Chapter 5. Implementing the competence development model for schools in Norway

This chapter analyses and presents key actions to move forward with the implementation of the new competence development model for schools in Norway. More concretely, it brings together the main points for successful implementation in terms of policy design, stakeholder engagement and conducive context, and proposes concrete actions to move forward: clarifying objectives, reviewing policy tools, assigning roles and responsibilities, gathering data for monitoring, designing a communication strategy, and securing resources with a clear calendar. It ends with a table for Norwegian education stakeholders to reflect on how to plan the next steps of the implementation strategy.



5.1. Why focus on the details of implementation of the new model?

An implementation strategy refers to the actions taken following a decision on the design of the policy for it to become a reality. The policy itself may be defined in a document that provides an overarching vision, as is the case of the competence development model in Norway, and this may be complemented with a separate strategy for it to be implemented. (Ingram and Schneider, 1990[1]). The implementation strategy is action-oriented, and needs to be flexible enough to cope with unexpected issues (Fullan, 2015[2]). However, often, policy makers focus on the design of the policy, leaving the details of the implementation to public agencies, intermediate organisations, other governance levels and practitioners without clear guidance, which can result on the lack of impact of the policy.

As the new competence development model ambitiously aims to change the roles of many different actors, it requires a careful implementation strategy for all stakeholders to achieve the expected objectives. Some elements have been already disseminated in the White Paper (Government of Norway, 2017[3]), but overall, the implementation strategy is loosely developed with the engagement of stakeholders, who are expected to shape it along the way, and using the room for county and regional adaptation that is deliberately built in. The next section analyses and proposes some actions for consideration to support the implementation of the model at the present moment, building on the analysis undertaken of the dimensions that influence its effectiveness, including policy design, inclusive stakeholder engagement and a conducive context. It applies the pillars underpinning a coherent implementation strategy (Figure 5.1) to the new competence development model to highlight where the co-creation could be strengthened and more coherently shaped.

Figure 5.1. The OECD education policy implementation framework
Figure 5.1. The OECD education policy implementation framework

Source: Viennet and Pont (2017[4]), “Education policy implementation: a literature review and proposed framework”, OECD Education Working Papers, No. 162, OECD Publishing, Paris,

To ensure the local anchoring in practices of the new model, it is important to define targeted and relevant actions with a concrete timeline that will contribute to consolidate the effective implementation of the model.

5.2. Adjusting the implementation strategy for impact

Analysing the implementation strategy and understanding how its components are developed and aligned coherently can help ensure that it can be effective over the long run. This can include a range of actions, such as defining actors’ roles, calendars, allocation of tasks and others (Figure 5.2). This section analyses the implementation strategy through the lens of practical actions that can contribute to effective implementation: objectives, policy tools, task allocation and accountability, data and monitoring, communication and engagement, resources, and timing (Viennet and Pont, 2017[4]).

Figure 5.2. The different levers underpinning a coherent implementation strategy in Norway
Figure 5.2. The different levers underpinning a coherent implementation strategy in Norway

5.2.1. Refining the objectives 

The overarching goals and logic (or vision) of a policy need to be refined in operational terms. Because a strategy usually involves several goals and initiatives to reach them, attention must be paid to its overall coherence and to its priorities. This implies that for the overall coherence, clear objectives can give direction and understanding for those involved.

In the White Paper, the objectives of the policy are to:

  • give all municipalities wider powers and authority to strengthen the work on quality development through collaboration in networks,

  • combine clear requirements and goals with local freedom of action, to enable the schools to work on the basis of local needs,

  • help municipal and county authorities to develop the competence and capacity to attend to their responsibility for children and adolescents’ education and training.

During the OECD visits and the OECD Norway stakeholder seminar, many expressed the view that these objectives are broad, and target many different actors at the same time and may not be specific enough to become operationalised in a concrete strategy. One of the main issues is to ensure that the vision is clear for different actors and stakeholder to have ownership and engage with the policy. How can this vision be sharpened for it to engage and motivate a wide range of education stakeholders? Linking the vision to student learning and to the future, which is the core purpose of education, would motivate various education actors to engage with learning at different levels.

