The NORCAN-partnership – school based research cooperation

Emphasis on professionally driven, practical and relevant research is at the core of Union of Education Norway’s work for quality in education and professional development.

The NORCAN-partnership – school based research cooperation. Fact sheet 8/2017

Also see the norwegian version: Faktaark 8/2017: NORCAN-partnerskapet – skolebasert forskningssamarbeid

Emphasis on professionally driven, practical and relevant research is at the core of Union of Education Norway’s (UEN) work for quality in education and professional development. One approach to achieving this is through cooperation with two Canadian teacher unions on school based research, named The Norway Canada Partnership (NORCAN).

This fact sheet is an updated version of fact sheet 3:2015.


Currently there is an increased emphasis on the importance of a strong teaching profession, where the initiative to the development of professional work is anchored within the profession itself. UEN has consistently argued for the teaching professions’ ownership of its knowledge base and easy access to relevant research based knowledge. This is best achieved when the profession itself is involved in research rather than just being the object of research, and when the research is considered relevant to professional work.


In collaboration with Alberta (The Alberta Teachers’ Association) and Ontario (The Ontario Teachers´ Federation) UEN has embarked on a school based research project. The collaboration draws upon the experiences of a similar partnership between Finland and Alberta (The FINAL partnership). Key elements for good school development in this project was to support leadership within students’ leadership, teachers’ leadership and school leaders’ pedagogical leadership. The FINAL partnership can also be understood as a counterbalance to a top down lead development of teaching practices in schools. In this connection ideas from Dennis Shirley and Andy Hargreaves’ book “The fourth way” are important. Another source of inspiration is “The Teacher Learning and Leadership Program” (TLLP) initiated by the teachers´ union in Ontario.

Nine schools are participating in the NORCAN partnership. Through an action-research model where the participants are directly involved in the activities that are the objects of research, these schools will develop and exchange knowledge and experiences that could contribute to strengthening teaching and learning of mathematics. Joint meetings have been planned annually in the project period.


The overarching goal is to establish a network of schools in Norway and Canada that collaborates to improve pupils’ learning in mathematics. Collective professional autonomy is a central concept of the project. The aim is to improve student results through the development of mathematic self-efficacy and competence by teachers, through development of school leaders’ pedagogical leadership capacities, and through an increase of students’ participation and responsibilities. At the school level the project will be organized through a project group of leaders, teachers and students. The groups will identify challenges relating to the teaching of mathematics at each school, and will collaborate with similar groups in partner schools, to develop strategies for improvement.

The project aim is both to strengthen teacher learning and to systematize experience based knowledge, and to equip schools with a methodology and an investigatory practice that can be transferred to work in other subject areas. It will also be possible to establish professional networks locally around the project schools, to disseminate and share what has been learned. The project can furthermore give valuable insight and experiences about school development beyond the local communities involved.

Project organisation

A steering group has been established with representatives from the participating teacher unions, together with two external researchers. In addition, there are representatives from the Ontario Ministry of Education. This is due to the model of cooperation for school development in Ontario. The steering group has the overall responsibility for the project’s organization and progress, and for professional guidance.

Professor Dennis Shirley at Boston College is serving as an external researcher for the project, in addition to Mona Røsseland, PhD candidate and didactician in mathematics at the University of Agder. Professor Shirley, who played a leading role in the FINAL partnership, has worked substantially with local communities as a basis for school development. The researchers have a special responsibility to support and facilitate the processes at the schools. Their work will also involve documentation and dissemination of learning and experiences.

Hosting responsibilities for the joint network meetings in the partnership rotates between the three unions involved throughout the course of the project period.


The schools were selected through an application process. In Norway, the following schools were chosen:

  • Børresen lower secondary school, Drammen
  • Ranvik lower secondary school, Sandefjord
  • Molde upper secondary school, Molde

Two schools have been selected in Ontario:

  • Tecumseh Vista Academy, Windsor
  • Monsignor John Pereyma Catholic Secondary School, Oshawa

and four schools in Alberta:

  • Westwood Community High School, Fort McMurray
  • Monsignor Fee Otterson, Edmonton
  • Jasper Place High School, Edmonton
  • Olds High School, Olds

Different phases

A start-up seminar was arranged in March 2015 in Banff, Alberta, involving all the nine participating schools. A major aim for the seminar was to establish common understanding of objectives and methodologies for the project. The goal is the development of each school by involving leaders, teachers and students, through the exchange of knowledge and experience from other schools, and with the support from the researchers that are involved in the project.

The second phase of the project was a seminar in Norway in mid-October 2015. A main goal for the seminar was to establish a common understanding for targets and working modes in the project. School leaders and teachers from the participating schools in Canada and Norway assembled for two days in Oslo. Teachers and school leaders from Canada then divided into three groups and visited one of the three Norwegian schools where they worked on the project and exchanged ideas and observations.

The third phase took place in Ontario in the spring 2016. This was the first time when students took part, in addition to teachers and leaders. Bringing student voice into the partnership has so far been a very positive experience.

Math council

One of the actions has been to establish a math council to value and capture student voice, to create equity in mathematics. The purpose is to encourage students to become more active participants in their learning by providing collaborative opportunities for reflection and school development.
A net-based application has been developed, where the schools can exchange knowledge and experience from their own mathematics’ teaching and project related documentation,

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Innholdet i denne publikasjonen er forankret i Utdanningsforbundets politikk og verdigrunnlag, men er ikke behandlet i Utdanningsforbundets politisk ansvarlige organer før den blir offentliggjort.