“Sisu will get you even through granite” is a popular Finnish saying. The concept of sisu has no direct translation. It is inner strength, determination and perseverance. An essential element of sisu is high persistence despite the difficulties and setbacks. Maybe the closest word to sisu is grit.
A longitudinal study funded by the Academy of Finland shows that grit in the early age predicts school achievement and engagement later. The “Bridging the Gaps” project studied for the first time the formation of grit and its meaning for adolescents’ school engagement and academic success. The research group studied about 2000 students from Helsinki, Finland. Students were followed four years, through their education path from sixth grade until the end of ninth grade.
According to the “Bridging the Gaps” study grit is not seen as a personality trait. Instead, grit transforms and develops during adolescence. Perseverance and grit can also be learned. Learning grit is possible, for example, by challenging oneself. Challenging oneself is actually more important than success or failure that follows. Possible mistakes are a valuable part of the learning process; at its best mistake is an opportunity to learn and develop. School should be an arena where it is safe for children and adolescents to try, fail and learn to cope with setbacks.
Another way to promote grit is setting goals and committing to them. The “Bridging the Gaps” study states that the factor that best predicts grit is commitment to goals. If students lack commitment, they will not be able to make the most of grit. Students should establish goals for themselves, and teachers should support students in their commitment to the goals. According to the researchers: “Helping adolescents to set and develop a proper long-term goal on education and providing the supportive environment to achieve that goal may increase their level of grit, and in turn, promote adolescents’ engagement and achievement in the school.”
Adolescents’ thinking tends to be very concrete, and it is often focused on the present. For them immediate rewards are much more attractive than long-term benefits or consequences. This is typical for young people, and we adults and educators should accept this as a fact. What we can do is encourage adolescents to long-term, future thinking instead of short-term thinking, support them in their commitment to the goals, and stand by them.
It is also important to recognize and support young people’s strengths. Positive education aims at making strengths, such as self-regulation, compassion, gratitude, grit, perseverance and so on, visible in every learner. Noticing and building on strengths can help children and adolescents to thrive.
Tang, Xin, Wang, Ming-Te, Guo, Jiesi & Salmela-Aro, Katariina 2019. Building Grit: The Longitudinal Pathways between Mindset, Commitment, Grit, and Academic Outcomes. Journal of Youth and Adolescence 5 (48), 850–863.
The touted benefits of early language learning often sound almost too good to be true. Language skills make children smarter, better, and more successful in life, with no effort at all! Well, of course that is not quite true. Knowing foreign languages is an incredible asset that is known to enhance memory, concentration, problem solving, and communication, among other things, it’s true. It does, however, take both time and effort from both the student and the teacher. How are you teaching new languages?
This effort that is required to achieve fluency in more than one language is precisely why many experts advocate for starting language learning early. We can all learn, no matter what our age, but the best groundwork is laid early. Not only do children simply have more time to learn, but they are also known to soak up the new language quite effortlessly compared to adults.
The flip side from a teacher’s perspective is that young children learn very differently from older learners, so we cannot teach them quite in the same way. There is no point in pouring over grammar tables or word lists with the young ones. Instead, we need to bring teaching into their world and onto their level of understanding. And by far the most effective way to reach young learners is through the power of play.
Most species on our planet engage in some form of play. It is a vital part of how young animals can safely learn the skills they need to survive in the wild. In this, people are no different. When young children play, color a picture, or sing a song, they are practicing multiple skills simultaneously from language to motor skills to collaboration. Adults put in conscious effort to learn, but children often do not realize that they are learning. In fact, learning is rarely a conscious act for them, but rather a by-product of interesting and enjoyable activities.
When a kitten is play-fighting with its siblings, it is learning important lessons about social cues and hunting. Similarly, when children are playing shop and engaging in the story they have made up for the setting, they are learning the names of the items in the shop, learning numbers and math as they count the money, practicing collaboration and communication, and learning about the cultural and communicative norms involved in a shopping situation.
Playing is natural and intrinsically motivating for children, which is why it is the best way to teach them new skills and knowledge. Play sparks children’s curiosity and lets them be active and physically involved in their learning. When teachers embed the learning content such as new vocabulary or language structures into play, children learn it almost without knowing they are learning.
Language learning through play
But surely some things cannot be taught merely by playing? Traditional lessons must sometimes have their place? Well, not necessarily! When it comes to very young children, play really is the way. Language is a great topic for playful learning because it is a communication tool, and human play – especially group play – is all about communication. Play provides you with an opportunity to speak the foreign language to the children, acclimating them to hearing it. The playful situation also shifts the focus so that instead of concentrating on correct grammar, which can cause anxiety for learners of all ages, the children can focus on being understood so that the game can continue. Successful communication equals successful play!
You can use games the children already like to play in their mother tongue. If the children enjoy the memory game, you can draw or print out pictures of vocabulary that you want children to learn – for example farm animals – and play the game while naming the animals in the foreign language. If they enjoy hide-and-seek, you can take the opportunity to use lots of prepositions and emphasize them in the play (“I found Luke behind the sofa!”). The children may not understand everything you say in the foreign language, and that’s okay; over time and with enough repetition, they will start to make the connection between what you say and what you mean.
Steps to start
You don’t have to plan and produce all your material yourself, either. You can find songs and games online, or you can read books in the foreign language to the children while looking at the pictures together. There are also digital resources and services, such as Moomin Language School, that have been specifically designed for early language learning and teaching.
If you are planning to start teaching languages to young children or would like to find new, innovative ideas and resources for your current curriculum, we have just the thing for you: our brand-new course Teaching Languages to Young Children! It will help you better understand the theoretical background of early language learning and offer ideas, tips, and support for planning and running engaging language sessions for young students.
For the fifth time running, Finland ranked as the happiest country in the world in the latest World Happiness Report , an annual, independent survey organised by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network. What has education got to do with it? Actually, quite a lot.
Let’s start with the Nordic welfare state which is the societal model Finland has chosen. In a Nordic welfare state like Finland, education is seen as a human right and therefore education is free for everyone, from pre-primary education to higher education. This means that despite of the differences in their social-financial background, every child in Finland is entitled to equally high-quality education.
Welfare state also means that everyone is guaranteed with basic subsistence or living and for example free healthcare. This means that people have more equal possibilities to pursue their dreams. In case something really bad happens, everyone is taken care of.
Furthermore, Finland is one of the safest countries in the world. Our government works well, and we have the least corruption in the world(along with Denmark and New Zealand). The multi-party system makes the democratic system diverse and allows many different voices to be heard, but also leads us to seek consensus in our daily politics.
Even though all this might sound that Finland is almost perfect, it’s not. It is also a very Finnish attitude to look for constant improvement. And there is still a lot to improve in Finland! But living in a safe, stable and democratic country certainly gives a good basis to build your life and participate in developing the country for the better.
However, we cannot take for granted that this positive status is maintained without work. Finns understand that in order the democracy to prevail, we have to educate our children to cherish it. We want our children to become active citizens who participate in developing their country. In today’s global world, we also want them to understand their role and responsibility as global citizens.
Education is the most important tool to maintain and build strong, democratic civil society.
For example, in Finland fourth graders (10-11 years olds) start studying a school subject called social studies. This means getting to know how a democratic society works, in a concrete way. Children hold elections, campaign for their views, vote etc. Furthermore, students learn about democratic values and practices in student bodies already from the primary school. We don’t consider these to be “adults’ issues”. We want our children to learn how to be active and influence the things that matter to them – together with others, in a constructive way.
But education promotes happiness in other ways as well. Students’ well-being is considered vital in Finnish education. There are many ways how Finns try to strengthen that: stress-free approach, student welfare services and welfare professionals at schools, frequent recesses outside, free school lunches, moderate amount of homework, short school days, use of positive pedagogy, activating and engaging teaching methods etc. It is safe to say that if children are experiencing well-being at school, it enhances their overall happiness and health. There are even digital solutions to promote students’ well-being at school available. Check out School Day, an app which asks students questions about their wellbeing, analyzes the data, and provides real-time insights and easily implementable solutions for the teachers and school.
Happiness increases when it’s shared and Finland is happy to share its experiences! Moreover, the happiest country in the world has a lot to improve and learn from other countries. Collaboration and sharing is a key to increase happiness in Finland as well as globally!
PS. You might also want to check out this humoristic video about Finnish happiness. As you can see, it’s extraordinarily ordinary 😉!
Education outside classroom (EOC) is often characterized by curriculum-based educational activities practiced outside the school buildings, in natural (e.g., a park or forest) or cultural (e.g., a museum or library) settings. EOC includes for example versatile field trips, visits to museums, and various ways of outdoor learning. In addition, EOC is often considered as ‘experiential’ or ‘authentic’ learning.
Finland has a long tradition in education outside classroom. For decades it has been typical for Finnish classes to visit various places outside school. Visits to different museums, libraries, exhibitions, cultural events, and versatile workplaces have been part of Finnish schooling from early childhood education to upper secondary education for generations. Learning outdoors – or using nature as a learning environment – has an especially strong emphasis in Finnish education.
Finland is a country covered by forests. There’s basically forest nearby every Finnish basic education (grades 1-9) school. It is not unusual that a forest begins from the school yard. So, it’s no wonder that Finnish teachers frequently take their classes to nature to learn new things. (If you want to get to know an interesting example of Finnish innovative EOC practices please check out the online course Outdoor Exercises and Art in STEAM projects.)
It is noteworthy that nature is not used as a learning environment to learn biology only. Nature is an endless source of learning possibilities: you can learn e.g., mathematics, physics, languages, art, physical education etc. in nature. Furthermore, the current complex environmental problems and their impact on nature are best understood in a real context. Learning outdoors has multiple benefits. For example, it provides real-world context for learning, promotes understanding larger phenomena, enhances enthusiasm and motivation, increases self-esteem and helps students to become more engaged in their learning.
Daycare education in a forest – despite the weather
Moreover, Finland has experience of more pervasive models of education outside the classroom as well. There are early childhood education and pre-primary groups in Finland that operate outdoors all the time. In these groups children spend their entire day in daycare / pre-primary education in a forest. They play, learn different things, have lunch and snacks outdoors – despite the weather. Sometimes they have a small hut with open fire where they go for instance in an exceptionally hard rain. The feedback from these groups is fabulous: children are happy and calm, and adults are enjoying themselves as well. Learning results are excellent. Especially children with learning difficulties or other challenges seem to benefit of this natural learning environment.
Jopo® – flexible basic education in real-life context
Very different example of a comprehensive Finnish EOC model is Jopo® – flexible basic education program. Jopo® program is usually intended for 9th graders who lack school motivation and run a high risk of exclusion from upper secondary education. These pupils often don’t get motivated by traditional teacher-led ways of learning, but instead they benefit e.g. from learning by doing. That’s why Jopo® program includes a great deal of on-the-job learning at real workplaces. On-the-job learning gives students an opportunity to achieve learning goals in the real-life context.
Moreover, Jopo® program utilizes versatile learning environments such as learning camps and field trips which strengthen the sense of belonging and give further opportunities to learn outside the classroom. Jopo® program has proven to be very effective. Jopo® program in general and its EOC practices in particular help students to regain their lost school motivation and improve their performance at school.
Do you want to stay up to date and contribute?
It is no wonder, that education outside of classroom has raised a lot of interest globally. Beginning from Autumn 2021, Learning Scoop was delighted to join the OTTER project with other talented European partners who are enthusiastic about developing education outside classroom.
If you are interested to learn more about the new pedagogical models for education outside of classroom or other tools and materials developed for EOC in OTTER project, please check the OTTER’s website. Are you curious about the concept of education outside the classroom and the latest innovations in the field? If yes, we recommend you to subscribe to the OTTER newsletter.
Let’s make education outside the classroom a reality!
“I know what I should do, but I don’t have time…” When it comes to planning engaging lessons, this is a shared feeling among many teachers, despite the country. Teachers are often aware of the different aspects that should be considered when delivering engaging and effective lessons, but they are struggling with the lack of time.
All teachers know that when students are engaged and motivated, they also learn much better and at best experience the joy of learning. So, it is really worth to pay attention to designing intriguing and activating lessons.
What makes lessons engaging and effective? Scientific research has given us important guidelines to design lessons that promote learning and motivate students at the same time.
Having a clear and well thought structure of the lesson, helps. Pedagogically smart lesson structure doesn’t have to be exactly the same in every lesson though. Students – as well as teachers – enjoy variation, especially if it is pedagogically justifiable and well organized. Including different actions that are known to promote learning, is one of the keys to successful lessons.
“Sounds interesting! What kind of phases and functions could be included in my lessons?”
First of all, there are several ways that help students to prepare for processing novel content. Sometimes some warm-up is needed before introducing new subject matter. Making sure that students are alert and able to focus on the new topic, usually pays off.
Orientating students to the coming theme aids them to map their previous knowledge about the topic and prepare their minds for processing new information about it. Orientation is a great way to rouse interest and motivation, and a powerful booster for learning too. Orientation makes it easier to connect old and new information and understand the larger context around the topic.
Acquiring and processing new information is the core of many lessons. But how to do that in a manner that truly enhances learning and strengthens learners’ own active role? How to make sure that students actively process this new information and apply it into new contexts and situations? There are multiple, tested teaching methods that help students to get actively involved in acquiring and “digesting” new information.
Sometimes you can see that students are too tired or otherwise unable to focus on the topic at hand. It is not uncommon to see the energy level of students to drop during a lesson or a school day. How to help that? Action breaks are short, energizing, fun and physically activating exercises that boost students with positive energy in just a few minutes.
Many teachers that we have met, say that they do know the power of reflection in deepening learning., but they very seldom feel they have time for it in their lessons. Even when the time is scarce, it is worthwhile to take few minutes for reflection. According to scientific research, reflection is one of the key elements in reinforcing learning.
“Sounds important, but abit overwhelming…?”
Good news is, that you don’t’ have to include all of these engaging elements to all your lessons! Depending on the purpose and length of the lesson, it is vital to choose only those elements that are this time the most useful for promoting learning and students’ own activity. Moreover, it is essential to include different elements to different lessons in order to make lessons diverse and interesting.
There are numerous ways and multiple teaching methods to implement warm-up, orientation, mapping pre-existing knowledge, reflection etc. The question is: where to get ideas how to do it in practice?
When discussing with teachers in various different countries, these same questions came up. Even though we know what kind of elements would make the lessons engaging and effective, it is not that easy to know how to include them in our teaching.
We thought that it shouldn’t be so challenging! There should be an easy way to design lessons that include different engaging elements without extra effort. LessonApp – a mobile tool for lesson planning– was developed to help teachers in their everyday work.
So, now there’s help available! Have a try – register for LessonApp and start a 2-week trial period free of charge. LessonApp gives you easy-to-use tools for designing engaging and effective lessons! Or do you want to access all the delights, full set of the latest features and more than 150 different, tested and engaging teaching methods? If yes, the Premium version of LessonApp is the right choice for you.
We would be glad to hear how you deliver engaging lessons!
