SWOT Diagnosis

1. Attracting the most suitable candidates into ITE programmes

Recently, strong reforms in initial teacher education in Norway are seeking to increase the status of the profession. Although enrolments in ITE have recently increased, issues of increasing teacher diversity amongst the Sami and future teacher shortages, in addition to low status of the profession, remain.

Increasing enrolments in ITE programmes

All programmes show increasing enrolments in ITE programmes, in spite of stricter selection filters, though this varies by region.

Few shortages reported in schools

Although teacher shortages are expected in the future – and some teacher educations institutions have unfilled places – few schools reported shortages or vacant teaching positions

Limited research base on attractiveness of the profession

In media, most coverage of teachers or education shows a negative image of the profession. Everyone was a pupil / parent once and has an opinion on education, mostly relating to their own school time, without taking into account current developments or the research base.

Negative media coverage and public opinion

In media, most coverage of teachers or education shows a negative image of the profession. Everyone was a pupil / parent once and has an opinion on education, mostly relating to their own school time, without taking into account current developments or the research base.

New 5-year integrated Master’s

The introduction of two new 5-year integrated Master’s programmes (1-7 and 5-10) has a good chance of enhancing the status of the teacher profession.

Second-career teachers

With teacher shortages in view, there could be more emphasis on stimulating this group into teacher education.

Overloaded responsibilities

Teachers and schools reported having less teaching time as they are spending more time on tasks not directly related to teaching. Allocating time and even remuneration to compensate for additional teacher responsibilities may make the profession more interesting for some.

Lack of career paths in teaching

Lack of widely available and fully developed career paths for teachers can detract from the attractiveness of the profession.

Narrow selection criteria sending mixed messages

The rationale for implementing a mathematics exam is not well understood, creating the impression that mathematics is valued above other subject areas, possibly detracting from the attractiveness of the profession.

2. Selecting the most suitable candidates into ITE programmes

In Norway, teacher candidates are selected on the basis of results in upper secondary education and additional requirements of minimum general score, and minimum score in the Norwegian language and in mathematics. Those who do not attain the minimum in mathematics are offered preparatory courses. The number of university places is centrally allocated, and teacher supply and demand is carefully monitored in Norway.

Balanced supply and demand

For the most part, there is a match between supply and demand in teacher education institutions. This is due in part to thoughtful calculation of number of placements per institution.

Clear and transparent selection filters

There is a clear and transparent mechanism for selection. Students know the criteria and if they will qualify for teaching.

Drop out in initial teacher education

Many students drop out after the first year. One of the reasons for this may be the lack of suitability assessment prior to enrolment.

Lack of data on selection into ITE programmes

Many stakeholders speak about the new selection criteria to the profession, but there is limited data available to explain this.

Explore other selection strategies, with input from different stakeholders

New entrance requirements (i.e. mathematics for primary school teachers) may be weeding out the wrong people and not focus on suitability for teaching. While an early first practicum serves as an informal selection filter, other selection filters could be explored in collaboration with students and other stakeholders, such as summer courses, use of interviews, essay, voluntary praxis, etc.

Narrow selection criteria impacting on suitability and quality of teacher candidates

The strong emphasis on mathematics may impact on the suitability and quality of teacher candidates. For example, trainees and teachers often expressed disappointment that they were only required to pass an exam in maths and not in other subjects which they were likely to end up teaching e.g. Norwegian, Science and English. So “Can you be a very clever and good teacher without a high grade in mathematics?” and “Can you be a good English teacher with a grade 2 in English?”

Risk of general loss of teacher diversity

Singular selection filters can have a wider impact on teacher diversity, for example disadvantaging candidates from immigrant, Sami and lower socio-economic backgrounds.

3. Equipping teacher candidates with what they need to know and do

From 2017, all candidate teachers will be required to complete a 5-year Master’s programme and 110 days of practical training. In Norway, initial teacher education is provided by university colleges and regulated by the National Qualifications Framework, which defines the knowledge, skills and competences for 25-30 general learning outcomes. Teacher education institutions work together to define national guidelines that translate the Frameworks into guidance for grades 1-7 (4 subjects); 5-10 (3 subjects); 8-13 (2 subjects).

