Performativity pressures at urban high schools in Sweden and the USA

Johannes Lunneblad, L. Janelle Dance

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


This article reveals how test-based performativity pressures interfere with the pedagogical approaches preferred by teachers of second-language learners. Our findings derive from ethnographic research conducted in two non-mainstream high schools: one in a US city and other one in a Swedish city. Both schools serve immigrant students who speak English/Swedish as a second language, the majority of whom are from low-income, non-mainstream backgrounds. Unlike many schools that serve low-income immigrants, both are fairly well-resourced schools; teachers at each school foster productive learning environments and pedagogical practices conducive to academic success. Yet these practices are eroded by a mode of regulation that is hyper-fixed on 'performativity' as discussed by Stephen J. Ball. Swedish teachers report less pressure than American teachers but teachers at both schools provide clear examples of the instances when performativity pressures intrude upon preferred pedagogical approaches.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)298-312
Number of pages15
JournalEthnography and Education
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2014


  • ethnography
  • high-stake tests
  • performativity
  • promising practice
  • second language

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • Cultural Studies
  • Education


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