5 Teaching and assessment
Chapter 3 and Chapter 4 discuss and describe how the subjects and the subject curricula in school can be renewed to meet future competence needs and facilitate pupils’ in-depth learning and progression. The Committee finds that teaching and assessment must support the objectives in the Core Curriculum. In this chapter the Committee assesses how teaching and assessment practices, regulations and assessment schemes may be developed to realise the Committee’s recommendations.
The competence and practice of the teaching profession are decisive for whether the pupils will develop competence for the future. The Committee emphasize that teachers will need to strengthen their didactics and subject didactics competence and further develop methods for teaching. Cooperation and collaboration between colleagues on pupils’ learning is necessary to ensure that planning and implementation of the teaching are based on research and experiences and are adapted to pupils’ learning needs. Pupils must have an active role in the teaching and must be able to practise mastering challenges in a safe and cooperatively oriented learning environment. The Committee believes that formative assessment is an important part of a teaching practice when the aim is to promote pupils’ learning. It is recommended that final assessment and examinations should be developed to provide reliable and relevant information about the competence of the pupils in the school of the future.
Teaching practice must be developed along with the development work that is already being done, but it is important to allow for the fact that renewal of the content of school will require long-term and dedicated efforts to raise competence and ensure continuous professional development.
5.1 Teaching that promotes learning
The interim report describes a knowledge foundation relating to what conditions in the learning environment and the teaching that contribute to learning. Learning environments that promote learning are characterised by the following:
the pupils are actively involved in their own learning and understand their own learning processes,
the pupils works collborativly and engage in communication and cooperation with peers and teachers,
the pupils are able to develop in-depth understanding and receive help to understand connections,
the pupils are given challenges which make them exert themselves,
the teaching is adaptive to the pupils’ different prior knowledge and experiences,
the pupils encounter clear expectations about what they are to learn, and receive feedback and advice about further learning,
the pupils relationships, motivation and emotions are taken into consideration in the teaching, and
the teachers use varied methods, work forms and organisation adapted to what the pupils are to learn and to individual pupils and pupil groups.1
Research confirms that these aspects of the learning environment contribute to learning in different subjects and in different competence areas. Teaching practices and learning environments that build on these principles form the basis for developing competences that children and young people need in the future working life, society and their private lives.2 The Committee considers the principles to be decisive for the pupils’ development of the competences the Committee recommends and the competence concept that is used.
The Committee finds that in-depth learning in the subjects is decisive if pupils are to use what they learn in school later in life. This means that pupils gradually and over time develop understanding and skills in different disciplines. Teachers can facilitate in-depth learning in the subjects by allowing pupils sufficient time to study in depth and by giving them challenges, guidance and feedback adapted to their academic level.3
Principles for formative assessment are an integral part of a teaching practice which promotes pupils’ learning. Formative assessment means obtaining and interpreting information about learning and progression on an ongoing basis in the learning process, and that teachers and pupils use the information to find out what pupils understand, where they are going and what they should do to get there.4
5.1.1 The teachers’ professional work
The competence and professional qualities of the teachers are decisive for realising the content of the school of the future. Teachers are responsible for planning what the teaching should include and how it should be organised if pupils are to be able to achieve the objectives in the main curriculum. The professional assessments of teachers must build on research and experience-based knowledge about what promotes learning in the subjects. Teachers must also use their knowledge about the group of pupils and individual pupils when they plan, implement and assess the teaching. Cooperation between colleagues on pupils’ learning is important to ensure that the teaching is knowledge-based and adapted to the knowledge and experiences of the group of pupils in question.5
Coherence between teaching and pupils’ learning
The Committee proposes that the competence focus in the current subject curricula should be continued, and that objectives in the national subject curricula should provide room for the teachers’ professional assessments and choices. This means that teachers will continue to be responsible for planning and assessing subject content, and for deciding which structures, organisation and work methods can contribute to pupils’ learning in the subjects. The teachers must also decide how to use formative assessment to obtain knowledge about the progression of the pupils and give feedback that will help them to take further steps in their learning. Didactics and subject didactics competence, including assessment competence, will be decisive elements that ensure good planning and implementation of the teaching.
Teachers plan with various time horizons, from year and half-year plans to planning of shorter teaching periods and individual classes. An advanced curriculum understanding is required to interpret the subject curricula and design a learning trajectories that reflects the long-term objectives in the subject curricula. Experience from the Knowledge Promotion Reform has shown that it may be demanding to prepare tasks and assessment situations that challenge the pupils to use their knowledge and skills, rather than just showing what they have acquired. There are also examples where teachers to a large degree focus on giving concrete objectives that are simple to measure rather than giving more complex objectives for pupils’ learning. This applies to the dialogues in the classroom, pupils’ work plans and tasks and the tests that are given.6
For the teaching to systematically build on the knowledge and learning needs of the pupils it is necessary that plans are used flexibly, and that they allow time and space so the teachers can adapt for their pupils. Adaptation here means making purposeful choices of methods and work forms based on the learning requirements of the group of pupils or individual pupils in question. The coherence between teaching and learning is strengthened when the teachers assess whether the teaching has contributed to pupils’ learning, and undertake necessary changes and adaptations in the further teaching based on this.7
Renewed subjects will require that the teachers develop and change the methods and action repertoire they use in their teaching. When the four competence areas are to be emphasized in the subjects, this will have an effect on the subject matter, work methods, organisation and assessment methods that will promote pupils’ learning. The broad competence concept in the subjects will demand that teachers consider pupils’ motivation, self-regulation and social competence in their planning and implementation of the teaching. This creates the need to develop practices, and places more demands on teachers to vary their methods according to the academic, social, emotional and cultural backgrounds of the class/group.8 Pupils must also receive feedback about how they are developing social and emotional aspects of their competence in all subjects.
