Irene Lindfors

Practitioner researchers’ current and future visions of education & learning

Authors: Marcelo Giglio, Mauri Kantola, Mervi Friman, Inneke Berghmans & Manuel Peixoto.

In this Special Issue The European Association for Practitioner Research on Improving Learning (EAPRIL) joins forces with the Journal of Finnish Universities of Applied Sciences (UAS Journal) to highlight practitioner-researchers’ visions of future education and learning. This is the second special issue reported by EAPRIL and UAS journal (see EAPRIL and UAS Journal both focus on research and development in education. That is, on the one hand, UAS Journal focuses on the fields of practice-oriented higher education in Finland since 2011 and, on the other hand, EAPRIL focuses on practice-based research and bridging research and practice with the aim to improve learning, both in education and organisations.

From the point of view of the higher education research, the classification proposed by Teichler (1996) may serve a good basis to analyse the themes of the articles included in this special issue. As of the beginning of the millennium, Teichler’s classification proved to be an important model for structuring higher education research (Ahola & Hoffman 2012). In addition to the classification itself, Teichler’s four areas of research have thought to include links to the different knowledge interests in various fields of science.

Teichler (1996) has argued that research on the challenges in our demanding higher educational system has an integrative task on two important stages: firstly, it aims to stimulate the use of theories, paradigms and methods of the various disciplines, and secondly to integrate knowledge concepts in different disciplines. He has pointed out that if research on higher education tries to draw from single disciplines, paradigms and spheres of higher educational research, this might be only appropriate for a minority of themes. It could also lead to artificially narrowing the scope of the subject, which is not suitable for striking the balance between theoretical insight and a sufficiently complex understanding of the object of analysis (Teichler 1996). In this sense, the Teichlerian framework (Teichler 1996, 2000, 2003) also suits our purposes when studying the included articles of our special issue, as this special issue aims for a multidimensional approach, covering various paradigms and settings.

In this issue, the pedagogical research has been popular among authors. These themes have included questions that have otherwise also sparked plenty of discussion in the public platform. Workplace orientation towards the future of students, including workplace relations and employment, has not been a particularly common topic in this edition. The classification of the articles presents clearly the profile of EAPRIL, which promotes practice-based research on learning issues in the context of initial, formal, lifelong and organisational learning. EAPRIL’s mission is to bring together persons who are interested in the connections and reflections between research and practice. (

* * *

Last year, EAPRIL hosted its 12th annual conference under the theme ‘Inspired by the visions of future education and learning’ in Hämeenlinna, Finland, at the Häme University of Applied Sciences in close cooperation with the Federation of Universities of Applied Sciences (FUAS). This EAPRIL 2017 Conference proved to be a rich space for creative, innovative and reflexive exchanges between delegates. It has inspired the EAPRIL Executive Board to call for papers on this important topic, looking from the past to the present, but also anticipating the future visions of education and learning based on current views and expertise. This particular focus complies with the contemporary need of the world and, consequently, with the current need of all the levels of education and training. Starting this millennium, UNESCO promoted a humanistic vision of learning based on principles as respect for life, the human dignity, the cultural diversities, the social justice and international solidarity presented. It was reported in the two landmark publications by UNESCO ‘Learning to Be’ (Faure et al. 1972) and ‘Learning: The Treasure Within’ (Delors et al. 1996). Between 2010 and 2016 several informal and formal meetings of UNESCO served as platform opportunities to reflect and present frameworks for competencies and learning objectives for Education for Sustainable Development, Global Citizenship Education on the future of education and skills programmed by OECD. Some of the conclusions were that education needs to aim at interdisciplinary learning and students’ competencies to solve problems through multiple lenses considering an uncertain and volatile world. The publication ’The Future of Education and Skills 2030’ (OECD 2018) offers a shared vision on the advice as need for new solutions in a rapidly changing world; need for broader education goals with individual and collective well-being; learner agency – navigating through a complex and uncertain world – ; need for a broad set of knowledge, skills, attitudes and values in action; competencies to transform our society and shape our future; and design principles for moving toward an eco-systemic change. Giglio (2014) identifies five dimensions of educational and institutional creativity and innovation:

  • the purpose of the change as a challenge to the future,
  • the reaction to change by actors,
  • the creative action to improve the roles and skills of the actors,
  • the social interaction between individuals and partnerships, and
  • the forms of contribution to the future.

In this international context the contributions of this EAPRIL – UAS Journal Special Issue address practice-based research as a form of inquiry, to share visions, ideas and solutions that inspire the presence and future of education, while acknowledging historical-cultural backgrounds. In fact, different contributions and discussions organised at the EAPRIL 2017 Conference illustrate how our professional experiences and research are situated in this evolutional world. Step by step, we face new opportunities for human advancement in the future of education. Creating and following-up on these opportunities entail uncertain and unpredicted creativity and innovation of education and learning. However, current research can help to understand, reflect and anticipate some of these problems and/or to provide some tools and methods to improve learning. Looking back at the past years, we can sense the speediness of change experienced today. How can we consider this in the future of education and learning? How can we utilise current practitioner research as a doorway to the future? The universities of applied science have definitely a crucial role to serve in educational research. However, which designs, methods, tools and ideas are pivotal? What are (or should be) the roles of educators, developers and employees in evolutionary forms of thinking and acting of students and employees in a continued evolution of technologies?

Knowledge, working, research, teaching, and learning are never exhaustive and always evolutionary. Consequently, a future vision on education and learning cannot be but a part of the current and professional thinking and acting of educational practitioners and researchers.

This EAPRIL – UAS Journal Special Issue hopes to contribute to the development of education, curiosity, imagination, creativity and innovation by presenting ideas, perspectives and values of our contributors. Both ‘study cases’ and ‘research results’ are presented in this Special Issue, matching our aim to bridge practice and research. Both will demonstrate the important role of practice-based research as a form of inquiry, of creating and sharing visions, dreams, new ideas and innovative solutions, all with the aim to inspire both contemporary and future educational developments, while acknowledging historical-cultural backgrounds.

It was a pleasure to edit the articles of this Special Issue, which invited us to reflect and to (re)think our own understanding of education, today and tomorrow, generating new ideas on living, working, learning, teaching and research. We hope these articles can plant some seeds for new educational developments, covering our foremost aim of improving learning for the future.


Marcelo Giglio, HEP-BEJUNE, Switzerland & University of Neuchâtel
Mauri Kantola, Turku University of Applied Sciences, Finland
Mervi Friman, Häme University of Applied Sciences, Finland
Inneke Berghmans, University of Leuven/EAPRIL Project manager, Belgium
Manuel Peixoto, EAPRIL Board, Portugal

Ahola, S., & Hoffman, D. M. (2012). Higher education research in Finland – Emerging structures and contemporary issues. Jyväskylä: Jyväskylä University Press. Referred 21 May 2018:

Delors, J., Al Mufti, I., Amagi, I., Carneiro, R., Chung, F., Geremek, B., Gorham, W., Kornhauser, A., Manley, M., Padron Quero, M., Savane, M.-A., Singh, K., Stavenhagen, R., Won Suhr, M. & Nanzhao, Z. (1996). The treasure within. Report to UNESCO of the international commission on education for the twenty first century. UNESCO Publishing. Referred 25 June 2018:

Faure, E., Herrera, F., Kaddoura, A.-R., Lopes, H., Petrovsky, A. V., Rahnema, M. & Champion Ward, F. (1972). Learning to be. The world of education today and tomorrow. UNESCO. Referred 25 June 2018:

Giglio, M. (2014). Five dimensions to study teacher education change for improving musical creative learning. Journal for Educators, Teachers, & Trainers 5 (1), 80–89. Referred 21 May 2018:

OECD, (2018). The Future of Education and Skills 2030. Referred 25 June 2018:

Teichler, U. (1996). Comparative higher education studies: Potentials and limits. Higher Education 32 (4), 431–465. Referred 21 May 2018:

Teichler, U. (2000). Higher education research and its institutional basis. In S. Schwarz and U. Teichler (eds.), The institutional basis of higher education research – Experiences and perspectives. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers. 13–24.

Teichler, U. (2003). The future of higher education and the future of higher education research. Tertiary Education and Management, 9, 171–185.

Insights of brain research in education – music practice and embodiment to enhance learning

Author: Minna Huotilainen.


Recent developments in brain research methodology allow the use of neuroscientific methods in natural learning situations in order to monitor learning while it happens, which makes neuroscience a relevant tool for educational sciences.

The paper discusses the role of neuroscience in understanding learning, shows how the variations in the learner’s physiological status can be measured, and discusses their effect on learning.

Two important lines of neuroscientific research in education are discussed in more detail. First, the benefits of using music in learning are presented from the brain development and plasticity point of view. Second, studies on the use of embodied learning methods are presented, highlighting the role of physical activity, craft and design activities in developing embodied cognitive capacities.

Finally, future trends of neuroscience in learning are presented, drafting a future where neuroscience has an empowering role in the everyday lives of learners. Understanding individual learning and physiological states may change the way that we organize learning.


The decade of the brain, the 1990’s, was the advent of neuroscientific methodologies in a large scale. Funding invested in the development of accurate and usable, non-invasive and precise neuroscientific measurement instruments, devices, systems, and methodologies paid off, and multi-channel electroencephalogram (EEG) measurements, magnetoencephalography (MEG) with whole-head systems, structural and functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI, fMRI) and navigated transcranial magnetic brain stimulation (NBS and TMS) became possible in hundreds and later in thousands of research laboratories around the world.

After the decade of the brain, the neuroscientific devices have taken two opposite paths of development. First, laboratories are investing in more and more accurate devices, including higher magnetic field strengths in MRI and fMRI, very large number of electrodes in EEG and hundreds of channels in MEG, and combinations of adjacent or even simultaneous measurements with different methods. This high-precision line of development makes the results far greater in temporal and/or spatial accuracy and can thus reveal new details of brain structure and function. It should be noted, however, that this development is restricted solely to laboratory settings. For this reason, the second path of device and method development has taken the opposite turn. With a very fast preparation, mobile and affordable devices based often on EEG or other physiological electric signal recorded from skin surface with electrodes or light, offer the possibility to move to the locations of natural environments, schools, day-care centers, work places or even outside, and study real-life events. With this natural-environment path, the temporal and spatial accuracy of the experiment usually cannot be as good as in the laboratory setting, but this is compensated by the natural environment, natural stimulation, and larger amounts of data collected easily from large groups of people even simultaneously and for extended periods of time, sometimes even by the participants themselves.