Furthermore, how can the vision and its objectives be operationalised into specific targets? Are these clear for people to prioritise in their daily work? How can different actors at the different governance levels engage with these goals? For instance, what would be an objective for a municipality network: to organise a number of meetings a year, to spend a certain amount of time collaborating, to publish regular communication to inform other stakeholders, to secure funding from the decentralised scheme every year?

In addition, the objectives of the new model are also closely tied to its position regarding other learning strategies. How is the new model supposed to contribute to the planned curriculum renewal in 2020? How does the new model strengthen the already existing national strategies of individual competence development?

Actions to consider:

  • Defining a clear vision collaboratively on a national level and developing associated operational objectives also at the county and municipal level.

Suggestion from the stakeholder seminar for a shared vision: To build a sustainable system of collaborative professional development based on local needs to enhance student learning using partnerships. (OECD Norway Seminar on Implementation).

  • Clarifying the position of the new model compared to other professional development strategies and the new curriculum, by the Directorate, school owners, and teacher unions.

5.2.2. Reviewing the policy tools and aligning with the broader policy context

In Norway, the main policy tool to drive the new model is the financial incentive for municipalities to take action, for universities and municipalities to forge partnerships, and to reach consensus among the different stakeholders. Financial incentives are indeed flexible enough to fit the decentralised context of Norway, since it gives the opportunity to municipalities to spend the funds according to their local needs. However, are these financial incentives enough to promote change and foster the take-up of the new competence development model? Are there enough incentives for teachers to improve their collective learning as there are for individual learning?

Moreover, former experiences in decentralisation of education projects in Norway and the potential inefficient use of national funds at the local level question whether or not earmarked grants for professional development would be preferable. This issue was already raised by the Norwegian Government in the White Paper (2017[3]), and by some school leaders during the OECD Norway stakeholder seminar.

Embedding the new model in the assessment and evaluation framework would strengthen teachers’ and schools’ incentives, and ensure teachers actively participate in the decision-making process. More precisely, research shows that professional development needs to go hand in hand with appraisal and feedback practices (OECD, 2013[5]). School self-evaluation could identify strengths and weaknesses that could lead to the recognition of professional development needs. This would empower teachers and school leaders, and foster the ownership of the model. In other words, there is a room for better aligning the evaluation and assessment framework with the new competence development model.

Another policy tool of the new model consists in the follow-up scheme, where municipalities displaying weak results are offered support and guidance by the Directorate Advisory Team. Due to the tradition of trust in Norway, this program is not mandatory, and school owners can refuse this form of support. Moreover, support mainly consists in advice, without directly entering and observing what happens in the classroom (Chapter 2). Therefore, how to increase responsiveness to schools with identified capacity needs? More broadly, how to ensure that stakeholders such as school owners, organisations and systems have the adequate resources and competencies to fulfil specific roles and tasks? And how to ensure that the support provided by the follow-up scheme is translated into improved teaching practices?

Actions to consider:

  • Reviewing incentives to maximise the take-up and impact of the new model, by school owners, county governors and the Directorate.

  • Communicate the expectation that the prioritisation of school-based competence development flows naturally from regular school evaluation and planning processes:

    • Reviewing teacher appraisal collaboratively by teacher unions, school owners and the Directorate, so that it informs the needs for professional development within the new model.

    • School owners should link the decentralised scheme to their quality improvement framework as part of the school evaluation.

  • Consider making the follow-up scheme mandatory, and updating the practices of the Advisory Team towards actions taking place in the classroom.

5.2.3. Clarifying roles and responsibilities

The new model provides a direct description of the actors and the allocation of tasks, as the policy itself is about changing these to develop their capacity. The model has been clear in defining the role of governors, the role of municipalities and universities, and there is a certain level of clarity as to who is responsible for what. However, with the information available, there is not much clarity regarding who is responsible for the actual implementation processes and their outcomes, including the quality of the professional development opportunities. Are the roles clearly defined with detail on who implements and who is responsible?

Despite thorough review of the data and interviews with key stakeholders, the OECD team still perceived some of the roles as unclear. During the stakeholder seminar, participants agreed on the definition of different roles (Table 5.1). However, the OECD team observed that while some governors were playing the intended role of mediators at some co-operation forums, others were directly deciding training priorities for the county. If in some counties this approach was selected in order to launch the new model, with the objective to set a dialogue process over time, it should be made clear that such a top down approach is opposite to the spirit of the new model. On the contrary, county governors, as important facilitators in the implementation of the new model, should favour a whole-of-system approach (Chapter 2 and 4).