Accepted national standards and guidelines

National standards and guidelines for the content of ITE programmes are adopted by teacher education institutions.

Deep subject knowledge

Stakeholders feel that teachers are generally well prepared in subject knowledge and theory; and that there is a commitment to a depth of subject knowledge in maths, Norwegian and English.

Investment in national education research initiatives

Investment in national education research initiatives like FINNUT and the Knowledge Centre lay an important foundation.

Engagement of stakeholders

A wide variety of stakeholders have input into government ITE policies and are aware of the key issues.

Awareness of the need to integrate theory and practice

Institutions are aware of the need to better integrate theory and practice.

Fragmentation of continuous teacher development

There is little connection between ITE, induction and continuous professional development. Policies, strategies and responsibilities do not position this as a continuum; few examples of approaches for preparing teachers for lifelong development.

Lack of preparedness for all the realities of teaching

Teacher candidates are not well-prepared for the realities of teaching; they and school leaders report extensive “practice shock”, including challenges in adapting to the needs of different students, breaking down concepts in class (i.e. pedagogical content knowledge)

Limited coherence between theory, practical training and between pedagogy and didactics

There are mixed messages, lack of dialogue and limited co-design between universities and schools and within some universities. “Applied knowledge” for teaching is contingent on the skills and experience of individual teacher educators, and the willingness of individual schools to work more closely with universities

Limited agency and responsibility for innovation

Institutions and schools lack agency and do not take responsibility to experiment with different approaches and to adapt national guidelines to their local contexts e.g. small schools

Deepen and scale good school-university partnerships

Higher expectations could be set and the attributes of a good municipality/school-university partnership more clearly communicated e.g. co-design, shared / rotated staff, exemplars (i.e. University Schools), tripartite practice seminars and broader involvement of mentors in induction, continuous development and research

Connect teacher preparation and continuous development

Teacher preparation, induction and continuing professional development should be thought of as the same developmental journey over the lifetime of a teacher. Ways to create connection include reviewing possibilities for final placements and induction year; creating a developmental continuum; connecting Ministry departments; and aligning links between pedagogy, didactics and subject knowledge, practicum and induction.

Improve schools-based, including schools-led, research and capabilities

Existing strategies for encouraging and building capacity for schools-based could be sustained and expanded – including schools-led – research e.g. funding Master’s and PhDs in leadership, didactics and pedagogy, funding school-led and or joint school and university research projects, funding evidence based innovation and experimentation.

Underestimation of the task and the need to building capabilities and capacity to implement Master’s-level ITE programme

There is an underestimation of the task and lack of capability and capacity of teacher education institutions and school leaders to implement a Master’s-level ITE programme. There needs to be more focus or investment on how to build such capacity and capabilities, at the risk of undermining reforms.

Lack of communication and understanding

Stakeholders have limited understanding of how ITE reforms are linked to the challenges, what specific elements of the strategies are trying to achieve, what the expectations are and why this is important to teacher development and student learning (i.e. rationale, and theory of change and philosophy behind reforms).

Limited strategic planning and coherence of reforms

Too many reforms result in reform fatigue; insufficient time to embed new approaches; and limited consideration of implications of changes, gaps in policy considerations, and unintended policy consequences.

Master’s programmes not achieving their aims

Master’s programme might result in a longer version of the same approach or fail to connect deeper theory and knowledge with practice.

Balancing breadth and depth

New initiatives create too narrow a focus and do not balance all aspects of teacher preparation e.g. science, history, music.

4. Delivering ITE programmes effectively (quality assurance)

Norwegian Agency for Quality Assurance in Education (NOKUT), an independent body, will conduct a special re-accreditation of ITE providers in 2019 as part of the Master’s programme initiative. A national examination for candidate teachers studying mathematics, national guidelines, training for school principals and mentors, regular students’ surveys and National Centers of Excellence encourage collaboration, feedback loops and quality.

