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Assessment in inclusive classrooms - Norway

How assessment is linked to an IEP

Inclusion appears to have become an aim of global educational policy via the Salamanca Declaration in 1994 (Vislie 2001). Inclusion involves the school having to adapt itself to the diversity of its pupils in contrast to the previously used concept of integration, which meant that the pupils had to be inserted into the normal school with the requisite help to adjust. This means that the focus is being moved from the pupil's adjustment to the school and over to the school's adjustment to the pupil. It is a precondition as a point of departure that everyone belongs to the joint community. The pupil thus receives the right to education originating in his/her own immediate environment, independently of the pupil's background, achievements and functional abilities.

The principle of inclusion poses requirements that each individual pupil be met as a learner, and this has consequences for the assessment work in the school. Firstly, the planning, content and manner of working during the teaching must be adapted to all the pupils, both those who are strong as well as those who are weak in the subject, with the aim of stimulating them to progress and development. Through individual work plans, content and manners of working can be arranged so that it becomes a meaningful effort for everyone, including the pupils who work hard at their schoolwork. The assessment of progress in a subject from an inclusion perspective involves assessment tools and expressions of assessment having to be varied and flexible so that all pupils can be assessed in an adequate manner 

Formal, standardised tests, such as national tests and the like, document certain skills that can be used in a larger comparative perspective at national and international levels. With an inclusion perspective, the school ought to also have an informal use of standardised tests/exams in order to give a more nuanced and correct picture of the competence of all its pupils in subjects, and this is particularly important in relation to the weakest pupils. An example relating to testing of reading comprehension can illustrate this. In such tests the pupils must often read a text and tick an answer within a certain amount of time. If you have pupils who read slowly, then all these pupils will score low because they are unable to read enough text before the deadline. However, among these pupils there will be both pupils who read slowly and have little comprehension as well as pupils who read slowly and have significant comprehension. Yet the test will not catch the difference. In order to catch this and other differences and to gain a more correct picture of the reading comprehension of the pupils, the teacher can carry out the test and change the conditions. She could, for example, give longer deadlines, read the instructions out loud for the pupils, give the pupils options to demonstrate the answers by the use of pictures, etc. This would essentially be to use the test as a stimulus to involve the pupils in a dialogue concerning the content. 

It is common for teachers to make their own tests, i.e. non-standardised tests, in order to elicit information concerning what the pupils have mastered within a specific subject area. Such tests are normally used in a summative manner, and a grade is assigned. However, they can also be used in a formative manner in order to guide the pupils in the course of their work on the subject.

The assessment should take place through a broad spectrum of methods. This can be observation and documentation of pupil products and problem-solving processes, and it can be appropriate to use many different manners of documentation. The forms of documentation can be teacher logs, pupil logs, audio tape, photos, video, diagrams drawn by pupils and other items. In order to document subject goals it is essential to allow the pupils to use forms of documentation and expressions of assessment that are appropriate based upon the preconditions and interests of each individual. In the feedback to the pupils it is important that the school show recognition and valuation of the products and results of the pupils throughout the year. 

To be helping the pupils in assessing their own work, and especially in comparing their own performances over time, is important to all pupils and particularly important for pupils who have problems with documenting their competence through ordinary tests/exams. We can refer to the use of, among other things, individual planning books and portfolios as possible tools in adapting the assessment to the individual pupil. It is also a challenge for the teacher to establish good criteria that can function both in self-assessments and in summative assessments such that a pupil's work can be compared with the work of other pupils.

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