Both of these development paths, extreme accuracy in laboratory settings and maximal naturalness in real-life settings, are important for learning research. In laboratory settings, the brain indices of key cognitive processes such as perception, attention, memory, and learning can be accurately studied in isolation and basing the studies on the large amount of prior data collected from the same processes in earlier research. Such studies can reveal phenomena that could not be observed without accurate neuroscientific data. An example of studies in both paths, with high relevance for understanding learning, are presented here.

A good example of laboratory-based studies crucial for understanding learning is that of Näätänen et al. (1993). They studied the process of learning to perceive a complex sound (fast mini-melody) and to detect minor changes in the sound (Näätänen et al., 1993). In the first experiment, they gave their fourteen participants a test of detection accuracy asking them to press the button every time they observed a change in the sound. The test was performed three times after being passively exposed to the sounds for 30, 60, and 90 minutes. Five participants could perform the task adequately, while two participants could not detect the changes in the sounds. Interestingly, seven participants learned to detect the changes during the experiment (their performance in detection improved from the beginning to the end of the experiment). In their second experiment, they tested fourteen new participants only once after being passively exposed to the sounds for 90 minutes.

This laboratory-based experiment yielded several interesting and important results. First, the brain responses of the three groups of performers in the first experiment differed drastically from each other. Those five participants who could perform the task already in the initial test showed fast and clear brain responses to the changes, while the brain responses of those who learned to detect the changes improved step by step. Importantly, their brain responses showed increases prior to the learning being evident in their performance, highlighting the possibilities of neuroscience to detect skills that have not yet materialized in the behavior of the learner. Further, no improvement was seen in the brain responses of the participants of the second experiment which involved only passive exposure, highlighting the importance of testing and the power of attentive listening in learning.

A good example of maximal naturalness in real-life learning situations is that of Leinikka et al. (2016). We studied the physiological responses of artists and art students while they were drawing and forming clay in a studio. Here, data from 30 participants were collected during the actual process of drawing and forming, while wearing portable sensors (Faros, Mega Electronics, Finland) capable of recording the full electrocardiogram and accelerometers (Actigraph, GENEActiv, Finland) on their both wrists for hand movement detection. In a quasi-controlled situation, the participants performed three different given tasks (copying based on a photo of a cup, designing a cup, and free improvisation). The cardiac activity measures, especially those reflecting the activity of the autonomous nervous system, showed interesting connections to both the material and to the task that the participants were performing. Working with the clay was physically more demanding than drawing, which was reflected in several heart-rate variability (HRV) parameters. The greatest amount of free mental resources was observed in the design and improvisation tasks in fast drawing compared to any other task. The results suggest that free improvisation involving drawing fast, improvised works, seems to be the most effective way of freeing mental resources. The HRV effects were consistent with the participants’ own views of physical and mental stress. This study shows that even demanding learning tasks related to creative work can be studied with physiological methods in conditions that greatly resemble natural learning situations.

The two experiments above are presented in order to highlight the possibilities of neuroscientific and physiological measurements in understanding learning processes. A good knowledge of the brain indices of memory, attention and perception in laboratory-based settings allows researchers to move away from laboratories and to study learning in real-life situations. Results from physiological studies highlight the importance of building motivation, states of flow, collaboration, and goal-directed actions in learning, and the importance of the awareness of the physiological state of the learner (see below). Such studies also show the harmfulness of poor learning environments, including acoustic and visual noise, for learning (see below). For the first time in history, we now have the tools to monitor learning while it happens, and to see how the brain reacts to different types of learning environments, learning methods, and physiological conditions. This makes neuroscience a relevant tool for educational sciences.

Below I will present some examples and the most relevant approaches from neurosciences to education and learning.

Neuroscience of learning environments

Learning environments have important physical and mental characteristics that give boundary conditions for learning. Studying distractions caused by sudden sounds in the environment have shown that surprising, unpredictable sounds make learning less efficient. Every time a sound starts in the environment, even when the learner is not paying attention to it or does not feel distracted by the sound, the auditory system will invest some resources in analyzing the sound acoustic properties. These analysis processes are partially unconscious and have developed in order for the auditory system to be able to detect potential dangers in the environment.

The most distracting background sound stimulus in learning situations is intelligible speech. Speech that can be understood will load the phonetic loop of the brain, which is also needed in reading, writing, and speaking. In contrast, unintelligible babble does not load the phonetic loop.

Interestingly, listening to background music during learning may be beneficial for some learners. In most studies, listening to fast and pleasant music prior to learning has been shown to enhance learning and performance in cognitive tests, while results from studies researching the effects of listening to music while learning are more mixed.

Acoustic characteristics of learning spaces affect learning. Long reverberation times and high background noise levels decrease speech intelligibility and increase the effort needed to achieve learning.

Also visual noise in learning environments can be disturbing to learning. Observing movement especially in the peripheral areas of the visual field gives rise to distractions. Such problems are far fewer in smaller rooms and smaller group sizes.

The key importance of the physiological state for learning

The physiological state can be defined as a combination of the operating modes of the physiological systems in the human body, including the autonomous and central nervous systems and especially the hypothalamus-pituitary-axis, the hormonal systems, the cardiac and blood circulation systems, breathing, and muscle movements including blinking. Most typically, these systems follow the emotional state and physical activity of the individual, optimizing the mental and physical performance for each condition.

The cardiac system is a fast-reacting system that reflects the presence of both physical stressors like movement and physical activity, and mental stressors like fear or anxiety. The activity of the cardiac system is most typically investigated by recording the electro-cardiogram (ECG), an electric signal originating from the heart muscle and nerves that accurately depicts the fast and slow regulatory changes in the activity of the heart. For example, the heart-rate variability (HRV) is the natural fluctuation in the beat-to-beat (R-R) intervals of the heart. It reflects the current activity status of the sympathetic and parasympathetic autonomous nervous system. Increased mental stress leads to decreased HRV, which is a sign of the activation of the sympathetic nervous system and a decrease in the activity of the parasympathetic nervous system. This is typically associated with faster heart rate, higher muscular tension, faster breathing, and feeling tense, irritated and/or restless. Generally, short-term increase in HRV is associated with relaxation, openness and positive mental efforts, while long-term high levels of HRV are related to good health. Previous studies (Cinaz et al., 2013) have shown that several time- and frequency-domain HRV measures are relevant in tracking the interaction between cognitive and physiological processes. It should be noted that while levels of physiological arousal and stress are highly correlated with these physiological signals, there is no measure of the direction of the emotional valence, i.e. is the learner experiencing positive or negative emotions.

The variations in the learner’s physiological status are highly important in characterizing the learning. States of flow are the most optimal physiological states of learning, and feelings of fear, threat or other strong negative emotions, as well as low-activity negative emotions like boredom are not boosting or enabling learning. It is important to note that these can be measured and recognized, both in individual learners and in groups of learners, with non-intrusive, low-cost devices, and this information can be used to guide learning. Specifically, choosing the learning methods, environments, groups, goals and tasks of learning could be directly based on the physiological data of the learners. Such data could be empowering to the learners and guide them in understanding and optimizing their own learning.

Maestro, music, please! How could music enhance learning?

The benefits of using music in learning have been shown both from the brain development and plasticity point of view, showing benefits of long-term practicing to play a musical instrument or to sing, but also in terms of short-term benefits altering one’s physiological state by listening to carefully chosen music.

Several studies have shown the long-term benefits of learning music: the musician’s brain in terms of cortical and subcortical capacity, connections, both in structure and function, are used as an example of learning benefits of music activities. Adult musicians’ brains show changes that seem beneficial both in young and old age. Long-term cognitive benefits of music learning have been shown in small children (Hyde et al., 2009; Putkinen et al., 2014a), school-aged children (Putkinen et al., 2014b), and hearing-impaired children (Torppa et al., 2014a, 2014b). Minor deficiencies in language processing have been shown to be alleviated with group music activities (Kraus et al., 2015; Overy et al., 2000; 2003). All in all, learning to sing and play a musical instrument has plastic effects on the brain that make it easier to learn other things.

Music is very fast in changing the physiological state. Already after some dozens of seconds of listening to music, physiological changes in bodily functions can be measured. Thus, carefully chosen music is a potential tool for changing the physiological state towards a more optimal state for learning. Many learners practically know how to use music to help their learning: they listen to their favorite, fast, energizing music before doing their homework to motivate themselves, or reduce stress by listening to calming, pleasant music (Saarikallio et al., 2013). Conscious use of music prior to or even during learning may help some learners, but it can also be distracting. It is important to note that the effects of music vary largely across individuals according to their distractability and history of music listening. Individuals with musical training are more often distracted by background music during learning than others, while individuals with attentional problems seem to benefit from background music more often than other learners.

Embodied learning occurs in the brain with the help of the body

Embodied cognition can be defined as a dependency and shaping of human cognition by its interaction with its environment by using the body (Johnson, 1987; 2007; Lakoff & Johnson, 1999; Noë, 2004; 2009). Action and perception appear as key methods in knowledge formation, creativity, and learning. Hence, neuroscientific research related to embodiment and motor activities demonstrate how motor processes are connected to cognitive functions (Borghia & Cimattic, 2010; Rizzolatti & Craighero, 2004). Embodied cognition is reflected in the research paradigms and research designs of cognitive science, when researchers study the human-environment system as well as the situated and embodied nature of human cognition (Hari & Kujala, 2009).

Craft and design activities are complex brain activities that allow part of our cognitive capacities to be located in an embodied space, between the brain and the hands, and between brains and hands of groups of people. Utilizing craft and design as learning methods is making use of embodied capabilities of the learners.

Physical activity during learning and as a lifestyle have been shown to affect learning capabilities and especially memory functions. Interventions of physical activity are shown to increase learning results both in school children and in the elderly. Increase of physical activity was also shown to increase the volume of the hippocampus and enhance memory functions.

Several neuroscientific studies presented above and elsewhere reflect the importance of the active use of the body, in crafts, in design, and in physical activity in general, for the optimisation of learning. The applications of this knowledge, however, are not straightforward and need pedagogical development in order to succeed. Potential caveats include auditory and visual distraction when physical movement is not relevant or guided.