Parenting is not always easy. It can be challenging and demanding. How could we best support parents in their important task?
Naomi Moriyama, a U.S.-Japan marketing professional from New York, has reflected her feelings as a parent in her book The Sisterhood Of The Enchanted Forest Sustenance, Wisdom, and Awakening in Finland’s Karelia, published in October 2021. When Naomi Moriyama stayed six months in Finland with her family, she felt the transformation from a mother concerned (even obsessed) about her child’s school achievement and grades to a more relaxed Scandinavian parent who trusts the teachers taking care of her child’s learning and school achievement.
Is that easy-going approach really helpful for the children as well for the parents? Finnish children experience a happy and stress-free childhood and enjoy short school days and light amount of homework. How can Finnish education be so successful without the pressure and stress? Is there some secret that parents and teachers from other countries could learn from Finland?
In our book Finnish education in practice – what, why and how, we have tried to encapsulate the actions that based on scientific research parents can do to support their children in their school work and learning. Here are some points to consider:
Being accepted and feeling secure form the basis of learning
Children learn best when they feel accepted and secure. Each child is unique and should be accepted and loved as they are. Moreover, the parents should understand and accept that each child learns at their own pace. Comparing the child with other children or their siblings is not appropriate; their development should be compared only with their earlier skills.
A positive self-image is based on the feedback of meaningful people
Children with a positive self-image of themselves as learners learn better. The way children form this view – whether they are good or bad learners – is based on the feedback they get from their parents and other meaningful people in their lives.
When giving feedback to a child, it should not be unfounded, superficial praise. Above all, the child should be praised for trying, practicing and doing their best, no matter the achieved result. According to research, children who were encouraged to try and praised for their perseverance and hard work, not so much for their good results, were more determined and more aware of the meaning of the hard work.
Helping and supporting the child
Some children require more support than others. The child must be helped when they ask for it. However, they should not be given the correct answers to homework, or have it done by somebody else, as the parent’s task is to encourage, guide and help the child in finding the correct answers.
Encouraging a demotivated child
In order to help, the parent should reflect on the reasons behind the child’s lack of motivation. Is the school burdening the child too much; are the objectives unrealistic or unclear; does the child get enough of positive learning experiences; how does the child view themselves as a learner; does the child consider learning boring or repetitive struggle and so on.
Those who have understood will remember it better than those who have simply tried to memorize a bunch of detailed facts without understanding their meaning. Discussing the matter together with a child promotes understanding it, as well as trying to put it in a real-life context. Praising and encouraging a child, especially for trying and persevering, is also very useful.
Respecting and trusting the teachers
The teacher should be seen as a co-partner: they share the same objective with the family, which is to help children learn as best as they can. By helping the teachers in succeeding in their work, the children are also given the opportunity to learn as well as possible.
Ensuring a child’s rest and recreation
We cannot learn when we are tired and weary – this applies to children, too. Research demonstrates that sleep and rest are essential for cognitive functioning, and therefore aid in remembering new information and storing and recalling it.
Happy children also learn better. Warm relationships with family and friends, meaningful activities and sufficient physical activity and rest are important constituents of well-being. The child should have time for activities they enjoy, whether it be playing with friends or legos, reading or playing an instrument. Various studies have pointed out that free play has a significant impact on children’s development.
Sharing the joy of learning!
The joy of learning is derived from discovering something new, mastering new skills, working and trying, collaborating, reaching personal targets as well as the unforced, motivation-oriented curiosity and exploring.
Children learn a great deal from the adults around them. If the adults show a curious and positive attitude towards learning new and exploring the wonders of the world, the children will adapt similar attitudes. Taking part in the joy of learning with a child is caring and supporting.
How can we support parents better? Please share your comments! Are you interested in learning more about parenting skills? Check out the self-study parenting online courses which will support you as a parent.
Reference: Valtonen, Päivi & Järvinen-Taubert, Johanna 2021. What Should Parents Know About Their Child’s Learning – a Finnish Perspective. In Järvinen-Taubert, J., Valtonen, P. & Chukhlantseva, E. (Eds.) Finnish Education in Practice – What, Why and How. Malta: Kite, 143–153.
Book is still a powerful tool. During these times filled with digital content and screen time, people are longing for something tangible and traditional, something you can hold in your hands and get back to when ever needed. We are glad to share with you few stories around the world we have received after reading the book Finnish Education in Practice: What, Why and How.
“Education – a word that has different meanings for every teacher/educator/school principal around the world. However, the underlying variables that remain constant are – ‘the student’, ‘the teacher’, ‘the parent’ (in that order). Finnish Education In Practice – What, Why, and How is a beautifully penned and detailed book which every teacher across the world must read. Every page thoughtfully explains how the Finnish Education keeps the above-mentioned variables as their core. I was amazed to learn how the student’s journey from their early years till their upper secondary years, teacher’s journey from a teacher to a leader and the parent’s journey from a parent to an active facilitator in ensuring their child’s growth – are part of their national curriculum and school practices. The entire concept of pedagogical leadership gave me a different perspective on how leadership in schools or in any educational sector can be looked at. But, reading it once is not enough. The knowledge one gains from this book is immense and deep that you will be tempted to read it again! My heartfelt thanks and gratitude to all the authors of this book for sharing this with the entire world. More power to Finnish education leaders!!”
Dr. Poornima Josyula, India Global Finalist CENTA TPO 2020 | Secondary School Biology Educator | Mental Health Facilitator | Academic Mentor
“Thank you for sharing your knowledge about Finland’s Education system, and also not only on WHY changes are needed, or WHAT should change but also HOW to do so. May this book become a guide for more teachers and educators who are as well in this journey of making a difference. And hopefully some day all students around the world may have access to high-quality education and training, despite their social and financial background.”
Ximena Durán, Mexico
“In this book Finnish Education in Practice: What, why and how, with Johanna Järvinen-Taubert, Päivi Valtonen & Elena Chukhlantseva Editors, with an introduction by the Ambassador to Finland and Estonia Dr Kenneth Vella and published from Kite Group, one finds a number of areas of knowledge about education in Finland partnered with the main reasons that are at the core of these areas, as well as practical activities how these can be achieved in the educational experiences of Finland everyday life. It is worth noting that, as everyone knows today, Finland has achieved a high level in the various educational fields, and the results are very good in a number of international examinations. Therefore, it is not wrong to study and delve into the ways in which this system of teaching-learning is presented. Learning-to-learn is far more important than the learning itself, because what you learn as you learn becomes an intrinsic process in the way you build your life, your cognitive way, and your same personality as well. There is no doubt that such a publication is worth a fortune for anyone involved, directly and indirectly in this important process, our lives as individuals as well as at the country level. In the light of all this, it is suggested that this book be read and explored not only by the education systems, but by anyone who in one way or another touches on teaching-learning – the phenomenology we call life. . In other words, a book like this is not just for those who are in the education system, but for everyone who in one way or another touches on teaching-learning among others parents, carers and everyone else. .
Tarcisio Zarb, Teacher, Malta
Are you interested in reading the book? We would be glad to share your findings and feedback with the rest of the world and other educators!
What do you think are the most important teacher duties? If you could choose only one of the following, what would it be? Is the teacher´s main mission:
a) to guarantee that the pupils learn certain facts;
b) to follow the curriculum;
c) to be able to manage the classroom;
d) to make magnificent lesson plans;
e) to support pupils’ self-esteem and confidence; or
f) to help pupils find their personal skills and their own life paths.
Whenever I visit new countries and meet teachers from various cultures, I am always curious to know what is important to them as teachers. While working for several years in Ethiopia, I observed that teachers were expected to follow a very detailed curriculum, and one of the most significant skills for teachers was the ability to make good lesson plans and ensure that the students learned as many detailed facts as possible. The pupils were tested regularly in national tests, and the schools and teachers were ranked according to their success in remembering these details.
In Finland, the curricula provide frameworks for teaching, but individual teachers have the freedom to choose how, when, and where they teach. Teachers can also choose the material they use. Primary schools, teachers, and pupils are not ranked, and this makes the nature of teaching less stressful than in many other cultures.
A female teacher, Satu, told me: “I believe the most important part of a teacher’s work is having discussions with students. It’s important to me that my students feel good at school.”
A male teacher, Heikki, described: “The most important things in class are a safe and trusting environment and the interpersonal relationships between the teacher and students. Only when the lines of communication are open can we think about lessons and learning.”
A female teacher named Kirsti explained: “As a teacher, I want to help children preserve hope in their lives. I hope that I am able to give children the building materials for a happy future. This is most important, and it is for this reason I feel that my work, my teaching, is valuable, and I am extremely proud of it.”
According to the interviewed teachers, the Finnish school seems to be a place where pupils and teachers meet, see, and care about each other. The teachers care not only about learning achievements but also, most of all, about the children’s holistic wellbeing. As Kirsti, one of the interviewees said: “The most important characteristic of a teacher is the ability to be present.”
The roles of teachers and students in distance learning
Teaching in many countries around the world is still very teacher-oriented. Teachers have the knowledge and skills, and their role is to provide the most favorable conditions for learning so that the students can make the most of the subjects. Digitalization has changed teaching from face-to-face teaching to distance learning, which demands new skills. For teachers, this means for instance that the emphasis is shifting from teacher-oriented learning to student-engaging learning, in which students take more responsibility for their own learning demanding more support from teachers than before. How to gain new skills for teachers?
Digitalization does not refer only to the external conditions that support distance learning. The teachers have to be able to create at the same time a holistic experience in which every learner can feel important, included, and individually appreciated. To be able to respond to these new challenges, teachers need to acquire new skills and update the existing knowledge.
How to compensate the lack of physical distance?
In the past, the focus of the teaching was delivering the content. But teaching is more than presentations and the materials of the course. In distance learning, you are not able to use nonverbal methods of communication in the same way you are used to doing in the classroom, so you have to establish connections with students in a different way. You as a teacher have to be able to strengthen the liaison between you and your students by using different kinds of communications tools with which you can activate interaction within the group. Humanizing the relationship with distant learners is of utmost importance.
It is also important to define a common code of conduct for the teachers and participants so that everybody knows how to act in the learning environment. This also includes the time delay, within which you are entitled to receive a reply from the teacher. If you have to wait for a long time before receiving the reply, it may prolong the advancement of your learning as well as give you a feeling that you as a learner are not supported.
Distance learning and technical requirements
Distance learning requires new skills from the teachers and self-discipline from the students, but it requires also technical solutions that support both the roles of teachers as well as the roles of students as the users of the same environment. First, the learning environment should support the learning process and not make it more complicated. A good learning environment is easy to use, clear to understand and does not require users to have a special talent for using it. In practice, this means, that there should be solid introductions on how to use it at the beginning of each course. The structure should be clear, making it easy to find, where the materials are, where the videos can be found and where is the forum for communications between the students and teachers as a group and where is the forum, where an individual student can communicate with the teacher in private.
The importance of reciprocal feedback in developing distance learning courses
Despite all the efforts you do as a teacher to create interesting content, learn to use fluently different tools, and create trustworthy communication between students, it is crucial to remember that participants and groups are different and therefore there is always room for improvement and personalization. Please remember to emphasize to your students, that though your role is to help them to learn, and though you are doing your utmost, there are always possibilities to improve the learning experience. Ask them to give you constructive feedback as you are also giving them feedback as well during the courses. The role of the students is to help you to develop your work and improve yourself as a teacher- it is a two-way path to achieve continuous learning.
This is the second part of the blog series about how is it to study in Finland. You can read the blog Higher Education in Finland first if you are interested in knowing more about higher education in Finland and why education lies at the heart of the Finnish society.
Admission into Finnish universities
Applying for a university in Finland is a smooth process and fully digitalized with a requirement of showing the original documents once one is accepted. The process briefly initiates by selecting a university of your choice and making your application; The major documents required for the application are a secondary school graduation certificate plus in some cases proof of language competencies- depending on the degree’s language of instruction. After a couple of months, the applicant receives an invitation certificate to sit for a national entrance exam. The exam is normally based on some reading materials the university sends to its applicant months before attending the exam. If the applicant’s grades in the exam fall within the ranking the university requires, then congratulations he/she is granted a study place at their first university of choice. If not, then depending on their exam results they are offered their second or third choice university based on their preferences when filing their application. Upon accepting the offer, the applicant becomes a full-time registered student and qualifies for several student benefits, which will be revealed in the next chapter about higher education in Finland.
University student benefits
Students in higher education institutes whether polytechnics or universities are eligible for many benefits, I will attempt to list some important ones that I have enjoyed and feel other potential students will find highly useful and helpful. First, transport discount: student currently in Finland enjoys discounted transport fares across all the transport means, and these discounts start from 20% off and higher depending on the transport mean in question. In addition, a student card can be leveraged to enjoy a 10% discount on some restaurants nationwide. I have enjoyed trying out different cuisines within the city of Tampere and Helsinki, and please note that some restaurants do not publicly declare their special price treatment for students, so it is always worth asking whether they offer students discounts.
Accommodation is certainly a considerable concern to many students worldwide if you study in Finland, and yet Finland has a wonderful and supportive system in place destined exclusively for students. Public real estate companies like “TOAS” administer all the renting procedures and services to students. As a student seeking a lodge, you only need to approach them with a simple application, and they do the remaining for you in no time. Once they know which university you are attending, they offer housing options that are conveniently located to your study place with good transport connections. Besides, the properties you will be offered to select from vary in surfaces and types depending on whether you are planning to move in alone, partner or even with family.
More importantly, this housing option is very affordable and rent considerably low in comparison to the regular market rent rates, given that rent prices include all the utilities as well as speedy internet, and even a very affordable parking fee for car owners. Also, students in their renting area or block, have access to free sauna slots as well as a sophisticated laundry facility with a drying room. The student accommodations, in general, are regularly maintained and some of them are very modern. This certainly gives added value to higher education in Finland!
Polytechnics and universities design their instruction according to national statutes and degree regulations. Yet, teachers and lecturers have full autonomy regarding their teaching methods and materials to adopt. In my degree, our instructors have had different teaching approaches, and some of them even discuss with us approaches we wish to receive the lessons.
The main teaching methods are 1) delivering a lecture and working in small teams to reflect on some complex questions the course teacher assigns to us to find answers. 2) Deliver a lesson and reflect our understanding of such a topic on a case study which we deliver in teams. 3) A lecturer teaches us some theory in a course that may last for months and expect us to deliver a presentation consolidated with an essay about a certain project revolving around the theme of the course to apply our acquired theory to a real-life case. 4) Flipped classroom teaching method – gaining an increasing interest not only amongst teachers but also students seem to favour- and it is basically when a teacher assigns some pre-reading materials to do before a class and we students when attending the course are already fully or partially aware about a topic, which paves a way for the instructor to progress to more advanced points about the given topic and helps for better interaction from us as we know the topic in advance and can even engage in complex discussions which we could not have done if the classic teaching method is followed.
