Reference to national case
study on NO: Vocational streams
and to topic study DE/NO/SE on integrated learning
the INTEQUAL phase of the Leonardo partnership an upper secondary education
reform, referred to as “Reform 94 (R-94)”, was the object of the Norwegian
study. In the first phase major features of the reform were studied. A
summary update of main issues is recapitulated in the DUOQUAL Base. In
the second INTEQUAL phase Norway took part in the “Integrated Learning
Processes” topic team. In the Norwegian topic conclusions one summon up
on R-94 was: ”The integrated human being' is heralded as the ultimate aim.
'Integrated learning processes' is advocated through students' self-reliant
learning, problem based learning methods and cross-disciplinary project
work and studies”.
This is quite an ambiguous aim for changing a rather traditional institution
like the comprehensive vocational school into a dual system where
all young people of 16 - 19 years have a statuary right to a place. So
how has it worked out so far?
work. A Norwegian White Paper came as a follow up of the evaluation
results. Conclusions and results from these documents are presented elsewhere
in the DUOQUAL Base, too.
The focus here is on results and actions concerning what White Paper refers
to as the ”Content Reform” and explains as “everyday classroom and workshop
learning”. This is seen as essential to students’ learning processes –
and to our topic here. One common conclusion has been that the ”Content
Reform” is special problematic. The White Paper states that when it comes
to the “Content Reform” there is a lot more to do. Initiatives for further
actions are recommended – to improve “the day to day” work in classrooms
The White Paper points to areas seen as important to develop integrative
learning and working methods at school:
cooperation with working life, work place learning for differentiation
purposes, problem based learning methods and vocational relevance are seen
as important achievements. There is a distinct profile towards what might
be called integrative learning methods and some specific strategies intended
to counteract fragmentation of learning processes in a system designed
to develop dual qualifications.
general subjects contextual to vocational subjects
the integration of theoretical and practical knowledge in vocational subjects
evaluation systems that to a greater extent integrate practice and theory
in certification tests and exams
boards and schools should consider /developed problem based tasks for assessment
according to students’ abilities and work place learning should be furthered
As a central learning method project work and project organised learning
tasks may imply many, or most, of the above qualities. The White Paper
states that project works are still mandatory and that the broad concept
of knowledge will be further developed. Processes of self-reliant learning
are seen as important to develop action competence, entrepreneurship and
similar learning outcomes.
In some respect the White Paper itself contributes to the development of
the “broad concept of knowledge”. “Competence” is launched as being about
“the will and power to use your knowledge: to employ it in specific situations
as the base of action, creativity, intuition, ethical based considerations,
and for best judgement”. Developing this kind of competence asks
for learning arenas also supposed to generate the “integrated human being”
(Norwegian Core Curriculum). Holistic learning processes through multidisciplinary
and project-organised learning methods is seen as central for obtaining
Students working project organised have proved themselves able to assess
own learning processes and needs as working self-reliant. Feelings of ownership
to own learning tend to increase and they report learning outcomes like
“learning to co-operate, plan, delegate, take responsibility, cope with
the systems, etc”. Perception of learning goals and expected assessment
regime seem to influence how they perceive own learning. Reflecting on
learning goals and own learning processes seem to give direction to how
they develop and assess of own learning. Learning about self as a person
is also basic for the kind of competence sought for here.
These perspectives change the focus from an academic based knowledge tradition
to a broader concept of knowledge and skills where experiential and self-reliant
learning methods are the basic arena for competence development. In order
to develop relevant core skills and the broad competencies sought for,
work and society relevance should be the core of this arena. The White
Paper’s request for change of learning methods is said to be a ”challenge
for the upper secondary school”. But still project organised, experiential
and self-reliant learning methods seem to be in a stage of infancy. It
is obviously a way to go before the "Content reform" can be declared successful
according to intentions. But things are moving.
Concepts like "action competence", "social competence", "learn
to learn", "the integrated human being” and others related to a broader
concept of knowledge and personality development are discussed and more
or less adopted in school communities. As project work is mandatory and
self-reliant learning was launched already before the reform, schools try
to meet these challenges, many in very interesting ways. There is a growing
awareness about the importance both of learning methods and assessment
systems, practice and work-life experiences and relevance, also connected
to general and vocational theories. Part of the problem seems to be that
even if most teachers and students reported themselves (evaluation reports)
to be positive to the intentions of the reform, they found it difficult
to make into practice.
choose vocational streams and pathways leading to double qualifications.
