Pisa+ Project on Learning and Teaching Strategies in Schools
The main goal of the PISA+ project is to examine some of the most problematic findings from the Norwegian PISA results in science, mathematics and reading.
Data from PISA studies conducted in 2000 and 2003 serve as the basis for obtaining deeper insight into the following research questions:
- How can we understand and interpret the general achievement level and patterns in the Norwegian PISA results?
- How can we understand the pedagogical processes that shape this reality?
- How can we transform some of the PISA findings into concrete suggestions for improving Norwegian education in the perspective of life-long learning?
Data from the Norwegian PISA results (Kjærnsli et al. 2004; Lie et al. 2001), as well as the recent curriculum evaluation of Norwegian classrooms (Klette et.al 2003), are the main focus for the PISA+ project. Problem areas illuminated by these studies; average achievement scores in all three subject domains (reading, mathematics, and science) turned out to be near the OECD average; a high spread in student achievement; a large gender difference in reading literacy in favour of girls (the highest internationally); and a narrow repertoire of learning strategies. In addition, Norwegian students and their principals report a low level of pressure to achieve as well as high levels of noise and disorder in classrooms. Later curriculum evaluation has disclosed huge differences in the Norwegian teachers’ systematic and deliberative use of learning activities and scaffolding techniques across classrooms. The pressure on learning achievement and procedures for task accomplishments were found to be indistinct and vague and left huge spaces for negotiation between the teachers and the students (Klette et.al 2003).
In PISA+ particular attention is given to classroom processes, since most of the shaping of outcome measures seems to be connected to that level (Lie 2001, p.256). By international standards, the between-school variation in achievement turns out to be remarkably small in our country, as well as in the other Nordic countries (ibid). How can we understand these patterns and variations? Despite voluminous educational research, we still know too little about the terrain of the practice of teaching and learning and how it is related to contextual and subject specific cultures and practices.
The research design is a classroom video study supported with ethnographic observations and interviews of students and teachers. We are interested in studying offered learning activities (actions) and experienced learning activities (meaning) in maths-, science-, and reading classrooms. A significant research characteristic of this study is its documentation of sequences of lessons, rather than just single lessons. In addition we also have the possibility to compare sequences of lessons across disciplinary subjects such as language arts, maths and science. The assembly of disciplinary school subjects studied together with the cross disciplinary compilation of the research group makes our study exceptional in an international context.
The study is done in ninth grade (14-15 year olds), in six schools differing in demography and organization in maths, science and Norwegian (mother tongue) classrooms. The classrooms were filmed with three cameras. One camera followed the teacher, one camera filmed the whole class, and one camera focused on a pair of students. Based on video sequences from the prior lesson, the two (pair) students were interviewed short after the lesson. Different students were in focus for each lesson. The teachers were interviewed before, during and after the observation period of three weeks. In addition copies of students’ work and assignments were assembled after each lesson. The methodology in the PISA+ project is influenced by the international “Learner’s Perspective Study”. The maths classrooms (and also the science classrooms) were designed so that the Norwegian classrooms can be translated into English and contribute to the international comparative pool of studying offered learning activities and experienced learning activities across countries