Future use of neuroscience in learning and education

The future use of neuroscience in understanding learning include research at several levels. First, highly accurate simulations of learning events, occurring in brain research laboratories with precision instruments, offer new insight into the details of learning processes. Second, experiments in natural conditions in schools, day-care centers, universities and work places will help us understand a holistic view of learning, taking into account different learning methods, learning spaces and inter-individual differences in a much more detailed fashion than ever before. In the future, it is possible that schools want to utilize such measurements when planning large-scale changes like changes of learning environments, or when aiming at solving problems in learning. Third, neuroscientific measurements may become a normal part of the daily lives of learners. We can compare this development to the treatment of diabetes: currently, the measurement of blood sugar level is something that diabetic individuals do every day, even though some decades ago it was not possible to get such information so quickly. In the future, each learner may want to have information on his/her brain activity, physiological status, and learning in order to optimize learning efforts and outcomes. Solutions for making the measurement easy and the data analysis automatic are becoming more and more efficient. It is just a matter of time when we have such devices and possibilities for every learner.

Understanding individual learning and physiological states may change the way that we think about learning and how we organize it. This information may profoundly change the way that we understand what learning actually is. Such changes will also demand large-scale changes in schools and in education, in their environments and how the whole educational system is organized.


Minna Huotilainen, D.Sc., Professor of Educational Sciences, University of Helsinki, Finland

Borghia, M. & Cimattic, F. (2010) Embodied cognition and beyond, Neuropsychologia, 48, pp. 763–773.

Cinaz, B., La Marca, R., Arnrich, B., & Tröster, G. (2010). Monitoring of mental workload levels, In Proceedings of IADIS eHealth conference.

Hari, R & Kujala M. M.(2009). Brain Basis of Human Social Interaction: From Concepts to Brain Imaging, Physiological Reviews. Vol 89, pp. 453–479.

Hyde, K. L., Lerch, J., Norton, A., Forgeard, M., Winner, E., Evans, A. C., & Schlaug, G. (2009). Musical training shapes structural brain development. The Journal of Neuroscience, 29(10), 3019–3025.

Johnson, M. (1987). The body in the mind, Chicago: Chicago University Press.

Johnson, M. (2007). The meaning of the body, Chicago: Chicago University Press.

Kraus, N. & Strait, D.L. (2015). Emergence of biological markers of musicianship with school-based music instruction. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1337, 163–169.

Lakoff, G. & Johnson, M. (1999). Philosophy in the flesh: The embodied mind and its challenge to western thought, New York: Basic Books.

Leinikka, M., Huotilainen, M., Seitamaa-Hakkarainen, P., Groth, C., Rankanen, M., & Mäkelä, M. (2016). Physiological measurements of drawing and forming activities. Proceedings of DRS2016: Design+ Research+ Society-Future-Focused Thinking.

Näätänen, R., Schröger, E., Karakas, S., Tervaniemi, M., & Paavilainen, P. (1993). Development of a memory trace for a complex sound in the human brain. Neuroreport: An International Journal for the Rapid Communication of Research in Neuroscience.

Noë, A. (2004). Action in Perception. Cambridge: The MIT press.

Noë, A. (2009). Out of our heads, New York: Hill and Wang.

Overy, K. (2000). Dyslexia, temporal processing and music: The potential of music as an early learning aid for dyslexic children. Psychology of music, 28(2), 218–229.

Overy, K. (2003). Dyslexia and music. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 999(1), 497–505.

Putkinen, V., Tervaniemi, M., Saarikivi, K., de Vent, N., & Huotilainen, M. (2014). Investigating the effects of musical training on functional brain development with a novel Melodic MMN paradigm. Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, 110, 8–15.

Putkinen, V., Tervaniemi, M., Saarikivi, K., Ojala, P., & Huotilainen, M. (2014). Enhanced development of auditory change detection in musically trained school-aged children: a longitudinal event-related potential study. Developmental Science, 17(2), 282–297.

Putkinen, V., Saarikivi, K., Tervaniemi, M. (2013). Do informal musical activities shape auditory skill development in preschool-age children? Frontiers in Psychology, 4, 572.  doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00572

Rizzolatti, G., & Craighero, L. (2004). The mirror-neuron system. Annual Reviews of Neuroscience, 27: 169–192.

Saarikallio, S., Nieminen, S., & Brattico, E. (2013). Affective reactions to musical stimuli reflect emotional use of music in everyday life. Musicae Scientiae, 17(1), 27–39.

Torppa, R., Faulkner, A., Huotilainen, M., Järvikivi, J., Lipsanen, J., Laasonen, M., & Vainio, M. (2014a). The perception of prosody and associated auditory cues in early-implanted children: the role of auditory working memory and musical activities. International Journal of Audiology, 53(3), 182–191.

Torppa, R., Huotilainen, M., Leminen, M., Lipsanen, J., & Tervaniemi, M. (2014b). Interplay between singing and cortical processing of music: a longitudinal study in children with cochlear implants. Frontiers in Psychology, 5, 1389.

Risk Competence Training Intervention with Airport Security Professionals

Authors: Ab Bertholet, Nienke Nieveen & Birgit Pepin.


Risk decisions by professionals in safety and security regularly appear to be made more irrationally and biased than effectively and efficiently. A sector where fallacies in risk decision making constitute a key issue for management is airport security. In this article we present the results of an exploratory mixed methods study regarding the question: How and to what extent can we train professionals, in order to help them make smarter risk decisions? This study is designed as a controlled experiment, after qualitative preliminary phases with interviews and document analysis. The main conclusion is that the workshops we offered to airport security agents had a positive effect on the awareness and risk decisions of the intervention group. Next to the awareness effect, the intervention group showed less biased self-evaluation and was capable of identifying individual, collective and organisational points for improvement. We mute that these results should only be considered as first indications of effect. As the experiment was embedded in the normal working day of the security agents, the context variables entirely could not be controlled. With a combination of quantitative and qualitative data we tried to compensate this as much as possible.

1 Introduction

Risk management is a critical task in the fields of safety and security. This is the daily work of many thousands of professionals in healthcare and rehabilitation, child welfare, transport, industry, the police and fire services, events management, and prevention of terrorism. The decisions on risk are aimed at increasing safety and security, and at limiting potential damage. For some professions risk management is core business, but most often it is a secondary responsibility. In daily practice however, risk decisions made by professionals in various sectors regularly appear to be made more irrationally and biased than effectively and efficiently. In this article, we present a generic process model of biased risk decision making by professionals in safety and security management, derived from scientific literature and empirical practice. It provides generic insights into a general problem with human factors in risk management practice.

In this study we are concentrating on the example of security checks at the international airport of Amsterdam, in the form of a randomised controlled experiment with a risk competence training. The focus is on effective learning of risk decision making skills. The central question of the experiment was: How and to what extent can we train professionals, in order to help them make smarter (i.e. more rational, effective and efficient) risk decisions? In the subsequent sections, we describe the preliminary study, the design of the training and the experiment, and we present the results of the study. Finally, the effect of the intervention is discussed.

2 Process Model of Biased Risk Decision Making

Over past decades proof of mental obstacles and reflexes that hinder rational (risk) decision making can be found in numerous studies on this topic. Although the issue is well-known and support tools (e.g. protocols and checklists) are available, in daily practice all kinds of professionals are making risk decisions that are unsatisfactory, i.e. partly or entirely ineffective or inefficient (Bertholet, 2016a, 2016b). The main sources of bias found in the literature are insufficient numeracy and risk literacy. Increasing the professionals’ theoretical knowledge by teaching reckoning and clear thinking is no conclusive remedy for professional practice and cognitive biases cannot be cured on a cognitive level only (Kahneman, 2011). Specific risk competence training is even more important (Gigerenzer, 2003, 2015).

Our concept of risk competence including a process model of biased risk decision making (as displayed in Figure 1) is based on a theoretical and empirical literature review (Bertholet, 2016b).

Figure 1. Process model with indicators of Risk Competence and biases (Bertholet, 2016b, 2017).

From common risk management models, we focus on the two critical phases where fallacies lurk: 1. the analysis or judgement phase, and 2. the decision-making phase. In the safety and security domain, there are two main methods of risk analysis: calculation and estimation. Both methods can be distorted by mental patterns and fallacies in the human brain. The extent to which professionals are able to apply available methods and instruments of risk assessment we call risk intelligence (Evans, 2012). On the basis of their risk analysis, professional risk managers take a risk decision whether or not to implement a particular intervention. Biases also occur within the risk decision itself. If professionals react effectively and efficiently, then they are said to have a high level of risk skill.

In the model, we consider Risk Intelligence (RI) as the indicator of risk analysis and Risk Skill (RS) as the indicator of risk decision making. The product of both indicators we call Risk Competence (RC), which is the overall indicator for risk management: RC = RI x RS. (Evans, 2012; Gigerenzer, & Martignon, 2015; Bertholet, 2016b). Based on field interviews and the literature (Kahneman, 2011; Gigerenzer, 2003; Dobelli, 2011, 2012; Bertholet, 2016b, 2017), we selected eleven biases for our study that we regarded as most relevant for safety and security practice. To illustrate the process model, cartoons of all eleven biases were designed and are presented in an animated 9-minute video: The eleven biases are clustered into three groups.

Calculation biases

Numbers and percentages appear to express a risk in a quantitative and precise manner. In practice, professionals find it hard to grasp the precise meaning of chance, probability and other quantitative data. Paulos (1988), Kahneman, & Tversky (1979), Gigerenzer (2003), and Kahneman (2011) have been writing for decades about ‘innumeracy’, caused by cognitive illusion. Conditional and extremely small probabilities, statistical argumentation and causality biases cause the biggest problems in ‘reckoning with risk’ (Gigerenzer, 2003).

Estimation biases

Risks that cannot be calculated must be estimated. That is for example often the case with social safety (Gigerenzer, 2003; Dobelli 2011, 2012). In risk analysis, professionals often seek confirmation of risks they are already aware. The danger is that in focusing on a single risk profile, they may miss the bigger picture. This is known as confirmation bias. Authority bias occurs when a professional, who is either higher in the hierarchy, or more experienced, is not corrected by colleagues despite their superior analysis. It is assumed that the authority’s analysis is more accurate. The overconfidence effect is the mirror image of authority bias. Even experienced professionals can sometimes wrongly assume that they are correct. They may overvalue their own capacities, or the probability of success of a project, and they may underestimate the risks involved. Availability bias in the analysis phase causes professionals to trust readily available information about risk rather than to be aware of less visible data.

