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Implementation of assessment policy - Norway

The aims of the policy formulation are described in Norwegian Parliamentary White Papers, the proceedings of the Norwegian Parliament (the Storting) and in strategies formulated by the Ministry of Education and Research. In addition, there is also the work with the curriculum that has already been described. 

The national quality assessment system must be viewed both as a means for checking as well as a means for developing quality. This applies at both the level of the system and the level of the individual. In this regard a national Web site, called Skoleporten.no, has been developed. At Skoleporten.no, key information can be found concerning all Norwegian schools. In addition, assessment marks from classroom work, marks from exams and results from national tests are also available. One of the large challenges being faced today is described as greater pupil involvement. This is an explicit and legally mandated goal, where the pupils must be actively involved in the planning, execution and assessment of learning activities. On this basis it has been determined that pupils must participate in national surveys of the learning environments at the individual schools (The Pupil Inspectors). Beginning with Year 7, it is compulsory for the pupils to participate in these studies. The results from these studies must also be followed up on by the school. These results must also be made public. 

In connection with the introduction of new reforms, a strategy has been developed for competence development in basic education for 2005 – 2008. This strategy is directed towards competence development of the teachers. In it, better adapted education is described as one of the most important prioritised areas. We quote the following from the plan: 

It is on this basis necessary to prioritise competence development measures in order to develop the ability of the school and the teaching enterprise to organise the teaching and arrange the content and manner of working in order to give the individual pupil and apprentice adapted education. There is also a need to improve the quality of special needs education, while at the same time the need for special education should be prevented and reduced by giving better adapted education. 

In the previously mentioned strategy for competence development in basic education for 2005 – 2008, continuing education for the pedagogical personnel in the basic education is described as a prioritised area. It is the responsibility of the local link/school owner to make a plan for competence development within its area of authority. A precondition for success is however that the schools have the competence to follow up on the information concerning learning benefits, learning environment and resources that emerge through the national quality assessment system. The development of the competence of the schools is described as the responsibility of the school owners, and not a responsibility of the state. 

Previously, pupil assessments have not been a prioritised area in teacher education, neither at the university nor the college level. Nor in practice in the field has much attention been dedicated to this theme. This has changed radically in recent years however. In the present framework plan for teacher training, pupil assessment has been highlighted as a prioritised area. What to a large degree characterises current teacher training is that it appears as a model that is important for the pupils in practice when they go out to work as teachers. Teacher training makes use to a large extent of the same forms of assessment that the pupils will later have to use as teachers. This means that the pupils themselves will receive experience from the perspective of the pupils in relation to the new forms of assessment by their performing their exams as portfolio assessment, use of reflection logs concerning their own work and their own learning, group examinations, prepared tests, etc. It must also be said however that variations do exist between the individual teacher training institutions. 

At primary school level there is a strong tradition of feedback to pupils and parents focusing to much too large of an extent on mastery and extremely often on social mastery. To a certain extent it is possible to suggest that the strong focus on mastery has directed attention away from learning. There seems to be a large absence of (culture for) systematic assessment as a point of departure for improving the Norwegian schools, both at the level of the individual as well as the system. One of the findings from the assessment of the introduction of the existing curriculum in the primary schools (Reform 97) was that the teachers, at both the primary and lower secondary levels, generally gave an enthusiastic response to the presentations and products of the pupils regardless of the quality and product displayed. The researchers posed questions concerning whether – 'out of fear of violating simple individuality and ruining prospects of further learning' a culture has evolved among teachers associated with a resistance to giving critical comments on the work of pupils. The price of the practice is ultimately paid by the pupils. The tendency is stronger with younger pupils and is especially strong in primary schools. Since praise only focuses on what the pupils master and does not point to additional new challenges and new learning, this tendency seems self-reinforcing in many respects. It is often the case that pupil assessment does not discuss where the possibilities for learning are actually to be found. The authorities are facing a large challenge in this area.

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