Main menu

Challenges and tendencies - Norway

We have already described how one of the overall objectives for Norwegian education is adapted and inclusive education. In ideal terms, all the needs of the pupils should be taken care of through the use of formative assessment. This form of assessment must take care of the need for individual-oriented assessment. We have already reproduced the description of the research of the attitudes of teachers to assessment, where describing mastery is viewed as paramount and where describing learning needs is often glaringly absent. In many ways this can be viewed as one of the large challenges associated with pupil assessments. This is a general challenge and also connected with pupils with special educational needs. We should add that this challenge is also associated with the extremely gifted pupils. Adapted and inclusive education also applies for them. 

It is the needs of the pupil and not a diagnosis that must determine what type of learning the pupil is offered. It is not a special diagnosis in itself that triggers a special educational offer, but rather it is the individual needs of the pupil that are decisive. The diagnostic tests are used as a basis for determining individual measures concerning special education. These individual measures trigger the release of resources in the next phase. 

One of the largest challenges in the new education reform is to implement the national tests so that they serve to support learning in the schools. What makes this demanding is, among other things, the tension between the use of tests made for a formative purpose with their having to be released to the public. In this way, they will also necessarily appear as summative tests. This represents an embedded contradiction that both the educational authorities as well as the schools must live with. At the same time, it is also clear that the formative purpose of the tests is not at present articulated in statutes and regulations. The educational authorities are thus facing a significant task in elucidating and demonstrating both that these tests have been developed for a formative purpose as well as the precise manner in which they can be used. 

Since national tests have been developed as a tool for gathering knowledge about the individual pupil, the right to be exempt is limited. The figures from the spring of 2005 show however that approx. 2% of the pupils in Year 4 were exempted from the national Year 4 tests, whereas approx. 4 % were exempted from those of Year 7. According to the regulations it is only pupils who will not gain any benefit from the tests and minority language pupils who have only been in the country for an extremely short time who can be exempt from these tests. No data has been collected however concerning how large a percentage of  pupils with exemptions are encompassed by measures involving special needs education. In recent years, nearly 6% of  pupils enrolled in basic education have received special needs education as part of individual measures. There are however large variations between municipalities. The fact that the tests must be utilised by all pupils poses substantial requirements for their design. 

In purely general terms the introduction of a formative, learning-supportive assessment is a great challenge. In this context the formulation of the curriculum is extremely important. The development of descriptions of goals that both promote learning as well as are possible to evaluate is described as one of the most important challenges in the development of new curricula. As mentioned previously, assessment without grades have existed as the only form of assessment at primary school level for many years. Assessments without grades are written or oral statements that give an assessment of the learning process and results of the pupils. In practice this assessment has often, to the extent that it has had a professional focus, been focused more on learning results and thus appeared to be purely summative. A large challenge facing the educational authorities is to bring the formative aspect into the assessment practices of the teachers. Similarly, it is urgent to have assessment inserted as an integrated part of the learning activities. Quite often assessment appears to be something of an afterthought and not as an integrated part of the learning efforts. A significant component of pupil assessment is the ability of the pupils to perform self-assessments. In the existing curricula for primary and secondary schools it is only first at the end of the primary school level that the abilities of the pupils to make self-assessments are included in the objectives for the subjects. In proposals for new curricula this is described as a competency target beginning from an early stage. 

In recent years (since 2001) statistics concerning grades from primary and secondary schools have been released to the public. This has contributed to increasing the awareness of the public about the assignment of grades by the schools. By publishing statistics concerning grades, the differences in assessment practices are made visible, including to the general public. This release has however no significance to the primary school level in that grades are not assigned at primary school level. The results of the information being made public are that assessment with grades, have received greater attention. Assessment without grades, have traditionally had extremely little attention devoted to them. To the extent that it has received attention, it has been concentrated on how we can give a summative assessment without offending anybody, neither the child nor the parents. It is clear however that the politicians have become more aware of the challenges associated with pupil assessment. This is shown in particular in the debate surrounding the Norwegian Parliamentary White Paper concerning the reform in Norway. 

The greatest financial effort connected with pupil assessment at the primary school level is the assessment of the national tests. In order for the tests to be experienced as a good and useful tool that the teachers can use in the planning of learning activities, both for the individual pupil as well as for the class as a whole, it has been determined that the assessment must be made by the individual subject teacher. As has been mentioned already in this report, many teachers and schools have little understanding of national tests as a tool for formative assessments. This means that even though the state covers the expenses of the courses themselves, it is for the most part viewed as additional tasks that serve little purpose, both for the school and for the individual teacher. 

  • LinkedIn
  • Google +