The assessment of the English ability of young learners in Norwegian schools: an innovative approach


Since 1995, the English Department EVA Project (EVAluation of English in Schools) at the University of Bergen has been engaged by the Norwegian Ministry of Education to develop and trial material and procedures for systematically introducing formative assessment of the English ability of primary school pupils towards the end of the sixth grade (11–12 year olds), most of whom are in their third year of English learning. The material is to be used by teachers to assess their pupils’ strengths and weaknesses, and to identify pupils with special English language needs. Moreover, the material should introduce innovative methods to enhance the assessment skills of the users, i.e., teacher and pupil alike. This is in line with new curriculum guidelines which put assessment and feedback in a central position, highlighting the need for multiple forms of assessment, including self assessment. All components of the material – which consist of a set of tests and assessment instruments for teachers and pupils – were pre-piloted over several ‘rounds’ in 1996–97. The final version (pending minor adjustments) was piloted nationally during the spring of 1998, involving around 1000 pupils in 34 schools, and the analysis of the data from this trialing is still being carried out at the time of writing. The work described below highlights some of the issues and principles that have led to an innovative approach to materials development in the area of assessment, and touches on some questions that remain to be addressed.