Team based learning and my school

The learning in the Finnish high school has previously had a strong focus on the individuals and the Matriculation Examination. Learning and teaching have both been lonely jobs. Today, there is a change towards more collaborative methods, but the change is slow.

In fall 2016 the schools in Finland started to work with the new core curriculum, and we were definitely taking a step into a new direction. The new core curriculum emphasizes co-operation, student-centered methods, problem-based approaches and the use of technology. But, the students are still too often educated into a system where they are told what to learn, how to learn and when to learn. I want to teach the students to take responsibility of their own studying as a way to become more aware of themselves as learners. I strongly believe that when students “own” their own learning, learning becomes more meaningful and interesting.

In my school, we have experimented with team-based learning (TBL) for four years. Our goal is to develop a learning environment, where the teachers more or less “coach” the students in their studies. We focus on personalized learning environments and we do it together. Teachers work as a team to plan, execute and assess learning. We use problem-based and phenomenon-based methods and students also work in teams.

Our next collaboratively planned unit for our freshmen class will start in two weeks (October 1st). In the unit we’ll combine 5 subjects: Two languages English and Finnish (students’ mother tongue), Social Studies, Sports and Student counselling. There are six teachers who plan, execute and assess the unit. I will write more about the planning and also the execution later on, so don’t forget to subscribe to get the new posts! If you are in Facebook, I’ll share there photos and videos from the unit so join my community there as well.

One of the first planning sessions last spring

Eleven facts about Finnish education

This post is a very brief introduction to Finnish education. I chose 11 facts which I feel describe our system the best. Later on I’ll write more about our schools and especially about collaboration, but this is to get you acquainted.

One of the basic principles of Finnish education is that all people must have equal access to high-quality education. The same educational opportunities should be available to all citizens irrespective of their ethnic origin, age, wealth or where they live. We have very few private schools and they actually follow the same core curriculum as state schools.

1. In Finland education is free at all levels from pre-primary to higher education. Even the few private schools are publicly funded. After grades 1-9 students usually have to buy their books, laptops and other materials themselves, but there are no tuition fees.

2. Every student has the right to educational support and we think that the potential of each student should be maximized. Therefore, educational guidance is seen as essential. Guidance and counselling are seen as part of evert teacher’s job.

3. Special needs education is generally provided in conjunction with mainstream education. Every student has the right to general support.

4. The Finnish education system has no dead-ends. Students can always continue their studies to higher level, no matter what choices they have made earlier.

Photo: Finnish National Agency of Education


5. Most education is publicly funded and the responsibility for educational funding is divided between the state and the local authorities.

6. The national education administration is organized at two levels. On the state level: Ministry of Education and Culture. and The Finnish National Agency of Education. On the local level: municipalities or joint municipal authorities.

7. Educational autonomy is high at all levels Education providers are responsible for practical teaching arrangements as well as the effectiveness and quality of their education.

8. Teachers have pedagogical autonomy. They can decide themselves the methods of teaching as well as textbooks and materials.

9. Quality assurance is based on steering instead of controlling In Finland school inspections were abolished in the early 1990s.

10. Teaching is an attractive career choice in Finland. Thus, the teacher education institutions can select those applicants most suitable for the teaching profession.

11. Teachers in basic and general upper secondary education are required to hold a Master’s degree.


Source of the facts: Finnish National Agency of Education

Why collaboration?

This site started last fall as a Fulbright project and my focus then was teacher collaboration, hence the name! I’m a great believer in collaboration of all sorts.

The reason we need teacher collaboration is to give the students quality education and working together as a team ensures just that. At the same time we also need to teach the students how to collaborate. .

I will be writing about Finnish schools, our education in general, collaboration, co-teaching, co-operation, co-planning and everything else I think is relevant (and sometimes not). As I work in a high school, my examples might often come from secondary education, but as I mention on my welcome-page, I regularly meet other teachers as well.

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