Strong national accreditation process for HEIs

NOKUT oversees a national accreditation process for HEIs that entails strong consequences and includes some focus on continuous improvement, self-accreditation and building capacity (e.g. panel for new Master’s programme).

National Centres of Excellence and systemic opportunities for collaboration

There are national Centres of Excellence, including a Center for Professional Learning in Teacher Education, that innovates, researches and shares best practice. Institutions collaborate on developing national guidelines for ITE.

Willingness to seek feedback

Most interviewees feel teacher education institutions are willing to seek and respond to feedback from schools, mentors and teacher candidates (within their institutional remit).

Evaluation of some national policies

Some national policies have been formally evaluated (e.g. evaluation of ProTed by NOKUT); there is evidence of some national data being acted upon (e.g. focus on maths) and national reports being disseminated (e.g. most interviewees were aware of the report on teacher candidate workload).

Teacher mentor training

There is a requirement for teacher mentors to attend training, and the training is well received by those who have completed it.

Lack of systematic feedback for improvement

There is more work to be done to establish formal feedback loops at various levels between schools, teacher education institutions and the Ministry. These feedback loops should involve the systematic collection, analysis and sharing of useful data for evaluation and analysis to continuously improve all aspects of ITE without adding unnecessary administrative burdens.

Lack of transparency

Even though the Ministry and teacher education institutions may collect some data and make improvements, reports and improvement plans are not always brought to the attention of all stakeholders (e.g. candidates, schools).

Few incentives to provide quality practicum

Key players (school leaders, teacher mentors, teacher educators and Deans) are not individually or jointly held to account, incentivised or provided ongoing support for providing quality practicum. This is related to the need to improve school-university partnerships.

Implementing feedback loops

Implement structured feedback loops between universities and schools to transparently and openly collect, share and use data for continuous improvement, including introducing and publishing a survey of teacher education graduates.

Conducting regular evaluations of all ITE initiatives

Formative and summative evaluations of all important ITE policies (e.g. maths entry requirement; quality of support for beginning teachers) could be conducted and published, drawing on both quantitative and qualitative data..

Increasing incentives for schools and TEIs to provide a quality practicum

There are opportunities to create incentives for schools and teacher mentors to take more responsibility for practicum and be accountable for improving its quality (e.g. link teacher mentoring to career path; fund schools to participate in school-based research; feedback on practicum quality).

Expanding research and opportunities to disseminate best practices

There is value in sustaining, expanding and deepening initiatives to share and scale best practices and research on effective teacher education across all universities and schools.

Balancing accountability and innovation

Too much central control and detailed guidelines on the process (as opposed to the outcomes) can stifle innovation and the ability for institutions to act on feedback from schools and teacher candidates

Using data for accountability versus continuous improvement

Institutions will not openly share data in a way needed for continuous improvement if they feel it will be used to judge them.

Teacher shortages

Teacher shortages can undermine initiatives to improve quality if entrance and exit standards are lowered in order to produce more teachers

5. Certifying & hiring new teachers

In Norway, teacher candidates can teach immediately after fulfilling the requirements of the teacher education institution. Teachers are most often recruited and hired directly by schools using the school’s criteria; interview, referees, and sometimes demonstration of teaching. Teaching assistants, who often work as replacement teachers or teachers’ aides, do not require any qualifications.

Local hiring and recruitment of teachers to suit schools’ needs

Schools / municipalities can recruit and hire teachers based on what they need in the school. i.e. they can develop a profile for the new teacher based on the school’s needs and use their own selection methods (e.g. interview, teaching demonstration).

Teachers and schools can “try before they buy”

Young people thinking of entering the profession – and those who are completing their studies or early in their careers – can enter the profession as a teaching assistant. In addition, former trainees are sometimes hired after a successful practicum. Schools can also hire teachers on a temporary basis.

