Chapter 3. Stakeholder engagement with the model

Stakeholder engagement is a crucial element of implementation, as policies are to be implemented by people who should be convinced of the value of a given policy. Norway has a strong consultative tradition, which has played a role in the preparation and first steps of the implementation of the competence development model for schools. This chapter focuses on how stakeholders can be effectively involved to enhance the implementation of the model: promoting clear and active communication, through careful selection of relevant actors to be involved, with capacity building to equip them with the necessary competences and by developing facilitative leadership to make the collaboration forums and networks run and deliver high quality competence development.


3.1. Why is stakeholder engagement important?

Stakeholder engagement is a fundamental dimension of implementation, if only for a very basic fact: people are the ones to implement education policies. The literature points to a number of ways in which stakeholder engagement can enhance the policy process and its outcomes. However, there is a limit to the availability and the relevance of evidence of the exact effects of stakeholder engagement on implementation effectiveness. This chapter builds on the literature and on qualitative evidence collected from both past experience of engagement in Norway, and from interviews and seminars conducted with Norwegian stakeholders throughout the project to assess how to enhance stakeholder engagement for success in the implementation of the competence development model.

3.1.1. The promise of better implementation and trust

Stakeholder engagement is one of the key determinants of policy implementation. This is, as Viennet and Pont observe (2017[1]), because education policies are implemented by people, making them central to the implementation process. Stakeholders display agency, they want to and will exert influence on the policy to be implemented, based on their beliefs, motivations and interests. In education, “successful policy implementation requires mobilising the knowledge and experience of teachers and school leaders, the people who can make the practical connections between the classroom and the changes taking place in the outside world” (Schleicher, 2018[2]). In fact, education policy making is shifting from more top-down with little consultation to directly involving stakeholders from the early stages of policy design through to implementation. This new reality is requiring to find new approaches for engaging stakeholders throughout the education policy process.

Burns et al. (2016[3]) list the main benefits of involving stakeholders more directly in the policy making process:

  • Better policy outcomes: ensuring that policies are in line with the needs and interests of stakeholders, while including their knowledge and expertise, can make a policy more fit-for-purpose.

  • Better implementation: giving the opportunity to influence the stakes of a policy and simultaneously enhancing the understanding of the policy can raise legitimacy and create ownership by stakeholders.

  • Greater trust: providing direct contact and dialogues between policy makers and stakeholders can generate credibility and trust.

Particularly, in highly decentralised systems with distributed responsibilities, autonomy across different layers, and many intermediary actors, creating common understanding among all stakeholders is key for implementation. A continuous dialogue is needed to share different interpretations of the policy, to point to the original aims and background, and to jointly develop new understandings and solutions (Rouw et al., 2016[4]). In addition, shared understanding needs to be built around the problems a system is facing. “When teachers or parents do not know what problems the government is trying to solve, it is hard to understand the policies that have been designed in response” (Schleicher, 2018[2]). Furthermore, common understanding not only applies to the goals of a particular policy, but also to the processes and the way to reach the goals (Burns and Köster, 2016[5]).

Consulting stakeholders has become a common practice in many OECD countries, but complexity has changed the conditions for stakeholder involvement. Developments like de-traditionalisation and professionalisation have led to the erosion of traditional representative organisations. At the same time, new technologies have made it easier for people to participate individually and organise collectively, and for institutions to reach out to a much broader public. Governments can no longer rely on linear forms of participation only, but have to engage with a broader range of stakeholders and at earlier stages of the policy process (Rouw et al., 2016[4]). In education this pertains particularly to teachers and school leaders, but also to students and parents.

Stakeholder involvement in policy making, beyond the traditional engagement of representative organisations, can also be viewed as a means of professional development, particularly for teachers and school leaders. It can equip them not only with education and policy specific knowledge and competences, but also with more general skills as communication, networking, policy making etc.

3.1.2. Elements of effective stakeholder engagement

Engaging stakeholders requires carefully designed processes. Research points to four elements:

  • Clear and active communication and transparency: Stakeholder engagement is based on clear and active communication, ideally tailor-made to a diversity of audiences, and particularly reaching out to the most relevant stakeholders (Burns, Köster and Fuster, 2016[3]). For stakeholders who are not so knowledgeable in policy making processes, it needs to be clear where decision making happens and how and where they can participate and hold other actors accountable. Transparency entails gathering data and providing stakeholders with information about inputs, processes, outputs and outcomes to prepare their effective participation.

  • Careful selection: Identifying and selecting stakeholders can be done for participation in different stages of the policy process. In complex systems this has become particularly challenging since the number of groups with stakes in education has multiplied. Seeking for a broad and inclusive engagement arena is preferable, but may result in the voice of key stakeholders being diluted. Balancing openness with the recognition of the value of key stakeholders requires a sensible and transparent approach (Rouw et al., 2016[4]).

  • Capacity building: Different stakeholders require capacity to assume roles and deliver on responsibilities. In many instances, capacity cannot be taken for granted, but needs to be invested on and built deliberately (Burns, Köster and Fuster, 2016[3]). Capacity building also includes developing the competences for participating in stakeholder engagement processes.

