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Prerequisites Education Result, FUR

Research group

Short description

In the research group now known by the name of FUR, work has long been under way to address a set of classic problems in education: individual’s prerequisites for education, the organization and resources of education, and outcomes of education at individual and system levels.

Research collegium

The research group's collegium invites a few times per semester to open seminars regarding current pedagogical issues concerning quantitative research on the classic pedagogical questions. The collegium has not been active during 2020 but will start again when possible.

Research questions

Individuals’ prerequisites for education

Different characteristics of individuals, such as previous knowledge and intellectual and personality traits, are important for their successful participation in education. The department has a research tradition in this field that harks back to the 1950s, when Kjell Härnqvist conducted research on the so-called “reserves of talent” (Husén & Härnqvist, 2000) and on individual differences in cognitive ability. Current research focuses basic issues regarding the structure of cognitive abilities (e.g. Gustafsson, 2002), and in this context gender differences have also been examined (Rosén, 1998). Other research approaches have integrated the structure of abilities with developmental notions (Valentin Kvist & Gustafsson (2008)

Practical issues regarding the selection of applicants into different educational programmes are also investigated. The admissions system for higher education has been studied in a series of investigations (e.g. Carlstedt & Gustafsson, 2005, Cliffordson, 2004, Cliffordson & Askling, 2006, Svensson, 2004, Svensson & Nielsen, 2005, Åberg-Bengtsson, 2006). Among other things, we have shown grades to be a better predictor of achievement in higher education than the Swedish Scholastic Aptitude Test (SweSAT) (e.g., Cliffordson, in press). Another practically oriented research direction has targeted the development of instruments for measuring cognitive abilities in collaboration with researchers at the Swedish National Defence College (e.g. Ullstadius, Carlstedt & Gustafsson, 2004).

While grades work best for purposes of selection in the Swedish school system, there are at the same time problems of fairness in grading. Grades and grading also may have negative repercussions for work in schools and for individual students. Within the framework of a project financed by the Swedish Research Council, various aspects of grades and grading are being studied. Among other things, the focus is on what factors influence grading, beyond students knowledge and skills. In this research, both student factors, such as non-cognitive skills, and teacher and school factors are investigated.

Motivation is also highlighted in the group’s research, both as an important individual prerequisite for education and as an important outcome of education (Giota & Gustafsson, 2016). Within the framework of the above project the effects of grading on students’ motivation and self-esteem are also examined.

The ability to read is a key prerequisite for education, and research is under way within the group to elucidate reading difficulties, with the focus on dyslexia and its underlying causes (Wolff, 2005, Wolff & Lundberg, 2003). In this context there is also an interest in educational efforts and compensatory strategies that aim to enable dyslexic students to benefit from studies on equal terms. There is also an ongoing structured reading intervention study aimed at 9-year-olds with severe reading and writing difficulties. Another line of research is focussing on development of phonological skills in 4-year-olds. In this context a phonological training study is planned.

Studies of individuals’ prerequisites for education have also been associated with issues in educational sociology regarding the significance of social background for educational choices and study outcomes, and these matters also have a long tradition in the research of the group. They have successfully been elucidated with the aid of the longitudinal individual databases that Härnqvist and Svensson began to build up in the early 1960s, and that have been further elaborated to encompass register data for entire cohorts. Research on the importance of various factors for educational choices is still being done, now with a parallel focus on social background and gender (Berggren, 2008 a,b).

Organization and resources of education

The group also comprises researchers studying various structural and organizational aspects of the education system. A key issue is the relative importance of various resource factors, and one main finding is that the competence of teachers plays a major role (Gustafsson, 2003; Myrberg, 2007). Comparative studies of independent and municipal schools are also conducted (Myrberg & Rosén, 2006). Apace with the transformation of the Swedish school system, issues involving segregation and differentiation have attracted more and more attention (Gustafsson, 2006; Yang-Hansen, in press).

Outcomes of education at individual and system levels

Great attention is paid to describing and analysing the outcomes of education. These descriptions target knowledge and skills in several areas, but since the characteristics that constitute individual prerequisites for education are also affected by education, these too represent important outcomes of education.

One line of research that goes back to studies performed by Härnqvist in the 1960s investigates the impact of education on cognitive abilities, and both earlier and more recent studies show powerful effects of education on general cognitive abilities (Cliffordson & Gustafsson, in press).

Effects of education on students’ motivation and attitudes towards school is another important area that is being studied in comparisons among countries (e.g. Giota, in press), across time (Holfve-Sabel, 2006), and between different classrooms (Holfve-Sabel & Gustafsson, 2005).

Since the late 1990s researchers in the group have been involved in work with comparative studies of educational outcomes. This work has comprised both the performance of the Swedish component of the international reading study IEA PIRLS 2001 (Rosén, Myrberg, & Gustafsson, 2005) and the analysis of data from this and other IEA studies. A central issue is how the reading performance of Swedish students has changed over time, which is being investigated through the use of data from 1970, 1991, and 2001. In connection with this, researchers are investigating possible causes of the differences that have been observed. Another question involves the significance of students’ social background in different countries (Myrberg & Rosén, 2007, in press; Yang, 2003a, 2003b), and whether the connection between social background and school achievement has changed as a consequence of changes in Swedish schools.

Data and methods

A common feature of much of the research in the group is that it is based on large-scale investigations and often on register data. As mentioned above, since 1961 longitudinal studies of successive cohorts have been carried out at the department in close collaboration with Statistics Sweden, which has led to the collection of unique data material, presently called UGU in Swedish (Evaluation through follow-up in Swedish). In connection with various research projects, new data, including register data, have been added to the database. This database constitutes an extremely valuable resource, both in a national and an international perspective.

