Forsøk med arbeidslivsfag på ungdomstrinnet
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- NIBR notat 
Since autumn 2009 a new subject – «arbeidslivsfag» – has been implemented as an experiment in 133 selected lower secondary schools. The intension has been to develop a practical subject, as an alternative to students who do not want to learn a new foreign language in grade 8–10. One objective of introducing the subject has been to offer a subject where students can work with practical tasks and where they should learn how to make products and develop practical services. Throughout the course, students should be familiar with the practical professions, and they should be involved in activities related to the vocational education programs in secondary schools. The goal is to offer students who want it, opportunities to work practically and try out their interests for vocational training. Another goal is to offer an alternative way to enhance motivation for school, as well as to safeguard the development of basic skills (i.e. to read, write, and calculate). At the end of the course, all students should receive a grade for the course and some of the students are to be tested through an oral exam. The grades in «arbeidslivsfag» count for admission to secondary school. National authorities have developed a national curriculum for the experiment, as well a guidance to it. The experiment started in 16 schools in autumn 2009 and was expanded to 133 schools in 82 municipalities the following year. Later, the government extended the experiment period, and from 2012 it is possible for all school owners to offer «arbeidslivsfag». At these schools students has been given the opportunity to choose this subject as an alternative to learn a second foreign language in addition to English (i.e. German, French, Spanish, etc.). NOVA – Norwegian Social Research – was commissioned by the Directorate of Educational and Training to evaluate this experiment. The reason was the government's desire to have a knowledge base for making a decision whether «arbeidslivsfag» should be obligatory to offer to all lower secondary school students across the country. NOVA has followed the experiment since autumn 2010 until spring 2013. During this period, it has been published two reports on the experiment (Bakken and Dæhlen 2011, Bakken et al. 2012). This is the final report from the evaluation study. The purpose of the report is to provide an overall picture of how «arbeidslivsfag» has worked after the students have completed the scheduled three-year course and to evaluate whether the intentions of the subject has been realized. The empirical basis for the study is a qualitative case study of six schools (including observation of the teaching and interviews with students and teachers), two large-scale surveys of students and teachers (first during the initial year at grade 8 and a follow-up two years later in grade 10) and interviews with school leaders. In addition we have utilized registry data on all 10th grade students’ school achievement, making it possible to compare changes in academic achievement both among students who participated and those who did not participate in the experiment. Characteristics of students in «arbeidslivsfag» The evaluation shows that about one in five students have participated in «arbeidslivsfag». The proportion increased from 19 percent in 8th grade to 22 percent in 10th grade. Two out of three students are boys, and students with weak academic skills are clearly overrepresented. Another characteristic of the students of «arbeidslivsfag» is that parents have lower education and income than the parents of students who attend other courses. Students at «arbeidslivsfag» also tend to skip school to a greater degree than other students. Children of immigrants have participated to a lesser degree than other students in «arbeidslivsfag». 1) «Arbeidslivsfag» has been conducted as a practical subject An important intention of «arbeidslivsfag» has been to develop a practical subject. The evaluation shows that this intention has been fulfilled throughout the experimental period. Even though not all students agree, the vast majority of students believe that after three years of «arbeidslivsfag» they have gotten better to work with practical things, and the list of practical skills that students have been doing, is long and varied. Teachers almost unanimously agreed that the subject has mainly been practical, and students report that they have worked practically in most or half of the tutorials. 2) Both students and teachers are satisfied Another key finding of the evaluation is that the vast majority of both teachers and students are very satisfied. For most students, participation in «arbeidslivsfag» have had positive experiences. A large majority believe that they have learned much useful, and seven out of ten think «arbeidslivsfag» is the best of all subjects in school. The main reason that students enjoy the course is that the subject is perceived as a different school subjects in which teaching takes place under other conditions than the traditional school subjects. They describe a practical subject where they can work on different tasks, and where they can use their hands and body to a greater extent than in other subjects. The fact that «arbeidslivsfag» fills such functions is in line with what was formulated as an important objective when the