Decision biases

Because of biases, fallacies, thinking errors or distortions, which appear in the analysis phase, optimal and rational judgements can no longer be made during the decision phase. Apart from this, also in the decision phase biases lurk when it comes to determine whether the risk analysis suggests intervention and if so, which one (Gigerenzer, 2003; Dobelli 2011, 2012). At this point, confirmation bias of a second type can arise. When a professional’s assessments are endorsed, greater and more dangerous risks may be ignored. In the decision phase, we can also see a fallacy, which we call availability bias of the second type. Professionals tend not to choose the best intervention or therapy or policy; they choose the remedy they already know, the one that is at the forefront in their mind. Hindsight bias is a fallacy exhibited by more than just professionals. It may also affect public opinion, the media and politicians more deeply. Subsequently, it is easy to conclude that something else should have happened or that action should have been taken earlier.

3 Study with airport security agents: Context analysis

A sector where fallacies in risk analysis and decision making constitute a key issue for management, is airport security. In the control of passengers and hand luggage in civil aviation, security agents are deployed to prevent persons or objects on board which may endanger the safety on board airplanes. Agents make risk decisions about passengers and luggage items, by classifying persons, behaviour, situations and objects as safe, suspicious or dangerous. Their critical operational tasks in risk decision making are displayed in Figure 5. The quality indicators of the airport security operation are measured by inspections and by sampling. Samples are dangerous or otherwise prohibited items carried by so called ‘mysterious guests’ on their body or in their hand luggage, which must then be intercepted by the security agents.

Improving security agents’ performance in risk decision making could make a significant contribution to the security of the airport. Although there is a focus on avoiding fallacies during the agents’ initial training and afterwards in periodic training, the problem of fallacies in the process of decision making often remains. Hence, human factors in airport security are considered a systematic, thus predictable weak link (Kahneman, & Tversky, 1979; Gigerenzer, 2003; Ariely, 2008; Kahneman, 2011; Dobelli, 2011, 2012). This is why we set up our study at the request of an airport security company.

First, we investigated the context and the target group of security professionals via observation, and interviews, and document analysis (e.g. manuals, working instructions, procedures, training materials). Based on the findings of the preliminary study we transferred the generic model (Figure 1) into an empirical model for the specific professional domain of the airport security agent, by ranking the biases by relevance. We identified confirmation, availability, authority, overconfidence and hindsight bias as crucial fallacies. For security agents in the analysis phase the focus was on estimation, more than on calculation. Furthermore, particular preconditions and stress factors apply to the decision-making process, such as time and peak pressure. What the critical professional tasks had in common was that they had been carried out according to established procedures, and that meta-level vigilance of agents was required to watch simultaneously specific indicators for deviant of suspicious behaviour (Figure 3). These included for example luggage that did not seem to fit the specific passenger or a passenger who seemed to be extremely hurried, curious or otherwise behaved differently.

4 Training intervention design

This section describes the design of the training intervention, including its objectives, the underlying training concepts, and corresponding features. The intervention focused on two goals for the short term, set jointly by the security company and the research team: (a) agents performing better at selected critical professional tasks and (b) defining performance norms for agents’ performance. The specific learning goals of the training intervention for the security agents were: (a) to acquire knowledge of common fallacies in assessing risks and making risk decisions; (b) to recognise and be aware of these errors in their own work and behaviour; (c) to explore opportunities to avoid or reduce fallacies in the context of their own work.

Conceptual dimensions

The design of the intervention was based on four concepts regarding vocational learning, respectively learning in general: competence based learning (Mulder, 2000), self-responsible learning (Schön, 1983; Zimmerman, 1989), collaborative learning (Vygotsky, 1997) and concrete learning (Hattie, 2009; De Bruyckere, Kirschner, & Hulshof, 2015).

Competence-based learning refers to the European Qualifications Framework for Life Long Learning (European Commission, n.d.), where competences are regarded as a third qualification area, next to knowledge and skills. For risk decision making in general and therefore also for the security checks at airports, awareness of fallacies and cognitive biases is essential. Both competence-based learning and self-responsible learning require awareness of the bias effect of human intuition and perception. The theoretical dimension of self-responsible learning focuses on self-regulation, the professionalising effect on the individual (Schön, 1983; Vygotsky, 1997). Professionals who want to improve their work performance must be able to reflect on their professionalism. ’Reflective practitioners’ (Schön, 1983), can evaluate their own actions at a metacognitive level and have a picture of the path that brings them to the level of the professionals that they would like to be. Self-constructs such as self-esteem and self-efficacy are important indicators in this context, which we used as a measure of the professionals’ self-image (Bandura, 1977; Zimmerman, 1989; Judge, & Bono, 2001; Ryan, & Deci, 2009). Where scores on an assignment or a test can be considered as an external measure of risk competence, self-scores by professionals themselves can be an internal mirror image. For that reason, we asked security agents to score their own self-esteem and self-efficacy (Table 2). Self-esteem refers to the more general ratings for the professional’s performance level and stage of professional development. Self-efficacy is the belief in someone’s own capacity to succeed at specific tasks (ibid).

Collaborative learning in strong partnership with others offers opportunities to achieve better results compared to individual learning, as long as applicable design principles are respected (Valcke, 2010; Johnson, & Johnson, 2009; Hattie, 2009). The instructional principle of ‘concrete learning’ (Hattie, 2009; De Bruyckere, Kirschner, & Hulshof, 2015) claims a better learning achievement when working with realistic cases and training materials from practice, rather than with academic and theoretical exercises. This means that agents needed to recognise and acknowledge assignments and case studies as originating from and relevant to their daily work. For the dimensions of competence-based and collaborative learning, authentic rather than academic content might have had a positive effect mainly on the motivation of the agents (Ryan, & Deci, 2009). Specific choices in the intervention design (e.g. visualisation as an instructional strategy, group assignments as a metacognitive reflection strategy) were based on insights of concrete learning as well (Hattie, 2009; Gigerenzer, 2015; Kirschner, 2017).

A teaching strategy that is built on spaced learning, repetition, cyclical training of the right way of thinking and decision making, can ensure retention and securing the learning achievement. Training in groups can also lead to more active and metacognitive processing (Hattie, 2009; De Bruyckere, Kirschner, & Hulshof, 2015; Johnson, & Johnson, 1999). We used these principles in the instructional strategies and methods, as well as in the production of all the training materials: Figures 2, 3 and 4.

Content of the intervention

The training offered to an intervention group of about sixty agents consisted of two workshop sessions and an extensive training of four weeks, with one risk decision to be responded to by the participants every weekday. An intervention group and a control group both completed a pre-test and a post-test.

From the preliminary study, we compiled an inventory of problematic risk decisions as they occurred in the daily practice of the airport. Based on this inventory, we developed the training material: 50 test items around mini-cases, each with one realistic risk decision from daily practice. In addition, the biases from the generic process model were visualized in cartoons (Figure 2) and the ‘suspicious indicators’ were transformed into pictograms (Figure 3). We changed the traditional way of knowledge transfer in the form of written or spoken text by visual transfer media containing the essential points (Figures 2, 3).

We transferred the eleven cognitive biases from the generic process model (Figure 1) into cartoons, which define the respective fallacies – symbolically, exemplarily and in an instantly recognisable manner, straighter than written text can do. Figure 2 is an example of this (Confirmation bias Type I). In risk analysis, safety and security professionals often look for confirmation of risks they are already aware of. The danger is that in focusing on a single risk profile they may miss the bigger picture. This is known as confirmation bias (Dobelli, 2011). It occurs in all kinds of profiling activities, from police surveillance to intelligence and security services. It is not a theoretical concept, but the metaphor in the drawing should help the professionals recognising the situation and apply it in their own practice. In the training session, we discussed the situation in the cartoon with the agents and asked them to apply it to their own daily practice: “What kind of risks in the bigger picture do my colleagues and I overlook, by focusing on common risks that are more likely to occur?”

Figure 2. Confirmation bias Type I in the analyses phase (MYRAAAB, 2016)

We replaced the signs of specific suspicious behaviour or situations at the airport by icons, which should provide a mental shortcut, in order to help the agents recognising the situations. A visual stimulus can lead to a risk decision response via a shorter route (Gigerenzer, 2015).

Figure 3. Visualisation of indicators of deviant behaviour or dangerous intentions (MYRAAAB, 2016).

For the extensive training part with daily test items, we took photos of the security operation at the airport, along with the suspicious indicators: screenshots of the X-ray scanner and security scan, and photographs of hand luggage. For privacy reasons, we did not use any pictures of real passengers. Instead, students played the roles of passengers, and with photos from the public domain (Google) we were able to create a wide variety of ‘passengers’ as well as realistic test questions.

During the first workshop, conceptual knowledge was introduced in the form of cartoons of selected fallacies. No underlying theory was offered, we drew attention to the fallacy embodied in the cartoons. Then the agents were invited to link to their own practice and their own behaviour, in group assignments. The assignments focused on finding individual and collective answers to some key questions about awareness, responsibility, signalling, limiting conditions, professional reflection and teamwork. As a final group assignment in the second workshop, the agents were asked to optimise the airport security filter by redesign.

5. Design of the mixed methods study

Figure 5 shows the five phases of the study, with preliminary study (1), pre- (2) and post-test (5), intensive (3) and extensive (4) training. The training interventions (3 and 4) were offered to the intervention group only, the tests (2 and 5) were performed by both the intervention and the control group. In our mixed methods study we also used triangulation, in order to obtain more balanced indications of the intervention effects (Creswell, 2013).

Figure 4. Phases of the study.

Interviews and context analysis

First we carried out a preliminary study (1), in the form of interviews, document analysis and observation of the security operation at one of the departure terminals of Amsterdam Airport Schiphol. With twenty-one iterative, semi-structured interview sessions with employees and managers of the airport security company, sampling all operational and management levels, we collected facts and opinions on working procedures, performance indicators, judgement and decision making, workplace optimisation. The interviews (30–60 minutes each) were recorded and analysed with respect to selected topics: (reported) key factors for success and critical competences; professional attitude; specific tasks, judgements and decisions; personal and team biases. With these key topics, in combination with information on working routines and procedures from document analysis (e.g. manuals and in company training materials), we selected the biases most likely to occur at the airport security check. This selection we used both for creating test items and workshop materials. We also made a study of the procedures and work instructions, the key performance indicators and the service level agreement between the airport and the security company. At the end of the preliminary study, we identified four professional operations, which were confirmed by the respondents as critical tasks, covering the complete process of judgement and risk decision making by the security agents (Figure 5).