Teachers and school leaders have to collaborate and to discuss in general to agree on their training needs so these can be prioritised in the model, but the mechanisms for this to happen appeared opaque to the OECD team. The White Paper (Government of Norway, 2017[3]) considers teachers involvement from a participatory view, where the ownership of teachers is crucial for the effective implementation of the scheme. However, interviews with stakeholders revealed a potential service delivery view, where building a well-functioning mechanism that ensures universities meet the needs of teachers is more important than involving teachers in deliberations about their needs. Again, this underlines the crucial role of school leaders in engaging and promoting the new competence development model: the White Paper rests on the legal responsibility for school leaders and school owners to have school competence development plans.

Table 5.1. Recognition of different roles and responsibilities
(Stakeholder seminar, Oslo, 18 October 2018)


Expected role

Ministry / Directorate

Coordinate and clarify expectations and definition of roles with all stakeholders (but allow for flexibility at local levels).

County governors

Promote the model, supervise, control.

Facilitate communication within local networks.


Be a partner in learning.

Build competence and capacity in teacher education

School owners

Clarify roles at the local level.

Engage and facilitate communication between levels.

Coordinate and give directions based on national/local.

School leaders

Engage students, teachers & parents to define needs.

Coordinate at the school level.


Some participants think teachers should lead the model, while others opt for a more informing role.

Express continuous professional development needs (individual, student, parent information).


Inform decision-makers, school leaders and teachers of their needs.

Be pro-active in their learning (identify needs).


Inform school leaders and teachers.

Participate in advisory committee.

It also appears that the voice of parents and students is not heard during the school development process (Chapter 3). During the OECD Norway stakeholder seminar, participants highlighted the importance of capturing parents and students views within this process. The OECD team reckons that it would contribute to develop a dialogue with schools and schools owners, which will in turn promote trust in school’s work. . In addition, while vocational education and training has been included in the model for 2019, private schools are only marginally mentioned in the White Paper, while they represent an alternative to the public sector.

As coordinators, an important role for the county governor and the regional coordinators is respectively to create a level playing field in the collaboration forum and regional municipal networks. Specifically regarding municipalities with limited capacity, the county governors and network coordinators should safeguard their interests and engagement in the forums. For county governors, it could be an option to engage KS (the Norwegian Association of Local and Regional Authorities) representatives in the forum to stand for and support those municipalities. Together with stakeholders, the Directorate should verify that such a level playing field is being created in each collaboration forum (Chapter 4).

So far, given the short amount of time since the beginning of the model in 2017, the outcomes of the networks have been rather intangible. From the visits, the OECD team learned that many collaborations have actually used some of the funds to set up a network coordinator who can organise the events and follow up. In Chapter 2, we detailed concerns about well-funded teacher networks that have failed to produce significant learning gains because they were shallow or unfocused on improving learner outcomes (Harris and Jones, 2010[6]). Is this role of network coordinator enough to incentivise teachers and school leaders to participate in the new model, and to focus on the real work of improving learning and teaching? The county governors could seek to professionalise these networks, strengthen the position of the network coordinator, and ensure networks are indeed contributing to the success of the model.

In addition, accountability mechanisms are clarified in the White Paper in terms of the data defined for interventions of the follow up scheme. But it is not clear who would be responsible and accountable for a misuse of funding, if the coordination did not result in any change in schools and their learning, or for the lack of school involvement in the new competence development model. During the seminar, participants expressed the need for accountability, to make sure there were some kind of rules on how the funding could be allocated for example.

Actions to consider:

  • Regarding task allocation, discussions during the stakeholder seminar in Norway highlighted the need to:

    • For the Directorate: clarify its role in giving feedback and guidance in the co-creation process, including on the roles of governors and school leaders, the role of universities in their partnership with schools; and to review the position of private schools in the model,

    • For school leaders and municipal and county authorities: ensure teachers are part of decision-making processes, and that the views of parents and students are captured in the school development process,

    • For municipalities: consider establishing the position of a network coordinator to ensure fruitful network collaborations.

