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Innovations and developments - Norway

Goal-directed work with formative assessments must be viewed as the most important new development in the field of pupil assessment. This is work that will also include pupils with special educational needs. 

In connection with the current reform, work is underway on drafting national curricula for all subjects in basic education. An important change in the preparation of new curricula is goal-oriented work with the building up and development of the learning strategies of the pupils and their capabilities for self-assessment. We have established previously that pupil assessment must be goal-oriented. The goals in the curriculum are described on four levels in the basic education. Concerning primary school level, the goals are described twice after Year 4 and Year 7. With respect to certain subjects, goals are also described after Year 2. An on-going discussion concerns whether criteria should also be drafted concerning the fulfilment of the goals. These criteria can be prepared on a national basis, locally or by an individual teacher. In the event that a joint standard is desired for Norwegian schools, whether these criteria ought to be drafted on a national basis is currently the subject of some discussion. Such a system would have drawbacks as well as benefits: the benefits are that all teachers in Norway would gain a common understanding and concretisation of the content of the curricula. This can be of assistance to both formative and summative assessments. The fact must however not be ignored that the assessment criteria can function as a tool for summative assessment where the pupils are placed, starting at an early age, in relation to national criteria, and thus be a form of assessment that appears in practice as a system of grades. This is a trend that in political terms is absolutely undesired for the Norwegian primary schools. 

Demonstration schools

In 2002 the Ministry of Education and Research introduced the programme featuring demonstration schools. Demonstration schools are schools that have worked systematically over time to promote quality within the school. The goal is to render visible and motivate quality development in the Norwegian basic education through the dissemination of experiences and the demonstration of good examples. During the autumn of 2004 there were 40 schools, both primary and secondary schools that were involved in the programme. A total of 10 new schools are selected each year for a term of two years. The number of them is thus not in itself very relevant, however it does become drawn into it because it says something about the abundance of demonstration schools. In order to be appointed as a national demonstration school, the schools must fulfil certain criteria. One of four criteria for the selections for the 2005 – 2007 period was systematic follow-ups on learning benefits. We will therefore quote the following from the assessment criteria: 

The documentation must show results from school-based and individual assessment, for example results of school leaving examinations, grades for classroom performance, the use of various forms of tests and portfolio assessment. Work with basic subjects, nationally prioritised subjects and basic skills will be emphasised, as well as how the schools have followed up on the national quality assurance system (national tests, electronic tools for gathering the experiences of pupils for quality-related purposes and the related national Web site). The effort ought to be able to show a positive trend over a certain period. 

One of the ideas behind demonstration schools is for other schools to be able to visit and learn from the demonstration schools. 

The demonstration schools programme has been assessed recently. The evaluation shows that the programme has had comprehensive reverberations within the schools. The demonstration schools have had many visits. The communication methodology utilising intimacy with actual practice, which characterises the programme, appears to have contributed to increased understanding and learning in the schools that have come to visit. 

A majority of the schools that have visited the demonstration schools are of the opinion that it is too early to say anything about whether the contact with the demonstration schools has had any effect on the benefits in terms of learning. Of those schools that believe that they do have a basis for assessing the effects, nearly all of them believe that the experiences are mostly positive. In the opinion of the researchers, a complete picture of the effects of the programmes on the learning benefits attained by the pupils will only first be able to be obtained in several years.

The introduction of the demonstration schools can, regardless of this, be said to be a political instrument for, among other things, stimulating the schools to adopt good assessment practices.

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