  • Facilitative leadership: Leadership to engage stakeholders requires facilitative skills and attitudes. Facilitative leadership contributes to empower and mobilise stakeholders, to create trust, to promote consensus and to move collaboration forward, a facilitative leadership. The engaging leader or facilitator is sometimes depicted as a steward, focused on the process, with a high “technical credibility” (Ansell and Gash, 2007[6]).

Finally, experiences with stakeholder engagement indicate that it needs to be genuine to create trust and prevent disillusions and rejection. Genuine stakeholder engagement is time-consuming and energy-intensive and becomes an ongoing process, not a single consultation approach. It is grounded in the belief that open government leads to more transparency and inclusive policy, in that way raising the quality of democracy and the outcomes of policy in the long run (OECD, 2015[7]).

3.2. Stakeholder engagement in education in Norway

3.2.1. The Norwegian consensus tradition

Norway in general has a “long tradition of seeking broad political consensus and finding predictable procedures to allow important political players a place at the table” (Directorate for Education and Training, 2015[8]). Usually, the national government negotiates with the central interest groups about policies. Norway also has a strong involvement of local governments in preparing national regulations. The ‘corporative’ mechanism is also present at the local level.

Education shares the tradition of stakeholder consultation. As the municipalities are responsible for pre-primary, primary and secondary education, the representative organisation of the municipalities (KS) is a key interlocutor at the national level. Furthermore the teacher unions and the representative organisations of students, parents and school leaders are part of the consultation arena, just as the county governors, who represent the national level in the county, and generally play an important role in mediating between the national and the local level.

The distribution of responsibilities across different layers and particularly the uneven distribution of education policy making capacity across municipalities, has been an important consideration behind the creation and facilitation of networks for the implementation of various policy initiatives by the Directorate. These networks are meant to share resources and expertise, between municipalities and schools, but also between municipalities, schools and other players as universities and teacher training institutes (Directorate for Education and Training, 2015[8]). Box 3.1 presents an example of this type of policy, entitled Motivation and Mastery for better learning in lower secondary education (Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research, 2012[9]; Carlsten, T.C., Markussen, 2014[10]).

3.2.2. Stakeholder engagement in the competence development model for schools

In Norway, stakeholder engagement in the competence development model takes place at five levels: the national level, the county level, the regional level, the municipal level and the school level. Different groups of stakeholders are engaged in different stages of the policy cycle in different compositions, as shown in the table (Table 3.1).

Box 3.1. Motivation and Mastery for better learning in Norway lower secondary

The policy on Motivation and Mastery for Better Learning aimed to increase students’ motivation to learn and learning outcomes in Norway’s lower secondary education. Many stakeholders have their share of responsibility for the policy to achieve this goal, including students themselves, teachers, school administrators and owners (municipalities), and actors at national and regional levels such as teacher training institutions, national centres for educational support, counsellors and GNIST partnerships.

To turn its policy into practice, Norway adopted a phased implementation strategy and used learning networks as one of its main tools. The strategy consisted of supporting implementation in groups of a few hundreds of schools at a time, thereby allowing the many stakeholders the time and space they need to master the policy and fine-tune their role in its implementation. Through the learning networks, the schools starting implementation in later phases could learn from the experience of schools involved previously. Initial results of an evaluation of this implementation process show some positive feedback and support from teachers and school leaders regarding the tools used, including learning networks.

Source: Carlsten, T.C., Markussen, E. (2014[10]), “Phased Implementation: Successful Alignment of Tools of Implementation to Improve Motivation and Mastery in Lower Secondary Schools in Norway”, in F. Nyhamn and T.N. Hopfenbeck (ed.), From Political Decisions to Change in the Classroom: Successful Implementation of Education Policy, Norwegian Directorate for Education and Tranining, Oslo.

Table 3.1. Overview of the main stakeholders, possible tensions and issues



Possible Tensions and Issues.

Ministry of Education and Training

Develops strategy, sets the scope of the programme, establishes national guidelines. Engages in dialogues with stakeholders to monitor.

Navigating possible tensions from high profile politics requiring immediate success, while assuring continuity of the long term policy (the competence development model for schools).

Directorate for Education, Training, and ICT

Administers and oversees programme, ensures quality.

Engages in dialogues with stakeholders, among other things through existing platforms.

Develops and administers the "follow-up" scheme (through the advisory team programme) to municipalities with weak capacity.

Capacity for new role. How to be a development partner? What kind of steering is most appropriate?

Universities / Teacher Training Institutes

Designing and delivering initial teacher education and in-service training, in co-operation with schools and municipalities.

Participate in decision-making in the Co-operation Forums.

Participate in a network of universities to align offers to school owners and schools.

Capacity: need to co-operate in county-level forum. Many reforms demanding their attention/engagement.

May be more diversity in demands for in-service training now, as these are no longer linked to a national programme. As a consequence not all universities might be able to deliver.

Potential tension between the need for coordination and competition.

Have to deal with county variation.

