Norwegian version

Public defence: Sigrun Holmedal

Sigrun Holmedal will defend her thesis: “The purpose of Education? Exploring the contradiction of inclusion through attainment grouping in Norwegian mathematics teaching” for the degree of PhD in Educational Sciences for Teacher Education.

Trial Lecture

The trial lecture starts at 10:00. Please do not enter the room after the lecture has begun. 

Title: To be announced. 

Public defence 

The candidate will defend her thesis at 12:00. Please do not enter the room after the defence has begun. 

Title of the thesis: “The purpose of Education? Exploring the contradiction of inclusion through attainment grouping in Norwegian mathematics teaching”.

Ordinary opponents 

Leader of the public defence 

Vice Dean of Research and Development, Hanne Skaaden, OsloMet – Oslo Metropolitan University.


How to oppose ex auditorio 

Please inform the leader of the defence if you wish to oppose ex auditorio during the break, before the second opponent begins.  

For questions regarding the trial lecture and public defence, contact the PhD administration at the faculty.

Publication of the approved PhD thesis  

Request a copy (PDF) of the PhD thesis by e-mail. Include the name of the PhD candidate.

  • Abstract

    The Norwegian education system has deep roots in humanist traditions in which the purpose of education is enable all students to develop the knowledge, skills and attitudes they need to participate in a democratic society. As such, it emphasises inclusive mainstream schooling in which teaching in whole class mixed groups is a central tenet.

    This practice is protected by the law, which stipulates that students should ‘not normally’ be organised in groups according to gender, ethnicity or ability. These traditions are also visible in the policy of Tilpasset opplæring (TPO) – formally translated in curriculum documents as differentiated instruction – which recognises the right to equal opportunities for learning and development through variations and adaptations which suit students’ needs.

    It is the individual teacher’s responsibility to use their professional judgement to facilitate TPO in the classroom. However, in apparent contradiction to these strong statements in Norwegian educational ideology, and despite international evidence which casts doubt on its usefulness, a significant number of Norwegian schools have introduced attainment grouping as a means of organising TPO, particularly in mathematics.

    This shift appears to be largely driven by concerns over Norway’s underperformance in international tests: grouping is seen as a means of raising students’ marks in general, and is argued to benefit under-performing higher attainers in particular. This new focus on performance over and above an emphasis on developing the whole child has thus become influential in narrowing interpretations of TPO.

    Recognising the impact of a new emphasis on performativity in Norwegian schooling, this thesis explores the practices and reflections of three mathematics teachers at a school where attainment grouping has been introduced. Using Gee’s theory of language-in-use and “big D” Discourse (Gee, 2014), it addresses three research questions focusing on teachers’ enactment of mathematics teaching in attainment groups, the ways in which they explain and theorise their practice and the role of policy, social and cultural discourses in their enactment.

    Situatedness is important in Gee’s theory, offering a lens for exploring the role of the local school culture in addition to the broader Norwegian education culture of inclusive teaching and its policy of TPO for all students. As a critical discourse analysis, it also enables a broader view into the role of social forces and power in a world where there are contested ideas about what mathematics teaching should look like.

    Contrasting the three teachers’ Discourses of being a mathematics teacher, the thesis reveals the particular role of care in their enactments, highlighting how traditional Norwegian humanistic values of care of the whole child interact with a culture of performativity.

    Gee, J. P. (2014). An introduction to discourse analysis : theory and method (4th ed. ed.). Routledge.