The Norwegian municipality of Skien improved the academic results of secondary school students in mathematics considerably by introducing a new teaching methodology. Faced with substandard results, Skien looked for innovative solutions in municipalities with similar difficulties and adapted a solution developed in the municipality of Sandnes. The introduction of the new teaching methodology was facilitated by collaborating with Sandnes, by pursuing long-term strategic efforts in the local school system and by focusing on specific goals in Skien.
In recent years math grades declined in Skien, with half of all secondary school students scoring 1 or 2 in 2013 on a scale where 6 rates the highest. Chief administrators in the municipality looked for successful solutions in other municipalities that had experienced similar issues. They found what they were looking for in Sandnes, where a Russian teaching methodology called developmental learning is used. Russian native Natasha Blank, a lecturer at the University of Stavanger, introduced the methodology in Sandnes and helped translate relevant Russian textbooks into Norwegian.
Developmental learning teaches math entirely differently from how it is traditionally taught in Norway. The tasks are more varied and more progressive, allowing pupils to match their own level more easily. Schools in Sandnes using this methodology score far above the Norwegian average.
When Skien introduced developmental learning in math, it drew on experiences and work already done in Sandnes, for example, by reusing textbooks. After initially testing the methodology in a few classes and achieving promising results, Skien expanded the methodology to other classes and schools. Positive evaluations by teachers and improved math scores in the test classes helped in spreading the methodology widely to other schools. At present, academic results in math have generally improved, with some schools in Skien performing among the region's best in math. Inspired by the results so far, Skien has set a goal for 90% of students to complete high school within the prescribed amount of time by 2023.
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