H. Duell, submitted his resignation on the grounds:[1]

Everything that can be invented has now been invented, so we might as well shut down the patent office.

Looking back, we can laugh at the idea that the world would have been fully developed over 120 years ago. We can also reflect on the staggering social developments that the next 120 years are likely to bring. The world is most likely no more finished in its development today than it was in 1899. Yet there are many people who seem to think that education is fully developed or, at least, that educational development is not so important. Perhaps because they think they have already found good enough ways to work. Or perhaps because, for various reasons, they do not feel they have the time or energy to develop more in their professional role right now.

But what if there are new ways to educate that are waiting to be discovered and that make more students, pupils and children learn more in universities, schools and pre-schools? New ways that deepen learning to the extent that whole classes of young people are thrown into a multi-year, self-regulated and meaningful learning of both factual knowledge and softer skills? And what if new ways of educating can also be more engaging for children, students and teachers alike? Without compromising on knowledge. Ways that can also make children and students less likely to start fights? So that the time many teachers currently spend on conflict management and subsequent dialogue with guardians can instead be spent on quality time with children and students?

For those of you who think such an idea is over-optimistic, even unrealistic: you can stop reading this book now. I am sorry, but the book you are holding is not written for you. Rather, it is written for those of you who believe that education in 120 years’ time may work much better than it does today, and that teachers’ ingenuity and experimentation with new ideas are important and as yet untapped sources of scientific educational development.

Science is fundamentally about looking for new phenomena, ways of thinking and methods that work better than the ones we use today. This is exactly how we humans made crucial progress in areas such as electricity, X-rays, antibiotics, sustainability, gender equality, norm criticism, design, cognitive therapy and more. In its almost exactly 400-year history[2] , science has proven to be the most powerful methodology humanity has used in its endeavour to develop our world.

It is therefore a pity that some people question why teachers should spend time working more scientifically.[3] In this book, we choose to interpret it as being due to methodological confusion. That sceptical teachers simply do not know what to do, in practical terms in everyday life, to work more scientifically. And that they therefore criticise the whole idea of scientific educational development.

What could be better than a book that describes in detail a concrete way for universities, schools and pre-schools to work scientifically? And that this particular way has proved to work extremely well, or “gôr-bra”, as we say in Gothenburg. We who have developed this method have chosen to call it designed action sampling. It is based on three simple steps:

  1. Design. Teachers or other research leaders in the school/pre-school select a theme for the development work and formulate a set of action-oriented tasks they believe can create value for children/pupils.
  2. Action. Many teachers try the tasks with their students/children/pupils and then reflect in-depth in writing and individually via free text and multiple choice questions on the outcomes they have seen. Teachers receive written feedback from the research leader.
  3. Sampling. The research manager compiles an analysis material which is then co-analysed by all teachers. The tasks are revised and the process starts again.

We believe that this could be one of the first scientific methods that works well in practice and for all staff in universities, schools and kindergartens. Maybe we even go from zero to one method that allows all teachers to be involved in science? So that we have more research in education, not just research about education.

However, whether or not it is the first method that works for everyone is not an important issue. As with patents, the main thing is not who came up with something useful, how new it was, or when it happened, but rather that this something comes to the attention of the public and is widely used. That is why patent offices exist. And just as a patent is primarily a written record of a clever idea for others to understand and use, a potentially new and useful method needs to be written down. That is why this book was written. The aim is simply to describe and disseminate a new scientific combination method, based on both established and new pieces of the method puzzle, which we believe can contribute to better education.

Organisation of the book

The book contains three parts which will now be briefly introduced. The parts do not necessarily have to be read in the order in which they are written. Just remember that they build on each other. Both Part Two and Part Three use several words and concepts that may be difficult to understand without the explanation given in the previous sections.

The first part (Chapters 1-3) is about establishing the concepts of scholarship and value creation in relation to education. The concepts are then linked to the balance between own learning and value creation for others. What does it really mean to work scientifically in universities, schools and pre-schools? And what is meant by value-creating children, pupils, students and teachers in universities, schools and pre-schools? Who creates value for whom, now and in the future, and what kinds of value are there to choose from? How can children, pupils, students and teachers achieve a better balance between their own learning and creating value for others in universities, schools and pre-schools, and why is this important?

Some years ago, an educational researcher listened briefly to the story of our work on value creation in education and then reflected as follows:

If you think that value creation belongs in education, you have not understood anything about what education is about.

We do not agree, of course, but still see this quote as worth remembering, as it illustrates an important pedagogical challenge that this book needs to address. If a well-known and experienced professor of education in a related field initially misunderstands perhaps the most important concept in our work in this way, there may well be many more out there who do not understand what we mean by value creation, especially in the sense of creating value for others. Therefore, the first part contains a fairly detailed explanation of some different perspectives on value creation. The concept as such can also become an important piece of the puzzle in the educational institutions of the next 120 years. It describes something extremely central to the human experience, which so far has not received much attention in education:

Doing something worthwhile for another person.

The second part (Chapters 4-8) deals with the scientific method we have chosen to call designed action sampling. The method is first described briefly and concisely, then in detail. Perhaps even a little long-winded. But we believe it is important to be specific, careful and clear about what we mean. It is not easy to understand, appreciate or start applying a new scientific method unless there is a detailed description of the underlying thinking, overall work processes and practical techniques for everyday science in universities, schools and pre-schools.

The third part (Chapters 9-13) contains an almost equally detailed review of the different reasons for working with designed action sampling. If you are already involved in practical work with the method and have seen its value and impact, this part is perhaps the least interesting. If, on the other hand, you are completely new in your interest, the review can certainly provide many new thoughts and good reasons to deepen this interest. Part three can also be useful for those who want to involve colleagues in the work of designed action sampling. Sixteen arguments are given for why universities, schools and pre-schools can benefit from the method, sorted according to when different effects are likely to occur.

This book is not complete. The three parts do not contain everything that can be said about designed action sampling. As the book is a first attempt to introduce and establish a new concept, the emphasis is on describing what it is, how it works in practice and why it might be a good idea. We have also included eleven concrete examples. However, we have had to wait with critical perspectives on various problems and difficulties that the method may entail. We would like to return to this issue.

The contents of the book can be applied at all levels of the education system and by many professions. The examples illustrate this. However, to make it easier to read, the language has been slightly restricted. Therefore, when you encounter the word school, we ask you to consider that it can also mean preschool, folk high school, upper secondary school, college, vocational school, university, adult education, study centre or training company. And when you encounter the words teacher and student, we ask you to consider that it can also mean preschool teacher, mentor, child, student or participant. There are certainly differences between these different types of schools, but we have seen that there are far more similarities in scientific work.

This brings us to the starting point of the book. Let’s get started!


[1] The quote is a factoid based on an 1899 joke and is widely used by innovation advocates to elicit a laugh, see Sass (1989). (1989).

[2] The starting point of modern science is often considered to be the Novum organum by Bacon (1620/1878).

[3] See review of teachers’ attitudes towards science by Kroksmark (2010). See also the follow-up of the Education Committee (2016, s. 72) which shows that some senior lecturers find it difficult to get a hearing for science among their colleagues.

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