On the other hand there seems to be a growing schism between streams where
students choose to qualify for matriculation and where they don’t. In more
traditional streams of industry and trade so far few choose the third matriculation
year. The numbers of apprenticeship places are good in these streams, but
numbers of applicants are dropping in particular streams and there is a
substantial problem of dropout in those. So problems of motivation represent
a formidable challenge here.
for double qualification benefit many students, but the integration of
subjects and topics (practice and theory) into a qualification of general
skills and holistic competence is still loose. We have seen that several
strategies are recommended to overcome this problem.
methods and systems of education conducive for promoting integrated learning
processes is focused on, i.e. teaching and learning methods, curricular
integration and contextual relevance, synoptic modes of assessment etc.
Mandatory project work provides opportunity of multidisciplinary work tasks
and self-reliant learning periods. Project works also provide opportunities
to integrate general subjects into vocational practice and theory, and
for working life contact. This is intended to provide an arena for developing
broad competence, but is not made the most of, maybe least when it comes
to vocational production projects and working life knowledge.
theory through practical work tasks is a traditional way of learning vocational
trades. Authoritative documents points to that this learning culture and
tradition is meant to be the foundation of the new vocational curriculum,
and state the necessity of cooperation with working life to achieve this
objective. The sequential system of 2 years in school + 2 years apprenticeship
has so far not been effective for generating cooperation between schools
and working life.
of esteem” is a problematic unit. In some ways and for some streams the
attractiveness of vocational education apparently have been enhanced, in
other respects and for other streams it is still to be seen. A greater
problem may be students reporting lack of feeling of coherence and relevance
more often than the opposite (evaluation reports).
leaders and teachers are called for to initiate and implement changes.
Schools are invited to take part in reciprocal innovation works with KUF
(endnote 3) where differentiation and contextual teaching of general subjects
to vocational subjects are seen as a core to achieve student-participation
and to accomplish other objectives.
system is central in the “Content Reform”. Department of Education (KUF)
has provided evaluation guides with examples for all streams. But the evaluation
reports state the formal evaluation work to be pretty much the same as
before. An interesting aspect is that new assessment systems is thought
to generate other positive results like influencing school organisation
and school culture. There is a growing awareness about evaluation as a
pedagogical tool among teachers.
with specific numbers of subjects and periods create a system with a rigid
structure. This kind of organisational and curriculum structures appear
to be incompatible with the objective of facilitating integrated and self-reliant
learning processes. The White Paper removes the percentile timetable distribution
between vocational theory and practice.
on national innovative schemes and international networking and cooperation
our INTEQUAL Conclusions (endnote 1), we said that “In an international
perspective Reform 94 has been successful in enhancing the attractiveness
of vocational education and in paving the way for dual qualifications,
but the intended aims of changing educational practices has only marginally
been achieved. There appear to be contradictions in terms between the rigidity
inherent in the curricular and organisational structure and the flexibility
required for accommodating integrated and self-directed learning processes.
Consequently, there are good reasons for reviewing organisational and curricular
frames and established teaching practices in upper secondary education
This is a valid statement also today. But the reform is still moving, and
we don’t know if the chosen solutions and the strategies implied give the
wanted results, but there are successes. One main reform goal was to “create
a flexible system that provides a general education and a wide range of
skills and prepares the pupils for a society in constant change” . The
answer was a curriculum including basic modules preparing for matriculation
(general academic subjects) and for skilled trades and working life (vocational
subjects). Self-reliant learning methods ask for another teacher role and
a great flexibility in the school as an organisation. We saw above that
the challenge is given the upper secondary school, will they succseed?
Different innovative schemas and models of vocational education are important
to study and learn from. In this Leonardo Partnership we have perceived
and studied both different and common ideas and problems in the European
vocational education. International cooperation is important to continue
and to develop further.
INTEQUAL Report II, chapter 12, November 97. (Bergli, Frøyland,
Preparing for work and higher education
Initiated and partly paid for by KUF (Ministry of Church, Education and
St meld nr 32 (1998-99) Videregående opplæring,
translations from Norwegian to English by L. Larsen
Ministry of Church, Education and Research, 1994