Phenomenon Based Learning

Phenomenon Based learning (PhenoBL) was introduced in the Finnish Core Curriculum 2014. It is a form of webbed integration and thematic teaching. Different topics are studied from an interdisciplinary perspective. One could also argue that it is one type of a Content Based Instruction (CBI) model or Problem Based learning (PBL) or Inquiry learning. The city of Helsinki has made PhenoBL as one of their major target areas in instruction and all the K-12 schools are expected to include PhenoBL units in their curricula.


According to Silander (2015) PhenoBL starts from holistic real-world phenomena as the starting point. The phenomena are studied as complete entities, in their real context, and the information and skills related to them are studied interdisciplinary. It differs from the traditional school which is divided into subjects, where the things studied are often decontextualized, making it sometimes problematic for the students to understand larger concepts and the relationships between different phenomena.

The PhenoBL structure creates excellent opportunities for integrating different subjects as well as the systematic use of pedagogically meaningful methods, such as Inquiry Learning, Project and/or Problem Based Learning (PBL), and portfolios. (Silander, 2015) One aspect of PhenoBL is that questions and problems arise from the learners. Under the given phenomena learners together, collaboratively pose the questions and problems they want to study.

Aki Luostarinen: Ilmiöprosessin suunnittelu – planning the learning process


PhenoBL also emphasizes that knowledge needs to be presented in authentic contexts. It can be seen as a continuum form the Situated Learning Theory (Jean Lave) and Anchored Learning, where the settings and situations that would normally involve that knowledge are an essential part of the learning. Learning, both outside and inside school, develops through collaborative social interaction and the social construction of knowledge. Situated learning is related to Vygotsky’s notion of learning through social development and it can also be traced to Dewey’ s Pedagogic Creed “I believe, therefore, that the true center of correlation of the school subjects is not science, nor literature, nor history, nor geography, but the child’s own social activities” (Dewey, 1897, p.78)