Teacher training and continuing education must give the teachers support in the development of a relevant method and action repertoire. It will also be necessary that the teaching staff tests and develops new approaches and methods for teaching and assessment. Working in a knowledge-based way and with the pupils’ learning in focus will require that the teaching staff cooperates on finding solutions and developing methods that are adapted to groups of pupils and individual pupils. Studying new research and reflecting on and sharing experiences of personal practice are part of such a way of working.9 The Committee’s proposal to highlight areas that several subjects have in common increases the importance of teachers cooperating when they are planning teaching and following up the pupils’ learning. The school leaders and school owners must prepare frameworks for teachers’ planning activities, see Chapter 6 on implementation.
Facilitating pupils’ progression in the subjects
Some of the teachers’ planning work consists of deciding how the teaching should support the pupil’s learning trajectories in different subject areas. Teachers must be able to interpret the progression in the subject curricula, relate it to where the pupils are in their learning trajectories, and adapt the teaching to their learning needs. The Committee recommends that the subject curricula and accompanying guidance resources should give more support for this work. Guiding descriptions of the learning trajectories may support the teachers’ work to facilitate good progression in their pupils’ learning.
Principles relating to formative assessment will also be important for facilitating pupils’ progression. Teachers must identify their pupils’ understanding and misunderstanding to decide what they should focus on in the further teaching. Research shows that feedback that contributes to learning is given frequently, immediately after something has been completed, points towards further learning and focuses on what the pupils should work with more and how.10
Clear expectations and an active pupil role
For pupils to develop solid subject knowledge, the teachers have important roles as presenters of subject knowledge and as classroom managers. The teaching must be well planned and structured, and the teachers must be clear about the purpose of the learning activity and what is expected of the pupils.11
The competences the Committee recommends also require that pupils have active roles in the teaching. Pupils must be able to practise using subject knowledge in various contexts, alone and with others. Collaboration, communication and investigative and experimental ways of working in the subjects may promote pupils’ active participation. Such ways of working may also help pupils to develop the competences the Committee recommends. Pupil-active work methods require thorough planning and follow-up by the teachers.12
To be able to use what they learn in various contexts, pupils must develop awareness of what they know and are able to do, what the purpose of what they are learning is and which learning strategies will be relevant in the subjects. This requires that pupils are involved in different phases of the learning process, both in the planning and assessment of the teaching, and in the assessment of their own learning and competence. Both self-assessment and joint discussions on what characterises advanced work in the subjects may help develop pupils’ metacognition abilities and self-regulated learning. When metacognition and self-regulated learning are in focus, the teachers may increasingly use their pupils as resources for mutual learning.
Textbox 5.1 Orstad School: With metacognition as the basis for learning
Orstad School, located in the municipality of Klepp in Rogaland County, has pupils from Year 1 to Year 10.
For the pupils to become aware of their own learning strategies and learn to reflect on their own learning, they must train this continuously and in all subjects. The school’s overriding goal is thus that the pupils should train in this every day.
Acquiring advanced learning strategies is a goal in itself and a tool for subject learning. Reflections and strategies are also important for the pupils when they are to cooperate and interact with others.
The school leaders have given priority to this over time. The school has a special action plan for working with metacognition and learning strategies, and these are given priority in the work done by the teaching staff on the subject curricula. Metacognition is part of the learning objectives the teachers make for the pupils.
Teaching practice that facilitates metacognition
The school works systematically with the pupils’ learning strategies, and the teaching staff have together drawn up descriptors for the teaching. This has been a topic in internal meetings, where importance has been attached to how they can develop their pupils’ metacognition in all the subjects. The teachers have shared examples of how they help their pupils train in metacognitive reflections, and they have discussed various ways they can facilitate metacognitive insight.
The teaching staff have also discussed how self-assessment, assessment of each other, checklists and clear assessment criteria are important for developing their pupils’ awareness of their own learning, and when in the process the pupils should receive feedback.
For the school leaders it has been a clear choice that working with learning strategies is a collective process in the staff.
The good dialogue and good discussion as the point of departure for reflection on one’s own learning
Developing pupils’ metacognition will have an effect on the teaching in the classroom. The good dialogue and the good discussions help the pupils’ to acquire the various strategies, and they are challenged to reflect on their own competence and learning when the teachers facilitate their involvement and open for dialogues. In their teaching, teachers endeavour to show their pupils good examples, in writing and verbally, so they gain good understanding of the goal for the dialogues and reflection.