The transfer of what happens in the co-operative forums, regional networks and school-university partnership to the universities and TTI’s requires a deliberate approach, most certainly in a context of competing incentives.

Other in-service training providers

Designing and delivering in-service training.

Cannot offer services in the context of this initiative, although schools might want to make use of their expertise (and could use it without state funding).

Might be losing business.

County Governors (CG)

Devolved central administration present in each county.

Established supervisory role ("inspection" of compliance with law).

New role: Distribute funding for competence development (in-service training). Head the Co-operation Forum. Support and guide municipalities in quality assurance.

Do all counties have the capacity to facilitate the forums, to address power asymmetries, strengthen weak stakeholders, and enhance the learning of schools, municipalities, and universities?

Is their role in funding accepted by other stakeholders?

Do all counties have capacity and professional judgement on which municipalities would require "follow-up" (based on Directorate screening indicators)?


Develop policy at municipal level.

Ensure quality of education and supports schools.

Report annually at the local level.

Oversee requests from schools for in-service training in the competency development model.

Prioritise school requests and submit these to the CG.

Engage in dialogues with stakeholders.

Education one of many responsibilities.

Capacity for education policy unevenly distributed across municipalities.

The deliberate policy to engage municipalities as the lead in the model may lead to the perception by other stakeholders that they have less voice/power (e.g. Teacher Unions).

Organisation of Municipalities (KS)

Representation in policy making at the national level.

Supports municipalities through research, advise, training, information.

Participates in Co-operation Forums in several counties.

KS does not participate in every Co-operation Forum, might weaken the position of municipalities, particularly those municipalities with lesser education policy capacity.


Possible Tensions and Issues

Schools and school leaders

Establish plans for school competency development.

Need for school leader to coordinate the requests for individual professional development, school-based competency development, plus specific municipal trainings for those with more resources.

Policy making capacity unevenly distributed across schools, nearly half schools do not have a competency development plan.

Need for continuous professional development of school leaders to meet high expectations.

Dealing with many policies, competing for time and attention.

Generally speaking, distrust between school leaders and school owners and in a number of municipalities a perceived lack of expertise at the school owners level.

Tension between school priorities, regional priorities and county decisions on funding.

The transfer from forums and networks to schools needs a deliberate approach.

Organisation of School leaders (Skolelederforbundet)

Representation at national level in policy making.

Support school leaders and providing professional networks for school leaders.

Professional development of school leaders.

Unclarity about the new decentralised scheme.


Responsible for their own professional development and for development of the schools as a whole.

Do not always feel engaged in the implementation of the national school-based development policy.

Possible tension between individual interests of teachers and school of local priorities.

Possible tension between teacher and school priorities and decisions taken at regional and county level.

Conditions for teacher engagement in the scheme seem to be underdeveloped: knowledge, position, pathways.

Teacher Unions

Representation at the national level in policy making.

Support teachers.

Participate in Co-operation Forums in several counties.

Do not feel engaged enough in the implementation of the decentralised scheme.

Teacher representatives not always involved in Co-operation Forums.


Participate in decision making at the school level mainly through student councils.

Variation and inequality between municipalities.

Variation in regional student boards capacity.

Variation in municipal and school possibilities for student voice.

Organisation of Students (Elevorganisasjonen)

Representation at the national level in policy making.

Support regional and local student representatives.

Variation in regional student boards capacity.

Building and sustaining capacity of school councils (turnover of students).

Variation in municipal and school possibilities for student voice.


Participate in decision making at the school level mainly through councils.

Variation in school quality.

Variation in school possibilities for parent voice, dependent on knowledge and competence of school leaders.

Conditions for parent engagement in the scheme seem to be underdeveloped: competence, knowledge, position, pathways.

Organisation of Parents (FUG)

Representation at the national level in policy making.

FUG operates at a distance from schools and parent representatives in schools.

How representative is FUG of parents’ voice?

3.3. Observations and issues

This section discusses the issues listed in Table 3.1 along the lines of the four important elements of stakeholder engagement processes: clear communication and transparency, careful selection, building capacity, and facilitative capacity.

3.3.1. Ensuring clear communication and transparency

Clear communication on the policy and clarity on where decisions are prepared and made prepare the ground for stakeholder engagement.

Communication strategy

Need for targeted communication to all stakeholders at the national level

At the national level the most relevant stakeholders and representative organisations of stakeholders were involved by the Ministry in the preparation of the White Paper that introduces the competence development model for schools: students, parents, teachers, school leaders, school owners, universities and counties (Government of Norway, 2017[11]). This might have contributed to the broad support for the principles of the initiative that the OECD observed during the visit. The OECD team noted that the shift of the responsibility for priority-setting for competence development to the local level, the creation of collaborative platforms for decision-making and the strengthening of partnerships between schools and between schools and universities, were supported by most of the people met during our visit to Norway. Various stakeholders raised nevertheless concerns about the differences in capacity at the municipal and school level, and the inequality in opportunity for students as a result.