Much research is also being done involving the databases that have been built up from the comparative studies of students’ knowledge and skills, primarily IEA studies. Above all, reading studies have been in focus, but work has also been carried out on mathematics and science, which will be developed further.

Another common feature of much of the research is the use of multivariate statistical methods. Using these methods, many explanatory variables can be analysed simultaneously, and it is possible to work with latent, not directly observable variables. Further, these methods make it possible simultaneously to analyse data from several levels of observation (such as class and student), which opens up the possibility of studying questions that were previously difficult or impossible to address. The group is also interested in further elaborating such analytical methods.

Creemers, B. P. M., Kyriakides, L., & Sammons, P. (2010). Methodological advances in educational effectiveness research. London, UK: Routledge.

Creemers, B., & Kyriakides, L. (2007). The dynamics of educational effectiveness: A contribution to policy, practice and theory in contemporary schools. London, UK, Routledge.

Giota Joanna. & Gustafsson, Jan-Eric. (2017) Perceived Demands of Schooling, Stress and Mental Health: Changes from Grade 6 to Grade 9 as a Function of Gender and Cognitive Ability. Stress and Health, 33 (3), 253–266. DOI:

Gustafsson, Jan-Eric. (2002) Measurement from a hierarchical point of view. Chapter in book: The Role of Constructs in Psychological and Educational Measurement edited by Henry I. Braun, Douglas N. Jackson, David E. Wiley. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.

Gustafsson, Jan-Eric (2003), What do we know about effects of school resources on educational results? Swedish Economic Policy Review 10 (2003) 77-110.

Gustafsson, J.-E. (2006). Barns utbildningssituation. Bidrag till ett kommunalt barnindex, Stockholm: Rädda Barnen.

Gustafsson, J.-E. (2016). Lasting effects of quality of schooling: Evidence from PISA and PIAAC. Intelligence, 57, 66-72. DOI:

Gustafsson, Jan-Eric., Nilsen, Trude., & Hansen, Kajsa, Yang (2016) School characteristic moderating the relation between Student socio-economic status and mathematics achievement in grade 8. Evidence from 50 countries in TIMSS 2011. Studies in Educational Evaluation. DOI:

Hansen, Kajsa, Yang., & Gustafsson, Jan-Eric (2016) Causes of educational segregation in Sweden – school choice or residential segregation. Educational Research and Evaluation, 22,1-2, 23-44. DOI:

Hansson, Åse., & Gustafsson, Jan-Eric. (2016). Pedagogisk segregation: Lärarkompetens i den svenska grundskolan ur ett likvärdighetsperspektiv. Pedagogisk forskning i Sverige, 21, 1-2, 56-78.

Holfve-Sabel, Mary-Anne., Gustafsson, Jan-Eric (2005). Attitudes towards school, teacher and classmates at classroom and individual levels: an application of two-level confirmatory factor analysis. Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research, 49 (2), 187-202.

Holfve-Sabel, Mary-Anne. (2006) A comparison of student attitudes towards school, teachers and peers in Swedish comprehensive schools now and 35 years ago, Educational Research, 48:1, 55-75, DOI:

Husén , T . & Härnkvist , K . ( 2000 ) . Begåvningsreserven . En återblick på ett halvsekels forskning och debatt . Uppsala : Universitetstryckeriet .

McDonnell, L. M. (1995). Opportunity to learn as a research concept and a policy instrument. Educational evaluation and policy analysis, 17(3), 305-322.

Myrberg, Eva., Johansson, Stefan., & Rosén, Monica. (2015) Formal Teacher Competence and its Effect on Pupil Reading Achievement. Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research, 59, 5, 564-582.

Myrberg, E. and Rosen, M. (2006) 'Reading Achievement and Social Selection in Independent Schools in Sweden: Results from IEA PIRLS 2001.

Rosén, Monica., Myrberg, Eva., Gustafsson, Jan-Eric. (2005) Läskompetens i skolår 3 och 4: nationell rapport från PIRLS 2001 i Sverige: The IEA Program in International Reading Literacy Study. Report from Göteborg University.

Scheerens, J. (2017). Opportunity to Learn, Curriculum Alignment and Test Preparation: A Research Review. Springer International Publishing.

Yang, Yang. (2003). Dimensions of Socioeconomic Status and the Relationship to Mathematics and Science Achievement at Individual and Collective Levels. Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research, 47 (1), 21-41.

Yang, Yang. (2003). A cross-country Comparison on the Effects of Socio-economic Status at Individual and Collective Levels. In L. M. Herrera & G. Francia (Eds.), Educational Policies: Implications for Equity, Equality and Equivalence. (Book chapter). Örebro University. Örebro.


Aimee Haley, Senior lecturer,

Allan Svensson, Professor emeritus,

Alli Klapp, Associate professor,

Anna Maria Fjellman, Senior lecturer,

Caroline Berggren, Associate professor,

Cecilia Thorsen, Senior lecturer at University West,

Eva Myrberg, Associate professor,

Frank Bach, Senior lecturer,

Jan-Eric Gustafsson, Professor emeritus,

Kajsa Yang Hansen, Professor,

Linda Borger, Senior lecturer,

Maria Jarl, Senior lecturer,

Michael Hansen, Lecturer,

Stefan Johansson, Associate professor,

Åse Hansson, Associate professor emeritus,