Although “personalized learning” has been a buzz term in the education field, there are not many concrete examples of holistic edtech approaches to the change in teachers’ work that actually supports personalized learning for their students.
A team of Finnish researchers, in collaboration with Eduix, have addressed this problem within the core task of university’s students: thesis writing and project management. For that, they developed Wihi to support the supervision and management of thesis work, considering the needs of the three players involved in such academic projects : the students, their supervisors, and the faculty coordinators – who need to monitor the progress of such work.
“On one hand, Wihi is a tool for teachers to supervise thesis processes, but on the other hand, it is a tool helping the thesis-writing students to organize their work in individual level.”
The current disengagement of science education at school
Students have been constantly reporting cognitive and affective disengagement with science learning (Cowie et al., 2011; Murray et al., 2004) due, among other factors, to a disconnection between school learning activities and young people lived experience.
At the same time, there is an increasing demand for science related professionals in Europe (CEDEFOP, 2016). Such unbalance between industry demand and school supply of youths pursuing scientific careers calls for innovative ways to re-engage students in science learning.
The Open Science Schooling Approach
To tackle the above mentioned issue, a consortium of educators, researchers, and students around Europe have deployed from January 2020 until March 2022 a transnational school project in Greece, Lithuania, Poland, and Romania. The project was built upon previous experiences developed through the Open Science Schooling (OSS) approach, in which …
students are active agents at the heart of inquiry-oriented science learning. In the OSS project, students identify and frame the research problems that they are intrigued and interested in tackling, and they lead the discovery of solutions and innovations, helping situate science in every-day life.
Every time I would get involved in export/exchange education projects in Finland, I would remind asking myself:
How did Finland change its own education system? How did the transformation happen?
Because when foreign visitors (like me, some years ago) come here, it is difficult to see beyond the amazing schools that appear in front of our eyes. One needs to understand that what we see today is the result of a long-term process, with conflicts of ideas and even drawbacks.
For example, did you know that…
… Before WW2, Finnish primary education was formal, teacher-centered, and moral-oriented? It was inspired in the German model of education, in which more “capable” students were tracked to “academic subjects” and those students who were lagging behind (or, as they used to say, “preferred manual work”) were tracked to “vocational studies”.
… Back in the 1950s, Finland had a public-private school system? Additionally, the government used to fund private schools in order to both support the post-war increased demand for education and extend government control over them.
… After WW2, the three major transformation policy agenda in Finland were: accessibility (universal and unified education), curriculum (holistic and personalized education), and professionalism (qualified teachers)? Later, they also invested efforts on developing career counselling, so students would get more support on making decisions for their lives.
… The Finnish Primary School Teachers’ Association was one of the strongest civil society organization in favor of an unified school system? Their ideas were in direct opposition to the general opinion of university professors back then.
… After unifying the school system in 1970s, one of the first aspect to be developed was special needs support? So the schools could attend the diverse needs of pupils in order for all to reach education success.
… Finland has mostly implemented education approaches based on research developed abroad, such as USA, Canada and UK? For instance, Finnish universities and schools were one of the first countries to implement in large scale the cooperative learning methodology from Johnson brothers.
The website Good News from Finland just posted an interview about my working life in Finland. The series of interviews “From start to Finnish” highlights foreigners’ work experiences. It covers how we have found jobs, overcome challenges in the process, and found the right place to be in Finland. In the interview, I share with the public the different places I worked before Eduix and how Eduix has been a great work place for me.
In 2019, I was responsible to design a self-study course and its materials about Flipped Classroom targeted to the international staff of the University of Eastern Finland. That was one of the most important professional learning experiences I’ve had over here. I didn’t know much about this pedagogical approach. I have attended a course whose teacher used the Flipped Classroom methodology. The course was about Quantitative Methods in research and it was, indeed, a very productive learning experience. However, beyond that punctual experience, I did not know much.
When I got the task to design a course and its materials about Flipped Classroom to the international staff of the University, I got excited about how much I had to learn and apply it. And it was just an amazing experience of learning not only about a pedagogical method, but also about institutional curriculum reform, mindset transformation, and pedagogical change.
When I came to Finland for my Master studies, I wanted to research about a topic that already intrigued me in Brazil when I was working as school psychologist in a rural school of Ceará.
I was interested in understanding how some teachers managed to have such a good relationship with their students, which impacted positively on the students’ learning; while other teachers struggled with it. By good relationship I mean when teachers and students are focused on teaching and learning the content while they are also relaxed. Spontaneous actions such as jokes, laughs, personal reflections, and life stories’ sharing color the interactions and are important parts of the education process. I could observe that the students were more focused on the content when they had such a good relationship with the teachers, than when they did not. I could also see how this impacted on the teachers’ satisfaction regarding their work from the way they talked about it.
When I arrived in Finland in 2016 to start my Master degree in Education, I was stressed. I had to carry luggage everywhere, buy and arrange furniture, organize University papers, attend meetings with supervisors… I also had to deal with the fact that I was in a new place, far away from home, my family and friends. But I was where I wanted to be and I was familiar with stress.
Eventually I started to focus on integrating myself in the University life. I had over 30 ECTS to complete and I was excited and ready to work “full-on”, get stressed by deadlines, reduce my social life and increase my Education expertise. After all, I didn’t come to Finland to make friends, I came to study and get a Master diploma. Well, things happened in a different way.