Pupils at a computer
Photo: Max Fischer

Changes in opportunities to learn: Swedish pupils results in large international studies over time

Research project
Active research
Project period
2016 - 2020
Project owner
The Department of Education and Special Education, University of Gothenburg

The Swedish Research Council

Short description

The main aim of the project is to investigate possible determinants of the declining level and equity of educational achievement in Sweden.

About the project

One of the hypotheses is that these trends are related to the decentralization, deregulation and marketization reforms in the late 1980s and early 1990s. With a starting point in a theoretical framework known as OTL (Opportunity To Learn) we take advantage of the international comparative studies and use them as a lens through which we can examine the Swedish practices and policies in education, such as the structure, organization, delivery, and content of instruction. A major challenge is to disentangle the effects of different sources of change on educational outcomes. Furthermore, many features of educational policies can only be observed at the system level across countries. Thus, in the project we examine achievement trends and their determinants in Sweden, using other educational systems as points of reference.

Data from the international studies

The project primarily relies on data from the international studies conducted after 1995, such as TIMSS and PIRLS from IEA, and PISA from OECD. These studies allow both comparisons across countries and analyses of within-country change over time, and they therefore have great potential to provide insights into determinants of educational outcomes worldwide. We will apply different analytical methods to tackle the challenge of causal inference with observational data, such as difference-in-differences approaches, instrument variable analysis, analyses with-country-level fixed effects, and multilevel analysis within the structural equation modelling framework. The project includes three sub-projects in which we investigate different aspects of OTL in relation to student’s achievement.

It is expected that the investigations of the impact of teaching and school related factors on changes in opportunity to learn will contribute important new theoretical and empirical knowledge and that it will also offer guidelines to policy-makers and practitioners to improve the general quality of schooling as well as the compensatory functions of schools. The project will also contribute methodological development in educational research, in particular, in the areas of measurement of educational outcomes and credible causal inference.


  1. Curricular impact and validity of assessments
  2. Effects of quality of instruction on educational outcomes
  3. Effects of home background, homework and out-of-school activities


3-6 September 2019 Project members attended the European Conference on Educational Research 2019 in Hamburg and presented several papers.

4-7 September 2018 Project members attended the European Conference on Educational Research 2018 in Bolzano and presented several papers.

18 May 2018 Victoria Rolfe had her mid-seminar. The discussant was Andres Sandoval Hernandez (University of Bath).

19 April 2018 Kajsa Yang Hansen was an invited speaker at the conference Children's Living Conditions: Research on Equal Conditions for Children and Families, in Gothenburg.

23-25 March 2018 Kajsa Yang Hansen was a keynote speaker at the 24th Empirical Studies in Psychology Conference at the University of Belgrade, Serbia.

15 March 2018 CHOICE Project Meeting.

18 December 2017 CHOICE Project Meeting.

9-10 November 2017 Kajsa Yang Hansen was an invited speaker at the International Conference of Equity in Education, organized by Czech School Inspectorate in Prague, Czech Republic.

22-25 August 2017 Project members attended the European Conference on Educational Research 2017 in Copenhagen and presented several papers.

30 June 2017 CHOICE Project Meeting.

28-30 June 2017 Project members attended the 7th IEA International Research Conference in Prague and presented several papers.

26 April 2017 Victoria Rolfe had her planning seminar. The discussant was Trude Nilsen (University of Oslo).

20 October 2016 Rolf Streitholt presented a paper at the 60th Anniversary of the Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research in Oslo.

19 August 2016 CHOICE Project Meeting.