  • Focus in the county forum on how to safeguard the full participation of municipalities with limited capacity.

  • Enhance transparency:

    • For school owners on what actions are taken to support schools lagging behind,

    • For school owners regarding the allocation and use of the funds acquired via the model, or consider earmarked grants as fund transfers to stakeholders,

    • For networks in how effectively they are functioning,

    • For county governors on how they steer the model and get feedback on the organisation and effectiveness of the county forum.

5.2.4. Gathering data for improvement

Knowledge constitutes a valuable implementation instrument that informs decision-making, improves the dialogue with actors and contributes to process transparency. Knowledge is also a source for actors to shape and revise their beliefs, which impacts their attitude in the implementation process. Understanding the mechanisms through which stakeholders learn and process information is crucial to manage knowledge for effective implementation. In complex systems, the data collected through monitoring can also serve to hold stakeholders accountable throughout the system. Up-to-date data contributes to measuring progress of the implementation process, and is an integral part of a well-established quality assurance system.

In Norway, the education system is based on trust. A national quality assessment system was introduced in 2004 (Norwegian Directorate for Education and Training, 2018[7]), when the Ministry of Education developed a multi-faceted evaluation and assessment framework that provides monitoring information at different levels and aims to achieve both accountability and improvement purposes (Nusche et al., 2011[8]). Despite these efforts, Hatch (2013[9]) considered that Norway had only moved “half-way” towards accountability. This is also observable in the design of the new model, where the follow-up scheme is not mandatory: municipalities are offered the support of the Advisory Team Program, but have the choice to decline it (Chapter 2).

There is a range of tools to evaluate the quality of education, such as user surveys including mandatory pupil surveys in years 7, 10 and Vg1, voluntary parent and teacher surveys, point of view analysis tools, organisational analysis tools or others. For the competence development model, some user surveys have been conducted, but there does not appear to be a clear data framework to follow up on progress in implementation and success. How could these tools be used to monitor the implementation of the new model?

Moreover, should the Directorate for Education endorse a new leading role in developing and analysing the data to inform about the nuanced landscape of education in Norway and help school owners? More precisely, how to ensure that the locally collected data are fed back centrally? Finally, how can the vision of the model be refined into existing, or new indicators? What kind of indicators would assess the added value of networks, the lower-bound quality limit for the follow-up scheme, and the effects of the decentralised and follow-up schemes on teaching practices?

As underlined in the previous section, transparency is a powerful coordination mechanism which provides opportunities for information and feedback, particularly in complex policy contexts such as the Norwegian new competence development model, with many actors and county and local variation. Publicly available data contributes to the transparency of the model, and information about the available resources is a crucial condition for stakeholder involvement and improvement. 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 (Chapter 3).

Actions to consider:

  • Translating objectives into indicators by school owners, country governors and the Directorate, either using existing databases or designing new systems gathering data, to monitor the implementation process and the new model.

  • Ensure local data are fed back to the Directorate so it can help county governors and school owners, and monitor the take-up of the model.

  • The “Participation Survey” yearly monitors teachers’ satisfaction and perception of the training relevance. This should also apply to any training undertaken within the new model.

  • Foster transparency by publicly releasing information and data on inputs, processes (at this stage), and outcomes (later on) of the model at the municipal, county, and national level.

5.2.5. Designing a communication and engagement plan

The language of a policy may not necessarily be understood by the stakeholders who are expected to implement it (Hill, 2006[10]). A policy must gather political support among actors and across implementation levels if it is to be implemented (Datnow, 2000[11]). With a large number of vocal stakeholders in the education sector, policy designers are encouraged to plan for engaging stakeholders as early as possible in the process of policy making (Haddad and Demsky, 1995[12]) and also to communicate clearly on the goals, objectives and processes required for the policy.

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 new competence development model: students, parents, teachers, school leaders, school owners, universities and counties (Government of Norway, 2017[3]). In the implementation phase however, it seems that stakeholder involvement at the national level has been narrowed down, with a communication strategy more actively targeted at counties and universities, while teachers and school leaders were involved to a lesser extent.