In the early stages of the implementation process, the OECD team noticed that stakeholder involvement at the national level appeared to have narrowed down. This reflects a pattern that is observed often in stakeholder involvement in other countries and other sectors. For example, OECD research on stakeholder involvement in regulatory policy in general showed that stakeholders were mainly involved in the phase of policy design, but less so in the implementation phase. This constitutes “a new frontier”, where countries more actively engage with stakeholders with a view to improve implementation, to limit unnecessary burdens, to better target policies and deepen insight in local choices (OECD, 2015[7]).

The Directorate is operating at that frontier in the competence development model, however, the OECD team got the impression that the Directorate was concentrating its efforts on what were perceived to be the essential stakeholders in building up the collaborative forums, namely the counties and the universities, and the municipalities to a lesser degree. It appears as if the communication was more actively targeted at these stakeholders, whereas the communication to teachers, school leaders and other stakeholders was more passive. For example, information was provided on the website, but not actively and tailored or disseminated to various groups of stakeholders. Letters were sent to the county governors, as a ‘presentations tour’ that was organised to inform the counties about their new role. The Directorate is also having regular meetings with the 18 county governors to discuss and to update county governors on the latest developments in the competence development model, and to exchange county practices, which was highly appreciated by county governors. Regarding higher education institutions, there are various platforms where the Directorate could discuss the competence development model with universities and teacher training institutes, some led by the Ministry or Directorate others by higher education institutions themselves.

Compared to the communication and discussions with counties and universities, the exchange with school leaders and teachers seemed to be thin. This observation is reflected by the input of teachers, school leaders and their representatives during interviews with the OECD team. Although the crucial role of ownership by teachers was emphasised in the White Paper, and the Directorate also provided some guidance on involving teachers, teachers and school leaders reported unclarity about the aims of the competence development model and the ways to participate in decision making. Unless school leaders and teachers were actively involved by municipalities, it seemed that information about the model was not easily accessible for them.

The difference in the communication to counties and universities on the one hand and teachers and school leaders on the other, could be motivated by the tiered strategy the Directorate appeared to have chosen to build up the decentralised scheme. In this strategy the first step was to create good working relationships at the county level, between counties, municipalities and universities, before including other stakeholders. This gives counties the chance to anticipate potential and sometimes existing tensions and conflicts between the core participants. The potential consequences of this however may be that school and teacher priorities might not come through unmediated and clearly to the collaboration forums. There is also a risk that school leaders and teachers feel a lack of ownership and as a consequence, do not participate in the scheme.

At the OECD Norway stakeholder seminar (Annex C) it was observed that a common language and a shared understanding of the new model was lacking. The seminar also showed that creating a place where all stakeholders can meet, exchange views and create commonality, would be beneficial for the implementation of the competence development model and its realisation.

Actively creating a virtuous circle of awareness in counties and municipalities

County Governors can also play a role in communicating the aims and design of the decentralised model to all stakeholders in general. Since room for country variation is deliberately a part of the policy design, county governors may differ in communication and engagement of stakeholders. The OECD team noticed that school leaders and teachers who were aware of the competence development model for schools were positive and saw the opportunities for their professional development, as was shown in one of the counties that we visited, by a chain of involvement that seemed to emerge. During the OECD visit the OECD team observed that the county governors’ office was actively involving municipalities and universities as a first step in creating common understanding. One of the municipalities involved the school leaders in the deliberations about the decentralised scheme, while the school leader in turn, included the school team in prioritising. In this case, the school team was looking forward not only for intra-school competency development, but also to learn from the exchange and collaboration with other schools. As observed in other cases, awareness can lead to a virtuous circle: school leaders and teachers who know the model are willing to participate in prioritising and decision making, and will implement the outcomes of the forum accordingly (Rouw et al., 2016[4]). Inversely, lacking awareness could ultimately lead to non-participation and non-use of the competency development funding.


Transparency is a crucial condition for effective stakeholder engagement as it opens up the opportunities for information and feedback. Transparency is also a powerful coordination mechanism, particularly in highly complex policy arenas such as the Norwegian competence development model, with its many actors, its devolved policy, and county and local variation. Transparency starts with creating a solid information basis on the inputs, processes and outputs or outcomes of the initiative at all levels: municipality, county and state. At this stage of the competence development model for schools, information would be mainly about inputs and processes. Transparency is particularly important for the weaker positioned stakeholders in decision-making processes, which in the case of the competence development model are teachers, students and parents.

Transparency promotes coordination within the model in two ways. First, it facilitates the emergence of checks and balances between actors within counties. Second, transparency can promote learning within and between counties, and in that way also contributes to reducing the differences between countries, for example by spreading good examples of practice.

The Directorate for Education was monitoring the progress of the model annually as part of a sample based questionnaire among school owners and school leaders. The questionnaire provides insights into the number of schools and municipalities participating in the scheme, the extent of school-to-school collaboration, competency development themes, the satisfaction of school owners and school leaders with the scheme, and the co-operation with universities among others. The survey concluded that almost all schools, according to the municipalities, participate in the competence development measures. A large majority of school owners (94%) confirmed they participate in regional networks within the new scheme, and are positive about it – 59% characterising the collaboration as good (Statistics provided to OECD by the Directorate for Education and Training).