A measure to promote reflection on one’s own learning processes is to open for self-assessment. This may be done both verbally and in writing. For example, after a work session pupils may be asked to assess their own point of view, and discuss this with the teacher. The pupils can also cooperate on deciding how to progress in their work with the subject. They may also be asked to fill in a self-assessment form, either on their own or with the teacher. In mathematics they could be asked such questions as: Did you do all the tasks? Did you make many mistakes? Have you shown how you calculated? How did you feel you mastered the tasks? The self-assessment form is a good point of departure for reflecting on how pupils have solved the tasks, and what they felt was challenging.
Often pupils will discuss in pairs. In the subjects they will use various tools to reflect on connections, similarities and dissimilarities in what they learn. At times they will also discuss in class. What did we learn? How did we learn this?
An important part of the school’s work is to guide the pupils so they can reflect on and see things in context. One goal when prioritising metacognition and reflection in pupils’ learning is to help them see connections between subjects and their own learning processes, and help them connect what they are learning to today’s society.
5.1.2 A productive learning environment
The Committee argues that the recommendations for subject-specific and cross-curriculum competences will require school leaders and teachers to work systematically with the psychosocial school environment and the pupils’ learning environment. All pupils shall have the opportunity to experience well-being in school and mastering in their subjects, and shall have a good relationship to other pupils and teachers. A productive learning environment has intrinsic value but also contributes to pupils’ learning. Learning is promoted when pupils have the courage to show what they do not know or cannot do, and when it is appreciated that everyone masters things and has good progress in the subject according to their expectations, aptitudes and level in the subject.13
Education that helps the pupils develop academic, social and emotional competence in collaboration must build systematically on collaboration and cooperation between teachers and pupils and between pupils. This demands good relationships and a safe psychosocial environment, which most schools work systematically on. When putting emphasis on such areas as self-regulation, collaboration and participation, it is even more important that pupils have the courage to use their abilities and experience the school culture and their relationships to teachers and peers as supportive and trusting.
When the learning environment is characterised by tolerance, curiosity and positive attitudes to cooperation and participation it contributes to learning. Safe relationships are the foundation from which teachers can give pupils academic challenges, and from which pupils can challenge each other.14 This is important for all learning, but will increase in importance when the focus shifts more to how pupils should learn to explore and create and interact with others.
The social and emotional learning and development of pupils is a resource in school's work with the psychosocial environment. When pupils train in expressing themselves, contributing to the community and respecting the views of others through their work with the school subjects, they can assume more and more co-responsibility for the learning environment.
5.1.3 Support for the teachers’ work
Developing a teaching and assessment practice which gives pupils relevant competence for the future requires a long-term effort, where the national authorities, teacher-training institutions, teaching staffs, school owners and school leaders work towards common long-term goals. Teacher-training institutions and continuing education are very important contributors to building teachers’ professional competence in their subjects, in addition to national competence development initiatives and development activities in the professional environment in the schools are also important.
Formal teacher training forms the basis for the professional development of teachers’ and student teachers’ understanding of teaching and assessment, an understanding that is developed further through practising as a teacher. In working with the subjects and subject didactics and in the education science subject, the teacher-training institutions have a major responsibility to give their student teachers knowledge about what promotes learning in a teaching situation, and how they as teachers must reflect on their own practice to improve, both on their own and with colleagues. The subject of education science and pupil-related skills was introduced with the new division into levels and subjects in teacher training in 2010. This subject was intended to form the basis for the teaching competence of the teachers-to-be, and more than the earlier education science subject it was to be focused on the profession.15 The evaluation of this new subject shows that it has not become increasingly oriented towards the profession, but that it is characterised by curriculum overload.16 The Committee emphasize that the intentions of this subject must be followed up in a new Master’s degree education programme. The subject should have a clear larger emphasize on competence in the profession, including how to facilitate in-depth learning and pupil progression, related to the four competence areas the Committee prioritises. The Committee also finds it important to point out that the education science subject in a new teacher-training education cannot assume the entire responsibility for professional competence. The subject didactics course and the practical training must focus on supporting the teaching profession to master the challenges in the school of the future. Continuing education and school-based competence development must contribute to teachers continual development of professional competence and understanding of the subject curricula.
The subject curricula must give the teaching profession room to use their adaptive expertise. Under the Knowledge Promotion Reform the concept “freedom to choose methods“ was used in some contexts, in particular to underline that the subject curricula should not lay down guidelines for particular ways of working, as they had done earlier. Teachers’ planning and teaching must build on research and experience-based knowledge and on knowledge about the pupil group in question. The Committee argues that the subject curricula and other national governing measures must maintain the idea that teachers have the space to act. At the same time, with a curriculum renewal, more importance should be attached to how teachers have a professional responsibility to choose subject content, ways of working and organisation that are based on research relevant for pupils’ learning and adapted to the particular group of pupils. This means that teachers’ professional autonomy involves a responsibility for making well-reasoned and research-based choices of methods and approaches in their teaching.
Both national and local competence development measures that are aimed at the development of teaching and assessment practices should have a focus on earning and teaching research.17 There are examples of national programmes that have concentrated on the use of research, and there are schools and school owners who work systematically with research as the basis for school development. The Committee, however, recommends that the national authorities need to be more systematic than today at providing updated research on learning, teaching and assessment which may be used in the local school development work. As part of this, research-based knowledge summaries of adaptive teaching and assessment practices in the subjects should be developed. It is important that such resources are updated according to new research, and that they should be easily accessible to the schools so they can use them.