As a student at Tampere University of Applied Sciences, I felt my viewpoints and perspectives are always heard since teachers not only provide a solid discussion ground but also encourage it through questions and provocative statements. Moreover, team works are a highly integrative part of university studies in Finland, and as far as I can recall team projects make at least 75% in comparison to individual ones. On many occasions, we conducted projects with different companies to assist in addressing a challenge or resolve an issue to exchange some expertise and undergo a real-life experience to prepare us for our work life and update our knowledge with the market changes in our domain of business.
Assessment and Higher Education in Finland
When students think of higher education and options to study in Finland, they instantly think of exams and staying up at night staring at thick books to memorize content for better grades or otherwise fail. In Finland, it is very much different; At first, I was anxious whether I would be competent enough to face those assumptions. And then a couple of months into my studies, everything was under control and my contribution to the studies was much more than expected. Why? Was it because of my competencies and my hard work? Partly yes, but mostly it was due to the assessment approach our teachers adopted; Teachers avoided exams whenever possible for us to refrain from being too focused on only studying for them and made us less anxious regarding grades.
This approach allowed us to feel less restricted and prisoned to objectives as abstract as grades but rather be more creative and inquisitive to tangible pursuits of acquiring knowledge and benefiting as much such as possible from our studies and always reflect on ways to implement them on our real-life endeavours. No matter how every teacher chooses to assess their students at a Finnish university, everything from course construction, delivery approach and assessment methods centres on the student and ensuring that knowledge is conveyed most effectively.
Now in the last year of my university degree, I truly feel some lifelong qualities and skills have been instilled in me; Qualities like critical thinking, the science of prioritizing, effective human interaction, and communication, and more importantly hunger for consistently seeking knowledge and building expertise to always be ahead of the herd.
At last, dear reader, if you wish to start your university studies or build upon your existing one and seek a learning atmosphere that unleashes your potential and nurtures your creativity, Finnish universities might be your true choice!
Got interested how is it to study in Finland? We recommend to take a self-study online course Higher Education in Finland to learn more!
Before we begin exploring this compelling topic in this blog, from which I hope you will extract some benefit, I would like to briefly introduce myself as an author who will walk you through this exploration. My name is Ilyes Boussoufa, currently pursuing my university studies at TAMK (Tampere University of Applied Sciences) in International Business, While I am also conducting my internship with Learning Scoop as an International Relationship Manager. This blog will consist of some consolidating theories and information I collected from credible sources, and yet will mostly be based on my observations and personal viewpoints about Higher Education in Finland. Welcome on board this journey to find out about Finnish Higher Education. Enjoy it!
About Finnish education and society
Finland has long been labelled as a “welfare country” for its high life quality standards and the increasingly enhanced well-being of its citizens. Education has been undoubtedly one of the vital contributors to such a prosperous and first-rate society. Education lies at the heart of the Finnish society as Finns truly believe that through education and science their society maintains its advancement and their country rests on top world ranks across different contexts.
I recall in my first days in the country when I was pursuing my integration program- intended for all the immigrants wishing to integrate and live permanently in the country, and mainly includes Finnish language courses combined with other secondary studies featuring the Finnish society and the Finns- a teacher says “Suomessa, todistus on tosi tärkeä, se kannatta aina olla” translated in English as ‘in Finland, a certificate is very important, it is worth acquiring one”. It took me a while to realise that even a cleaner would require a certificate, just like any profession, to qualify for the labour market.
The country has spent almost around 6% sacredly for its higher education budget, that won’t lift my eyebrows, universities are very spacious and facilities starting from the classes with their beautifully coloured chairs and cutting-edge technology teaching equipment; a rich library with a vast number of resources and literature to pick from regardless of what speciality/subject one seeks to read or research.
Libraries – golden nuggets of information
Once I was working on an assignment in Finance (product costing and pricing), I visited my university library, just like any time, at TAMK, where I discussed my enquiry with a senior librarian, I was the least to say amazed on how knowledgeable and connected the woman was to the subject, that she did not only guided me through on what books are recommended for such a complex topic but also recalled an important article she read from Harvard Business Review about the topic. When she mentioned HBR, I looked disappointedly at her and said, “I wish I could have access to that and extract some information, but unfortunately I am not subscribed” she answered gently “TAMK has dozens of subscriptions for its students”, HBR is one of them and the Economist magazine, which I dreamed of reading from regularly but could not afford their somewhat pricey subscription packages.
One needs to eat!
Amongst also the facilities, all the universities in Finland have their restaurants and cafeterias; food costs only a fraction of what meal rates are regularly outside since they are subsidized by the government. Menus vary from a day to another and a week to another, and choices are unlimited: one can choose to go to a salad bar for a light meal, or head to a regular canteen that serves heavy meals with meat, chicken and fish options included with other ingredients in the dish, or rather walk into a vegetarian canteen which serves buffets for vegetarians and vegans. And yet, one can from time to time break the routines and pop in to pick up some fast food from the grill bar, which serves burgers of varied types and tastes with decent portions of French fries. Meal prices are currently only €2.70 with a student card (regularly similar meals will cost around 7 to 10 euros outside) and are all accompanied with salad and either juice or milk. Students not only can they enjoy breakfast and lunch meals in the dining facilities but can also dine-in or take away for their dinners.
Extra-curricular activities and making new friends
One thing that may be of high concern to foreign students as well as Finnish students applying to study in a different country or city, is lack of socializing and fear of being isolated, particularly when speaking about Finland and its conservative society and people. Your concern has been fully understood and is progressively being addressed by “TAMKO” (The Students’ Union of Tampere University of Applied Sciences). Every university has its student union which offers countless services destined to make students feel welcomed, comfortable, and heard during their studies and even after graduation.
“TAMKO” for instance, from the beginning of our studies, has been arranging conveniently with our study schedules student parties in different places and for different occasions. I recall on our first day at university, we spend an entire sacred day for a traditional “welcoming party” meant for ice-breaking, networking, and having fun while getting to know each other through team activities and hilarious competitions, which also teach something about the Finnish cultures some habits to be expected when living in the country.
These fun gatherings and events are organized separately based on speciality and when attending them, it’s customary to wear overalls, which comes in different colours and each colour represents a speciality- Ours, for International Business degree, is red. The intention here is not to distract students from their studies, but to enhance their well-being and help them integrate properly not only with their university peers but also in the Finnish society and culture and feel the inclusion right from their arrival day.
We all need to let off the steam after a day full of acquisition and concentration in our studies, hence, universities in Finland offer in-house gym and sport facilities which are administered by unions run by students themselves. For instance, at TAMK we have SportUni, upon paying the affordable enrolment fees, a student can enjoy full use of the gym facility and other sports groups. I very much enjoyed playing football with my classmates and other university students, indoors in the winters and outdoors in summer. This opportunity allowed me to catch up and meet with my fellows relaxingly outside the academic world.
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Finnish early childhood education (ECE) is known to promote children’s balanced growth, happiness, and well-being and to provide excellent learning skills. Now you have a chance to dive into Finnish early childhood education excellence and learn how to develop your work as an ECE educator – the Finnish way!
This Professional development program for early childhood educators is designed by accomplished Finnish early childhood education experts. It consists of five different modules, five inspiring online courses, learning assignments, possibility to ask questions from Finnish early childhood education experts on board chat, and own development plan and feedback from Finnish early childhood education experts. After completing this professional development program, you will get a certificate.
PD program for kindergarten teachers
The program gives you better understanding of early childhood education and care (ECEC) as an integral part of a person’s lifelong learning path and well-being. In addition, the program familiarizes you with the scientific background and rationale behind ECEC action and quality teaching-learning practices. It gives you an insight of the best Finnish pedagogical practices and how to apply them in your everyday work. Moreover, the program prepares you for further development of your working approach, methods, and practices in order to create pedagogically sound and meaningful action.
The contents of the program include for example the cornerstones and key principles of Finnish education, the purpose and mission of the Finnish early childhood education and care (ECEC), educare model, ECEC based on the child’s individual needs, support systems, co-operation with families, a child’s individual ECEC plan as an action plan etc. Furthermore, several specialized programs for promoting personal-socio-emotional skills, physical education and outdoor learning, ecological and sustainable development, cultural and language awareness, and digital learning are introduced.
Special attention is paid to pedagogy in kindergarten: how to promote young children’s learning in practice, developmental milestones of young children and their implications for learning and teaching, diverse working methods in Finnish ECEC, learning through play, physical, social and psychological dimensions of the learning environment, small group pedagogy, examples of playful educational activities, how to design pedagogically smart lessons or educational activities for young children etc.
To support your own professional learning goals there is a possibility to ask questions from Finnish early childhood education experts on board chat. By completing your own personal development plan and getting feedback from Finnish early childhood education experts you will be able to apply the new skills and knowledge to your work. You will also get a Learning Scoop’s certificate after completing the program.
In this professional development program, you will gain a well-balanced package of theoretical insights and practical adaptable models in order to advance early childhood education practices in your work. Join this PD program for kindergarten teachers and increase happiness and joy of learning for the children in your kindergarten!
What is STEAM education? STEAM – science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics – means combining cross-curricular subjects and technology into wide-ranging meaningful entities. Its goal is to show students that in real-life situations knowledge is used across the fields of study. STEAM is a way to examine and implement the curriculum and build interdisciplinary learning modules.
STEAM education in Finland was reinforced with the new national core curriculum in 2016. STEAM education in Finland emphasizes teaching of cross-curricular subjects and addressing 21st century skills or transversal competencies as they are called in the national core curriculum.
Get to know STEAM learning environment
One of the great examples of Finnish STEAM education practices is Yli-Ii Comprehensive School in Northern Finland. The school is located in rural area, 50 kilometres from the city centre of Oulu. The school has about 300 students and a staff of 30. You can even find reindeers next to the school!
Like all schools in Finland, Yli-Ii’s school is publicly funded. In addition to basic education grades 1–9 there are pre-primary classes, groups for children with special needs, and a JOPO (Flexible Basic Education) class for students who are lacking school motivation and are in the fear of dropping out.
Yli-Ii’s school has created a STEAM learning environment called Värkkäämö. The idea of Värkkäämö is to combine the best parts of a “makerspace” culture. A makerspace is a collaborative workspace where you can make, learn, explore, share, and use high-technology besides other tools. The aim is to enhance students’ work-life skills such as communication, cooperation, creativity, critical thinking, and the use of technology. The Värkkäämö environment is equipped with modern tools like a laser cutter, a vinyl cutter, a CNC-carver, robotics, and 3D-printers.
In Yli-Ii’s school art is an important part of STEM education adding creativity to STEAM projects. Art also inspires such students to participate in a STEAM project who would not necessarily be interested in STEM project solely. Besides, art has many positive effects for learning: art helps improve emotional growth, social development, academic performance, cultural awareness, decision-making, inventiveness, language development, motor skills, visual learning etc.
The underlying idea in Värkkäämö is to have a learning community with modern teaching and learning methods, cooperation of teachers, 21st century skills, and the use of technology in a modern learning environment. The basis of the Värkkäämö pedagogy is student-centered learning in which the goal is to promote each learner’s learning process. Interdisciplinary learning modules are designed and implemented according to the curriculum and students’ interests. Activities are designed so that they support students’ competence, autonomy, and involvement. Co-operation between students and teachers is crucial.
Students´ role is crucial
In Yli-Ii school, students have an important role in designing STEAM education. In the first place, they have been designing the school’s STEAM working space Värkkäämö together with their teachers and helped to build it. More importantly, students also participate in designing the STEAM learning modules. Students have a lot of freedom to accommodate the way they want to study and learn during the STEAM projects: students can choose their working methods, platforms, technology, different ways to accomplish their learning tasks and the digital devices they use, how to show what they have learned etc. Most of the time classroom doors are open and students have the freedom to choose their most suitable working space and project. Change of roles motivates students, and they clearly like to provide ideas to their teachers and assist other students. Discovering their own strengths also builds up their self-esteem.
Most of the projects and prototypes done in Värkkäämö are based on real-world problem-solving like everyday automation. In Yli-Ii school, STEAM education is a collaborative effort. For example, teachers of special education, art, biology, and geography work in a collaborative way. They share their projects, lessons, ideas, and knowledge so that all of them can join in on the same project. Classes can be mixed by subject and grade and the students’ varying ages is not an issue. Usually, students work in small groups and their input and goals are unique for each group. Heterogenic skills and knowledge of the students benefit everybody’s learning. Students help their peers, and in many cases, they help and assist the teachers as well.
Working in teacher teams
Working in teacher teams has many advanteges when implementing STEAM education. It allows teachers to share their own expertise and at the same time enjoy the expertise of a colleague. Together, teachers can reach a greater level of pedagogical expertise, technological know-how, and professional development.
The teachers in Yli-Ii school have found many phenomena that fit perfectly for cross-curricular studies. For example, it is easy to combine subjects like geography, physics, mathematics, and art for studying renewable energy or sustainable development. Here is one example of their cross-curricular projects: Students will design and build a working miniature windmill that produces enough electricity to power up light-emitting diodes (LEDs). In this project, a physics teacher has the knowledge how to build a generator or how to combine LEDs and a resistor. The art teacher helps with the design and materials. The geography teachers share their knowledge how to study the effects of renewable and nonrenewable energy etc.
Benefits for students and teachers
The overall experiences of this STEAM learning environment have been inspirational and encouraging. Students are more motivated, their responsibility and commitment to the school has grown, and their social skills have improved. Overall, student well-being has increased after STEAM education was introduced in the school. Furthermore, STEAM education seems to improves students’ thinking skills and abilities to think logically. The students are more ready to face real-life challenges, such as postgraduate studies and work with technology.
Students’ school motivation has clearly increased after participating in STEAM projects. This can be seen regardless of gender. In addition, students’ self-esteem has increased significantly after a successful STEAM project. Students are proud of their achievements and themselves. When they present their work to other teachers or guests of the school, their self-esteem boosts even further. STEAM education seems to prevent the exclusion of students and encourages the students to be more socially involved.
There is impact on learning outcomes as well. In STEAM projects, students have varying ways to show their knowledge instead of just being tested traditionally. This enables all kinds of learners to choose the most proper practices and devices to do their learning tasks and to demonstrate their skills. There are success stories especially with students who have low motivation or severe learning disabilities.
Teachers’ have also noticed improvement in students’ social and soft skills. When students work together on a STEAM project, they learn coworking and collaboration at the same time. In addition, STEAM projects enhance creativity, problem-solving, and other important 21st century skills. It is too early to tell if students of Yli-Ii will choose more STEAM or technology-related careers. But the awareness and enthusiasm about STEAM subjects have clearly increased.
It is not only the students who have benefitted of STEAM education at Yli-Ii’s school. Many teachers have become more motivated to learn new things and improve their own work. STEAM education has boosted the working culture and raised the self-esteem of the community.
Värkkäämö has gained both national and international recognition. Värkkäämö has had many visitors from Finland and abroad who have wanted to familiarize themselves with their pedagogical model. Yli-Ii’s school is a living proof that you can have world-class education in remote settings as well. The dedicated and talented staff and their driving vision has made this adventure come true.
