Quality of teaching and classroom composition influence students’ performance in the Nordic Region

The findings indicate that classrooms with a higher quality of teaching and a composition of students who are proficient in the language of instruction and have sufficient prior knowledge and good mental health, have historically achieved better learning outcomes. 

The study “Effective and Equitable Teacher Practice in Mathematics and Science Education. A Nordic Perspective Across Time and Groups of Students” has analysed data from TIMSS (Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study) collected in 2011, 2015, and 2019. The data shows that both quality of teaching and classroom composition have deteriorated between 2011 and 2019, which correlates with a decline in performance over time. 
 

Specifically, fewer students report that teaching is supportive and clear, while teachers consistently report challenges related to students’ lack of prerequisites, such as a lack of prior knowledge. This shift can partly be explained by increasing classroom diversity, driven by significant waves of immigration and societal changes that have transformed classroom demographics in the Nordic countries. 

Teacher education should be strengthened so that teachers can cater for today’s heterogeneous classrooms.

Nani Teig, Associate Professor at the University of Oslo 

“Teaching as a profession has become increasingly complex and demanding. Even if the teacher possesses a good quality of teaching, it will be challenging to teach classes where many students struggle with the language, disrupt the lesson, or are tired and disinterested. Teacher education should be strengthened so that teachers can cater for today’s heterogeneous classrooms,” summarises one of the editors for the report, Associate Professor Nani Teig from the University of Oslo. 
 

Measures to address these challenges can prevent the gap between privileged and underprivileged students widening further, and preserve the quality and equality of education in the Nordic education systems. The results of the study underscore the importance of efforts such as teacher support, instructional clarity, and cognitive activation in teaching practices, as well as teacher education to improve students’ learning outcomes. Secretary General of the Nordic Council of Ministers, Karen Ellemann, believes the findings in the data are important for future education policies.

 We believe that Nordic comparisons based on large international studies of school performance and teaching support the development of education policy across the Nordic Region.

Karen Ellemann, Secretary General of the Nordic Council of Ministers

“Qualitative international comparative data is essential for evidence-based policy-making. This is why the Nordic Council of Ministers has financed the Northern Light series. We believe that Nordic comparisons based on large international studies of school performance and teaching support the development of education policy across the Nordic Region,” says Ellemann.
 

The report was authored by the IEA (International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement) and funded by the Nordic Council of Ministers as part of its Northern Lights series.