At the time of the OECD team visit, the Directorate neither collected information on the spending of competence development model funds at the county level nor on the competency development actually taking place in schools and municipalities. The Directorate was also developing an evaluation of the model, but decisions on the content and design of the evaluation still had to be made. However, since the beginning of 2019, a new questionnaire was send to county governors to follow-up on the decentralised model and a call for tenders has been launched to evaluate it.

At the levels of county governors, municipalities and schools requirements seemed to be lacking to provide insights into spending on the model and the professional development activities actually taking place funded by the model. However, during the OECD visit examples were presented of municipalities that intended to annually report on impact with statistics and stories.

3.3.2. Carefully selecting stakeholders

Which stakeholders are invited to participate in decision-making? How open and dynamic is a particular policy arena? As described earlier, county governors are primarily responsible for composing the collaboration forums, although the ministry provided some guidance on the membership. The White Paper designates municipalities and universities as core actors, and also emphasises the vital role of engaging teachers (Government of Norway, 2017[11]). However it proved to be unclear if teachers or teacher representatives were to participate in the forums or how school leaders would be involved. The counties differed in this regard.

An important element of the strategy is the room for county variation in the choice of stakeholders, the exact design of the scheme, and the decision-making processes. This allows county governors to build an arrangement that fits the particular context, although the OECD team was informed that the Directorate has defined some conditions, such as the core stakeholders to be involved in the collaborative forums. In particular, the involvement of teachers varies per county, with some counties having teachers or their representatives not participating in every collaboration forum. These forums run the risk of making decisions on a too narrow basis, with the needs and interests of teachers being underrepresented at the decision-making tables.

Uncertainty about the involvement of teachers

In the meetings with the OECD team two perspectives emerged on teacher involvement, perspectives that were also raised during the stakeholder seminar. The first perspective could be called a service delivery view. According to this view, concentrating on building a well-functioning mechanism that ensures that universities meet the needs of teachers is more important than involving teachers in deliberations about their needs and priorities. While this may be a viable option, at least two conditions must be fulfilled. First, there must be good information on teacher and school team priorities at the decision-making tables, preferably collected independently from the current participants, the counties, municipalities and universities. Otherwise the perspective of teachers and school teams might get lost. According to several seminar participants, collecting views of teachers and bringing them in the deliberations would typically be a role of school leaders and school owners. Second, there must be strong incentives for universities to actually cater for the needs of teachers and school teams. Whether or not these conditions are met in every county remains an open question. Some of the people the OECD team met stated that in their case teacher and school needs were not really known to the participants in the collaboration forum.

The second perspective could be called the participatory view. In this view, the ownership of teachers is crucial for the effective implementation of the scheme. Teachers or teacher representatives should be sitting at the decision-making tables to voice their needs and priorities; their opinions cannot be mediated by other actors. According to some participants at the stakeholder seminar, teachers should even have a decisive say in determining professional development. Ownership also increases the chances that teachers will actually and whole-heartedly participate in the competency development activities decided on in the collaboration forums. This latter perspective seemed to be taken in the White Paper where it was said that teachers shall not only participate in the measures but also in the decision-making process preceding those measures. Involving the profession would not only lead to better decisions but also to stronger support for the measures, according to the White Paper. The White Paper concludes that teachers should participate in the collaboration forums, and also states that the Ministry planned to discuss the more influential role of teachers with stakeholders. Given the divergent views on the engagement of teachers in the collaboration forums and the actual variation in teacher involvement in counties, this discussion seems to be urgent.

School leaders as the interface between the model and the school

At the stakeholder seminar the pivotal role of school leaders in the development of the competence development model was emphasised. Most certainly in the above mentioned service delivery perspective, the school leader creates the links between county governor, municipal, school and class level. They become key in the decision of the school to participate in the model, on promoting the engagement of the school teachers in it, and in the provision of space and time for collaborative competence development to happen around the school. However, the White Paper is not entirely clear about the role of school leaders in the initiative. The White Paper states that “the profession, both school managers and teachers, must play an active role in defining needs and considering which competence-raising measures will be implemented in municipalities and by county authorities”, but guidance on how to reach this aim seems to be lacking. It seems to be up to county governors and municipalities to decide on the role of school leaders. During the visit, the OECD team observed that some school leaders were indeed closely involved in the prioritisation exercises at the regional and county level. The interviews showed that that need not be the case across the country. Just as in the case of teachers, the Directorate could initiate discussions with all stakeholders to clarify the expectations of school leaders within the model.