Teachers around the world have been struggling with distance teaching. Many of us were thrown to deliver our classes distantly without proper preparation or training for it. During these challenging times we have learned a lot. But many teachers are also deeply concerned how much students are actually learning when studying remotely. They are asking: “How to really promote learning in distance teaching?”
Even though we had to change the mode and delivery channels of teaching abruptly, learning itself has not changed. When talking about distance teaching, many people focus on different gadgets, latest apps etc. without proper thought how do students actually learn remotely.
Learning remains the same whether people are learning face-to-face or remotely. The same principles that scientific research has revealed about learning apply also in distance teaching. If we want to promote learning distantly, we need to take those principles into consideration.
The modern learning theory has pointed out several facts about learning:
Students learn better when they feel safe and know each other.
Prior knowledge has huge impact on learning.
New knowledge must be integrated to prior knowledge.
Learning demands learner’s own activity.
New knowledge must be applied in order to be truly learned.
Collaborating with other people enhances learning.
Physical activity enhances learning.
Reflection enhances learning.
How well are these facts taken into consideration when teaching remotely? Do we take time to create safe, positive atmosphere to our distant teaching classes? How do we map the prior knowledge students have about the new topic before adding new information? How do we activate students and give them possibilities to apply new information? Do we give students possibilities to interact and collaborate with their peers? Do we have breaks in distant teaching and take care of the holistic well-being of students? Do we encourage and give time for reflection in distance teaching?
Maybe it’s not about finding another nice gadget or quick quiz when trying to ensure good learning results in distance teaching? Maybe we need to pay more attention to the pedagogical qualityof distance teaching.
If you want to get more ideas of pedagogically smart lesson structure or versatile, engaging teaching methods in distance teaching, please check LessonApp distance teaching guide available in Premium version!
One interesting question that will be answered during the podcast is that how this super lady – a mother of 6 children and an entrepreneur – maintains work-life balance? Learn why Johanna recommends books such as Finnish Lessons by Pasi Sahlberg, Phenomenal Learning from Finland by Kirsti Lonka and Finnish Education in Practice: What, Why and How? by Elena Chukhlantseva Päivi Valtonen Johanna Järvinen-Taubert.
Finland has the best-developed education system in the world. Despite the fact that this country is the world’s most northern and one of the most geographically remote states in the world it is fending very well for itself on an education level. What makes it so unique and which elements can be adopted by other countries in this world to improve their educational outcomes? How you can adopt Finnish methods to improve teaching styles and educational outcomes?
Thank you Aldo de Pape and team TeachPitch for the great collaboration! Listen podcast The Finnish Teacher by TeachPitch here.
Many teachers find it challenging to teach a group with a lot of students. They think that activating students in large groups is difficult and the number of teaching methods is limited. Many teachers see traditional lecturing, teacher talking – students listening, as the only possible teaching method for a large group. How to implement pedagogy for large groups ?
Regardless of the group size the following principles are important for better learning results: − Learning demands learners’ activity. Students need to be active agents of their own learning, not passive receivers. Learning is perceived as an active, not passive, process through which knowledge is constructed by the learner.
− Other people reinforce learning: knowledge is mutually built and constructed in the social contexts of learning. Interaction with peers requires students to explain their thoughts and justify their own views. This interaction process helps students to build and internalize new knowledge.
− The starting point for new learning is students’ existing knowledge and experiences. When learning new contents, students explain the new topic to themselves using previous, familiar terms. They interpret the new information in the light of their previous knowledge and perceptions.
– The teacher uses different kind of methods to activate everybody in the classroom. Teachers are facilitators who enable students’ development and learning. It is part of the teacher’s professionalism to choose the best possible pedagogical solution for different groups and situations.
How to teach students in large groups?
There is no magical number that defines a student group as a small or a large group. A teacher who is used to teach 500 students in a mass lecture, may define a group of 50 students as a small group. And at the same time a teacher who has groups of 10 or 20 students, may think that 50 students is a very large group. It is up to the teacher and the situation where the limit of the big group exists.
Whatever the limit of a large group is, traditional lecturing is not the only way to teach a big group. A large group does not exclude the possibility of engaging students in active learning. The choice of teaching method depends on many factors: the goal of the lesson, the topic of the lesson, the learners’ needs and the level of understanding, educational approach of the teacher etc. In addition, different methods promote different skills.
There are many different methods to use in large groups. Methods for individual working, such as mind map, activating writing assignments, doing exercises and experiments, and different kind of pre-existing knowledge organizers, activate students’ thinking and develop their thinking skills. Methods for working in pairs, like pair discussion, students as instructors, and a pair as a guide, promote collaborative and communication skills, and at the same time allow students to participate at a low threshold.
In a large group, group work methods can be used as well: subgroups can be formed within a large group. For example, station-based learning, group work in roles, and buzz groups, encourage learners to collaborate and their collaborative skills, such as respectful communication, negotiating, compromising, tolerance, and appreciation of diversity, will develop. You can find similar methods described in detail also in LessonApp – a mobile lesson planning tool for teachers.
Some methods are suitable for both individual and group work. Flipped learning, a pedagogical model which reverses classroom and homework elements, is a good example of this kind of methods.
Different teaching methods suit different learners. For example, some students may have challenges participating and sharing their thoughts in large groups. They may be shy, timid, or they are slow thinkers, they need more time to ponder ideas and questions and to process their response. Co-operative methods, such as pair discussion, building a group or snowball, allow more quiet students to participate at a low threshold.
Would you like to learn more about pedagogy for large groups: why is it important to activate learners and how can you do it in groups with a lot of students? The goal of the course Pedagogy for Large Groups by Learning Scoop is to give practical ideas how to activate all students with different backgrounds and apply modern, student-centered pedagogy in big groups. It is possible to get your students thrive and experience the joy of learning – even in large groups!
I read the book Finnish education in practice What, Why and How edited by Johanna Järvinen-Taubert, Päivi Valtonen and Elena Chukhlantseva with great pleasure and tremendous enthusiasm. The foreword is written by Dr. Kenneth Vella, Ambassador of the Republic of Malta to Estonia and Finland, who expresses his deepest appreciation on the quality of this practical book. The short book is easy to read and sprinkled with concrete legislative texts, scientific points of views, practical examples, personal comments and explanations, first-hand information and practical knowledge. However, the book’s greatest new contribution to knowledge is found in the testimonials of class teachers, special education teachers, principals, assistant principals and trainers and the detailed descriptions of pedagogies in action in the classroom. Each chapter comprises sub-chapters, conclusions, biography and the most relevant information put in knowledge to action framework. This book does exactly what it says on the tin by offering the reader the ‘What, Why and How’ of the treasure found in Finnish education! I hope you enjoy this book review Finnish Education in Practice.
Since 2017 I have been collaborating with the skilled and gifted team of Learning Scoop which organises visits for international experts and granted me a study tour. As an associate researcher at the University of Helsinki in the team of Professor Arto Kallioniemi, I published a book about Finnish excellence in education as I discovered it to share my in-depth descriptions and understandings of the knowledge and good practices underpinning Finnish education excellence. But, the bookFinnish education in practice What, Why and How provided me with new and exciting insights about Finnish education. Thus, I recommend this book to all, regardless of prior knowledge of Finnish Education because it provides important complementary reading that introduces and/or stimulates reflection on Finnish education in action that can inform how to optimise students’ learning whilst narrowing achievement gaps to propel health, economic and social wellbeing for all.
Firstly, one of the key advantages of this book is that the three editors: a teacher trainer, a university researcher and a class teacher have been working for decades, resulting in their combined extensive experience of basic education, effectiveness of education and multicultural educational settings. They have also trained teachers, education experts, school owners, students and stakeholders from Finland and from all around the world. Thus, the editors wrote this book to address the kinds of global questions educators in education have raised.
Secondly, the book is very well structured, addressing central themes that are presented in a progressive manner starting with the cornerstones of Finnish education and the national core curriculum; continuing with educational support for lifelong learning and pedagogical leadership; providing advice to parents and explaining how early childhood is a foundation of lifelong learning helping leaners to navigate educational challenges that might arise. I appreciated the scalable way of describing the education system: what is the educational content, why the educational process is important and how the content is mobilised by leaders in partnership with schools, families and communities to realise such wonderful achievements. As we know, Finland promotes a good relaxed and encouraging atmosphere, short school days, little homework, good learning results, narrow attain gaps, and narrow differences between socio-economic statuses. Moreover, Finland’s Human Development Index in 2019 was 0.938 positioning it at 11 out of 189 countries and territories, exceeding what might be expected given GDP per capita.
Thirdly, quality of education in Finland remains a mystery. On the one hand, the country has good results in international examinations such as PISA, TIMMS and PIRLS. On the other hand, compared to other performing countries, an autonomous learner emerges from the values of Finnish education promoted through initial teacher education and professional development. This is made possible by a deep commitment to continuous school improvement mobilised by staff and students’ collaborative reflection in action and reflection on action on how the learning and teaching: 1) facilitates students’ meeting curriculum intended learning outcomes and 2) exemplifies the values of Finnish education of equity, trust, autonomy, co-operation, learner-centeredness and modern pedagogy based on scientific research. A take-away from reading this high value resource is a focus on Finnish education promoting Finnish culture of taking “responsibility” which means that teachers are responsible for their educational mission. This is very different to other education systems that make teachers take “accountability” which means teachers are held accountable for their educational mission.
The book helped me to reflect on how and in what ways this distinctively different approach could be one of the keys to Finnish success in education!
Dr. Mihaela-Viorica Rusitoru, Book review Finnish Education in Practice: What, Why and How
Fourthly, the book is full of practical examples and reflections about the quality of education that all teachers and principals from across the world could put into practice in the classrooms, for instance:
holistic approach, focussing on traditional subjects, responsible citizenship, lifelong learning, integrated teaching and learning, arts, and crafts, in order to develop well-educated, autonomous and constructive learners;
co-operation instead of competition is promoted at school and the annual grants or “stipends” are used to encourage students’ personal achievements that amplifies a culture of collaboration;
regular recesses, breaks and light amounts of homework along with increasing physical activities, sports days and other events under the programme called Finnish Schools on the Move are of huge importance;
transversal competencies, versatile methods, interdisciplinary modules, motivation strategies and phenomenon-based learning help students understand the relationships between different systems, skills and knowledge and put their knowledge into practice;
learning environment and partnership-based education in collaboration with libraries, science and nature centres, museums, FabLabs, learning labs and workshops focus on positive pedagogy aiming at preventing difficulties and facilitating deeper and easier learning using school hunts and STEAM – Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths;
lessons design based on a socio-constructivist view of learning using 5 steps: warm-up, mapping knowledge, acquiring new information, practising and reflection with the tool called LessonApp available currently for all ingenious and resourceful minds.
educational support and remedial instruction for students with special educational needs or disabilities, and language as an additional language for migrants which takes an inclusive approach to bridge between mainstream and special education, part-time special education, special classes, activity areas. This uses a three-tiered support model based on three categories of support : general, intensified and special;
highly educated and respected teachers as well as pedagogical shared leadership combined with distributed and sustainable leadership including social skills, future vision, pedagogical work, educational projects, but also human resources, and administrative and financial management;
focus on an EDUCARE model and early childhood education as the valuable foundation for lifelong learning paths, based on play, participation, co-operation, international and multilingual skills, thinking, learning and transversal competencies, and diverse forms of expression (verbal, visual, physical, musical, artistic) according to the new core curriculum with the aim to develop the learners’ readiness for learning how to learn. In this regard, the educational plan for each child “is a powerful tool for navigating the road ahead; the road the child and the adults walk together, the road were the child is the curriculum” (page 138);
parental support focused on understanding the content instead of memorising it, giving the necessary time for playing to meet vital developmental milestones instead of starting school earlier, putting accent on the quality of teaching and learning instead of on the quantitative length of the school day or excessive, stress inducing levels of homework, concentrating on academic subjects, artistic and practical subjects (arts and practical subjects are 1/3 of all the lessons) and avoiding comparison because: “comparing the child with other children or other siblings is not appropriate; their development should be compared only with their earlier skills. Comparison with siblings, relatives or schoolmates can easily cause jealousy and negative feeling, as well undermine the child’s self-esteem” (page 149).
Finally, students are seen as change agents and co-designers in a society called to put at their disposal the appropriate learning environment that “should invite children to create their own content in it!” (page 140). Being the happiest place in the world, in Finland there are no dead-ends, but rather a joy of learning at school realised with a free education, publicly funded schools, constructive feed-forward formative and self-assessment and no standardized evaluation until the matriculation exam, support provided for demotivated children along with building co-operation between home and school, as well as the importance of recreation, rest and sleep. The book identifies also the future direction of Finnish education where the accent will be put on learning in the real world that develops transferable skills: the way of thinking, the way of working, the mastery of tools and the participatory citizenship. Consequently, throughout the book, I can say that the What, Why and How of the Finnish education’s promotion of learning is described, and critically reflected on.
In conclusion, the book reminded me of what I discovered when I was in Finland the first time: Finns are not educated for PISA results, but for life, and for this reason, Learning Scoop wants to share, through this book, the wisdom on What, Why and How to better educate learners for a better society in the future! I thus recommend this book to all readers from the four corners of the globe: students, parents, teachers, principals, experts in education, policy-makers and other stakeholders eager to get in a few hours, the main milestones of one of the most successful and joyful education systems in the world! I hope you enjoyed this book review Finnish Education in Practice: What, Why and How.
Dr. Mihaela-Viorica Rusitoru
Director Centre of Scientific Excellence Group Actissia, Paris France
The take-aways of Finnish Education in Practice webinar are surely countless, yet most or perhaps all of us, have realized at this point that Finnish Education is not a miracle, and if it were, it would not happen perhaps then again, and it might not be applicable elsewhere. Rather, this world reputable system is built and have been based on strong fundamentals, which have been continuously on constant refining and development by the Finnish education community. A community that does not only involve education experts, but also parents, education providers, and a large spectrum of education stakeholders to always produce a curriculum that is centred on a learner.
This inclusion and learner-centric concept would not have existed and observed its fruits if there were not the following six cornerstones as mentioned in the webinar:
Equality and equity: everyone in Finland is eligible to receive equal access to knowledge acquisition and learning opportunities. Besides, every learner is treated individually as per their learning abilities and capacities, and hence Finnish schooling refuses to impose one learning formula for all. In fact, the new Finnish national core curriculum has only outlined the borderlines for creating teaching content and delivering lessons but granted full rights to teachers and schools to freely tailor their teaching approach based on their learners’ criteria.
Trust and responsibility: “Trust is intertwined throughout the Finnish education system and can be found at its every level”. (Finnish Education in Practice: What, Why and How 2021, 5). Trust in the Finnish education circle is seen as a highly strong factor for the success of its education system. Parents trust schools, education providers trust schools, school management trusts teachers, students and teachers exchange trust. This element of trust exists due to what is known as “educational partnership”, whereby every party in the circle contributes constructively to cater for the best of a learner’s interest.