From our conversations, it appeared that Norway gave the counties, universities and municipalities one year to start building the structure of the model and design what they thought would be more appropriate, so they would own it over the longer term. Yet, this does not appear to be part of their systematic communication strategy, in terms of the development of the model. The lack of a clear communication strategy could, in the end, hinder the transparency of the model, its understanding by the different stakeholders, and the local level of anchoring.

In the case of the new competence development model, this could be done by implementing a pro-active and targeted communication strategy to inform teachers (and other stakeholders) about the decentralised scheme; and starting talks with counties, municipalities, teachers and teacher representatives, and school leaders, on how to involve teachers in the various decision-making processes around the new competence development model.

The following questions could help identify which points are key in developing a targeted communication plan. Have county governors received a clear mandate regarding their new roles? Does the Directorate have a varied set of targeted communication tools available, which clarify the underlying rationale, the aims, the instruments and procedures, and ways to participate and benefit from the new competence development model? Have they been used to inform different stakeholders? Have potential obstacles for practitioners been identified and solutions communicated to stakeholders?

Actions to consider:

  • Design a targeted communication strategy to the different stakeholders that aligns to the agreed role expectations at the municipal, county, and national level. Organise feedback loops to foster ownership of the model among the different stakeholders.

  • Include in the communication strategy information on accountability relationships, on data and indicators to measure progress and on the evaluation of the model.

5.2.6. Securing financial and human resources

The inputs necessary for education policy implementation consist mainly of the funding, technology and knowledge available to the actors, as well as their capacity to use them. The amount, quality and distribution of these resources allocated to implementation determine to a great extent whether and how a policy is implemented (Wurzburg, 2010[13]; OECD, 2010[14]). A recurring issue with resources is not only about whether they are available for implementation, or in sufficient quantities, but how they are used, and what for, i.e. what the resource strategy is (OECD, 2015[15]).

Funding related to education policy implementation refers to whether there is enough funding, where it comes from, whether it is earmarked and who decides how to allocate it. The OECD team was informed that the model has been allocated 100 NOK for the first year with projections to be progressively increased by NOK 300-400 million by 2020. But these do not appear to be firm commitments, and could change with political cycles. Some stakeholders consider the funding of the model to be modest, unclear, and short-termed (Chapter 2), which could jeopardise the model as there is a threshold level of funding below which implementation does not take place (Sabatier and Mazmanian, 1980[16]). In light of past experiences, would earmarked grants be preferable for stakeholders? And could the 30% co-funding requirement for the more disadvantaged municipalities be lifted?

Moreover, different types of capacity are needed to make participation and collaboration in decision-making effective:

  • At school level, the capacity and will is needed, to organise and participate in collaborative decision-making about professional development needs and opportunities. For instance, are teachers and/or school leaders able to use data to analyse weak teaching and learning and design an appropriate training strategy?

  • Leadership capacity is needed to make networks and forums productive meeting places. This point is partly addressed with the creation of the network coordinator role, but some training might be required for the coordinators to facilitate meetings efficiently.

  • At school owners’ level, capacity is needed to develop strategic planning and manage funds for teacher training. It seems questionable whether horizontal capacity building through networks will be sufficient for all municipalities and their staff to meet the responsibilities and expectations. After agreement with county governors, KS seminars, an existing platform, could be an interesting support structure to municipalities struggling with the new model.

  • At universities, the expertise to a) build bridges between municipalities and schools and b) research and teacher training, needs to be recognised as a specific function. It will help to enlarge the responsiveness of universities to schools’ needs.

Finally, are school owners allocating time in schools schedules to engage in collaboration, and compensating the cost of participation in network collaboration or training (Chapter 3)?

Actions to consider:

  • Ensure long term stability of funding for the model, and communicate it to stakeholders.

  • Consider linking the level of required co-funding requirement to the municipality level of deprivation.

  • Foster capacity development at every level by allocating sufficient time and funding resources for:

    • Teachers to reflect on their professional needs,

    • School leaders to recognise needs and steer collaboration between teachers,

    • School owners to lead meaningful school evaluation,

    • Network coordinators and county staff to effectively exercise facilitative leadership for enhancing collaboration,

    • University researchers to bridge the gap with schools.

