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Learning and teaching - Iceland

In relation to how assessment information is used to inform teaching and learning activities in classrooms. 

I felt that there was a good connection between the study assessment and the work. Perhaps that was because in N’s case it was based on the individual. His class also had two teachers, and their teaching was partly arranged with him in mind. M. 

Many schools and education districts work with the results of national examinations, so that individuals whose results are substantially above or below the average are given an individual curriculum, and efforts are made to adapt the studies and teaching to their needs.

How Iceland links assessment information to the planning of learning and teaching at school, regional or even national levels:

At the national level: When the performance of Icelandic pupils in international comparative studies such as Timms and PISA is unsatisfactory in the view of the authorities, debate often takes place on measures, which may lead to action. An example of this is the findings of Timms in 1996: they led to debate on study and teaching in natural sciences and mathematics, which led to an effort in teacher training in these fields. The same is true of the findings of PISA in 2003, after which diploma studies in mathematics teaching have been introduced. These surveys also have an influence on pilot projects supported by the State. International studies and trends also have an influence upon the content of the National Curriculum Guide. 

At the regional level: Regional variations in the results of national examinations can lead to measures within certain regions. Screening carried out by educational districts, for instance in reading, has led to pilot projects within the district. Education districts have for instance introduced pilot projects to improve reading comprehension, after screening of an entire Year group. 

At the school level: Most schools have internal monitoring and assessment. Schools thus often have a screening process to detect e.g. indications of dyslexia in pupils, from pre-school to upper secondary school. The findings are used to meet the study needs of pupils e.g. by study material on audio CDs, and waivers of conventional examination procedure. 

Teacher Training

At the Icelandic University of Education, a 30-credit postgraduate programme is available in special needs teaching, following on from a 90-credit B.Ed. programme. The programme is based upon the following principles and values:

  • that all children learn, and that all children can be taught things which give their lives more purpose and fulfilment,
  • that the quality of studies is contingent upon the quality of teaching, parenting and training,
  • that children learn in different ways and at different speeds,
  • that different individuals strengthen every school, and society as a whole,
  • that the school shall seek to meet diverse needs inclusively, and that in order to do so teachers and developmental therapists must master knowledge, principles and skills, inter alia knowledge of handicaps and special needs, tolerance vis-à-vis the children’s diverse qualities and needs, and disciplined working methods,
  • that in assessment of special needs it is important to have a holistic view of the child,
  • that school work is the collective task of the school, the child, the family, the authorities and society,
  • that children’s special needs are the responsibility of all these parties, and demand active collaboration.  

The University of Akureyri also offers a postgraduate programme in special needs teaching. The aim is for students to gain knowledge of the sociology of handicap, and of the attitudes of handicapped people and those with special needs to themselves and their situation, to learn about the history of the handicapped, international conventions on the handicapped, and Icelandic laws and regulations on the handicapped, to gain knowledge of trends and policies in special needs teaching, and of the essential concepts of holistic educational policy, and to learn theories on how teachers’ reflection can influence the participation and studies of all pupils.  

There is no special discussion of how assessment materials and tests are handled in teacher training. Special courses are held on the use of screening and diagnostic tools intended for use by teachers, for instance in the fields of mathematics, linguistic development and reading. The courses are generally aimed at special needs teachers, and are normally held by the originators of the tools.

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