Chapter 6 looks into the type of competence development the Committee recommends as part of a coherent implementation strategy for the Committee’s recommendations.
Textbox 5.2 Firda Upper Secondary School: With collaboration on the agenda
Firda Upper Secondary School, located in the county of Sogn and Fjordane, offers the programme for general studies.
The school believes that the pupils should develop collaboration competence because being able to interact is important for them in their learning and for the social environment in school.
With good relationships as the point of departure for learning
Cooperation between the teachers, between the pupils and between the teachers and the pupils is a priority area for the school. The school’s leaders want the school to give priority to collaboration, good relationships and a good learning environment. Collaboration has been a topic in the school's general meetings and in the pupil council. Each class has their own rules that the pupils and teachers collaborate on. These are used as the point of departure for good discussions and important reflections.
The teaching staff also discuss how to build good relationships in their cooperation and shared time. The school is highly aware that the staff must be good role models for the pupils by showing good cooperation in practice.
With collaboration as the basis for subject learning
The school is working on promoting collaboration competence by arranging debates. The pupils are assigned various roles in advance, independent on their opinions about an issue. Some pupils serve as chairpersons, others debate. They are also informed of the assessment criteria for the debate, and receive feedback as part of the subject assessment. The topics are taken from one or more subjects. In groups the pupils must find knowledge and arguments that support the points they will be arguing for. The goal for the debates is that the pupils should use subject-specific competence, communication and collaboration. Another aim is that through debating the pupils learn to make reflected decisions with rationales. In a debate the pupils must use subject matter independently, collect and assess information from various sources and must be able to listen to opponents and respond to their arguments. The pupils find working in this manner motivating.
Sufficient time is allocated to promote more advanced cooperative competence in the subjects. Cooperation is practised, for example, when the teacher makes it possible for the pupils to discuss concepts and issues with each other. This type of work method promotes learning because the pupils learn to say out loud what they have learnt and because they can confirm whether they have understood what they have learnt or whether they have more work to do. It is underlined that the academic discussion and the ability to reflect on the subject matter are just as important as presenting factual knowledge. The teacher’s role is to guide and ask questions.
Collaboration in projects
The school has a series of events and activities where the pupils participate and create something together. The school has access to dance halls, concert halls, a library and a large sports facility. In these learning arenas the pupils learn collaboration by producing and performing concerts and organising various events. This is an important part of building relations in the school.
5.2 Assessing pupils’ competence
Assessment of pupil competence in subjects today has two purposes: Formative assessment to promote pupils’ learning and development, and final assessment to give information about the pupils’ competence as the basis for certifying them for further education and work. Assessment is additionally used for systemic purposes, giving information to various levels in the school system as the basis for quality assessment and control. See section 6.4 for more on quality assessment.
The focus on the four competence areas and the broad competence concept changes the basis for assessment in the subjects and also the conditions for the assessment practices in the schools.
Today both formative assessment and final assessment are related to objectives, meaning that the pupils are assessed according to the total competence objectives in a subject. The Committee recommends that the four competence areas should be given prominence in the competence objectives in the subject curricula, see Chapter 3 on subject renewal and Chapter 4 on curriculum models.
The Committee argues that the objective-oriented assessment principle must be continued. It is proposed that the cross-curriculum competences should be integrated closely with the central concepts, principles and methods in the subjects. Thus assessment should use as its point of departure pupils’ total competence in a subject, and not in individual areas of competence and cross-curriculum competences in isolation. Cross-curriculum competences and subject-specific content will be closely interwoven in the subjects. It will therefore be more important that in their assessment of pupils’ competence the teachers view the different competence objectives together.
In Chapters 3 and 4 it is recommended that connections between subjects in the same discipline and between disciplines should be made clearer. Cross-curriculum competences are a main focus in several subjects, and it is an important competence for the future that the pupils are able to collate and apply knowledge and skills from different subjects. There may thus be a need for initiatives to counteract a strictly subject-divided assessment.
5.2.1 The competence areas and a broad competence concept
There is a solid foundation for claiming that teachers can use formative assessment to support pupils’ development of the competences recommended by the Committee. By using different approaches and assessment methods, teachers may obtain knowledge about how pupils understand and apply subject-specific concepts, principles and methods, how they master written and verbal forms of communication and interact with each other, and how they apply subject knowledge to think critically, solve problems and develop and implement ideas. Self-assessment and involvement of pupils in the assessment activities may contribute to pupils’ learning, and are closely connected to working with pupils’ metacognition and self-regulation in the learning process.18
The Committee also emphasize that overall assessment grades set by the teachers are also very suitable for assessing pupils’ competence in the renewed subjects. The teachers may collect information on pupils’ competence over several weeks towards the end of a teaching period in a subject, and use information from different sources and assessment situations. The formative assessment follows pupils’ progression in the subject over time and the teacher obtains information about achieved competence. The teacher may use this information in the overall assessment grades if it is considered in light of the fact that the assessment must reflect the competence pupils have achieved towards the end of the teaching period.
