Friday, September 23, 2011

Snowed under or crystal clear? Evaluating and assessing education outcomes in Norway

by Deborah Nusche and Claire Shewbridge
Policy Analysts,OECD Directorate for Education

Student tests, user surveys, data portals, inspection visits – educators in some countries may feel snowed under by measurement tools and not see how these should be useful for improvement. Yet, a winter visit to Norway revealed what can happen when a country sets out to build an evaluation and assessment system from scratch.

In 2004, Norway launched a national quality assessment system (NKVS) that aims to enhance student assessment, school evaluation and system evaluation in a connected way. A new OECD report takes stock of Norway’s progress and gives us the lowdown on what the country is doing well, and how it can get better.

The report is the outcome of an OECD review visit to Norway last December. In the midst of the Norwegian winter, the review team travelled to different regions of Norway to get behind formal descriptions of policies and explore the Norwegian approach in more depth. Beyond discussions with all the key stakeholder groups in Oslo, we visited municipalities and schools in different parts of the country to understand the perspectives of students, teachers and school leaders.

We were impressed by Norway’s drive to develop a nation-wide quality system while emphasising local ownership, trust in teachers’ professionalism and student voice and participation. In less than a decade, Norway has developed a range of tools intended to help schools and education authorities evaluate their performance and inform strategies for improvement. With the NKVS, Norway has a strong basis to develop a comprehensive national framework, while also giving local schools the ability to develop their own practices.

Moving forward, the OECD report identifies areas where Norway can make further progress. The following recommendations are helpful not just for Norway, but more generally to education policy makers everywhere:
  • Clearly communicate the distinct purposes of each element of the quality assessment system
  • Ensure that teacher appraisal is an important component of the framework
  • Develop a set of national reference points for evaluation and assessment, including:
  1. Guidance on expected learning outcomes
  2. A profile of what teachers should know and be able to do
  3. An agreed framework of process quality indicators for school evaluation
  • Invest in professional learning opportunities so all stakeholders can collect, analyse, and interpret evaluative information with a view to improve practices
The report also piggy backs on the OECD Improving Schools report which recommended that Norway “build a culture of evidence” and use this data strategically (a strategy that can be applied in many settings).  This most recent report picks up on this point and provides a more in-depth review of the national framework. 

We hope this report will help crystallise the great potential of the national quality assessment system so that all stakeholders can ski the slopes to improvement.

Download
OECD Review of Evaluation and Assessment in Education: Norway
For more details on the OECD Reviews of Evaluation and Assessment in Education, go to the website:  www.oecd.org/edu/evaluationpolicy
Related blogs
"Australia’s challenge to balance accountability with improvement"
You don’t have to get bad to get better” by Norway’s Minister of Education, Kristen Halvorsen
Working together to improve lower secondary schools” by Beatriz Pont

Photo: OECD Review Team for Norway
from left to right: William Maxwell, Claire Shewbridge, Lorna Earl, Deborah Nusche

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