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An Unclear Task? The Perspectives of Swedish Preschool and Special Needs Teachers on their Role in Assessing and Documenting Child Development


Maja Erlandsson,

Linnaeus University, SE
About Maja
Maja Erlandsson is a Special Educator qualified at Linnaeus University and now serves as a primary school teacher in Älmhult Municipality. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Education. Maja is particularly interested in early special education initiatives.
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Christina Gustavsson,

Linnaeus University, SE
About Christina

Christina Gustafsson is a Special Educator. She has a Bachelor in Education degree from Linnaeus University for teaching and learning in pre-school and early school years and is particularly interested in early intervention in pre-school and transitions between pre-school and pre-school class.

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Peter Ingemar Karlsudd

Department of Pedagogy, Linnaeus University, Kalmar, SE
About Peter Ingemar

Peter Karlsudd is a Professor at Linnaeus University. He has a Ph.D. in Pedagogy from the University of Lund (1999). His research interests are centered on special needs education, flexible learning and teaching and learning in higher education. 


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Purpose: This study explored how preschool and special needs teachers in Sweden perceive their own role and the role of each other in the preschools’ documentation and assessment practices. It examines the possible consequences of this perception and of the actions based on it for children with special needs.

Method: The study took a qualitative approach. Individual semi-structured interviews were conducted with seven special needs teachers and seven preschool teachers from different schools and municipalities.

Results: The results show that the preschool and special needs teachers’ roles regarding assessment and documentation, as described and specified in the curriculum, are contradictory and difficult. Assessing an individual child’s knowledge development by observing and documenting the child group was regarded as problematic by both occupational groups, and further training in assessments was sought.

Conclusion and Implications: Clear differences were found between the way in which preschool teachers and special needs teachers performed observations and assessments and documented them. Preschool teachers mainly used participant observations at a group level, while special needs teachers were usually tasked with observing a particular child. Preschool teachers’ reluctance to document the performance of individual children might result in children’s special needs remaining hidden. It is important to find methods which endorse assessments that allow for and appreciate diversity, and that are not based on normative notions which often result in differentiating between children and dividing them into different groups of learners based on their perceived level of knowledge.

Limitations: From the interview results, it has sometimes been difficult to differentiate between the concepts of observation, documentation and assessment as they are often parts of a whole within the context of preschools. As the survey was of limited scope, the results cannot be generalised to all Swedish preschools, but the data obtained could provide important guidance for further work with inclusive preschools.

How to Cite: Erlandsson, M., Gustavsson, C. and Karlsudd, P.I., 2021. An Unclear Task? The Perspectives of Swedish Preschool and Special Needs Teachers on their Role in Assessing and Documenting Child Development. Disability, CBR & Inclusive Development, 32(2), pp.30–50. DOI:
Published on 29 Jul 2021.


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