Creating debate with teacher research

26 October 2011 20:41

(updated: 1 March 2016 20:45)

Creating debate with teacher research

Professors Kjell Gunnar Salvanes and Jarle Møen and research fellow Helge Thorsen have published the results of a research project on the selection and allocation of labour to the teaching profession. The main findings are surprising and some people may also find them controversial.

Professor Salvanes has been the spokesperson for the project so far, and on 13 October, the research group made the front-page of the Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten. You can read the article here.

'We have compared teachers born from 1930 up to and including 1980. And we are surprised by how big a decline there has been in the level of competence,' says Professor Salvanes to Aftenposten.

Talented individuals leaving the teacher profession

The main headline in the national newspaper coincided with Kjell Gunnar Salvanes's presentation at NHH's Autumn Conference in Oslo. By that time, the story had already received so much attention that the Union of Education Norway turned up to see what Professor Salvanes had to say.

The main findings of the NHH researchers reveal that fewer and fewer talented individuals are choosing the teaching profession, and that many of the most talented teachers leave the profession at the first opportunity.

By using data from the Norwegian Armed Forces' examination and classification for military service, Professors Salvanes and Møen and research fellow Thorsen were able to compare the IQ tests of those who decided to become teachers in the 1950s with those who choose the profession today. And the numbers speak for themselves: The IQ level is falling, and this is a cause of concern to the researchers.

'There is evidence that all is not well in the Norwegian school system,' said Professor Salvanes at the Autumn Conference.

At the conference, the professor went far to suggest that the solution to the problem was to increase teachers' pay.

'It is probably not only pay that is a decisive factor in the declining status of the teaching profession, but pay may be a simple tool that can be used to attract talented individuals.'

The Union of Education Norway: "Not concerned about the level of competence"

The Union of Education Norway has a different focus than the research group at NHH.

'We are not worried about teachers' competence level. But we are worried about the decline in the profession's status and recruitment problems,' says Steffen Handal, member of the central board of the Union of Education Norway in a press release.

'To be a good teacher, you need lots of qualities and different kinds of competence. A good score on an IQ test does not necessarily make you a good teacher,' says Mr Handal.

Professor Salvanes agrees that IQ is not everything, but believes that cognitive capacity must be regarded as a key prerequisite for being a teacher.

'We study cognitive properties and hence do not believe that we encompass all the components necessary for being a good teacher, but an important part of them,' underlines the professor.

Text: Espen Bolghaug