Aug 30 2018

Increased RCT in Scandinavian educational research

The Scandinavian countries have a long history of implementing social interventions, but the interventions have not been examined using randomised controlled trials (RCT) until relatively recently compared with countries like the United States and the United Kingdom.

Vibeke Opheim (NIFU) has, in collaboration with colleagues in Denmark and Sweden, published an article in a special issue of Educational Research on RCT in educational research. The article examines the history of randomised controlled trials in Scandinavian compulsory schools (grades 0–10; pupil ages 6–15). Specifically, the authors investigate drivers and barriers for randomised controlled trials in educational research and the differences between the three Scandinavian countries Denmark, Norway, and Sweden.

RCTs in grades 0–10 were few in all of Scandinavia until about 2011, after which there was an increase in all three countries, although at different rates. The largest number of trials has been conducted in Denmark, and the increase is more marked in Denmark and Norway compared with Sweden. International trends towards more impact evaluations and results from international comparisons such as PISA have likely affected the development in all countries, but while many trials in Denmark and Norway are the result of policy initiatives, only one such example in Sweden was identified.

The authors believe the lack of government initiatives to promote RCTs in Sweden is the most likely explanation for the differences across the Scandinavian countries. Funding and coordination from the government are often crucial for the implementation of RCTs and are likely more important in smaller countries such as the Scandinavian ones. Supporting institutions have now been established in all three countries, and the use of RCTs in Scandinavian educational research is likely to continue.

The article is available here: «Randomised controlled trials in Scandinavian educational research».

For more information, contact
Vibeke Opheim, Deputy Director
(+47) 96 09 40 46 / 41 55 39 03
vibeke.opheim@nifu.no