Figure 5. Critical professional operations of airport security agents

Randomised controlled experiment

The experiment (Figure 4) was designed as a randomised controlled trial, with intervention and control groups, pre- and post-tests. For this study we drew a random sample of 10 percent of all security agents from the security company (n=120). This sample of 120 employees we assigned randomly to an intervention group and a control group (n=60/60). Prior to the training intervention, we developed two similar tests with nine specific (part 1) and six general risk decision items (part 2), as pre- and post-test. Part 3 of the tests consisted of questions on self-constructs (self-esteem and self-efficacy) and background variables. Intervention (IG) and control groups (CG) were both put to the pre- and post-test. Only the intervention group was offered an intensive and an extensive training in between the two tests, the control group did not receive any specific treatment (Figure 5). The intensive first part of the training intervention was offered to the agents of the IG in groups of 10 to 15 people, in a standard training room at the airport. The agents were taking part in two workshops of three hours each, with a short interval of less than two weeks. All workshops were led by the same two trainers from Utrecht University of Applied Sciences. After the workshops, we offered an extensive training to the agents of the IG. They received one test item per day via email, on weekdays, for a period of four weeks. Test items were similar to the nine specific risk decisions of the pre- and post-tests. In total the IG agents were asked to respond to 20 email items. We collected qualitative data from the interviews (Figure 4, step 1) and from the workshop sessions (Figure 4, step 3). During the sessions the members of the intervention group shared their professional opinions, both orally and written, both individually and in small groups.

6 Findings

In this section, we present the quantitative and qualitative results of the experiment.

Quantitative results

Table 1 shows descriptive statistics of the research groups, as well as the results of a number of independent t-tests on differences between the control group and the intervention group. The (categories of) variables are:

  1. Background characteristics: gender (fraction of males), age (in years), function (fraction agents vs team leaders), country of birth (fraction Netherlands – NLD vs other);
  2. Education and work experience: education level (ascending levels of Dutch intermediate vocational education; fraction mbo2, mbo3, mbo4 vs others) and work experience (in years).

There were no significant differences between the two research groups; this was an expected result of a randomised allocation of participants among the intervention and control groups. The intervention group contained more men (64% vs 51%) and more agents were native Dutch (i.c. born in The Netherlands: 75% vs 64%). Differences in average age (≈ 34 years) and position (≈ 75% agents vs ≈ 25% team leaders) were small. Professionals in the intervention group were higher educated and more experienced (+ .41 year on ≈ 6.5 years of experience in average).

Table 1. Comparison of Intervention and Control Group based on Post-test Results.

In Table 2 the two groups after the post-test are compared:

  1. Scores on the post-test: average number of correct answers to the specific risk decisions (airport security, 9 items) and general risk decisions (6 items), and the total of both categories (15 items).
  2. SEf is the indicator of professionals’ self-efficacy in the three categories (specific and general test items, and the total of both). Respondents estimated their own competence after completing the post-test. The fourth indicator of self-efficacy we used was a yes/no response to the question whether the agent felt she was making better risk decisions than she did two months earlier during the pre-test.
  3. Two indicators of self-esteem (SEst): self-positioning compared with colleagues (scale from low 1 to high 10), self-assessment on level of professional development (% 0–100).

Post-test scores on the risk decisions test did not show any significant differences between the research groups. Control group members had a higher score on specific airport risk decisions, and on the total of the post-test. The intervention group members’ score was higher at general risk decisions. All agents had a higher percentage of correct answers to the specific airport risk decisions (≈ 7.5 of 9 = 83%), compared with general risk decisions (≈ 2.8 of 6 = 47%). Significant differences occurred in the self-construct scores. In both groups, the self-efficacy scores were substantially overestimating the test scores on general risk decisions, the overestimation by control group members was almost twice as high as that of the intervention group members. Self-efficacy at specific airport risk decisions was almost accurate in both groups. The self-esteem scores (scale 1–10 position compared to colleagues and stage in professional development on a 0–100%-scale) were higher in the control group. Intervention group members were about 15 month younger, higher educated, more experienced (all in Table 1) and had a more modest self-esteem (Table 2).

Table 2. Comparison of Intervention and Control Group based on Post-test Results.

Significance on 10%, 5% and 1% level (*p<.10, **p<.05, ***p<.01)

Extensive training 1-item test

After the workshop sessions, the intervention group (valid n = 35) underwent extensive training for four weeks, with a daily 1-item test on weekdays. In that period, each participant received twenty questions in total (Figure 4). Of the 700 items that were deployed in this way, we received 381 correct answers (72%) of a tot al of 527 replies. On average, every agent answered 15 of the 20 questions, of which 11 (73%) answers were correct. That score was somewhat higher than the average 10 correct answers (68%) that the intervention group gave on the post-test. The 1-item tests consisted only of specific airport risk decisions.

Table 3. Effect of Intervention ‘Security Performance’ on Intervention Group.

Significance on 10%, 5% and 1% level (*p<.10, **p<.05, ***p<.01)

Table 3 shows the effect of the intervention on the intervention group: there was a significant difference (.949) between the total test scores of post-test (10.25) and pre-test (9.30). The effect size, expressed as Cohen’s d, is .5. This measure indicates to what extend the training intervention has ‘made a difference’, by comparing the standardised means of pre-test and post-test of the intervention group. An effect size of .5 is usually regarded as a small to medium size effect of an intervention. According to Hattie (2009) .5 can be considered a medium to high effect, for educational interventions in particular. Due to too many missing values in the pre-test data of the control group, a valid difference in differences [(post-test minus pre-test of IG = .949) – (post-test minus pre-test of CG)] analysis was not possible.

Finally, the valid N in this study is smaller than expected. This was partly caused by operational issues: agents who were scheduled, but could not participate in the workshop sessions, for various reasons. No-shows are an issue too in the pre- and post-tests, as we saw in the extensive training of the 1-item test. The operational planning of the security company is a very complicated process. Furthermore, the energy level and motivation of an agent varied, depending on whether the 3-hour training was attended at the start of the working day or at the end of a night shift. As far as the quantitative part is concerned, we can conclude that the statistical evidence might be less strong than intended in an experimental design of a randomised controlled trial. The fact that we conducted our study in the practice of a running airport business is certainly the main reason for that conclusion.

Qualitative analysis

In the workshop sessions, we collected information on how agents reflect on their daily tasks, what problems they experienced with risk decision making and what kind of solutions they would suggest. Agents wrote their opinions and solutions on big sheets of paper, which were collected and analysed afterwards. In Tables 4–7 we summarise the most important topics and most frequent answers. Table 4 shows the most common answers to the question what agents do to be and stay sharp at their job, and what they need from others.

Table 4. How to stay sharp at the job?
What did the agents do to stay sharp?What did agents say they need from others?
Do not be distracted and think for yourselfYou must be able to count on colleagues, with support, collegiality and involvement; both co-workers and executives
Take responsibility for a healthy lifestyle (rest, sleep, nutrition etc.)Positive and also constructive feedback, given in a sympathetic way
Be honest with yourself and colleagues, if you actually know that you are not sharp and fit with circumstancesGood briefings and good planning / team layout / compliance with times / rest periods
Incorporate recreation moments and humourPleasant working environment

Reflection on the professional’s responsibilities at work indicates what they feel responsible for. Table 5 shows a summary of individual and collective input from the workshops.

Table 5. Feeling responsible at the job.
What did agents feel responsible for?What did agents not feel responsible for?
Safety of colleagues and passengersPassenger flow
Intercepting prohibited itemsOperation of equipment
For yourself: commitment, motivation, quality of your work, arriving on time, staying respectful etc.Failure and mistakes of others outside the team

Table 6 shows what fallacies frequently occurred in daily practice, according to the participants of the workshops.

Table 6. Fallacies in daily practice.
What mistakes did the agents recognize in themselves and / or with their colleagues?What typical examples did they share?
Focus on one item or subject (confirmation bias)Focusing on a bottle with liquid from the X-ray scan; missing other suspicious contents of a bag
Making all types of assumptions (availability bias)Colleagues from the security company do not need to be checked
Long-term work experience that can lead to automatism / routine leading to incorrect assessment / risk decision; (overconfidence bias, authority bias)Knowing for sure that families from a certain country are no risk at all
Being influenced by available information in the news and social media (availability bias)After an attack abroad focus too much on the modus operandi of the perpetrators of that incident
Blaming others for missing a sample test; particularly by team leaders and executives (hindsight bias) Commenting on a colleague missing a test sample at the X-ray scan: “How could you miss it? This is obvious to everyone!”

What professionals think actors at three levels (individual, team, company) could do to prevent fallacies and biased risk decision making, is displayed in table 7.

Table 7. Prevention of fallacies.
What could agents do themselves?What could the team do?What could the company do?
Take time to step back to assess the luggage / situation and see the complete picture Give feedback, motivate and coach each otherGood communication and information
In case of doubt: check (again)Talk to each other, give feedback, both positive and criticalProvide clear working procedures and refresh (keep them alive)
Accept help and ask for it if you are not sureActively point out risks and possible consequences to each otherEnsure good briefings and agreements on how information reaches everyone
Keep alert, curious and (self) criticalContinue training, motivating and keep remembering and refreshing good practice as a team
Keep your background information updated (on attacks for example)Give a colleague a break (after he or she missed a test sample, for example)
Communicate clearly (with passengers, with colleagues)

7 Conclusion

The study aimed to find an answer to the question: How and to what extent can we train professionals, in order to help them make smarter (i.e. more rational, effective and efficient) risk decisions? The main short-term goal of the intervention was to achieve a higher level of risk competence. The quantitative results showed a positive effect (.5) of the training intervention on the intervention group, which can be considered as a medium or high effect for an educational intervention (Hattie, 2009). This indicates that the complete intervention (workshops and tests) contributed to more awareness in the process of judgement and decision-making, and improved risk decisions by the security agents. The self-esteem and self-efficacy scores indicate that agents in the intervention group showed a more moderate, less biased self-evaluation. From the qualitative results, we conclude that agents were able to identify individual, collective and organisational points for improvement.

The intervention had a positive effect on the intervention group (Table 3; d = .5). Although this effect could not be purified by a difference-in-difference analysis. Even though there was no significant difference between intervention and control groups, the scores on general and specific test items at the post-test (Table 2; ≈2.8 and ≈7.5) can be used by the security company as an indication of an agent’s average risk competence. For setting standard values, the tests may provide anchors, as for the use in the recruitment and selection process of new agents in the future. However, they still need to be validated by replication.