Assessment of pupils’ social and emotional competence
The Committee emphasize the importance of a broad competence concept, and that school needs to support the social and emotional learning and development of pupils more systematically than is the case today. Pupils should, for example, develop curiosity, self-regulation and respect for the views of others. Social and emotional competences have not been assigned a systematic focus in today’s subject curricula, and thus this means that the practice must be changed when this becomes a clearer element in the competence objectives in the subjects. This will create some challenges which must be dealt with in a good way in provisions for assessment and in the teachers’ practice.
If assessment is to promote learning, it is important that pupils receive feedback on their social and emotional learning and development, such as self-regulation, expectations for their own mastering and attitudes to the subjects.19 Assessment and feedback may have positive and negative impact on pupils’ learning, motivation and self-efficacy. Putting more emphasis on social and emotional competences in the formative assessment therefore places more demands on the teachers’ assessment competence and practice. It is important that assessment of pupils’ social and emotional competence should be based on clear objectives and criteria so that they do not experience that personal qualities influence the assessment they receive. Social and emotional competences refer to situational circumstances and complex qualities in the pupils. Therefore it will not be easy to assess several social and emotional competences according to a pre-defined progression or grade scale. Moreover, currently there is no sufficient knowledge base that teachers can turn to for support in the assessment of social and emotional competences.20 There are also ethical aspects of awarding grades in the assessment of social and emotional aspects of pupil competence. Today a six-month assessment with grades in all subjects is given, starting in Year 8, and the teachers may give grades in other situations as part of the formative assessment.
Therefore dilemmas arise when assessment, in particularly final assessment, is to be based on a broad competence concept. The Committee believes that social and emotional competences should have a strong place in the subject objectives so they will be focused on in the teaching. Academic and ethical challenges will also arise when including social and emotional competences when the teachers are to give overall assessment grades. The Committee therefore recommends development activities over time to find appropriate solutions in the process of developing subject curricula and support and guidance resources. Renewed subject curricula must be accompanied by competence development and evaluation of how the curricula are to be used in school’s assessment work.
A principle should be that objectives for pupils’ social and emotional competence shall not be given prominence in themselves in the total final assessment, but rather that they should be seen as requirements for the competence pupils achieve in the subject. An example will be how a pupil’s persistence impacts whether he or she masters a demanding task in the subject. It will then be the pupil’s ability to master the task that is assessed and not his or her persistence per se.
5.2.2 Development of formative assessment
The Knowledge Promotion Reform has had a focus on competence development and capacity building related to using assessment as a tool for learning in the subjects. The following principles for formative assessment are today embedded in the regulations for the Education Act:
the pupils shall understand what they are to learn and what is expected of them
the pupils shall receive feedback which informs them of the quality of their work or performance
the pupils shall be given advice on how to improve, and
the pupils shall be involved in their own learning activities by assessing their own work and development.21
The Committee recommends that the subject curricula and guidance material must emphasize conditions for more advanced learning trajectories and make in-depth learning more possible than today, and the principles for formative assessment will be important for the teachers when supporting pupils’ development in the subjects in a systematic manner.
Further development of practice
Under the Knowledge Promotion Reform many schools have worked on developing their assessment practice and have gained a better understanding of assessment as a tool for learning. But it varies as to how far schools have come in this work, and bearing the Committee’s recommendations in mind, some areas will be important in the years ahead.22
It is important that teachers’ assessment practices support changes in the subject objectives and the broad competence concepts. The objective-related assessment principles and the competence focus will be continued, but the broad competence concept and the importance of the cross-curriculum competences will create the need for a renewal of assessment methods.
The Committee also finds that involving the pupils in the assessment activities, for example through self-assessment, is an area that must be brought more into focus. It will contribute to learning if the pupils are given help to understand what they should learn in the subjects, to know the criteria for advanced work and to know what they master and what helps them learn. Being able to assess one’s own work and own progression and reflect on the learning activities with co-pupils and teachers may help pupils to develop a clear relationship to their own learning so that they learn to take an active role in the teaching. This is related to pupil development of metacognition and self-regulated learning. Self-assessment and pupil feedback to each other will also be relevant approaches for the teachers when establishing dialogues with pupils on developing social and emotional competences. Having pupils assess each other is an area which impacts learning and which the Committee believes will be important in the future. The feedback pupils give each other may, for example, inform the teachers about their collaboration competence.23 Teachers need knowledge on experience of how pupil involvement can be carried out in practice, and the pupils need to learn to master active roles.24
Formative assessment is one of the areas where digitalisation may support the pupils and the teachers in other ways than the practice is today. Research on in-depth learning and progression, new technological platforms and digital assessment tools will be developed in the years ahead. An area such as learning analytics may be used to enhance the work with formative assessment. This means that digital tools could be used to track pupil development over time in the form of many observations and results.25 Such technology may change the conditions for learning, teaching and formative assessment in school, and will require new teacher competence.
As mentioned in section 5.1, there will be a need for continuing education in didactics and subject didactics, and teachers will need to cooperate on developing assessment methods.