Incentives for teacher mobility

After completing their studies, new teachers can work anywhere in Norway. While many students stay close to home, others are attracted to rural or low SES areas (e.g. north Norway) to help pay their student loans and obtain assistance with housing, etc.

Lack of quality levers at the end of initial teacher education

There are few quality checks after students complete initial teacher education – for example a national exam, final portfolio of work – to ensure that teachers are ready for the classroom. So students who receive poor grades could well teach that subject.

Mismatch between teacher’s specialisation and the school’s needs

Some teachers do not have the subject specialisation needed in the school, especially in small schools and in 1 to 4.

Improving quality levers after completion of initial teacher preparation

Schools, teacher education institutions, unions and school owners could work together to agree on quality levers at completion of initial teacher preparation (including induction period). These methods could complement or replace current entry criteria into initial teacher preparation – and could better inform teacher recruitment and selection.

Using data to better inform issues around teacher attrition and retention during and after ITE

Better use could be made of existing data to track students during and after initial teacher education in order to inform policymakers, schools and teacher education on issues such as teacher attrition and retention.

Lack of focus on teacher diversity

While some schools consider issues of teacher diversity, there is a risk that not all schools make teacher diversity a focus when selecting and recruiting new teachers.

6. Supporting new teachers

In Norway, municipalities are responsible for providing induction programmes for new teachers, although availability to and quality of these programmes varies widely between schools and municipalities. Some municipalities offer a 50-hour induction course s, and teaching time may be reduced for mentoring activities as part of induction.

Consensus about the importance of early support for teachers

There is broad consensus about the importance of providing support for new teachers. There are examples of schools implementing systematic induction support – including formal programmes and of training and rotating mentors who support new teachers – to widen the benefits of making depth in pedagogy and didactics more visible through the mentoring process.

Induction is varied and generally thin

Support for beginning teachers varies across schools and municipalities. There are too many examples of a “sink or swim” mentality. Induction is often conceptualised narrowly; existing support is operational, for example it can be focused on restricting new teachers’ teaching responsibilities rather than scaffolding them into the full set of responsibilities incrementally.

Contribution of school leadership to induction

There is limited recognition of the critical nature of the contribution of school leadership to induction – and of the benefits to the whole school / school improvement of a systematic approach.

Contribution of induction to career-long teacher development continuum

There is limited recognition of the role of induction in the developmental continuum from initial teacher education to induction and continuous professional development. For example, even schools who develop strong mentors to trainees do not always connect this with the support they might offer to new teachers.

Induction as catalyst for research-informed change

Induction could be a strong catalyst for research-informed change and stronger partnerships between school leaders, teachers and ITE providers, cemented through co-planning, Master’s degrees and PhDs for school leaders, and co-design of research projects.

More comprehensive and strategic induction

Induction should be broadened, deepened and used more strategically by schools and teacher education institutions, i.e. some schools are building new teachers’ capabilities for contributing to school learning, leadership and innovation.

More comprehensive and strategic induction

nduction should be broadened, deepened and used more strategically by schools and teacher education institutions, i.e. some schools are building new teachers’ capabilities for contributing to school learning, leadership and innovation.

Increased role of teacher education institutions in induction

Some teacher education institutions are doing CPD and are in practice moving money from government level to regional level to assist with school improvement and form better local relationships.

Mentorship as a career path

Improving the attractiveness of (formal and informal) mentoring for teachers can be a vital element in school leadership – and part of a teachers’ possible career path – to bring about school improvement.

Lack of career paths for teachers

Small changes in salary over time and lack of career paths for teachers can be a threat to the quality and sustainability of the profession.

“Sink or swim” culture is too prevalent

In some schools, the culture of “sink or swim” actively undermines the importance of supporting new teachers.

Insufficient thought about the needs of small schools

Small schools in rural communities are likely to find the Master’s level demands of the new programme hard to accommodate and so be absent from the practicum. This increases the risk that they will struggle to make use of the newly strengthened depth and specialisation offered by teachers who will actually be required to teach very small, mixed age groups.