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Education in Finland – Part I

The Finnish approach to education is our focus for this two-part series. Finland has received a lot of attention lately for its top performance in comparative, international assessments of its students and schools.

In this episode, we interview Dr. Pasi Sahlberg, a world-renowned expert on the country’s approach to education. He has worked as schoolteacher, teacher educator, researcher and policy advisor in Finland and has examined education systems around the world. His expertise includes school improvement, international education issues, classroom teaching and learning, and school leadership. He is the author of the best-selling book, Finnish Lessons 2.0: What can the world learn from educational change in Finland, and numerous professional articles and book chapters.

We ask, what works in the Finnish approach to schooling that we can learn from? What misconceptions are out there? And, to take what we’ve learned from Finland a reality elsewhere, would it take a revolution? Or is there another way?

NEW: Once you’ve listened to this episode, why not earn an hour of continuing professional education? After all, you’ve already done half the work. Just go to educationfutures.com/learn, and sign up for the Moodle course that corresponds with this episode. After you post your thoughts in response to the questions we have for you in the “sound off” forum, you can download your certificate of completion.

It’s free, and it’s our gift to you for listening and for supporting us. Simply visit educationfutures.com/learn to earn your free continuing professional education credit.

We would love to have your voice in these conversations! To encourage participation, we are offering a special promotion within the next few podcast episodes. Listen for the details, and email your response to program hosts John and Kelly Moravec at info@educationfutures.com for your chance to win something extraordinary!

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New episodes are released every two weeks. Here’s how to follow along:

Manifesto 15: Where do we go now?

manifesto15-eudec

In an webinar discussion, as part of the IDEC@Internet digital symposium, Drs. Kelly Killorn-Moravec and John Moravec discussed their findings from World Café conversations at the European Democratic Education Community (EUDEC) annual meeting in Warsaw in August, 2015. In these conversations, they invited the EUDEC community to provide feedback and insight on how to best actualize the principles enshrined in Manifesto 15.

The following notes present a summary of our conversations, together with actionable “next steps” that will be worked on by the Manifesto 15 community and shared further at the IDEC@EUDEC conference in June, 2016.

Question 1: What good examples or good practices already exist?

Participants in this discussion identified many practices that currently exist which fit within with framework of the Manifesto 15 principles. In regard to educators, these include growing the number of teachers who are questioning and seeking answers for change, sharing good ideas with one another, and living the principles of Manifesto 15.

Current good practices specific to learners include engaging students emotionally, socially, and mentally by creating a physical space conducive for learning and developing within it an environment of respect and transparency through providing opportunities for moving from child-centered toward child-emergent learning, allowing for personal choice in learning, connecting to students’ previous experiences and interests, and participating in projects involving collaboration and teamwork. Specific examples included free-schooling methods, “flipped” classroom instruction, students as teachers where the teacher is a partner or mentor, mixed-age groups, developing a school government system, providing opportunities for social entrepreneurships during which students learn through engaging with the community, student education retreats, student-developed startup weekends funded through foundation resources, Social Impact Awards, and the development of learning communities where participants are both teachers and learners simultaneously and on equal terms and are engaged through mixed disciplines and subjects, linked to society’s needs. Resources for development currently being used included Ted Talk videos and discussion, MOOCs, networking and collaborating through EDUFORUM, and systemic modeling of teaching and learning methodologies.

Question 2: Where do you want to go in the future?

Ideas for a future vision of education were also considered. These centered on the concepts of learning environment and relationship building. Within the topic of learning environment, participants suggested ideas such as changing the model to allow for more “knowmadic” experiences, removing compulsion from schooling, providing free opportunities for education and learning, classes with mixed-age groups, differentiated settings for learning, small class sizes to encourage student cooperation and collaboration, development of centers for projects on different topics, student choice in course offerings and learning opportunities, developing one’s own sense of learning, students leading teaching with teachers serving as advisors or mentors, development of soft skills, providing a space for failure and supporting students in their attempts to try and fail, developing a safe space for communication, and cultivating an environment of trust where intercultural respect exists and everyone is tolerant of one another.

Similarly, participants identified the importance and advantage of integrating “micro worlds” through developing relationships between students, parents, schools, and communities. Through this interconnected community, experiences can be shared and ideas may be communicated; global and transnational learning communities can be developed; and established resources (universities, communities, libraries, texts, etc.) may be connected and shared with interested learners. Finally, needs were identified to further develop teacher preparation coursework to support these ideas and the principles of Manifesto 15, while deliberately incorporating technology in non-invasive, “invisible” ways.

Question 3: What are our next steps to make this happen and what can we share with future Manifesto 15 groups?

As participants discussed what they envisioned for the future, several next steps emerged. First, developing opportunities to promote, explain, discuss, and further clarify the principles of Manifesto 15 through development of a glossary of terms, translation into new languages, synthesis of new ideas, and authentic redistribution through such means as social media presence, stickers, bumper stickers, magnets, notebooks, calendars, t-shirts, and short video clips highlighting each principle. Further, curating the principles of Manifesto 15 within communities and online could be done through a group of “Manifesto 15 Ambassadors” who would share and promote ideas, co-educate one another, and involve kids (we are already moving forward with this idea and will have an update soon).

Second, participants suggested identifying more good practices for application, such as deconstructing the myths in education and sharing the realities of schools; being examples of openness and trust; sharing the experiences of what has been done, what is wanted, and what is needed; using every opportunity to learn; and taking time for reflection and summary.

Third, the importance of creating communities through a shared trust was also discussed. This might be done by connecting with – and involving – schools, businesses, communities, and industries through shared communication, education, and decision-making; organizing and gathering people to produce impactful collective action; and engaging teachers within various contents (English, vocational, humanities, social sciences, etc.) in discussion around the principles of Manifesto 15.

Finally, it was suggested that we might involve political groups and influence decision-makers to create alternatives to what currently exists. Examples of this include taking steps to change teacher education programs, merging formal and informal education, and developing opportunities for entrepreneurial skills development, and creating a union to advocate for children’s rights.