The results indicate points of reference to expect that training such as this can be productive in various ways. Awareness can be considered as the first step on the road to better performance, and it may be assumed that awareness has been improved, both at the test scores and on self-esteem and self-efficacy. Even when intervention group self-efficacy and self-esteem scores appear to have decreased after the intervention, this could still mean that the agents were more conscious of their incompetence regarding biases.

The importance of good workplace conditions and encouraging leadership came up in all workshops, both in individual contributions and group discussions. This is an important perspective for the mid- and long-term success of a risk competence program. Where the process model (Figure 1) has proved to be adequate for evaluation of the risk management process itself, factors of organisational and managerial culture should be considered in a broader sense, since they may determine the circumstances under which judgement and risk decision making happens.

8 Discussion

Kahneman is not very optimistic about the possibility of improving people’s risk decision making competence. Gigerenzer on the other hand is convinced of educational strategies (like visualisation and heuristics) that are likely to lead to advanced risk competence (Bond, 2009; Kahneman, 2011; Gigerenzer, 2015).

In this study, the focus was on the design and testing of a training intervention for a specific professional setting. The scale of the experiment may be increased later, possibly in a modified setting. The quantitative results were modest. The effectiveness of the training in terms of statistical evidence and validity is not easy to demonstrate. Effectiveness could also be affected because the intervention was dependent on the operational planning of the security company and the airport. Sickness absence was one of the factors that caused complications, next to position, function or shift change of participants. In addition, there may have been variables outside our model and design, which therefore are not taken into account. As with many educational interventions, a Hawthorne effect could have occurred: participants in an experiment respond differently due to the fact that they are aware it is an experiment (De Bruyckere, Kirschner and Hulshof, 2015). In this case, this could be applicable to the intervention group, as well as to the control group. Furthermore, during the workshops we noticed that not all agents felt free to give their true opinion. Whether they were right or not, some agents expressed fear that their contribution to the sessions would be taken into account by the management, in one way or another.

Supporting a program of risk competence would benefit from improved internal communication. This starts by announcing a program and its backgrounds, and ends with communicating the achievements. Many agents were unaware of the training they were sent to, with consequences for their attitude at the start of the training intervention. Explaining the rationale and the meaning of a training intervention to participants before it starts, will make a big difference. It is also recommended to share the results of the experiment with the participants and the works council.

Cartoons and illustrations by MYRAAAB: Myra Beckers ( and Ab Bertholet.


Ab Bertholet, M.Sc., Lecturer, Researcher, Utrecht University of Applied Sciences (HU); Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e), The Netherlands
Nienke Nieveen, PhD, Associate Professor, Netherlands Institute for Curriculum Development (SLO); Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e), The Netherlands
Birgit Pepin, PhD, Professor of Mathematics/STEM Education, Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e), The Netherlands

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Excellence in Teaching and Learning and how it is manifested in three countries

Author: Sharon Lierse.


Excellence in education is a topic of global interest. Universities are in competition for the highest quality of research and top students. They are also ranked against each other in global university rankings. Moreover, universities have an increasingly important role in preparing students for the next generation workforce and lifelong learning; a responsibility that is undergoing significant transformation. Another indicator of excellence in education is the Programme for International Student Assessment better known as the PISA tests. The purpose of the research is to compare, and contrast Australian, South Korean and Finnish tertiary educational institutions in what is are characteristics of excellent teaching. Factors such as teaching philosophies, cultural influences and the role of the arts will be investigated. Through investigating these educational philosophies and practices will gain a greater understanding of what drives different countries to achieve excellence in learning and teaching.


Excellence in higher education and how this is identified and measured is of global interest. Countries promote their universities and are in competition for the best students (Yedkevich, Altbach & Rumbley, 2016). There are also external organizations such as the Times Higher Education which rank universities against each other (Baker, 2017; Times, 2017). These global rankings have a great impact on how teaching and learning is conducted at universities and what is considered important for educating the future generation. Countries which have excellent universities are known for what these institutions do, but not how excellence is taught, achieved, and what is valued by students and lecturers in the process.

Another indicator of excellence in education is the Programme for International Student Assessment, better known as the PISA tests (OECD, 2017). This international test is given to a cross-section of students in The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries when they are aged fifteen. The PISA tests have highlighted how educational systems impact learning and teaching and how this may flow onto the quality of education in the tertiary sector. The PISA tests have shown that two countries which have consistently ranked highly are South Korea and Finland. They are vastly different in their geographic location, language, cultural practices and attitudes to education. In contrast, Australia is a Western country situated in Asia, which has ranked quite well in the tertiary global rankings and PISA. The aim of the research is to compare and contrast perceptions of excellence between these three select countries, and what can be learnt from them. In an increasingly globalised community, understanding what is valued between countries and how excellence is achieved may increase one’s understanding of society, and how to address current themes and issues within the education system. The key questions asked in the study are the following:

  1. What is excellence and success?
  2. How is competition regarded in the learning process?
  3. Is there a connection between excellence and altruism, empathy and equity in learning and teaching?
  4. Are there specific subjects or disciplines connected to excellence?

Data will be collected through surveys and interviews as well as investigating philosophies, culture and curricula. Themes of excellence, success and competition will be the focus as well as what is valued in society. Grounded theory will also be employed as an inductive theoretical approach after analysing the various forms of data.


What is Excellence?

To achieve excellence, one first has to know what the term ‘excellence’ means. The difficulty with the term is that humans can identify excellence but when describing of verbalising what components are excellent or why, it becomes challenging. For a term widely used, finding a definition is difficult. The Collins English Dictionary (1979) defines ‘excellence’ as both a noun and a verb: “the state or quality of excelling or being exceptionally good; extreme merit; superiority” and “an action, characteristic, etc., in which a person excels” (p. 531). The Latin translation for excellence is ‘uirtus’ which look very similar to the word ‘virtue’. This is based on Plato’s philosophy that ‘excellence is virtue’. Hence, to be good at a task may have also been virtuous in its moral quality. For the purpose of the paper, excellence is defined as “exceptionally good and of superior quality”.

What is Success?

The term ‘success’ is often interchanged with ‘excellence’. The word ‘success’ stems from the Latin root ‘successus’, which means an outcome. The Collins English Dictionary (1979) defines ‘success’ as, “The favourable outcome of something attempted” (p. 1521). It was also described when a task has been completed and it becomes “obsolete”. ‘Excellence’ and ‘success’ are often interchanged but to be successful at a task does not necessarily imply that the quality is good, or of virtue. There is not necessarily a causal relationship between being excellence and success. Success here is when the task has been achieved and does not require further work.

What is Competition?

Competition occurs in many fields including sport, music and education. The premise of competition is that there will be a winner and loser with the individuals or groups pitted against each other. It has been defined as “rivalry”, or “the struggle between individuals of the same or different species” (Collins, 1979, p. 322).

Literature Review

There has been research into excellence in teaching at the tertiary level from a range of perspectives. To clarify, there has been a range of terms and definitions depending on philosophical understandings, geographic location and culture. Terms such as ‘outstanding’, ‘excellent’ and ‘successful’ are interchanged as well as ‘tertiary’, ‘university’ and ‘college’. ‘Lecturing’ and ‘teaching’ have also been interchanged (Andrews, Garriso & Magnusson, 1996; Cosh, 1999; Gibbs, 2006; Sherman et al., 1987; Yair, 2008). For the purpose of this study, ‘excellence’, ‘tertiary’ and ‘teaching’ will be used.

Historically, the topic of excellence has been research for over century in which one of the first publications was published in 1917 in The Journal of Educational Research (Breed, 1927). The characteristics identified were personal qualities, organization of the subject matter, knowledge, skill, university co-operation and professional development. Similar characteristics were found in studies by Brookfield (1990), Finkel (2000), Metcalfe and Game (2006), Weimar (1997); and Yair (2008). There was a discussion of whether excellence was a quality which was innate (Gosling & Hannan, 2007; Polanyi, 1966; Weimar, 1997; Yair, 2008) or whether it were techniques and skills which can be taught (Kane, Sandretto & Heath, 2004). The personality of the teacher was rated highly in some studies which traits such as approachability, passion and enthusiasm were at times considered more important than skills (Bain, 2004; Bain, 2012; Bentley-Davies, 2010; Boonshaft, 2010; Feldman, 1988; Gladwell, 2009; Lawler, Chen & Venso, 2007; Moore & Kuol, 2007; Saroyan & Amundsen, 2001). However, as students progressed though the higher levels of academia, skill and expertise were increasingly considered important (Bereiter & Scardamalia, 1986; Chi, Glaser & Farr, 1998).

There are also excellent teachers who were focused on inspiring and transforming lives despite the bureaucracy and structure of the system. They may not necessarily be good administrators and therefore may miss out on recognition they duly deserve through not filling out the paperwork for promotions (Dunkin & Precians, 1992; Jones, 2010; Palmer & Collins, 2006; Skelton, 2005; Yair, 2008). They would work around policies and procedures in order to evoke the changes they considered necessary (Robinson, 2009). Some have also questioned the status quo and consequently become disruptors to the system.

A quality of excellent teachers was their ability to reflect (Brookfield, 1995; Cosh, 1999; Cowan, 2006; McAlphine & Westin, 2000; Schön, 1983). Reflection could come in many forms such critically reflecting their own practice to further improve their own teaching. Another form was to show understanding through empathy. This empathetic response would help students with their most pressing needs and in improving their learning. Other qualities are equity in which the concept of student bias or favouritism is negated to achieve the desired results.

At a systemic and national level, key cities throughout history have been known for excellence and advancing society. They have shown common traits of nurturing talent including those considered outsiders and having an altruistic attitude towards achievement (Weiner, 2016). Here, the strive for excellence was not competitive for individual gain, but rather collaborative for the greater good of humanity. The importance of altruism and empathy, and a more holistic approach to learning has been investigated (Fehr & Fischbacher, 2003; Sahlberg, 2015; Stephan & Finlay, 1999). Ironically, it is the countries that are known for excelling in global rankings which also have a strong philosophical educational foundation, value empathy and equality in education.


The two methodologies used for the study were thematic analysis and grounded theory (Braun & Clarke, 2006; Charmaz, 2000; Charmaz, 2002; Glaser, 1998; Strauss & Corbin, 1998). These were selected as they were the most suitable for categorising cross-cultural information and for positing a new understanding of why excellence has developed in select countries. Data was collected through surveys, interviews, monographs and journal articles. Surveys have been used at select universities in South Korea and Australia to ascertain what are the characteristics of excellence. Themes such as lecturing styles, learning preferences and cultural influences were investigated. Following this was a series of interviews with academics and post-graduate researchers. Information on Finland was acquired through publications monographs, journals and papers at educational conferences. This was due to the focus on the country after being number one in the world in the PISA results. The data collected has been compared and contrasted to identify trends and themes.