Lacking involvement of students and parents

The voice of students and parents is most strongly anchored at the level of schools, at least legally in Norway. All schools are required to have several stakeholder participation bodies, composed of representatives of students, parents, staff and the municipality. In practice the influence of students and parents on school policies depends highly on the school leader. In that sense, developing knowledge and skills for involving students and parents is important. Data reported in PISA 2015 showed that a great majority of school leaders in lower secondary education was not only aware of national regulation, but also reported to create a welcoming atmosphere for parents and, to a lesser degree, involve parents in decision making (OECD, 2016[12]). However, both student and parent representatives expressed concerns about the capacity for stakeholder involvement across the system, and consequently about the actual involvement of students and parents. Regarding the model, how students’ and parents’ needs and interests are included in the deliberations at the county and regional level remains unclear. This last observation was confirmed at the stakeholder seminar. There seemed to be a broad consensus among the participants that the voice of students and parents should be heard in decision making about school based professional development. It was seen as typically a role of both school owners and school leaders to engage with students and parents and translate their views to school and collaboration forum priorities. Interestingly, some participants suggested an annual policy reviewing role for students.

3.3.3. Building capacity at every level

Clear communication, transparency and careful selection of stakeholders are necessary conditions for stakeholder engagement, but they are not sufficient. Stakeholders also need capacity. Capacity can be understood as the “adequate knowledge of educational policy goals and consequences, the ownership and willingness to make the change, and the tools to implement the reform as planned” (Burns and Köster, 2016[5]). Thus capacity is not only about competencies and skills, it is also about motivation and will. Furthermore, capacity includes the competences to participate in decision-making and to manage collaborative decision-making, in this case in the collaboration forums, regional networks and school based prioritisation practices. Capacity building can be defined as “the process of providing actors with competencies, resources and motivation (…)” (Burns, Köster and Fuster, 2016[3]). Capacity building can take place both vertically and horizontally, both from one level to the other as well as across a particular level with different stakeholders (Burns and Köster, 2016[5]).

Strengthen policy-making capacity at the municipal and school level

Specifically, but not exclusively, the degree of policy-making capacity at the municipal and school level will determine the extent of success for the competence development model for schools. Policy-making capacity in education can be described in general as the capability of municipalities and schools to work continuously and systematically on improving educational quality, based on all kinds of data and a coherent policy (Rouw et al., 2016[4]). During the interviews it was stated more than once that both at municipal as at the school level, policy-making capacity varies widely, despite ongoing efforts to raise the quality of governance across the system, with detrimental effects on the quality of education in some areas.

The variation in capacity across municipalities and schools is an important rationale for the design of the model. The Ministry expects that horizontal capacity building takes place, as smaller municipalities and schools can either profit from larger municipalities and schools or could pool resources with other small and medium sized municipalities and schools to build capacity of municipal staff and school leaders. Several interviewees were referring to promising experiences with school networks in earlier policy initiatives, most notably in the context of the lower secondary education reform (Box 3.1). Some also had high expectations of the possibilities of the decentralised scheme in this regard to exchange practices and learn from more advanced schools.

School leaders as builders of learning communities

The government is already investing in professional development of school leaders; all school leaders were offered the possibility to participate in Leadership Education for school principals. Until now, around 3700 school leaders have completed their courses, and approximately 500 school leaders are foreseen to participate annually (based on information from the Directorate). School leaders play a pivotal role in the development of the competence development model. They are not only responsible for a coherent competence development policy at school, involving a diversity of stakeholders, but also for representing the school and sometimes the municipality at the regional and county decision making tables and feeding the decisions back into school policy.

According to PISA, in 2015, the leadership index is average in Norway. On one hand, the index of curriculum leadership, measuring for instance to what extent school leaders align teacher professional development and their practices with school goals, is above average (it reaches 0.22 on a standardised scale). On the other hand, the index of professional development leadership, that assesses how school leaders provide staff with opportunities to participate in school decision-making, is low (-0.17 on a standardised scale) (OECD, 2016[13]).

As a consequence, the leadership capacity in Norway is heterogeneous. Many of those the OECD team met said that school leader capacity was unevenly distributed across the system and that professional development efforts are needed to raise the quality of school leaders across the board, particularly in their new role as builders of a learning community in and around the school.

Teachers as part of a self-improving collective

In Norway, both teachers and school leaders could benefit from the development of ‘foundational professional practices’ (OECD, 2018[14]), which are meant to professionalise teaching and turn it into a self-improving profession, continuously keeping competences up to date (Schleicher, 2018[2]). Typical examples include cultivating a culture of reflection and learning, teacher collaboration, and partnering with community members. Competences required are analytical skills, social skills, digital skills, self-evaluation and assessment skills, knowledge of new and innovative pedagogies, but also knowledge about policies and policy processes. These kind of competences and practices lay the foundation for the participation of teachers in the competence development model, not only as consumers of competence development activities, but also as active co-shapers of the policy.

In 2013, TALIS results showed a mixed picture for Norway on the professional collaboration index. Almost 30% of lower secondary teachers said they ‘never take part in collaborative professional learning’, above the OECD-average of 15.7%. Approximately 46%, close to the OECD average, stated ‘never to observe other teachers’ classes and provide feedback’. Around 37% of the teachers ‘never teach jointly as a team in the same class’, just below the OECD-average of 42% (OECD, 2014[15]).

Approximately 55% of Norwegian school leaders in lower secondary education stated in 2013 that they were ‘supporting co-operation among teachers to develop new teaching practices’. Around 47% reported they were stimulating teachers to take responsibility for improving their teaching (OECD, 2016[13]). These numbers suggest there is still room for improving collaboration skills and practices in a systematic way across the system.