Autonomy: Qualifying to earn a teacher title in Finland is highly demanding, and teaching is recognized as a high-expertise profession. Therefore, when graduating and attending for their roles, teachers are granted full autonomy and trusted with their teaching style and contribution to pedagogical development, without any imposed inspection or supervision. Teachers are regarded as the most knowledgeable and qualified professionals to be undoubtedly trusted in serving their students in their best interests.
Collaboration: Competition has often been associated with the enhancement of quality standards in education; comparing students’ academic performances is perceived as an effective tool to provoke the interest of learners and aspiration for better and better grades. However, Finnish education experts and their approach prefer to implement collaboration rather than competition, which limits creativity and tends to constrict learning performance on grades. Educators are consistently encouraged to share their successful recipes with their fellows to equally enjoy the benefits for the best of their learners. Students are neither compared nor contrasted with their peers in class, but a student development is assessed by comparing his/her previous performances. Simply, the Finnish education community regards collaboration as a mean of enriching learning, encourage innovation, hence continuously promotes education quality in favour of learners.
Learner-centred: Schools, principals, staff, and teachers work collaboratively to cater for a child/student and provide them with the best possible learning environment and conditions to support their learning journey. This approach requires educators and school management boards to carefully listen to their students and translate their voiced concerns and views into actions to implement the required changes to constantly enhance their learning environment based on their demands and preferences.
Science-based: Often not associated with its system and success, Finnish education is strongly based on scientific research, and has always adopted its pedagogy based on matters like educational psychology. Learners are not treated as passive agents in receiving the information, but rather are actively enabled and encouraged to construct their knowledge through their social, physical, and emotional interactions with their peers and learning environment. The likes of frequent recesses, outdoor activities, free play, social contacts with their peers outside the classroom serve to equip the learner with further learning opportunities away from the theoretical and class-based lessons. This socio-constructivist learning approach enables the student to apply and reflect his/her learning attainments on real-life situations.
The above-mentioned practices that reflect the Finnish education are only a glimpse of what the “Finnish Education in Practice: What, Why and How” book explains and a paraphrase to what our experts introduced and highlighted in the webinar, during their presentation and when answering your numerous enquiries.
We hope you enjoyed the webinar as much as your final positive comments manifest, because this well-received experience only encourages us to organize more sessions with different topics and perspectives shedding more lights on the phenomenal Finnish education.
Team Learning Scoop would like to thank Mrs Pamela Zerafa warmly and sincerely for her professional and entertaining hosting experience throughout the webinar, Dr Kenneth Vella, ambassador of the Republic of Malta to Estonia and Finland, for his captivating and profoundly -worded introduction, and our experts Mrs Johanna Järvinen-Taubert, Mrs Päivi Valtonen and Mrs Elena Chukhlantseva for sharing some of their extensive expertise about Finnish education and enlightening us with some valuable insights revolving the Finnish education system. We also would like to wholeheartedly thank you all our dear global audience for sparing some of your precious time to attend this worthwhile experience and being actively interactive, despite the time differences and distances.
”Finland Will Become The First Country In The World To Get Rid Of All School Subjects!” I look at the headline in international magazine and think: ”Oh, really?” I glance at the current Finnish National Core Curriculum for Finnish Basic Education on my table and think, what are all the 16 different school subjects presented in the curriculum then for? Do we need Phenomenon-based Learning?
Even though it would be fascinating to think about an education built around investigating real-life phenomena only, Finland is not that radical. What is true, nevertheless, is that there is a strong emphasis on multidisciplinary studies and integrating different school subjects in Finland’s current curriculum.
Different concepts – similar background
There is some confusion about the concepts as well. By multidisciplinary studies we usually refer to the fact each school year every school in Finland must have at least one clearly-defined theme, project or course that combines the content of different subjects and deals with the selected theme from the perspective of several subjects. Phenomenon-based learning on the other hand implies that holistic real-world phenomena are studied as complete entities, in their real context, and from different perspectives (of different school subjects) at the same time. In phenomenon-based learning the phenomenon itself is the starting point and object of studying and learning.
Inquiry-based learning refers to an activating, learner-centered learning method based on students’ own work and research. An inquiry-based learning method is sometimes used to conduct phenomenon-based learning modules. Inquiry-based learning usually follows certain pre-defined steps like presented in this picture.
The need for multidisciplinary studies as well as phenomenon-based learning starts with the same remark: in order to understand the world around us, it is essential to study the complexity of real-life phenomena. Furthermore, if we want to gain skills needed in real life, we must practice them in realistic problem-solving situations. This holistic approach has raised a lot of international interest. Professor Kirsti Lonka from the University of Helsinki has written an in-depth book about the topic: Phenomenal Learning from Finland.
In her book, professor Lonka clearly states the need for this kind of wider approach: ”the society is changing so rapidly that creativity, thinking skills, and more wide-ranging expertise are called for. — Holistic and interdisciplinary thinking is important when solving the ill-structured and wicked problems of our time.” (Lonka 2018, 174-175).
The whole idea for strengthening the multidisciplinary approach in Finnish education has been to learn the vital skills needed in the future. These skills are called transversal competences and they play a central role in the Finnish national core curriculum. These transversal competencies should be applied to all subject areas and school subjects.
In her book, professor Lonka clearly states the need for this kind of wider approach: ”the society is changing so rapidly that creativity, thinking skills, and more wide-ranging expertise are called for. — Holistic and interdisciplinary thinking is important when solving the ill-structured and wicked problems of our time.” (Lonka 2018, 174-175).
Transversal competences with a practical approach
The whole idea for strengthening the multidisciplinary approach in Finnish education has been to learn the vital skills needed in the future. These skills are called transversal competences and they play a central role in the Finnish national core curriculum. These transversal competencies should be applied to all subject areas and school subjects.
These broad-based competences have a lot in common with “21st Century Skills”, but the focus here is very practical and down-to-earth. The transversal competencies Finnish basic education aims to develop are:
Thinking and Learning to Learn
Cultural Competence, Interaction, and Self-Expression
Taking Care of Oneself and Managing Daily Life
Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Competence
Working Life Competence and Entrepreneurship
Participation, Involvement, and Building a Sustainable Future
In her book, professor Lonka gives several examples about promoting all these different broad-based competences and illustrates practical cases of the phenomenon-based learning modules carried out in Finnish schools.
The most important thing after all, might not be the holistic understanding students gain about important issues as such. It is the journey that is meaningful: ”In high-quality and meaningful learning, we can make use of the human readiness to wonder, investigate, and go beyond personal ideas in intensive group work. This kind of creative process is not straightforward. In many cases, creative thinking and knowledge building takes place after taking some delusional paths of reasoning. — Developing high-quality thinking needs space for inquiries and wondering, even though it occurs within formal schooling.” (Lonka 2018, 178.)
Here you can order the book Phenomenal Learning from Finland.
Every day, teachers around the world juggle with a thousand things on their mind: following the curriculum, planning ahead while processing the past and keeping track of the present. Add the administrative tasks, cooperation with colleagues, communication with homes. And most importantly: taking care of the students, listening to them and answering each and every one of their needs. No one can focus on everything at the same time. When time is scarce, compromises are only natural. For such professionals as teachers this is often immensely frustrating. It is important to facilitate the communication in schools while deepening the overall understanding of well-being of students.
Let’s break some norms!
Mental health issues are exceedingly common, but too often met with prejudices and false beliefs. School Day promotes mental health awareness by making it a simple part of everyday life: when children examine their feelings on a regular basis and talk about them with their peers, teachers and guardians, they learn that all feelings are okay, and how to deal with them. (Read more about a survey on social and emotional skills.)
We’ve heard so many great stories of classes getting together to discuss their well-being results. As one teacher put it, School Day offers each student a private bubble to mull over in so that when they feel ready, they are welcome to share their thoughts with others. Understanding different moods helps the children understand each other, which contributes to an improved group spirit, learning results and well-being of students.
Creating a global community
There are as many teaching methods as there are teachers, but every one of them ultimately has the same goal: to help children and teenagers find their strengths and place in the world. We bring educational professionals together to share their ideas and knowhow. Practices on one side of the globe often turn out to be pretty awesome elsewhere too.
We listen keenly to what our community tells us. The classroom is where the magic happens, and we want School Day to match up precisely to the issues and concerns that teachers, students and principals have. Many of our features originate from discussions with school professionals. This fall, for instance, we offer the teachers even more flexibility as they get the possibility to compose their own questions alongside our ready-made ones.
How does School Day work to support the well-being of students?
Every week we ask students simple questions on learning, social-emotional skills, social relationships, and wellness. We then analyze the data and provide weekly highlights on what’s going on in the classroom. This way the teachers, principals and district leaders will get reliable and comprehensible data on the current situation as well as long-term trends. We don’t just point at problems but also offer help and support for pressing issues. Our easily implementable lesson plans have already become a hit!
By answering our questions students learn to reflect and process their mood. When they feel safe and confident, it’s easier for them to be vocal about their feelings. In-class conversations about the results will further diminish the taboos surrounding mental health. All students must feel safe at school.
New times, new challenges
Balancing time and resources at schools was never easy, but the pandemic has even added up to the challenges of modern school life. On the other hand, throughout the past year school we’ve seen amazing innovativeness and strength, cooperation between different professionals and administrative levels, homes and the students. We are proud to help ensure that no one is left behind during these tumultuous times. Everyone has the right to feel good and learn better, everyday. Let´s focus on well-being of students!
Working as a teacher can be a lonely job. Even though you have colleagues: you have common coffee breaks with them, plan your lessons together, have dialogues and even assess together outside the classroom — nevertheless, a teacher is alone in classroom. One class, and only one teacher. If we are lucky, we have a team mate in the classroom: for example, a school assistant, who is in the same class during few lessons. Some teachers have even the full-time assistants. But the pedagogical responsibility lies always on one teacher. Have you ever heard about co-teaching?
What if there would be more teachers, sharing the same pupils and same responsibilities? Co-teaching means that two teachers teach same students in the same classroom. Usually there are two different classes, who just have been put in the same room. Schools develop classroom layouts to fit in this kind of flexible teaching: walls are torn down and replaced with soundproof, opening flip walls. The room can be used as one big room or as two separate spaces.
Me and my colleague use a light model of co-teaching. We have our own classes, number of children is 44 in all. On about five lessons every week the children study together, with two teachers.
The easiest way to carry out co-teaching is “the boss and the firefighter” -model. We plan the lesson together, and make a deal which one of us is the boss. The boss collects all the children to a listening area. Here happens the traditional teaching, where the teacher is the boss, tells the story, teaches the topic of the day/lesson etc.
As we all know, some of the pupils have difficulties to listen, to sit still, to concentrate. The boss teaches, and his/her colleague has a role of a firefighter: he/she walks silently in the classroom, “extinguishes the fires”: sits down next to one child if it is needed, whispering the quietness to restless children. The teachers can also have a teaching dialogue and the pupils can take a part in it.
According to our experiences this is an excellent format to try co-teaching by an easy way. After the listening part pupils move back to their places and start filling out their notebooks and workbooks. Both teachers walk around and help everyone. The silence and peace in the classroom have been better this way than in a same kind of traditional teaching situation but only one teacher and only one class.
If we want to do something active and functional, we need to split those 44 children in groups, just because otherwise it gets too noisy. We share them in two groups, but both of the groups have children from both classes. Or, if we can have a resource teacher or an assistant teacher to be one adult, then we make three groups. Every adult has one workshop. We have had workshops for years like this. Teachers know both classes, and students know us. They have friends in both classes, there are no “our class” and “your class”. Just us. Sometimes we have had theme weeks when we have worked more together in a same room, sharing a project.
I once had a privilege to join an session held by two pioneer co-teachers. They shared the same class, and they had only one class, even though the number of children in the class was nearly 40. They shared everything: the pedagogical responsibility, the teaching, the co-operation with parents… They worked as a team in one classroom. They described themselves as a double teacher with double classroom. The results were fantastic: double joy but half of stress and half of the work.
When the chemistry and characters with a colleague are working well this is definitely worth trying. After having even small steps of co-teaching in your work, it is going to be difficult to go back to old situation where you always have only one pair of hands.
The interest towards Finnish early childhood education has increased significantly during the last few years. Why is that? For one thing, foreign education experts have realized that the early childhood education is an integral part of the success story of Finnish education. For the other, there is a lot of interesting development going on in the Finnish early childhood education and care (ECEC) right now. The new National Core Curriculum for ECEC has been released in Finland for the first time in history and the new curriculum has been implemented. You can get to know National Core Curriculum for ECEC in a Nutshell.
First it was the excellent PISA results in Finnish basic education that drew the international attention. Foreign education experts wanted to know, what do the Finns do in their basic education in order to achieve such an excellent learning outcomes. It took a while for the experts to realize that the students with such a good learning abilities don’t come to the first grade in Finnish basic education out of nowhere. Foreign experts started to ask, what is it Finnish children do before they go to school at the age of seven. How is it possible, that Finnish children, even though they start school relatively late, still learn so quickly and achieve a high standard of reading, writing and maths skills? The obvious question was: is there something special in the Finnish early childhood education and care that produce such ready-to-learn-pupils for school?
Finnish education path is in a way an integral entity: same principles go throughout the whole journey from early childhood education to basic education and to higher education and even to adult education, too. The focus is on student-centered learning on understanding rather than memorizing, on taking individual abilities and challenges into consideration and learning for real-life, not just for exams. In every step of the education path, the learner is seen as a holistic human being, whose well-being and development as a whole person is essential.
Internationally speaking, Finnish early childhood education is “something else”, indeed. Finland has for a long time had a strong emphasis on “stress-free childhood”: the early childhood education has been informal, full of play and child distinctive activities and not school-like at all. Even though Finland has got the first National Core Curriculum for ECEC as well, this is not going to change. What has changed is the reasoning behind the ECEC: a child is seen even more than before as an active agent who has the right to learn things according his or her own potential. The nature of activities has not altered dramatically in ECEC: it is still a lot of free play and no academic lessons at all. But the early childhood educators are listening to children’s aspirations, ideas, wishes and questions even more closely and offering children possibilities to learn according to their own interests and abilities.
In many countries, where children start the school at the age of three or four, this sounds unbelievable. Isn’t Finland wasting valuable time by postponing the beginning of formal schooling and letting children “just play”?
According to scientific studies the situation is quite the opposite: the children learn an enormous amount of things “just through play”. And there is no benefit in trying to push too academic subjects too early, when children – and their brains – are not ready for that yet. Giving children time to develop at their own pace creates a better basis for the learning in the future.
Foreign visitors find so many things in the Finnish early childhood education intriguing: for instance the learning environments designed from the child’s point of view, the relaxed and flexible organization of the day, the fundamentality of physical activities, the creativity and diversity in everyday activities, the subtle yet determined guiding by teachers, children learning by doing, making observations and reflecting, the versatile learning materials and the overall warm and supportive atmosphere in the Finnish early childhood education. The Finnish ECEC professionals are enthusiastic and proud to develop their work as a part of life-long education path. They know their work is irreplaceable and it’s always for the best of the children.
