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Preamble - Norway

During the past 10 years there has been an increasing interest in assessment in Norwegian schools, both on the part of parents and teachers as well as on a political level. There are a number of reasons for this. Firstly, an assessment was made in 1989 by the OECD that posed questions concerning the precise information possessed by the Norwegian authorities about quality in Norwegian schools. It was pointed out that the Norwegian authorities had a good overview of the precise resources that they were endowing the schools with in the form of their financial contributions, yet there was little knowledge of the payoffs in terms of the learning by the pupils as well as other qualitative aspects of the schools. These viewpoints led to the authorities seeing a need for measures to secure better information about the quality of work being done in the schools. The question of how a picture of quality at a school was to be obtained was also discussed in Norway.

The participation in and the results from the international studies connected with PISA (Programme for International Pupil Assessment), TIMSS (Third International Mathematics and Science Study) and PIRLS (Progress in International Reading Literacy Study) has led to political measures being adopted with the intent of strengthening the areas giving a poor showing in these studies. The most comprehensive measure the Ministry initiated was the introduction of national tests to measure the abilities of pupils in reading, writing, English and mathematics.(From 2007 on in reading in Norwegian, reading in English and in mathematics). This is also just one of a number of measures in an on-going educational reform of the Norwegian schools, collectively entitled Knowledge Promotion [Kunnskapsløftet]. The reforms are also bringing about the development of new curricula for Year 1 to Year 13 in all subjects, with an increased emphasis on the further and continuing education of the instructors as well as the development of a national quality assessment system in which the national exams are included as an important element in the measurement of the net learning benefits attained by the pupils. 

In connection with adapted and inclusive training being a paramount principle in the Norwegian schools, it is worth noting that there are large differences in the net learning benefits among the pupils. It turns out that there are systematic differences between the pupils depending upon their gender and social as well as ethnic backgrounds (Välijärvi 2003). The lack of net learning benefits being attained by pupils from ethnic minorities in Norwegian schools is being viewed with extreme concern. Research shows that this inequality exists for all age groups. Øzerk (2003) shows large differences in net learning benefits in Year 1-4, whilst Engen et al (1996) take the results of examinations in Norwegian, English and mathematics from Year 9, at the end of the compulsory primary and lower secondary schooling, which show large differences in performance between minority pupils and the ethnic Norwegian pupils. With respect to the more general reading skills of the pupils, a study of 10-year olds also showed similar differences (Wagner 2004). 

In addition, there are large variations in the use of special needs education. Arranging for all pupils, starting from when they begin in kindergarten, to participate in learning processes in which flexible formative forms of assessment are an integrated part can help the individual pupil in developing learning strategies that allow them to absorb knowledge and skills on the basis of their own preconditions. 

In this description of how assessment will be performed in inclusive classrooms in Norway, the overall framework conditions will be such as are expressed in the laws, regulations and curricula presented in the first article. A description will also be given of how the implementation and execution of new assessment practices have been planned, and precisely which challenges emerge in such a situation. 

In the next sections, we will attempt to draw upon examples from new assessment practices at the primary school level. A central aspect of these new practices, involve the pupil being drawn in as an active participant in a formative assessment process designed to promote learning. The assessment thus becomes a central hub in the learning process, and it becomes an affair for not just the individual pupil, or between the pupil and teacher, but rather it also becomes important in relation to the parents, as informational feedback to the society and especially as an element in the planning and organising of teaching processes that must function in an inclusive manner.

 

Sources: 

  • Engen, T. O., Kulbrandstad, L. A. and Sand, S. (1996): Til keiseren hva keiserens er? Om minoritetselevenes utdanningsstrategier og skoleprestasjoner [To Caesar what is Caesar's? On the educational strategies and performance in school of minority pupils]. Oplandske Bokforlag. Vallset
  • Øzerk, K. (2003): Sampedagogikk. Oplandske Bokforlag. Vallset 
  • Välijärvi, J. Malin, A. (2003) The two-level effect of socio-economic background. In Lie, S, Linnakylä, P. & Roe, A. (eds): Northern Lights on PISA. Unity and Diversity in the Nordic Countries in PISA 2000. Department of Teacher Education and School development, University of Oslo
  • Wagner, Å. K. H.: Hvordan leser minoritetsspråklige elever I Norge? En studie av minoritetsspråklige og majoritetsspråklige 10-åringers leseresultater og bakgrunnsfaktorer i den norske delen av PIRLS 2001. [How do minority language pupils in Norway read? A study of minority language and majority language 10-year olds' reading results and background factors in the Norwegian part of PIRLS 2001] Norwegian National Centre for Reading Training and Reading Research
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