In addition, participants at the OECD Norway stakeholder seminar emphasised two other important conditions for teacher motivation to engage in the model, i.e. time to participate in professional development and relevance of professional development practices for their teaching.

School owners’ education policy capacity unevenly distributed

In relation to the capacity of municipal staff, it is not clear whether horizontal capacity building through networks will be sufficient for all municipalities to meet the responsibilities and expectations to drive their schools improvement processes. In several interviews it was deemed urgent to raise the quality of education policy making in particular in municipalities, as a crucial lever for raising the quality of schools. This is at the heart of the competence development model. It may be opportune for the Directorate to join forces with KS and collaboratively develop a professional development scheme for municipal education policy makers, not specifically for the model only, but to prepare the ground for education policy making power in a more broad sense.

Students and parents need information and training

Particularly, for students and parents, building capacity is crucial when responsibilities are shifted to the regional and local level. This means, additional to providing information in a tailor made way, training and guidance in participation must also be provided. In that sense, there is a role for representative organisations, and for the schools, that are responsible for offering training. The government could equip students and parents with information about the budget for training students and parents per school, and the way it is spent by schools and municipalities.

Universities and teacher training institutes as partners of schools

Universities in the model are meant to become more responsive to the priorities and needs of schools and municipalities by collaboratively, with schools and municipalities, determining priorities for competence development and developing programmes. This implies a turn from a provider of general training to partnerships of equals. This might imply in the first place developing a high-quality and flexible offer that can be delivered at a reasonable time and tailored to regional needs. Additionally, universities would need to be able to broaden the university ‘portfolio’, i.e. developing new fields of expertise.

Throughout OECD discussions with education stakeholders in Norway, it was felt that in some cases municipalities and schools could build on a tradition of co-operation with universities. However, during the interviews, concerns were raised about the ability of universities to deliver in time and with consistent high quality. The primary responsibility for quality assurance rests with the universities, and the profession of teacher trainers and education researchers. Specifically for the competence development model for schools, a coordination group consisting of representatives of the universities was established. Sufficient capacity and quality would be typically topics for conversation in this group, also to align and coordinate the offer to schools’ needs.

As a collaborative effort, the co-operation forums also have a role in following up on the realisation of the competence development programmes. Furthermore the Directorate is responsible for safeguarding the quality of professional development programmes and the responsiveness to municipalities and schools. In general, the Directorate uses several instruments for quality assurance, including peer learning events, participant surveys, and evaluations. For the competence development model, the OECD implementation support project is part of the monitoring and evaluation arrangement. A working group within the Directorate was developing a proposal for future quality assurance procedures, among other things including quality criteria and quality indicators that would be used also as part of the follow up scheme.

Besides quality assurance, responsiveness requires social and communication skills, deep knowledge about school practices and municipal policy practices, an inquisitive attitude, and the ability to bridge the worlds of practitioners, policy makers and academics. But to reconcile research on the one hand and policy and practice on the other, one must be particularly aware of a presumed or perceived hierarchy and linearity between these different fields (Lillejord and Børte, 2016[16]). Hierarchy and linearity mean a strict distinction between the production and the use of knowledge, where production of knowledge is positioned higher than the use of knowledge. In this hierarchy, the type of reasoning in practice, ‘practical argumentation’ as it was called in one of the meetings, comes second to the ‘theoretical argumentation’ of researchers. During the OECD team visits, several interviewees, also from universities, told about the lack of responsiveness and sometimes also lack of deep knowledge among university staff of what is happening in schools. They stated that teachers actually felt underestimated by researchers, while at the same time, they thought that researchers did not really understand what happens in classrooms. This kind of tensions needs to be addressed for the university-school partnerships to become productive and grow into the genuine partnerships they are meant to be

The first step would be to create awareness of the spirit of the model among researchers and teacher educators, as it seemed to be unevenly distributed both within institutions and between universities. It is typically a role for the universities and the research profession to include research – practice interaction in professional development activities, evaluation practices and codes of conduct. The second step could be to designate and systematically develop a group of ‘bridging experts’, in the research on knowledge mobilisation often referred to as brokers or boundary spanners (Nutley, Sandra Margaret; Davies, 2016[17]). The OECD team got the impression from the visits that this capacity is available at universities. There are researchers with a background in education practice and researchers with a lot of experience in collaborating with schools and teachers. Taking it to the next level would mean recognising more formally and rewarding this kind of expertise, and including it explicitly in the formation of research organisations (Knight and Lightowler, 2010[18]).

A new role for the Directorate of Education and training

With the new model, the role of the Directorate needs to evolve. As the responsibility for the management of the collaborative professional development funding shifts to the County Governor offices, the Directorate’s mission has to be redefined. On one hand, the Directorate must support the implementation strategy of the new model at the central level, by coordinating the actions of the different stakeholders and clarifying the expectations and definition of the different roles. On the other hand, the Directorate needs to endorse a new monitoring role, where the definition of indicators relative to inequalities between schools, and to the quality of training delivered to teachers, will support quality change in schools.