Guidance and support resources
The formative assessment in the school of the future must start with the objectives in the renewed subject curricula. Clearer progression between the goals on each main level may form a more advanced basis for an objective-related assessment practice. Moreover, support and guidance resources will be important for teachers’ assessment activities and form the point of departure for discussions on pupils’ learning among the teaching staff. The Committee’s recommendations of guiding descriptions for the learning trajectories within areas of subjects may support teachers in assessing where pupils are in their learning trajectories, and help them to decide what the pupils should continue working on in various parts of the subjects.26 The Directorate of Education [Utdanningsdirektoratet] has established a test bank that currently includes learning-support tests in some skills and subjects, and also contains examples of examination papers that have been assessed. The Committee recommends that learning-support tests should be developed in connection with cross-curriculum competences and other areas that several subjects have in common.
Today teachers are able to use the results of national tests and mapping tests in their formative assessment. Tests and material the school may use to map pupil competence based on the curriculum objectives will continue to be important measures in the future.
5.2.3 Developing overall assessment grades and examinations
The complexity of the competences pupils must develop in the renewed subjects suggests that the teacher-based overall assessment grade should have a prominent place in the final assessment. If there are clear objectives and criteria and teachers’ assessments are supported by quality assurance processes in each school, the overall assessment grade may constitute a fair and relevant assessment of pupil competence in the subjects.
The Committee believes that with a future subject renewal it should be considered how teacher overall assessment practice and the examination system can be developed to give a fair and relevant assessment of pupils’ learning outcomes in the subjects.
Strengthening the overall assessment practice
Assessing pupils’ final competence in accordance with today’s subject curricula is a complex matter, but the complexity in the foundation of the assessment increases when the pupils are to develop several cross-curriculum competences which are closely interwined with subject-specific content. It is decisive that teachers are given support in making assessments by having clear objectives and criteria and through guidance and quality assurance as this will help to guarantee a fair and relevant assessment of pupils’ competence.27 For the overall assessment grade to give reliable and valid information on pupils’ final competence in the renewed subjects, we must place higher demands on the quality assurance systems than we do today.
Systematic differences have been found between the overall assessment grades in schools over time, both when it comes to the grades pupils receive and what the teachers focus on in their assessment. For example, teachers base their grades on academic and non-academic achievements, such as effort, motivation and progression, when setting grades. There are also differences in how overall assessment grades are set across schools and across subjects, for example when it comes to how assessment situations are prepared, the degree of teacher cooperation and the impact formative assessments during the learning period should have on the final assessment.28 Teachers, school leaders and school owners have called for a clearer set of regulations and national criteria for what is needed to achieve the different grades in the subjects.29
The Committee finds the need for several measures to ensure that the overall assessment grade will give reliable and relevant information about a pupils’ final competence in the school of the future. There is a need to clarify the common requirements for the final assessment that all schools must use as their point of departure. In Chapter 4 the Committee proposes that a future curriculum process should assess how the competence objectives in the subject curricula for school years with final assessment can show more clearly a competence level, or be supplemented with descriptors for various types of achievement/competence. Today there are guiding descriptors for achievement after Year 10 in Norwegian, mathematics, social studies, natural science and English in connection with the grades 2, 3–4 and 5–6. The purpose of the descriptors is to support the teachers’ setting of the overall assessment grade. The Committee emphasize that an assessment should be made as to how today’s model can be developed so that the subject curricula and guidance material can give good support for assessing the different competence achievements in the subjects. For example, different levels may be explained by means of more detailed supplementary textual descriptions rather than the guiding descriptors that are in use today. Another alternative may be to clarify a particular level in the competence objectives. Different models have been chosen in the other Nordic countries.
Furthermore, objectives and possible standards in the subject curricula should be supplemented by guidance and support material the teachers can use to interpret the basis for assessment. For example, examples of pupil papers or other products could be developed to show what characterises a pupil’s competence on different grade levels in the subject.30
Reliable and valid overall assessment grades will also depend on competence, processes and systems in local interpretation communities.31 There are experiences that can be built on from schools and school owners that have established processes for coming to a common understanding in the system and experiences from the national training of examiners and the Norm Project, which studies teacher expectation norms in the assessment of writing competence.32 Today tests have been developed which aim to support overall assessment grades in some subjects.
The Committee argues that in a future subject renewal it should be assessed whether the rules and regulations should be strengthened. Today’s regulations on assessment only have a small degree of requirements for the quality of the overall assessment grade or how the schools should organise the processes. Teachers, school leaders and school owners have stated that the rules should be made clearer than they are today, and processes have been initiated by the national authorities to examine this.33 It may be necessary to clarify the responsibility of school leaders in quality assuring the assessment through collective processes in the teaching staff. It may also be necessary to specify the quality requirements for the final assessment. An example is a requirement as to how assessment situations should be designed to provide a sufficient basis for assessing the breadth of the competence in a subject. Changes in the rules and regulations should be based on research and experience.
Changes in the rules and regulations are not enough to develop the practices of schools and therefore must be supplemented by developmental work and competence development on the part of the school owners, school leaders and teachers. But changes in the rules and regulations can form a common point of departure for understanding this practice which the nationally initiated competence development and local development processes can then build on.34
Development of the examinations
The purpose of examinations is, as for overall assessment grades, to inform about pupils’ competence when a subject has been completed. In subjects with examinations the pupil receives an examination grade in addition to an overall assessment grade on the diploma. Examination papers are made and examined nationally, locally or as a combination of national design and local examination/implementation.