experiment was introduced. The course was intended to help the school life of the students to become more diverse, and that working methods should be more adapted to the students' way of thinking and working. For the majority of students, «arbeidslivsfag» have worked this way. In general, most teachers believe that the subject has worked very well. Many think that «arbeidslivsfag» has given students a respite from an otherwise theoretically dominated school life, and that the subject has given many students new experiences of mastery in school. The working method of «arbeidslivsfag» is different and provides more time and more opportunities for conversation between teachers and students than many other subjects. Most teachers report that they are satisfied with most practical circumstances surrounding the implementation of the subject, but there are some practical assumptions that limit the quality of education if they are not present. The availability of suitable premises is one such condition. It is therefore worrying that almost half of the teachers consider that the access to and quality of facilities are not satisfactory. Some teachers also report that pupil composition makes it difficult to complete the course in a good way – either because the spread of the student group is very large, or because of the very many students with behavioral problems in one place can be challenging. How to assess students is another area perceived as challenging by the teachers. Even though most pupils are well satisfied, this does not apply to all. For example, almost one in five regrets that they have participated in «arbeidslivsfag». By far the most common reason for this is that the expectations many had that «arbeidslivsfag» should represent something other than what they otherwise experience in school, have not been met. The evaluation has also seen a tendency that more girls than boys are less satisfied with the course. 3) Motivation for school One of the intentions of introducing «arbeidslivsfag» has been to strengthen students' motivation for school. In this area we are more questioning of whether the experiment has had the desired effects. Even though a large proportion of the teachers believe that «arbeidslivsfag» has helped to increase students' overall school motivation, asking the pupils tells another story. Many students find it difficult to assess what kind of impact «arbeidslivsfag» has had on their overall school motivation, but there are also many who believe that the subject has not worked that way. Almost half disagree that they have greater desire to learn other subjects as a result of attending «arbeidslivsfag». This finding is a distinct contrast to the other expressions of «arbeidslivsfag» made by the students. If teachers are right that many students has been more motivated for school by attending «arbeidslivsfag», we believe that it would be reasonable to expect to observe a more positive development in school achievement among students of «arbeidslivsfag» than among comparable groups of students who have not participated in the subject. When we compare the students of «arbeidslivsfag» with such students we found no differences in the development of academic achievement. This suggests that «arbeidslivsfag» in general has not helped to influence the motivation for school neither more nor less than comparable students who have participated in the course. Main conclusion The findings from the evaluation show that we are dealing with a subject that is strongly desired by school leaders, teachers and students. In most schools, «Arbeidslivsfag» has been practiced as a training program where students are given practical work – with a diverse set of tasks and learning goals, which for most of the students are perceived as more relevant, interesting and useful than the tasks and goals they are faced with in most other subjects. A large majority of students are very satisfied and seven out of ten state that this is the best course they have at school. The teachers express a strong enthusiasm for the subject and many are happy with how it worked for the students. Although the main story in the evaluation of «arbeidslivsfag» is a success story, we are still cautious about whether the subject has proven to make students in general more motivated for school. Still, we recommend «arbeidslivsfag» to be an obligatory subject to be offered in lower secondary school as an alternative for students who do not want to learn a second foreign language.Dette er sluttrapporten fra en evaluering av et treårig forsøkmed et praktisk fag i ungdomstrinnet - arbeidslivsfaget. Fagetskal være et alternativ til fremmedspråk og har vært innført som ettav flere tiltak for å gjøre ungdomstrinnet mer variert. En av intensjonene med forsøket er å styrke elevenes faglige motivasjon. På forsøksskolene har en av fem elever deltatt i arbeidslivsfaget. Evalueringen viser at arbeidslivsfaget har vært gjennomført som et praktisk fag og med stor grad av lokal variasjon. Forskerne stiller seg imidlertid spørrende til hvorvidt intensjonen om å styrke elevenes skolemotivasjon har blitt oppfylt. Elever og lærere er likevel svært tilfredse med hvordan faget har fungert, og nøkkelen til suksess er at faget representerer en alternativ læringsarena i skolen som gir mestringsopplevelser for flere elever. Rapporten anbefaler at forsøket innføres som en permanent ordning på ungdomstrinnet.