3.3.4. Facilitative leadership to be developed systematically

Collaboration forums and regional networks are at the core of the decentralised competence development model. They are intended not only to determine collaboratively on competence development priorities but also to promote peer learning at municipal and school level. In this sense, the forums and networks aim at strengthening capacity at the local level. However, this approach to competence development creates in turn other capacity challenges. Research shows that a specific expertise is needed to make collaborative forms of governance effective, let alone to turn them into learning exercises. Effective collaborative governance calls for, among other conditions, facilitative leadership (Ansell and Gash, 2007[6]). In addition, learning requires a carefully designed process including mechanisms for feedback from the networks to the schools, universities and municipalities, allowing a broader group of people to learn.

During the visits and stakeholder meetings, it seemed that there was not much attention given to the development of this type of facilitative capacity in the early stages of the competence development model, in the sense that it was not systematically assessed if facilitative expertise was available at the county and regional level. The OECD team got the impression that not all counties were well enough prepared to carry out this task. The Directorate together with the counties, could develop a targeted capacity building initiative. The Directorate could also consider to promote the establishment of regional network coordinators on a wide scale, based on the good experiences during the reform of lower secondary education. During the OECD visit it turned out that several regions had introduced the network coordinator to facilitate the networking between municipalities, schools and universities. Until now it was up to counties and municipalities to appoint network coordinators, which might lead to undesirable variation in the quality of networks and outcomes.

3.4. Points for successful implementation

The introduction and implementation of the new competence development model for schools is deliberately designed as a long term process that aims to change decision making on professional development sustainably. In line with the participative tradition in Norwegian policy making, the ministry has consulted a broad array of stakeholders while preparing the policy. In the first stage of the implementation the Directorate for Education has actively engaged key stakeholders as the county governors and the universities. At the same time the Directorate has left room for counties to organise regional networks according to regional contexts, another important point of departure.

To strengthen the support and ownership of the stakeholders of the model, particularly teachers and school leaders, the following points merit consideration in the next stage. Given the shared responsibility for the decentralised model, it should be a collaborative effort of the government, counties, municipalities, and representative organisations to address these issues.

  • Discuss, clarify and reach a common understanding of the expectations of roles and responsibilities of different stakeholders:

    • Municipalities, county governors and the Directorate could develop a pro-active and targeted communication strategy to inform teachers (and other stakeholders) about the decentralised scheme.

    • The Directorate could start talks with counties, municipalities, teachers and teacher representatives, and school leaders, on how to involve teachers in the various decision-making processes around the model.

  • Develop capacity at every level for participation and collaborative decision-making:

    • At the school level: develop capacity to organise and participate in collaborative decision-making about professional development needs and opportunities.

    • At the network level: develop facilitative capacity, namely the ability to design and facilitate open workshop discussions, to make networks and forums productive meeting places. This type of capacity could be developed for example through training or by assigning a specific network coordinator function.

    • At the university level: recognise that the expertise to build bridges between municipalities and schools on the one hand and research and teacher training on the other hand, is a specific function. It will help to enlarge the responsiveness of universities to schools’ needs and build real partnerships.

  • Enhance transparency about the available resources and their deployment:

    • Municipalities and county governors could gather and publish data on the funding of the new competence development model at all levels of the system, as information about the available resources is a crucial condition for stakeholder involvement and improvement. The Directorate could collect and report data on the level of the system as a whole.

    • For the forums and networks to succeed, it is crucial for the county governors and the Directorate to promote mutual learning, and monitor the functioning and outcomes of collaboration forums and regional networks.


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[5] Burns, T. and F. Köster (eds.) (2016), Governing Education in a Complex World, OECD Publishing, Paris,

[3] Burns, T., F. Köster and M. Fuster (2016), Education Governance in Action: Lessons from Case Studies, OECD Publishing, Paris,

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[17] Nutley, Sandra Margaret; Davies, H. (2016), “Knowledge mobilisation: creating, sharing and using knowledge - University of St Andrews”, in K Orr; S Nutley; S Russell; R Bain; B Hacking; C Moran (ed.), Knowledge and Practice in Business and Organisations, Routledge, London, (accessed on 28 August 2018).

[14] OECD (2018), Curriculum Flexibility and Autonomy in Portugal-an OECD Review, OECD Publishing, Paris, (accessed on 28 August 2018).

[13] OECD (2016), Education at a Glance 2016: OECD Indicators, OECD Publishing, Paris,

[12] OECD (2016), PISA 2015 Results (Volume II): Policies and Practices for Successful Schools, OECD Publishing, Paris,

[7] OECD (2015), OECD Regulatory Policy Outlook 2015, OECD Publishing, Paris,

[15] OECD (2014), TALIS 2013 Results: An International Perspective on Teaching and Learning, TALIS, OECD Publishing, Paris,

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[2] Schleicher, A. (2018), World Class: How to Build a 21st-Century School System, Strong Performers and Successful Reformers in Education, OECD Publishing, Paris,

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