Even if examinations have the same purpose as the overall assessment grade, there is a difference in the information they provide. An examination is a single event, takes place over a relatively short period of time and its format limits the competence objectives that are relevant to assess, for example in a written or verbal/practical examination. A single examination may thus not inform about the breadth of a pupil’s competence in the same way as an overall assessment grade.
It is a relatively common practice that school owners and schools compare the overall assessment grades with examination grades in the subjects to assess whether there are systematic deviations between schools over time.35 This means that examinations are used as quality assurance of the school’s overall assessment grade practice. But such a purpose for the examinations is neither stated in the rules and regulations, nor in other governing documents. Systematic differences between an overall assessment grade and an examination grade may form the point of departure for discussing a school’s assessment practice. The Committee argues, however, that the overall assessment grade and the examination grade should be considered as two different expressions of pupils’ competence, and that this should be emphasised even more if the subjects comprise a broader competence concept than today.
Changes in the subject content will create the need to change examinations to ensure good validity and reliability, meaning that the examination will assess relevant competences in the subjects. The assessment situations currently used in examinations may be developed by using new technology or by testing additional approaches, such as both written and oral/practical examination formats. Under the Knowledge Promotion Reform importance has been attached to designing tasks that challenge pupils to use subject knowledge and skills and to see issues/problem formulations in contexts. Pilot projects in using the internet during examinations have been a stage in making the examination content more like the task-solving work pupils will encounter in working life and day-to-day life, and the tasks are designed so that pupils cannot simply search for facts on the net and reproduce these.
Clear criteria for what the assessment should be focused on, examination tasks in accordance with the criteria, and examiner training courses for those who are to assess pupil competences will contribute to reliable and valid examinations. Today there is a comprehensive examiner course examinations with national examiners, and examination guides are prepared that include achievement descriptors for examinations in each subject.
The Committee emphasizes there is a need for a review of how the final assessment can give reliable information about pupil competences in subjects corresponding to the competence concept recommended by the Committee. It is recommended that an expert committee should be convened to assess today’s examination system and review how overall assessment grades and examinations can give reliable and relevant information about pupils’ competences.
Such a committee can assess the scope of the examination system, which subjects should have examinations in which years and which examination schemes can be used in the subjects. Developing examination schemes must be considered in conjunction with a future renewal of the subject curricula.
In an implementation context, examinations may be a means to give priority to the cross-curriculum competences.36 For example, examinations may be designed to assess pupil competence in learning or exploring and creating in connection with the different subjects. Such a type of examination could focus on the application aspect of competence where pupils apply subject knowledge and skills in new contexts. In Denmark an examination in innovation has been developed in general studies programmes where the pupils must integrate knowledge from different subjects. The Committee recommends that in a long-term perspective and in addition to the subject examination, examination schemes should be developed in accordance with the competence objectives from a number of subjects.
5.2.4 The relationship to other assessment schemes
The Committee recommends strengthening the relationship between the objects clause, the Core Curriculum and the content in the subjects. This will also impact the relationship between the assessments the pupil will receive in the subjects and other schemes for assessing pupil development.
Dialogue on pupil development in other aspects than the subjects
Today the pupil has the right to a regular dialogue with the teacher about “other development“ than learning in the subjects. The purpose of this scheme is to give the pupil, teacher and parents or guardians the opportunity to enter into a dialogue on the development of the pupil compared to other objectives for the education than the subject objectives. The dialogue must be seen in the light of the objects clause, the Core Curriculum and the Quality Framework.37
The priority given to the four areas of competence in the subjects will contribute to making objectives and values that are in focus in today’s Core Curriculum and Quality Framework clearer in the subjects, for example critical thinking, collaboration and participation. The changes in the subject objectives will have an effect on assessment in the subjects. However, the objects clause and the Core Curriculum comprise objectives for pupils’ development and for the school community which cannot be expressed in their entirety through competence objectives in the subjects. It will be important for the pupil, parents and the school to have an arena for addressing such things as the pupil’s personal development and social relationships beyond the objectives defined in the subjects.
Chapter 4 recommends better connections between a new Core Curriculum and the future subject curricula than we have today. Bearing this in mind, the Committee argues that it should be assessed whether the relationship between formative assessment in subjects and the dialogue on the pupil’s other development should be made clearer. A clear relationship may support the idea that pupils’ development of social and emotional competences in the subjects is connected to pupils’ development in other arenas in and outside school. It may also point out that dialogue between the pupil and the teacher is just as important in the formative subject assessment as in other areas.
It may also be assessed whether the rules and regulations should be clearer about some of the areas the dialogue on the pupil’s development should comprise. If so, this must be considered in the light of priorities in a new Core Curriculum, for example, if new process objectives are designed for the school community, see section 4.1. However, such a clarification should allow for the fact that such dialogues between pupil and teacher should be experienced as inclusive and open, and the content should therefore not be focused and regulated too strictly.
Assessment in orderliness and conduct
Today pupils are assessed in orderliness and conduct from Year 1. From Year 8 they will receive six-month assessments with a grade, and from Year 10 grades in orderliness and conduct are given with the overall assessment. This scheme has been discussed in connection with several reforms, and changes have been made to the basis of assessment and to how the grades are set. In 2009 the basis for the scheme was clarified.38 Today Sweden and Denmark have no special assessment scheme for orderliness and conduct, while Finnish pupils receive assessment in conduct every six months.