Australia is situated in the Asia-Pacific and is the smallest continent on earth. Although an island, it is the sixth largest country and is known for its large cities found on its perimeter. There are approximately 25 million people living in a country comprising six States and two Territories. It is a young country, colonised by the British in the eighteenth century and based on Western cultural traditions. English is the spoken language, but there are over a hundred foreign languages spoken by migrants as well as Indigenous languages from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Australia, in its Western cultural development has relied on Britain, and more recently to the United States of America. Politically, Australia has strong ties with Britain, the United States of America, and more recently China due its geographic proximity, trade, and number of migrants Australia. Australia is a multi-cultural society with a highly regarded university system. An increasingly expanding and significant component of the higher education market are international students.

The education philosophy is similar to Britain’s due to its religious, historical and cultural foundations, however, it is difficult to identify. It is based on Plato‘s notion of an ideal curriculum where subjects are required to be studied to be a good citizen. Education is curriculum focused and regulated.

There is inbuilt competition in the education system in Australia. During school, the national tests such as the National Assessment Program Literacy and Numeracy, better known as NAPLAN, tests students in year three, five, seven and nine. The score that students receive is whether they have met the required standards and where they are in relation to other students in their year level ( In their final year of schooling, they are given a mark for each subject, which is then standardised to be ranked against other students in their State or Territory. An issue with the peer ranking system is the amount of stress and anxiety it creates.

A study was conducted at an Australian university in 2014 to investigate the characteristics of outstanding university lecturers (Lierse, 2016). There was an anonymous survey sent to 70 students enrolled in the Graduate Certificate of University Learning and Teaching where they identified characteristics. From this, fourteen participated in semi-structured interviews, and five lecturers who were identified as outstanding were interviewed, as well. The five characteristics discovered from the study were; expertise, holistic approach to learning, engaging the student, open door policy and ambitious altruists. It was the last characteristic ‘ambitious altruists’ which was of surprise and interest. The study found that outstanding lecturers were ambitious and had purpose in their work. Ambition was from an altruistic foundation in which their students came first, rather than for their own ego. Their practices were often unconventional and they would often be criticised to the point of being isolated from their peers. As a result, many of these lecturers sacrificed their own career paths for the academy (Lierse, 2016, p. 9).

Their ambition was beyond ego and was for the good of humanity rather than for personal gain (Butler-Bowden, 2007). These lecturers would sometime sacrifice their own career paths or even jobs for their altruistic pursuits (Palmer, 1998).

South Korea

South Korea or the Republic of Korea is a country situated in East Asia with a population of approximately 51 million people. The country has had a turbulent political history with its neighbours, North Korea, China and Japan. It is known for its manufacturing as well as its education system. The language spoken is Korean.

South Korea’s education system came under the international spotlight after the students received high results in the PISA tests (OECD, 2017). Consequently, many educational researchers have visited South Korea to gain an understanding of the teaching system. What they discovered was the high value placed on rigorous learning and educational achievement (Ripley, 2013). One aspect of their system was the after-hours tutoring culture known as Hagwon.

A survey and a series of interview questions were designed to discover why South Korea had one of the best educational systems and how they perceived excellence. The research proposal went through ethics at the university and was approved. The survey was sent to lecturers and post-graduate students at a university in South Korea.

The second part of the research were interview questions for South Korean lecturers and post-graduate students who had a degree of English fluency. The questions were designed to trigger conversation and were semi-structured. The topics range from their own background, teaching styles and what is considered excellent. There were interview questions for university lecturers. The data was coded and interviews analysed to determine what the trends are in South Korea in relation to what is considered excellent.

The results revealed how much emphasis is placed on education and to do well. The pressure to succeed was from the family as well as society and it was not unusual for students to spend long hours studying. There was a clear progression from doing well at school to then go to a good university to then gain a good job. This was the key to success which would then make one happy. One respondent discussed how, “Many parents believe that it is the short cut to success.” Another respondent stated, “To have a successful life it is money, best university, good job, people to envy you is successful.” Lecturers were highly regarded and respected and any form of teaching was still seen as a good career choice.

Competition is a feature of the South Korean education system. Students are tested often and are ranked in class. From an early age, students know that they have to work hard and the end goal is to be accepted into a top university. “I think the education atmosphere is so competitive in South Korea…Students study very hard. Their motivation is very high, but sometimes their motivation is performance oriented. And they [are] influenced by other students because they compare each other.” Competition is a key factor in student achievement in South Korean education system. There is also a respect for the teachers and education.


Finland is a sovereign state in Northern Europe situated between Western countries and Russia. It has a relatively small population of five-and-a-half million people and is known for its cold winters. The language spoken is Finnish.

Finland has been featured in the media due to their PISA test results in which they have been ranked number one in the world. Even though this was a test in secondary schools, it reflected how excellence in teaching was practised in the university system to produce such impressive outcomes. A reason for this is that Finland has undergone a transformation in their society which has focussed on education. Sahlberg (2015) discussed how: “Diplomacy, cooperation, problem solving, and seeking consensus have thus become hallmarks of contemporary Finnish culture” (p. 17). Their system is based on the Aristotelian philosophy where ones’ purpose is to have a good and noble life. There is a focus on social skills, empathy and leadership (p. 199). There is surprisingly very little testing in schools. Finland only selects the best applicants to be a school teacher in which the minimum requirement to work in schools is a Master’s Degree. Due to their success of their education system, many teachers from different countries have visited Finland and observed teaching in schools to better understand the secret to their success. Sahlberg (2015) commented “Many teachers and administrators who have visited Finnish schools…are often stuck in the middle of excellence versus equity quandaries due to external demands and regulations in their own countries” (p. 66). The Finnish example of educational excellence has worked in Finland. This would be due to the congruence of support by the government, educational system and their society. However, this would be difficult to be replicated in other countries due to the complexity of cultural systems and understandings.


The three countries are different in their geographically, linguistically and politically and their education systems are based on a philosophical foundation.

How excellence, success, perfection and failure are defined varies between countries which in turn impacts the teaching and learning in schools and universities. The role of competition in education is a driving factor in South Korea, and to an increasing extent in Australia, but is viewed negatively in Finland in favour of cooperation. The overriding philosophy in Finland is based on Aristotle’s of living to have a good and virtuous life. South Korean’s educational philosophy is based on Confucius in which there is an “I” with “self”, “others” and the universe and learning is a life-long process. Australia’s philosophy has been adopted from the United Kingdom and is based on Plato in which excellence is a virtue and a range of subjects are required in order to achieve this.

The results revealed that the philosophy and its beliefs of a country have a strong impact on education. The countries which excel in education during the formal academic schooling and for life-long learning have strong philosophical foundations, especially in the role of arts but also how education is practised varied widely. The other dimension of excellence, which has been explored, are the roles of empathy, equity and altruism. How a society can be sustained for life-long learning without their members working to their own potential, helping others and for the greater good of the community.

South Korea and Finland have excelled in PISA tests to the surprise of many countries. They are not known for their population size or being a dominant force in large global companies although they are global leaders in many niche industries. Politically, they have both been under constant threat from neighbouring countries and have a long history of warfare and being invaded. Finland has the global superpower Russia to the East and Sweden to the West, and they only received independence in 1917. South Korea is under constant threat from North Korea, has been invaded by Japan, and has the superpower China as a neighbour. Both countries do not have enough man power in their military to fight against neighbouring countries so have to exert their power in other ways. They cannot rely on primary resources such as farming and mining due to the land so they rely on themselves. Both of these countries have invested heavily in human capital in education to ensure that they will have a prosperous future.

To show their independence and autonomy, they have maintained their language and culture, which has been manifested through the arts. It is also the arts where they can learn their language and history through music, dance, art and drama. These also reinforce their patriotism, worthiness and sense of belonging. To remain relevant on a global level, it is these activities that bind these groups together, strengthen their loyalty to one another, and help to create empathy between each other. The arts form the fabric of their society and what it means to be part of the society.

Both South Korea and Finland show a great respect for the arts, especially Western art music. Their standard of performers is world class and there are opportunities for students at the school level to learn and music. This honour, respect and practice of the arts results in a high level of sophistication, development of emotions and empathy. These results were unexpected and the connection of excellence with empathy with the arts and through the arts is an area for future research.


The paper discusses how countries which are known for academic excellence have very strong philosophical foundations. However, it is the way excellence is practiced which differs widely and is often contradictory in its approaches. The research has shown that the role of the arts play an important role in the connection to excellence in education which is an area for future research. It is these new combinations of factors which may hold the key for sustained educational excellence throughout the life-span.


The author would like to thank the Australia-Korea Foundation through the Australia-Korea Foundation of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade for support in the “Teaching Excellence in South Korea and Australia: A Comparison” project.


Dr Sharon Lierse, Lecturer in Education, Charles Darwin University, Melbourne, Australia

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How to facilitate development of soft skills in business studies? Description of a Portuguese and a Finnish pilot

Authors: Susana Bastos, Kai Schleutker & Liliana Azevedo.


Latest research indicates that business graduates are expected to possess soft skills in addition to their substance related hard skills. In working environments, soft skills are needed for communication and adaptation, as well as for employability reasons. For higher education institutes this means an increasing challenge.
Even if the need of soft skills is widely acknowledged, new efforts to build appropriate learning environments are needed continuously. Soft skills have been highlighted in social care and nursing education, whereas in business fields they have received less attention.

In this article, two learning environments for business studies at Universities of applied sciences are presented. The ISCAP (Porto) model bases on Business simulation, whereas the TUAS (Turku) model involves team-based learning. These learning environments have been designed particularly for fostering soft skills of the graduates, and thus implementing the idea of skills-based curriculum.

Background for the piloting of learning environments in business education at ISCAP and TUAS

European Commission enhances (EC 2017) the Higher Education Institutes (HEIs) to modernise their pedagogical methods in order to produce competencies and skills that are needed in the 21st century to cope with the increasing international competition. This statement (EC 2017) and multiple studies (e.g. McKinsey 2015; OECD 2016; WEF 2016) indicate that in addition to substance skills, HEI graduates are expected to possess soft skills (a.k.a. transversal skills) such as communication skills, team working skills, self-management skills and analytical skills.