Many schools around the world aim to grow great citizens, empowered to live successfully in their personal and global lives. In many places the word sustainability has only just started to be understood and implemented in pedagogical communities and the STEAM approach takes wings. One thing is a fact: the 21st century skills are essential. Studying more about Education Sustainability Development will open the doors of such concepts as STEAM, ESD, Positive pedagogy, Student-centered and teacher-centered learning. In the beginning those concepts might sound hard to digest and implement in everyday school life. But you are not alone! By taking online courses and improving professional skills you can learn and clarify many educational concepts such as Holistic and Inquiry-based Education for Sustainable Development. Actually, it is very rewarding to see that simple actions can bring big impact on both students and teachers!
In one of the cases in Moldova, Science, Chemistry and Biology subjects teachers were invited to cooperate. They made a real boom in their school showing another aspect of education, education that really matters for the future. Parents were impressed by the motivation of their kids searching and exploring information about the materials, how they are used and what the reason is for the raw materials.
“Being a teacher is a very responsible task. Personal and professional development is lifelong. All the teachers should remember the fact that they may change lives.” Corina Ceban
“I consider that all the aspects of environmental problems should be integrated in any subject in the framework of the curriculum. As for teaching, I consider that Project-based learning would be a great strategy to introduce the environmental problems and planetary boundaries. Through projects pupils will explore the problem then they together with the teacher will find a solution. I will focus more on the transversal competences. I will take the role of a push motivator and try to deliver more interactive lessons. Thank you so much. I have discovered crucial facts about education!” Natalia Ursu
It is important to empower and develop teacher´s skills as teachers are the initial change makers in the classroom. Getting this kind of feedback and reflection means a job well done and spot on!
Personally, I have been collaborating with Finnish entities for a number of years and through the ongoing collaboration with Learning Scoop Finland and other Finnish entities we have facilitated the visits to Finnish schools for hundreds of educators from various countries. All educators who had the opportunity to take part in this enriching experience always felt the need to learn more about the Finnish system of education and pedagogy, about the success of Finnish students in international examinations, the new national curriculum of Finland and the innovations in this Nordic country in the field of education. What is Finnish education in practice?
It was for this reason that in the past months our Finnish colleagues strived to publish the first edition of Finnish Education in Practice: What Why and How.
I strongly believe that such a publication should be an essential reference resource for all policy makers, teachers and senior leaders as it gives a detailed insight about this country and its educational progression during the past decade.
In this publication, there is a strong reference and discussion about certain characteristics which make the Finnish educational system original and unique. There is also a strong mentioning of the two basic principles which are constantly emphasized by Finnish educational policy makers and educators – the promotion of the principle of collaboration instead of competition and the need for students to learn principles which will eventually make use of them in their life and in the outside world, life skills.
Also in recent years, Finland introduced the concept of phenomenon-based learning. The introduction of this style of learning was also made possible because Finland has highly educated, skilled and motivated teachers. The teaching profession is respected and at all school levels, teachers are highly qualified and committed. For the teaching courses, the Finnish universities can select among the most motivated and talented applicants.
I strongly believe that Finnish Education in Practice: What, Why and How compliments other publications on Finnish educational theory and pedagogy which were researched and published also internationally during the past decade. Finally, a big well done goes to Johanna Järvinen-Taubert, Päivi Valtonen and Elena Chukhlantseva editors of this book, who, together with other Finnish educational specialists and teachers are sharing their expertise and good practices through such an inspiring and well researched publication.
Dr Kenneth Vella
Head of Mater Boni Consilii St Joseph School Paola, Malta and Ambassador of the Republic of Malta to Estonia and Finland.
What makes Finnish education unique? Join the webinar on June 16th – sign up here!
I am an early education teacher, working in Kalkunvuori daycare center. I work in an integrated group where half of the children have special needs, and that is why the group size is smaller (12 children) and the staff resource is bigger than the average (4 adults, of which 2 are teachers), but our daily routines are pretty much the same than in any other group. The children in my group are 3-5-year-olds. There is no similar day but I am happy to share my ordinary day at a Finnish daycare center with you.
How does my ordinary day at a Finnish daycare center look like?
8.15 am My working time starts
I log myself in using an application on the phone. I check our team’s calendar and read our message notebook. I prepare the circle time that is about to start soon. In the meanwhile the children are having breakfast with two other adults from my group. Our daycare opens at 6 am, but most of my group’s children arrive around 8.
8.45 am Circle time
I am doing some playful stretching and breathing exercises with children while we are waiting for the last ones to finish their breakfast. At the circle time we sing our morning song, check what day it is, look at what is going to happen today using pictures and check who is present today.
9-11 am Activities indoors and outdoors
During this time we work in small groups. Me and the assistant will stay first indoors with the other half of the group. We have a project going on about bears which was decided to be our project theme by the children. Today we are drawing bears. Meanwhile the other half of the group is playing outdoors. We switch around 10 am; my group will get dressed and go play outdoors and the other group comes in to continue their project about the TV-series PAW Patrol.
11 am Lunch
All the meals are served in the restaurant, as we call it with the children. I eat with the children, as all the adults do. Today’s menu is spaghetti, vegetable sauce and salad.
Meal time in a daycare center
11.30 am Mini Group activities
After lunch the children will gather up to these mini group activities. (The name of the activity was made by children!) Today is my colleague’s turn to run this activity. We have classifying in program. Me and my teacher colleague plan the activities in advance, according to the goals that are agreed in the children’s individual learning plans. After lunch I follow the children from my table to this activity and help a few who are facing challenges to do it.
12 – 2 pm Naptime / my PED (Planning, Evaluation and Developing) time
I start by checking my email and Helmi platform (a web interface e.g. to communicate with parents) and continue with a phone call. After that I go to have tea in the teacher’s lounge. I chat with the others, and we have a laugh together – how refreshing! After my break I plan the next week activities together with my teacher colleague. We always plan the big lines together. Planning and working together gives a lot of new ideas to both of us! Then I still have time to prepare the music activity for tomorrow concerning the bear project. I get everything ready on time and go back to the group.
2.15 pm Snack time
Today kids are having yogurt, bananas and rye bread with cheese for snack. I sit at a table where one of the children uses pictures for communication, I help and model using the pictures.
2.30 pm Playing
Today we have a lottery for the play group combinations. I go with one small group of three children where there is a bit of difficulty in coming to a conclusion what to play, since they are not normally playing that much together. I help them to solve that, and then support the concentration and communication skills in the play.
3.15 pm Going outdoors
I ask the other adults what is the situation in their play groups, and we agree that I will go out first with my small group, since these children are having trouble to concentrate anymore. They really need to go run and play outdoors, to release their energy a bit. I help one with the zipper and the other one with shoes, but otherwise they manage themselves. I go out with them, and after a while the rest of the group follows. The time to go out in the afternoon varies a bit, but usually we go out between 3 and 4 pm. Most of our children are being picked by 4 pm by their parent or other trusted adult.
4 pm My working time ends
I log myself out using the app on the phone and leave the phone to our assistant who still stays at work. The parents also log out their children using the same application. The daycare closes at 5 pm. What a nice day we had!
I have been teaching almost 20 years, most of the time at the same school, the Atala school. It is a primary school in a suburb with a lot of forests around. There is no similar day but I am happy to share my ordinary day at a Finnish school with you. I have been teaching all grades (1-6) and all subjects. I love the fact I have a possibility to teach the same kids the whole six years they spend in primary. Today I teach the six graders, and most of them started with me on the grade one. It has been a privilege to see them to grow up, become teenagers. Also I know the families very well. All their siblings and sometimes also their grandparents, pets etc.
How does my ordinary day at a Finnish school look like?
8.00 am Arriving to school. Quick checking on emails and Helmi (the web interface), then cup of coffee and chatting with colleagues, or preparing some lessons.
8.15 am First lesson: Math for half of my class. We have a traditional lesson: I teach the new topic and then children practice with their own notebooks. But, as usually, there is a reward after every calculation group. I mark it on the blackboard:
Walk to the lunch room and check what is on the menu.
Make 10 jumping jacks.
Go to drink some water.
Take a five minute nap.
Put on your shoes and run to the other side of the yard.
With this kind of rewards and action breaks every child studies always faster and better. When they were younger, I built them little action stunt tracks (I used chairs, fabrics, ropes etc) in the free space of the classoom: every time they finished one task in the book, they were allowed to enter the stunt truck. One very easy way to accomplish these action breaks is to use activation cubes. After every task a pupil goes and throws the dice and does what the cube tells him/her to do. You can google those kind of dice in the net, use for example words “printable fitness dice”.
9.00 am Second lesson, Science.
We study geography, and students learn about America´s continent. They choose one sight or attraction in Northern America and search for information about it. We drew a huge map in the wall of our classroom, and now we put the attractions in their right spots. Pupils use laptops, they search for images and photos, print them and put them in their places on a big map. This will take still few more lessons. Afterwards we make a touristic tour to those attractions, every student can present their attractions. The method can also be found inLessonApp, it is called “Poster”, and it can be used in various ways.
9:45 am – 10:15 am Recess. After a double lesson there is a 30 minutes recess. My students play football or different kind of plays and games. They have even made up a new game called “Ruuttis”, which is a tag game with a twist of strategy. This is a consequence of participating, activating and a free play time (recesses!)
During this recess I make preparations for lessons, answer to few e-mails and have a meeting with a special education teacher.
10.15 am Third lesson: Religion
We have a flip wall between my and my colleagues classrooms. We plan and teach together almost every religion lesson. We start with an activating game. We are quite good finding or creating a small game or a play which has some kind of connection on the day´s topic. Today our topic is one of Jesus¨miracles in the Bible. The one, where He walked on water. We told pupils (40 pupils, two classes) that the floor is now water but you are not Jesus, so you have to reach the other wall of that long double length classroom using the desks, tables, chairs, drawers… And so they did. After the play we discussed about the topic and made notes in their notebook. A typical combination lesson.
11.00-11.15 am Recess. I am supervising the recess, so I wear an attention vest and go outside. Fresh air for me too!
11.15 am Fourth lesson, Finnish (mother tongue)
First we visit the book bus (the mobile library). It visits every school every week. Pupils return their old books and borrow new ones, we start a reading project today. They choose an optional book, and read one chapter every day. Every day they have to pick up one word about the chapter. We have three big empty posters in our classroom. One for substantives, one for adjectives, one for verbs (this could be also in digital environment, Padlet, Thinglink or something like that). The first week they pick up substantives in the chapter they read. And they have to choose several, because they can’t write down the same word that is already been used! During the first day we get 21 substantives, next day 21 new… At the end of the week it might be challenging to find new words, but I am confident we will! Next week we search and find adjectives every day and on third verbs. I think we will make a little project then about all the words we collect (198 word). Perhaps a creative wrintig with a word lottery? Or a school hunt? (School Hunt´s instructions can be found in LessonApp). I think I will participate students and let them decide.
12.00 pm School lunch
Free for every student in primaries, lower and upper secondaries. Today¨s menu is potatoes, minced meat sauce and salad.
12.15 pm Recess. I take a cup of coffee and talk with my colleagues. A break is very important to us teachers too! Relaxing our brains as well!
12.30 – 2 pm Fifth and sixth lessons: Crafs
This class is held with or without recess, depending on how the class seems to be needing a break. The class is divided in two, the other half is studying hard materials´ crafts with my colleague (they are manufacturing their own design lamps from wood, metal and/or plastic). I teach the other half, we have the soft materials. yarns, wool, fabrics… We are also having our own designs. We created own print patterns, and searched ideas by photographing textures in school´s hallways: brick walls, stone floors, wooden stairs… Then every pupil created their print and we painted, stamped and formed the print on fabric. Eventually we manufacture a bucket or a message box made from those printed fabrics.
2 pm Pupils go home, I have a break! A snack or a coffee maybe. After the lessons I sit down with my colleague and we plan our next week´s lessons. Even though we don´t always do simultaneous teaching, planning teaching together helps a lot. The lessons become more analyzed, well planned, more everything. After our meeting I make some paperwork and phone calls (emails, contacts with families, school development projects).
Last, a little peak on my yeasterday´s gym lesson. We went hiking the forests nearby for two hours. What a luxury, I know 🙂 I hope you enjoyed the school day and got to know more about an ordinary day at a Finnish school! Get to know more – would you like to visit a Finnish school?
There’s a whole subset of the self-help industry that’s dedicated to finding the right routine. And it makes sense! Routines help us unlock our creativity, as well as reduce stress and anxiety. And we know that a lot of early-childhood education teachers have stress about teaching science! How to master great science lessons?
So, we’re here to help you build a science lesson routine that will get your students engaged and loving science.
Get in the role. Our founder’s research shows that students show the most growth not when they do science, but when they become scientists. This means that they assume the role of a scientist and take on a science identity. In our lessons, this is often done by putting on a lab coat or spinning in a circle, but it can be any regular routine that you use to change the situation to indicate to the children that they’re scientists for the next 30-60 minutes.
Introduce the situation. We’re doing science now, so it’s time to talk about the problem that we’re investigating. Our lessons revolve around the problems that a robot has, and how our other story characters and the students can help him. This introduction helps our students understand what’s at stake in the lesson, and the story-based framing helps them approach the lesson with a “How can I help?” mindset, rather than a “What’s the right answer?” mindset. Even as adults, we often focus too much on the latter, when striving for the former would yield better results. Even a small story about why you’re doing the activity that you’re doing will help engage the students. Children are naturally empathetic, and will be quicker to use independent and critical thinking skills if they’re helping a character or friend, rather than just doing what’s next.
Time for research. Or, more commonly, the experiments. We’ve set out the problem, and now we’re doing research about how to solve our friend’s predicament. The most important part is that to challenge your learners to grow new skills and abilities, not necessarily rush to the right answer. Imagine that: the process of trying to help is more important than getting to the right answer quickly! With young learners, we’re more interested in growing skills and capabilities than arriving to the right answer as quickly as possible.
Scientist’s report! Nearly all science skills (observation, measurement, etc.) are applicable to other areas of life, but none more so than communication. This is where the child communicates their findings, and hopefully they’ve found the solution to the problem that we posed in step #2. With any luck, they’ve helped their story-friend. Perhaps as important, the teacher or parent should communicate to the student how they succeeded. Children are naturally empathetic, so it’s important that they understand how they’ve helped solve the problem posed by the story. This not only helps them understand what they’ve done, but helps grow enthusiasm for future lessons. Who doesn’t want to be helpful?!
Close curtain. The flip side of assuming the dramatic role of science means that the show must come to an end. It’s time to take off the lab coat (or whatever you’re using) and go back to being a normal kid again. Being a scientist can be exhausting.
There you have it! Introducing this short routine to great science lessons can help not only keep the students engaged, but help reduce any anxiety that you might have about teaching science.