5.2.7. Clarifying expectations on timing and pace

The timing and pace set for implementation determine to a large extent how the process unfolds. An implementation strategy defines a timeline common to the main stakeholders, to guide over time the actions to undertake.

The agenda of the new model is not clear at present, and the OECD team was informed that stakeholders were given one year to start building the structure necessary for the new model, that the decentralised scheme will include upper secondary schools in 2019, and that the design of the follow-up scheme needs to be finalised. This lack of clarity is not problematic per se, as long as a high level of political assurance strengthens the long term nature of the model. The focus should lie on allowing time to invest in building up the necessary structures and processes for the new competence development model to bear fruit.

The steady increase over the years of the budget for the decentralised scheme should be matched with growing objectives in terms of teacher training participation. Due to contextual factors, including existing structures such as networks of municipalities, the roll out of the model will follow a different pace across territories. As a result, municipal and county authorities should benefit from some flexibility to organise a suitable timeline, based on the assessment of existing capacities.

Actions to consider:

  • Within a central framework allowing county variation, each county governor needs to work with stakeholders to set objectives linked to the phasing in of the new model and offer a clear timeline to stakeholders.

5.2.8. Next steps

It will be important for the Directorate, together with key stakeholders, to reflect on the aforementioned actions, on how to accomplish them, on who would be responsible, and on how this could be monitored. Table 5.2 is included for self-reflection on how to move forward to ensure the model is implemented effectively.

Table 5.2. Planning the next steps

Implementation levers

Concrete actions to consider

Indicators to review progress in action

Who is in charge?



Refining the objectives

Reviewing policy tools and aligning with the broader policy context

Clarifying roles and responsibilities

Gathering data for improvement

Designing a communication and engagement plan

Securing financial and human resources

Clarifying expectations on timing and pace


[11] Datnow, A. (2000), “Power and Politics in the Adoption of School Reform Models”, Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, Vol. 22/4, pp. 357-374,

[2] Fullan, M. (2015), The NEW meaning of educational change, Teachers College Press, New York.

[3] Government of Norway (2017), Desire to learn - early intervention and quality in schools, White Paper, Government of Norway, Oslo.

[12] Haddad, W. and T. Demsky (1995), Education policy-making process: an applied framework, UNESCO, Paris.

[6] Harris, A. and M. Jones (2010), “Professional learning communities and system improvement”, Improving Schools, Vol. 13/2, pp. 172-181,

[9] Hatch, T. (2013), “Beneath the surface of accountability: Answerability, responsibility and capacity-building in recent education reforms in Norway”, Journal of Educational Change, Vol. 14/2, pp. 113-138,

[10] Hill, H. (2006), “Language matters: How characteristics of language complicate policy implementation”, in Honig, M. (ed.), New directions in education policy implementation: Confronting complexity, State University of New York Press, Albany, NY.

[1] Ingram, H. and A. Schneider (1990), “Improving Implementation through Framing Smarter Statutes”, Journal of Public Policy, Vol. 10/1, pp. 67-88,

[7] Norwegian Directorate for Education and Training (2018), Accountability and trust in the Norwegian education system – introduction and adjustment of national tests, WP.

[8] Nusche, D. et al. (2011), OECD Reviews of Evaluation and Assessment in Education: Norway 2011, OECD Reviews of Evaluation and Assessment in Education, OECD Publishing, Paris,

[15] OECD (2015), Education policy outlook 2015 : making reforms happen., OECD Publishing, Paris, (accessed on 26 June 2017).

[5] OECD (2013), Synergies for Better Learning: An International Perspective on Evaluation and Assessment, OECD Reviews of Evaluation and Assessment in Education, OECD Publishing, Paris,

[14] OECD (2010), Improving schools : strategies for action in Mexico, OECD Publishing, Paris.

[16] Sabatier, P. and D. Mazmanian (1980), “The implementation of public policy: a framework of analysis”, Policy Studies Journal, Vol. 8/4, pp. 538-560,

[4] Viennet, R. and B. Pont (2017), “Education policy implementation: a literature review and proposed framework”, OECD Education Working Papers, No. 162, OECD Publishing, Paris,

[13] Wurzburg, G. (2010), “Making reform happen in education”, in Making Reform Happen: Lessons from OECD Countries, OECD Publishing, Paris,

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