The purpose of assessment in orderliness and conduct is to contribute to the pupils’ socialisation process, create a good psychosocial environment and give information about the pupils’ orderliness and conduct. The basis for the assessment is the degree to which the pupil acts in accordance with the school rules that it is obliged to have. Assessment of orderliness must be based on the pupil’s work efforts and work habits and whether the pupil is prepared for class. Assessing the pupil’s conduct refers to how the pupil acts in relation to others in the school community. Consideration must be given to the pupil’s background, and the school may include absenteeism in its assessment.39
The competence areas recommended by the Committee have points in common with what is being assessed in orderliness and conduct. Self-regulation, including being able to implement and evaluate one’s own learning processes, is a key part of the competence in learning. This is related to work habits and work efforts, which are also part of the assessment of pupil orderliness. The Committee underlines that in their work with the subjects it is important that pupils learn to express themselves, contribute, respect the views of others and be considerate in collaboration with others. This is related to the basis for assessment of the pupil’s conduct.
Pupils’ orderliness and conduct are complex qualities that may have different reasons behind them, such as circumstances relating to the pupil’s home background. This makes it challenging for teachers to assess with a grade that is based on clear and fair criteria. There is little systematised knowledge about the implementation and effects of assessment in orderliness and conduct, but it appears to be common practice that the teachers enter remarks into the system that may end up giving the pupil a lower grade in orderliness or conduct. A practice that assigns much importance to the grade assessment and the possibility of a lower grade may end up being a form of punishment than a means of support for pupils’ development. The Committee finds it relevant to assess whether six-month assessments with grades and overall assessment grades in orderliness and conduct should be given.
School has a need for means to create a productive and healthy psychosocial learning environment for pupils. If pupils have much absence or treat others in unacceptable ways, there is a need for complex and individually adapted measures. A number of studies show that good relationships and trust between pupils and teachers are fundamental for creating a learning environment which is conducive to well-being and to academic, social and emotional learning and development.40
The Committee emphasize that in a future renewal of the main curriculum, the schemes for assessment in subjects and dialogues on other development and orderliness and conduct should be considered in connection with each other.
5.3 The Committee’s recommendations
To facilitate pupils’ development of competence for the future, the teaching must build on research and experience-based knowledge and must be adapted to the pupils’ learning needs. Teachers must facilitate pupils’ in-depth learning, progression and active roles in the teaching. Strong professional environments in the school are foundations for developing teaching that will support what the pupils need to learn in the renewed subjects. A long-term effort in competence development is needed, with an emphasis on teachers’ planning, implementation and assessment in the different subjects. Formative assessment is an integral element of an approach to teaching practice in the subjects that promotes learning, and should be given priority in the competence development. In a long-term effort for competence development, the national authorities, the teacher training institutions, the teaching profession, school owners and school leaders have different responsibilities, but must work towards a common goal.
Overall assessment grades and examinations must be developed so that together they give reliable and relevant information about the competence the pupils are to develop in the renewed subjects. The Committee emphasize that teachers’ overall assessment grades are suitable for assessing a broader competence concept in the subjects than today, and recommends strengthening this scheme. There are challenges when it comes to assessing the broad competence concept, and it will be necessary to renew the rules and regulations, the assessment schemes and practices to keep pace with changes in the content of school. A future subject renewal should therefore be accompanied with long-term development activities in the assessment field.
The Committee recommends the following:
The teaching and assessment practices must be developed to deal with the renewed content of the subjects, including the breadth of the competence concept. This will call for a long-term effort to develop teacher competences and strengthen the professional environments in school.
School owners, school leaders and teachers need good access to updated research on learning and teaching. Thus research-based summaries should be prepared on good teaching and assessment practices in the subjects to support the professional development of the teachers.
Overall assessment grades should be strengthened through several initiatives. These should include clearer requirements for assessment of pupils’ levels, guidance and support resources and national measures to raise competence and establish local quality assurance processes. It is also recommended that the rules and regulations should clarify requirements for processes involved in and the quality of the setting of overall assessment grades.
Today’s examination system should be developed to deal with the renewed content of school. An expert committee should be appointed to assess how today’s examination system can be developed, and how overall assessment grades and examinations can give reliable and relevant information about pupil competences. Assessment of the competence of pupils across subjects should be included in the expert committee’s mandate.
Tests that support learning should be developed in connection with the cross-curriculum competences or other areas that several subjects have in common.
NOU 2014: 7 Elevenes læring i fremtidens skole [Pupils’ learning in the school of the future]
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Timperley et al. 2007
Wiliam 2010, Dweck 2006, Boekaerts 2010
Prøitz 2015, Scardamalia 2012
Regulations to the Education Act, section 3-1, section 3-11 and section 3-12
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Håkansson and Sundberg 2012, Prøitz 2015
Sandvika and Buland 2014, OECD 2011
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Regulations for the Education Act, section 3-8
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Regulations for the Education Act, section 3-2 and section 3-5
NOU 2015: 2 Å høre til [Belonging], Dumont and Istance 2010, Durlak et al. 2011