Got excited? Get to know Kide Science with access to ready-made lesson plans and training in our play-based pedagogy!
It’s been coming. Experts and schools are increasingly looking for online courses for teachers and educators to support their professional development.
Partly, it’s a question of time: many teachers are overwhelmed with their everyday tasks and ever-increasing duties. In that case, studying at home whenever you have suitable time slot feels like a feasible thing to do. Partly, it’s a question of finding a training that meets precisely your needs (and the training you actually need, is not necessarily something that is available in your own town or county).
Developing education has also become more global. Teachers have realized that we can look for new ideas not only from experts in our own country, but from other countries as well. When technology makes it possible, we can benchmark educational ideas and solutions more easily from other countries as well.
Even though this has been a growing trend for a while, Covid-19 put a huge boost to it. Suddenly we were not able to take part in in-service teacher training event in our own school, school district or town. All of a sudden we were also struggling with totally new challenges – distance teaching and how to promote learning remotely – that very few of us were properly prepared for. In lock-down situation, we turned online for various needs and purposes – why not for professional development opportunities as well?
In Learning Scoop, we have been training teachers for years, or to be exact, for decades 😉. We have organized face-to-face training events and programs, hands-on workshops, professional congresses, educational fairs, professional study tours for teachers and education experts etc. We are huge proponents of face-to-face interaction and experience.
Pandemic put us to a totally new position, too. For years we have been asked to produce online courses of the themes we usually train teachers. We always felt that we did not have time for it – and that something would be missing if we turned the trainings online. How can you replace human interaction and face-to-face sharing?
Pandemic made us realize that online courses are about providing people more opportunities.
Online courses are a great choice for you who don’t have the time or the opportunity to travel far to learn about a specific topic. Online courses can also be the only choice for you to avoid expensive trainings far away. Furthermore, online courses give you the opportunity to tailor training packages that better suit your needs.
We realized that it’s not the question of choosing either face-to-face trainings or online courses, but to have the opportunity for both.
Initially we planned to open a web shop for our own online courses. We soon realized that this might not serve our customers the best. We realized that there were plenty of other quality online courses of Finnish education and pedagogical practices that would complement the selection perfectly. By offering the variety of unique courses we could meet different needs.
It’s been a true pleasure to discover what kind of great courses other experts have produced! We have courses that dive deep into some specific theme, like sustainable development in education or how to teach coding. We have courses with very practical tips and examples to try out yourself (check for instance courses for Positive Parenting). In addition, we have courses that lead you to the very foundation of Finnish education and pedagogy, Cornerstones of Finnish Education. We hope you enjoy the self-study online courses for teachers and educators!
Now it’s your time to be the explorer! What would you like to learn more about? Check out the online course selection and build your own professional development path. Welcome onboard!
We have globally had the biggest human test in the history of education in the form of distance teaching. Schools and teachers were forced to change to distance teaching without warning and careful prior planning. How can distance learning be effective? Here are 10 Distance Teaching Tipsthat Finnish teachers apply to distance teaching.
The ultimate goal of teaching is to promote learning
Many principles equally apply to learning in classroom and in distance teaching. The key question is: how can you promote learning and produce better learning results in distance teaching?
When teaching is done remotely and online, it cannot be done exactly the same way than in face-to-face teaching. Teachers must find different types of pedagogical solutions that really utilize the new possibilities of distance teaching, but that don’t simultaneously overwhelm the teacher or the students.
10 teaching tips for successful remote / distance learning:
1. Create a safe atmosphere
A safe atmosphere is essential for learning in all situations, and that is the case in distance teaching, too. Distance teaching itself can be intimidating, at least to some of the students.
Therefore, it is essential to create a positive atmosphere right from the beginning of distance teaching.
2. Plan a pedagogically smart lesson structure to distance teaching situations
Learning follows the same principles, no matter which media we use for studying. Applying different pedagogical phases or functions to distance teaching lessons too is important for promoting learning. Distance teaching requires constant alertness and can be exhausting both cognitively and emotionally. This is why you should focus on quality over quantity in distance teaching!
3. Use versatile methods and different kinds of activities
Receiving information passively is not a sufficient way to help the students engage with the learning. Different learners benefit from or enjoy different types of activities. Therefore, it is essential to use versatile methods and do something meaningful related to the lesson’s content in distance teaching, too.
4. Pay attention to the holistic development of the students
The holistic development of a student means the growth of their intellectual, mental, physical, emotional and social abilities. This means that there should be a good balance between academics and other activities. Learning should include communicating with others, engaging in authentic learning experiences, reading, creating, and being physically active.
5. Pay attention to pacing
Pacing means that the teacher plans a suitable timetable with enough breaks for every distance teaching session. It is good to change the activity often enough. The activities should not last too long: depending on the activity, 5–20 minutes is usually an appropriate time.
6. Remember brain breaks
According to scientific research brain needs breaks to digest and process new information. In addition, breaks help students to focus more in studying. In general, it is wise to have a break after 45–60 minutes of studying. The break should last at least 10–15 minutes and allow students to relax and rest between the study sessions.
7. Create possibilities to interact and collaborate with others
Distance studying can be quite lonely. In the course of a regular school day, students engage with other students or adults numerous times. In distance teaching, all this has suddenly vanished or decreased.
According to scientific studies, interaction and collaboration with others both have a very positive impact on learning. As a teacher, you should plan how students could work together to ensure that they feel like they are a part of the class and learning community.
8. Give students time to reflect on their own learning
Reflection is a part of learning: it aims at achieving better understanding and leads to new learning. In distance teaching, this natural interaction easily diminishes. Therefore, it is vital to require reflection and create opportunities for interaction and discussions.
9. Utilize the learning environment
Distance teaching means that students usually study at their own homes. Home as a learning environment can be an endless source of creativity! Many assignments can be designed to utilize different domestic items that are found in every home. Linking assignments to chores or other responsibilities at the students’ own houses is also a good option: this also promotes learning the necessary life skills.
10. Be there to guide, support and help students
Distance studying requires several advanced skills like time management, self-directedness, self-regulation, responsibility and many others. For many students, distance studying requires a lot of practice and support, and the teacher is the key person for providing support. We hope that these 10 distance teaching tips are helpful!
All this puts teacher in the center for guiding and facilitating learning. How can we help teachers to survive with this challenging task? How can we equip and empower teachers to be there to help the students the best possible way? From the Finnish perspective, teaching is an interactive relationship between teacher and student. Teacher is there to guide, help and support students to develop as human beings. Teaching is ultimately a human relationship.
With the help of LessonApp we can strengthen teachers´ pedagogical skills and understanding. The aim is to provide them best possible technology and other tools to help them in their work. We can empower them in their invaluable work: raising the next generation, our future.
Coding skills have been defined as a new literacy in our modern world. Many countries have introduced coding and algorithmic thinking in their curricula, which makes coding education available to all students. How to combine coding and pedagogy?
Internet is full of coding courses
The importance of coding competencies is reflected by the huge amount of available online materials for 21st century skills. Anyone can learn how to code by utilising widely available – and often free – resources online. Millions of people are using online courses and environments for acquiring new coding skills. The biggest challenge is often to decide which platform to use.
Where are the courses on the pedagogy of coding?
Much fewer online courses are offered on how to teach coding effectively. Best coding pedagogy combines algorithmic thinking and creative problem-solving in a way that is optimal for motivation and learning results.
Best programmers are not necessarily the best coding teachers – and vice versa, the best teachers do not have to be the best programmers.
High quality teacher training is needed to equip teachers with pedagogical skills to unleash the coding potential of all of their students. Teaching coding should be based on meaningful learning that combines projects, phenomena and peer learning. Teachers and tutors can be trained in these pedagogical models through online training, which creates both opportunities and challenges for professional development.
A balance between technology, content and pedagogy
An often used scientific framework for integrating coding with everyday education is the TPACK model described below. It identifies three types of knowledge teachers need to combine for successful integration of coding in their instruction:
Content knowledge: Teachers need to understand the essentials of coding. Technological knowledge: Teachers need to know how computers and robots work. Pedagogical knowledge: Last but not least, teachers need to know how to effectively use teaching methods that maximise student learning and engagement.
Are you interested in reading more? Find the full research paper here.
Coding pedagogy course for teachers
It’s vital that teacher professional development programs for coding education not only concentrate on content and technology knowledge but prepare teachers for applying the teaching model in coding instruction.
The online course 21st Century Coding Pedagogy addresses the Pedagogical knowledge aspect. It aims at presenting a teaching approach that maximizes student learning and engagement through collaboration and creativity. More importantly, the online course expects the participating teachers to practice as they preach: maximizing the teacher’s own learning and engagement as well.
High quality coding education expects a balance between technology, content, and pedagogy. Each is equally important and a purposeful blending of them is essential. That’s the successful recipe for teaching for the future.
Finnish education is famous for its excellent learning outcomes and child-centered, stress-free approach. But what else do you know about the Education in Finland? We gathered some Facts about Education in Finland. Did you know all this 😊?
Pre-primary education is compulsory for children at the age of six.
Children start the school at the age of 7. Basic education in Finland lasts altogether nine years, between 7 and 16 years. Basic education is provided within a single structure: there is no division into primary and lower secondary education.
Instruction in basic education is usually given by the same class teacher in most subjects in the first six year-classes and by different subject specialists in the last three years in basic education.
In Finland, the educators within early childhood education and care generally have Bachelor’s degrees. Pre-primary teachers and teachers in basic and general upper secondary education are required to hold a Master’s degree.
All basic education schools in Finland follow the respective national core curriculum. Learn more.
There are no national tests for pupils in basic education in Finland. Interested in assessment?
After basic education, students continue to secondary education, usually to general upper secondary school or vocational upper secondary education and training. 21st century skills are vital for the future.
General upper secondary education ends with a national matriculation examination, which is the first and only national examination of the Finnish education system.
Education in Finland is free of charge at all levels, all the way from pre-primary education to higher education.
Most institutions providing basic and upper secondary level education are maintained by local authorities or joint municipal consortia.
All schools in Finland are publicly funded; there are no tuition fees.
There are no gender-based schools in Finland: all schools have both boys and girls as students.
In Finland, special needs education is primarily provided in mainstream education, not in separate special education schools.
The Finnish education system has no dead-ends. Learners can always continue their studies on an upper level education, no matter what choices they make in between.
Higher education is offered by universities and universities of applied sciences. Universities emphasize scientific research and instruction, whereas universities of applied sciences have adopted a more practical approach.
Adult education is very popular in Finland – the participation rate is high also in international terms.
We hope you learned something new when reading the Facts about Education in Finland!
Cooperation and excellent communication with a child’s parents make an essential part of successful early childhood education. Especially during these times with unexpected changes, we have a great opportunity to strengthen the relationship with families with regular and meaningful communication between parents and kindergarten. Keeping parents well informed and opening a transparent window to the world of kindergarten with stories, photos and videos builds trust and encourages for fruitful cooperation for the benefit of children.
We asked Tiina and Satu Ullgren about the parents’ engagement and the role of cooperation in the kindergarten Lilliputti in Finland.
Tiina and Satu see cooperation with parents as paramount in their work, especially from the perspective of a private kindergarten. “We want to get to know children and their families more closely. For families, however, the kindergarten is also an essential channel for opening up and solving the everyday challenges in a family with children. Sometimes families need support for the fundamental things like a child’s dressing, sleeping, and eating. Many families do not have their own support network, and then the kindergarten, in particular, plays a vital role in supporting families’ in their daily lives. Interaction and communication are, therefore, a significant part of the cooperation between parents and the kindergarten.” says Tiina.
Kindergarten Lilliputti has been active in finding concrete practices that support cooperation with parents. When they have been communicating actively, children and parents already expect news to discuss at home like the following feedback from parents shows:
“Parents have said that often children come home excited and ask, for example, if you already got a picture of a jigsaw puzzle. At home, parents and children can then take a look at the day’s activities, learning, and development together.”
Having regular communication with parents also benefits the professionals. When a teacher observes children and shares moments from the daily kindergarten life or receives news from home, she builds her understanding of the children which will make the teaching work easier.
Hints and tips for the teachers
Below hints and tips how kindergarten Lilliputti has supported parents and created a personal relationship with each family. Most of these can be done in both remote and contact settings.
We organize a “Get to know the child and family” chat with parents whenever a new child starts in kindergarten. Talking is a great way to meet and get to know the family.
Alongside the annual plan, we have a “family plan”, where we have planned a separate family event for each month. In the plan, we take into account the seasons and the wishes of the families. Each of our monthly plans has an activity where parents can participate. At the same time, we have also asked for feedback on our activities.
Almost every month, we have an activity afternoon to which parents can join when they pick up the child.
Every fall, we ask for ideas for activities from the parents. On the wall of the kindergarten, we have a wish tree, where parents can post thoughts as leaves of the tree.
We organize various expert evenings with other private daycare centers.
With preschool children’s parents, we have discussion sessions at least three times during the semester.
We meet parents at least 2-3 times during the semester to discuss the child’s individual education plan.
We organize parent evenings. For the evening, we collect in advance information about everyday issues that parents want to discuss. The topics are also visible on the wall of the nursery, so everyone gets to read them.
We regularly remind parents that we are open to discussion. Sometimes parents might call in the evenings and talk openly about family situations.
We provide opportunities for phone times and parents’ discussions.
What kinds of communication and cooperation practices have you found good? Is there anything you would like to take from the list above? Please feel free to give any of our tips a try at your kindergarten! Or just be inspired to keep up a systematic and continuous communication with the parents and families within your kindergarten.
In TinyApp, we believe that building the bridge of understanding between homes and kindergartens creates a strong base for children’s learning and wellbeing. Raising happy children is our joint effort. Check out how TinyApp could support you in your important work with young children and their families!
Are you struggling with classroom management and looking for new ideas in your lesson planning? Do you want to grow into being a teacher with tools and energy to motivate your students into developing a sustainability mindset? You are not alone! Teachers all over the world share the same challenges, struggles and dreams and need new ideas for classroom management.
Here are EduGems Finland’s 7 steps towards transforming your classroom and teaching:
Step 1: Accept that you are ready for a change! You might be bored with the same old routines and techniques you have been using for years, and lack motivation. Now it’s time to become a better teacher and appreciate your profession.
Step 2: Look into yourself and start with personal development before you take on professional development. Show your students that you also can grow as a teacher. Learn ways to gain confidence
Step 3: Turn your limitations into benefits. As with students also teachers have their unique sets of superpowers! Learn how to use them.
Step 4: Are you and your students equipped with the right tools and knowledge needed in today’s world? What are the 21st century skills and Education for Sustainable Development (ESD)? How can you teach these subjects?
Step 5: Uncertain how to make a change? Learn from other teachers with years of experience from the best education system in the world, Finland, and get their best tips on classroom management and lesson planning.
Step 6. You are not alone in the classroom! Actively involving students in planning can make a big difference. Discover ways to shift your students’ thinking and attitude and increase their participation.
Step 7. Start with small changes, test, adapt and try again! Encourage and guide your school and colleagues towards new learning methods!
The course Educational Approaches in Finland (Module 1) will take you through each of the described steps and give you the tools to make a change in your classroom, and a certificate which serves as proof of professional development.
“I considered the topic very interesting, especially for teachers outside of Finland. I saw it as a great opportunity to get introduced to the teaching and learning practices used in this country that has gained the recognition of having the best education in the world through a model that is centred in students well-being instead of performance.”
Her thoughts after Module 1:
“I can’t wait to learn more! I found this course to be a good introduction to what it is like to be a teacher in Finland. I really like the first part about finding joy in being a teacher, this is something we, as teachers, need to connect with more often.”
So, get ready to receive praise for equipping your students with 21st century skills and watch their motivation and joy of learning increase. Our research-based and certified study methods will transform your classroom and teaching skills!
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, a whopping number of countries, 191, have implemented countrywide school closures, affecting 1,6 billion learners worldwide. With many children currently not able to study in classrooms, the importance of learning at home is amplified and the task of supporting children’s learning has fallen on parents at a much larger rate. This is a significant burden for parents and we at Positive Parenting from Finland got worried about it.
A majority of parents found homeschooling “stressful and challenging” during the pandemic.
“Many parents commented that they lacked the skills to effectively teach their children.” That is the suggestion from research by the Unesco Education Centre at Ulster University (UU).
In Finland, one of the leading educational countries and the happiest country in the world, no teaching related mass events will be organized, social distancing rules will be observed, and people are advised to avoid contact.
But can COVID-19 lead to something good?
Luckily children tend to be adaptable. Quarantine itself is not necessarily causing harm or depriving kids of what they need. There’s much to be gained from interactions with parents, siblings and even pets. Time alone is valuable, too.
Even before this new situation, parents have had to deal with parenting mostly on their own. And now, in many cases parents have been overwhelmed with remote learning requirements in Finland, too. Two education solution companies; TinyApp and Futurecode decided to take action and address these global challenges through creating a great practical toolkit to support and guide parents.
Pia Solatie, one of the founders of Positive Parenting from Finland explains: ”In Finland transversal skills have for quite some time had a major role in curricula for both early childhood and primary schools. Now, during COVID-19 pandemic, we see the shift in the responsibility of teaching these crucial future skills from professionals at kindergartens and schools to parents”.
”The lockdowns of kindergartens and schools revealed the same experiences also among many parents in Finland.” says Marjo Paappanen, a school teacher MA in education and pedagogical expert in the team behind Positive Parenting from Finland course.
“In our team, we felt that this is not necessarily the time for lectures about the importance of social skills. Our emphasis is on supporting parents in their important role. We also wish to focus on practical ways to learn e.g. through playful learning moments.” Marjo Paappanen continues.
Naturally, Positive Parenting from Finland is not only suited for the current situation but serves as a convenient and practical toolkit for parents looking for support, guidance, and inspiration in parenting.
At this very moment, families are experiencing a period of challenging times with the pandemic. Mental health issues have also raised a lot of discussion, and that is why we wish to share a practical hint from our Positive Parenting from Finland course. Emotional skills are really important for mental health, and how you feel about yourself, and how you interact with others. Luckily emotional skills and empathy can be learned and here is our favorite game to practice with. It is called “the Nicety Worm”. The “Nicety Worm” is actually a chain, made of small pieces of paper. Always, when a family member recognizes something nice and kind happening in the family, one can attach a new piece to the chain or worm. The idea is to make a decision that when the Nicety Worm has e.g. ten pieces, the family is going to do something awesome together. It is fun to see the Nicety worm grow longer along with those moments of kindness! And this is a great way to demonstrate an abstract concept for children. Additionally, every new piece gives a good reason for praising the children for nice and kind deeds. We hope you give this little game a try, and experience the result, too.
The aim is to support parents in their super important work, guiding children and developing their skills to meet the future challenges and opportunities.
Busy parents – a global dilemma
There are great books about parenting, but everyone who has experienced family life, will surely agree that while being a parent, life can be busy and time a limited resource. Positive Parenting from Finland approach emphasizes the bite-sized learning moments for parents and children as well.
The courses and units offer tips and hints in short audio chapters and practical guides. And these are designed to be carried out in daily context. The suggested activities rarely call for extensive equipment, but just a little bit of time and rehearsal. Some chapters offer mostly food to thought, suggestions for parents to reflect on the new thinking and ideas. And then let parents find the ways to implement the insights to fit their situation and needs.
The Positive Parenting from Finland is focusing on the crucial 21st century skills. And why?
These skills are at times referred to as the 21st century skills or transversal skills. They stretch into all aspects of life and learning. We believe these skills are the ones your child will need the most in the future, and that is why we call them the future skills.
In real life mastering the 21st century skills will help your child and make it easy to make friends and prosper at school. You and your child will learn to understand your emotions and take other’s emotions into account. You learn to work in teams, as everyone should in the future. You also gain tools to improve your creativity and innovation ability. Just to mention a few!
Additionally, we have complied bonus chapters which covers 6 contemporary, hot topics among parents. One of these is dealing with screen time, one concentrates on healthy lifestyle and eating issues.
We warmly welcome you to explore Positive Parenting online course and look forward to your feedback and experiences.
Finland is declared as the happiest nation in the world for 4 consecutive times, and we in our team feel it is about time we highlight our key takeaways also in parenthood. That is why, we have been working hard to get “Positive Parenting from Finland” online toolkit ready for homes to enjoy!
“When teachers are experiencing wellbeing in their work, the whole school has the opportunity to thrive.”
Reetta Yrttiaho & Susanna Posio 2021
Finland is known for high respect for our well-educated teachers. Finnish teachers also enjoy exceptionally high autonomy in their work which has given them large latitude to carry out their teaching the best possible way. Finnish teachers are trusted experts in their work. This is also shown in the fact that Finland has no school or teacher inspection system at all.
Our visitors have admired the calm, professional, yet relaxed conduct of work of Finnish teachers. Yes, there is stress and contradicting expectations in every work, but Finnish teachers have seemed to handle that pressure well. The strong collaborative working culture, collegial help, and the absence of stressful competition among Finnish teachers, has seemed to support Finnish teachers well in their work.
But if something is well now, it does not mean, it is going to stay that way forever. There has already been warning signs in Finnish schools as well. Teachers’ workload has increased, and Finnish teachers experience more stress in their work than before. They feel they have less time to concentrate in the most essential work. Bureaucratic tasks for teachers have increased due to the legislation. The challenges of some of the students seem to be bigger than previously, and the training and expertise Finnish teachers have does not seem to be always sufficient to solve these challenges. Not to mention the numerous issues Covid-19 has brought to Finnish schools as well.
We often say that teachers are the key to quality education. Finnish teachers and the incredible work they do have been one of the main factors contributing to the excellent learning outcomes the Finnish students are receiving. It is therefore not irrelevant how teachers – the real changemakers – are feeling in their work.
Teachers’ wellbeing has a huge impact on students’ wellbeing. Furthermore, according to scientific research, the wellbeing of teachers effects the quality of their pedagogical work and students’ academic skills (Yrttiaho & Posio 2021). Lerkkanen et al. (2020) showed in their study that the stress teachers are experiencing affects the quality of interaction, emotional support, organization of activities and guidance in their classroom. Consequently, it should be everybody’s concern that teachers are feeling well in their work, they feel competent and well-resourced, and they have all the support to conduct their immeasurable valuable work.
Teachers’ wellbeing is a complex issue and it has many dimensions. Hence, it cannot be fixed with one trick only. On the other hand, there are many ways to improve it.
For one thing, societal development affects education, school – and teachers. The norms and the laws the society is laying on schools and teachers set the boundaries for teachers’ work. Is the workload of teachers reasonable? Are there enough resources available to carry out the teachers’ work well? Is there other professionals to support the wellbeing of students? Are the teacher training and in-service training for teachers adequate and appropriate? Are the people who decide about the preconditions of schoolwork familiar with the actual reality at schools?
If the society does not give enough resources for teachers to do their work well, it is unrealistic to expect miracles in learning outcomes.
What can be done in the school level to foster the wellbeing of teachers?
Secondly, there are several factors influencing teachers’ wellbeing at school level, too. The organizational culture of the school directly affects the wellbeing of teachers. Is the atmosphere of the school supportive and encouraging? Do the leadership style and practices support collegial collaboration? Is co-operation encouraged or is the organization culture based on fierce competition among teachers and other staff? How is mutual sharing, support and recreation arranged? Is the division of tasks just and fair? Can teachers influence their own work? Are the objectives of work mutually set and realistic? Is the communication and interaction sufficient, positive, and transparent?
There are numerous things that can be done in the school level to foster the wellbeing of teachers. Yrttiaho and Posio (2021) name several factors promoting teachers’ wellbeing at school level: clear objectives, flexibility, ongoing professional development, well working school environment, positive and shared leadership, encouragement for participation, support from the school management, open interaction, fair and just management of all teachers etc.
What if you cannot affect the preconditions of education in your country and your school is not supporting teachers as you would hope for? Is there anything you as a teacher can do to promote your own wellbeing at work? Luckily there is. There is a brand new book about teachers’ wellbeing by Reetta Yrttiaho and Susanna Posio. Unfortunately the book is in Finnish only, but I’ll share some insights from it.
Tips for teachers
To begin with, it is vital to recognize the demanding nature of teacher’s work. Teacher’s work is tough in itself. It requires constant working with human relations and applying professional expertise in new and unexpected situations. In addition, teachers bear a huge responsibility over students’ wellbeing and safety every day at school. Teacher’s work is also very intense and can be emotionally wearing. There seem to be constant feeling of rush in teacher’s working days and too few opportunities to take a break. Teachers also have to deal with high external expectations: the school leadership, parents, administration, politicians, media etc. seem all to have opinions, how teachers should conduct their work. (Fortunately, teacher’s work include many joyful and rewarding aspects as well!)
In this demanding context it is essential to be aware of all the factors that increase your wellbeing at work. Even though it is not always possible to reduce those factors that cause stress, it might be possible to increase the elements that bring relaxation and joy to your working days.
Yrttiaho and Posio encourage teachers to be aware of their own strengths and core values. When you are aware of the things that are the most important to you, it is easier to concentrate on those and maybe ignore some of the not-so-important demands. The authors encourage everyone to think, what brings you joy and wellbeing in your work and in your life. How could you give more time and energy to these things? Are there perhaps things you could let go to be able to concentrate in the most important aspects of your work and life?
Yrttiaho and Posio not only encourage us to pursue wellbeing but to seek flourishing in our work and life. They prompt us to reflect our current standing with these factors: positivity, feeling of flow, human relations, meaningfulness, achievement, vitality. Are you experiencing flourishing in these aspects of work and life? If not, how could you increase that?
Other people and for example colleagues are a huge resource for all of us. They can help us in solving problems, offer support in challenging situations, provide advice, expertise and “the second opinion” if needed. By supporting one another, we can cope even in the most demanding situations.
Our motto has for a long been: Sharing is caring. We are here to support you to make your work at schools more enjoyable and rewarding and provide you tools that can help you professionally. We wish all the teachers around the world strength and resilience – and hopefully wellbeing – in your invaluable work!
Lerkkanen, Pakarinen, Messala, Penttinen, Aulén & Jõgi 2020: Opettajien työhyvinvointi ja sen yhteys pedagogiseen laatuun. Jyväskylän yliopisto. 2020. (The wellbeing of teachers and its connection to pedagogical quality. University of Jyväskylä.)
Yrttiaho, Reetta & Posio, Susanna 2021: Opettajan hyvinvointikirja. Positiivisen psykologian työkaluja työhyvinvoinnin tueksi. PS-Kustannus. (The Wellbeing Book for Teachers. Tools of positive psychology to support wellbeing at work.)
“You should definitely make an online course of this theme!”
“Is there a web shop where we can buy these products?”
It’s been literally for years that we have heard these comments and questions. While training international education experts around the world and presenting Finnish educational ideas, practices, material, and products, there has always been this question: “How can we access these resources from home?”
Even though we understood that there is a genuine need for quality educational resources for educators around the world, we never seemed to have time to proceed with our online courses or web shop plans. (Even though we originally reserved the domains already in 2018 😊!). Team Learning Scoop was for several years too busy with organizing study tours in Finland and training education experts in all continents to really execute our plans for sharing our resources online.
And them came COVID-19. Nobody was able to travel anywhere. Teachers around the world were struggling with distance teaching. With no physical mobility allowed, everyone turned even more to online resources to find advice, ideas, inspiration, and tools that really work.
It was “now or never” moment for us. Finally, we had the time needed to design a marketplace for Finnish digital educational products. Finally, we were able to produce online courses to share our experience and expertise. Our ultimate goal was to help teachers and schools: to provide them with a place where they could find quality products to support them in their work and promote their professional development. We wanted to make these state-of-the-art educational solutions available for everyone. That´s why we established Finland Education Shop.
Why Finland? Of course, there are great professional tools for educators from different countries. But we know from the work we have done for years that many experts from all over the world wonder what makes Finnish education so successful. What could the world learn from Finland?
For those professionals who are curious about Finland’s success in international learning comparisons, there has not been an easy access to Finnish educational solutions. Or those education experts who are fascinated by Finland’s ability to combine excellent learning outcomes with students’ happiness and wellbeing, there has not been a place to get to know the resources that reflect the unique educational approach of Finland.
Finland has declared to be the happiest country in the World in 4 consecutive years now. Many people want to know, how Finland has been able to rank among the top performers in international learning comparisons and provide such a high quality, student-centered, yet relaxed and stress-free schooling for all children equally. It’s not a secret. Finland’s excellent learning outcomes are the result of research-based pedagogy and its innovative approach to teaching and learning among other things. Finnish education professionals are more than happy to share our approach, practices, and experiences with colleagues around the world. After all, Finland has got a lot of great ideas from other countries too. And we trust that educators from all over the world are experts in their own country, culture and context. By getting to know Finnish ideas, they can decide, which of them can be applied in their own work and own country.
Together with skilled education companies from Finland we are introducing curated, quality products for you to enjoy. The unique educational approach of Finland is manifested in different professional products available in Finland Education Shop. Self-study Online courses and live Webinars explain the Finnish pedagogy from different perspectives and offer practical tips to apply in your own work. Different digital applications provide teachers with concrete professional tools that are based on Finnish educational expertise. With these tools you can bring a piece of Finnish education to your classroom! There are several e-books about Finnish education coming to foster teachers’ professional development. Furthermore, you can experience a glimpse of Finnish education virtually and visually and when we are finally able to travel again, you are welcome to witness the Finnish education miracle yourself on a Study Tour! And this is just the beginning – there are many more exciting things coming. Stay tuned for updates!
We believe that sharing is caring. By learning from each other, we can improve the quality of education worldwide. We hope we can help you in your professional development. We are happy to receive feedback and co-create.
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