At HEIs, this raises many questions. How should these intentions be implemented in business studies? What kinds of learning environments will help to form personal skills? In business faculties and degree programs, there are great diversities of specialisations – what kinds of personal skills will be needed in each of them?

The mission of universities of applied sciences is to act as innovators and dynamic actors in their own areas. In this article, we present two learning environments intended to cope better with the needs of the companies and produce soft skills. In the Polytechnic of Porto, Porto Accounting and Business School (ISCAP), the so-called Business Simulator bases on real tasks, feedback in real time, and in a new assessment methodology. At BisnesAkatemia in Turku University of Applied Sciences (TUAS), the team-based learning method and external assignments from companies are used as elements of learning environments.

Descriptions of the ISCAP and TUAS pilots

The Origin of ISCAP Model of Simulator of Business Environment

The Model of Simulator of Business Environment that supports learning is oriented to the development of some competencies that the students need in order to be prepared for the labour market.

The resource to the strategy of games/simulation of companies in certain curricular units may be useful. The SBE Model was created with the purpose that the complete training of competencies requires an availability of this Model that assures to the student a multifaceted participation, as an intervener agent in the process of conception, development and maintenance of the business reality (Rey 2002; Roldão 2003).

This Model of technological basis must propitiate a space of learning, based on the simulation of the organisational environment typical of an entity provided with an advanced management profile involving the student in the application of the knowledge that is emerging in a multi and inter-disciplinary form throughout the course.

The particularity of the skills training process that the Model is oriented to, shapes the teaching methodology and the assessment system itself, which is built on a dynamic basis primarily interested in the progressive effects of the expected change in students, but it is also concerned with the verification of the skills acquired having in consideration their final academic certification.

This practice of education and training has the fundamental purpose of linking theory to practice. Therefore, it requires turning the experience of training into professional experience, in which the passive and receiver role of the student gives place to an active role ‒ he is part of the process. (Azevedo 2012.)

Table 1. Skills to develop in students (adapted from Oliveira, L. 2018).
Vocational skillsTechnical skills
Critical and analytical thinkingUse, with efficiency, of the communication and information technologies
Oral and written communicationBusiness decision modelling
Decision-makingRisk analysis
Continuous learningProject management
Group workAccounting in several branches
Professional behaviour (ethics and attitudes)Negotiation
LeadershipResources management
Foreign languageCreation of the business plan
Economic and financial analysis

The origin of TUAS BisnesAkatemia (BA) model

When asked from graduated, employers and business experts, it is widely agreed that the most prominent elements of business competencies are soft skills such as entrepreneurial mindset, communication and team-working skills, whereas profession related skills are mostly considered necessary but not crucial (Lehtinen 2006; Kotila 2012; Schleutker 2017). Some business environments, such as accounting and theory of law, might appreciate preciseness and by-the-book-knowledge, whereas in other business fields, such as entrepreneurship and marketing, the professional expertise mostly consists of personal dynamics and skills in communication, adaptation and innovation (Schleutker 2017).

This need of personal skills and the increasing diversity of working environments should be considered in curriculum planning. Even business learning environments should increasingly support development of personal competencies and skills.

For these reasons, the TUAS Business degree programme has been piloting an alternative learning environment called BisnesAkatemia (BA), which implements a skills-based curriculum instead of a mere substance-based curriculum.

To reach skills-based learning, personalised learning processes and adequate learning environments are needed (Sawyer 2006; Raiker 2009). Some fundamental conditions for personalised learning are individually-set goals, reflection of learning processes and meaningful learning assignments (Sawyer 2006). The BA learning environment aims to comprehend and facilitate these processes.

In the pedagogical aspect, the BA model includes features from several learning philosophies and methods. It is built partly on classical elements of Team Based Learning (Michaelsen 2006) and Senge´s Personal Mastery and Learning organization (Senge 2006), as well as recent inspirations from Innovation Pedagogy (Kettunen & al. 2013). The learning environment in BA involves fundamentally assignments from external organizations and companies, following the idea of Experiential Learning by John Dewey (Miettinen 2001). In order to achieve personalised learning and to reinforce soft skills, the students will need self-reflective and self-regulative skills (Zimmermann & Schunk 2011; Winne 2011).


ISCAP Model of Business Simulation Project (BSP)

In the BSP model, the main pedagogical change of the teaching-learning process in business and accounting lies in creating the same pivot environment, which is available along all courses and personalised for each student. It is supported by real technological tools, coordinating the theoretical knowledge progressively acquired, in order to form comprehensive professional competencies (Roldão 2003).

The Model must be adopted, not only in the curricular units of Business Simulation Project (BSP), but also in all other curricular units framed in business sciences. These need a pivot environment to ensure the extent of knowledge to action in a common context, properly completed and evaluated.

BSP has as main goals (Oliveira 2003, 2018) targeting training to the most demanding and highest paid market demand. It aims to prepare professionals for more specialised functions, encourage the development of new skills; stimulate the capacity to structure, research and reorganise information in an integrated environment, and train and promote group and cooperative work. Further, it aims to enable the ability to make decisions, enrich communication skills, consolidate professional, personal and ethical attitudes, promote the electronic portfolio as the student’s curriculum essence, create and develop all the bureaucratic activities of a company in a systemic perspective and in a process-based approach, and continuously assess technical and behavioural performance. All this is supported by the Business Environment Simulator.

These BSP curricular units are optional. Students have the right to choose what suits them better and contributes to develop their personal competencies. They enter BSP in the last year and they can achieve 180 ECTS (European Credit Transfer System) in two semesters. These are learning environments allowing them to appropriate knowledge acquired in previous curricular units (Bastos 2016; Soares 2011). BSP are the first European curricular units to have a Certificate of Quality within ISO 9001:2015 and they are also recognised by the Portuguese Order of Certified Accountants as replacing the internship by the quality of its learning-teaching process.

TUAS BisnesAkatemia

The students enter the BA phase after having finished basic studies in business. They can gain 100‒120 ECTS in the BA learning environment, i.e. nearly 50 percent of their studies. These 100‒120 ECTS consist of smaller study units (5‒10 ECTS) representing main business topics such as enterprise planning & development, marketing operations, communication, organising events, innovative skills and domestic & international networking. The tray of study units is presented in table 2.

Table 2. Contents of studies in BA 2nd and 3rd year. (ECTS – European Credit Transfer System; ICT – Information and Communication Technologies. Created by Schleutker, K. 2018.)
Study unitsStudy units 5 ECTSStudy units 5-15 ECTS
2nd year3rd year
Enterprise developing operationsStart-up enterprise
Develop an enterprise
Business Value through ICT
Marketing and sales operationsBusiness to business sales
Product & Service Innovations
Digital marketing
Modern Marketing and Selling
Innovative operationsOrganising events
Tools for innovating
Innovative business models
NetworkingDomestic international networking
International networking

At the end of the first year, business students enter the BA phase, where they will form their own 15‒20 person cooperative in order to conduct real-life business assignments with external organizations and companies. The division into the BA cooperatives is facilitated by interviews and tests in order to form a well-working team. One of the most important ones is the Belbin team role test (2018), which indicates what kinds of abilities and roles each one might bring to the team.

The following step is to organise the cooperative into a well-working team, capable of marketing, selling and carrying out real-life projects for customer companies and organizations. The tasks and goals of the projects typically relate to market and customer research, organising events, design and creation of websites and diverse Business-to-business or Business-to-customer customerships. This phase is indicative in many ways. It will show, how well the teaming process has proceeded and it also indicates to which grade the team possesses a shared vision, i.e. is it a team or just a group of students. Additionally, this phase shows whether there are sales-skilled students who take initiatives in the team. In a well-working team, there are the individuals who start to lead and who start to take actions. This is not something that can be counted on advance for sure.

In this kind of learning environment, the teachers´ role is very far from the role of the so-called traditional teachers. The teacher performing with a team is called a ‘coach’, and each team will have their named coach for the whole second and third year. Consequently, lectures are given only exceptionally in cases where a lecture is considered the best way of learning. Instead, teachers have an important role as facilitators of the team. In the starting period of BA, it is very much about facilitating a positive team spirit and constructive relationships between team members and encouraging to personalised learning and formation of individual soft skills.

In table 3, the main features of the learning environments BSP and Ba are presented.

Table 3. Main elements of learning environments in BSP and BA. (BA – BisnesAkatemia; BSP – Business Simulation Programme; CU – Curricular Unit. Created by Schleutker, K., Bastos, S. 2018.)
DescriptionISCAP BSPISCAP (next stage)TUAS BA
PurposeLearning instrument to be made available at the PSE at the end of the courseLearning instrument to be made available in the various CUs of the business sciences, along the courseLearning environment to support development of personal skills
ContextElectronic database and multimedia roomElectronic databaseStudent cooperative
Organizing PrincipleSystemic integrationSegmentationRecruiting process
Represented objectGlobal market in electronic and physical formatCompany / organization in electronic formatReal business operations with organizations and companies
Logical organization of phenomenaBy processBy eventBy decisions of team
Documentary formatElectronic and physicalElectronicElectronic
Type of interactionIntra and inter companiesDoes not existIntra team, inter client companies
Responsibility for organization and planningTeacher of the PSC CUCourse DirectionCurriculum planned by teachers; Operations planned by students
Student organizationIn groupIndividualIn group
Evaluation modelContinuousContinuousPortfolio assessment

Assessment practices


Assessment is interpreted as a process of systematic collection of information to measure the students’ progress (self and peer evaluation) (Albrecht 1994; Albrecht & Sack 2000). It is continuous. Every class is evaluated – the teacher corrects all the tasks done by the groups. As there are two classes in a week, the teacher evaluates the first, so that in the second the students have the feedback in the system, in “real time”. This enables the student to understand and correct the mistakes. This feedback in registered in the system (Simulator). When the student opens his work session, he has access to it. This process allows the student to follow his teaching-learning progress (examples in figures below).

Figure 1. Assessment of a session with observations of the teacher/ students.


Figure 2. Assessment display with the grades of the group and the students (F – Assiduity and Punctuality; C – Behaviour; T – Team work; E – Number of the company; A – Assiduity; G – Percentage in a basis of 100% of the grade obtained by the group; P – Punctual, the assessment of the physical files (twice in a semester); R – Management Report; AOR – Individual oral presentation assessment).

Teachers have an important role in this assessment process. They guide the students through their learning process.

The assessment of the degree of competencies acquired in the frequency of the curricular units based on the BSP Model follows an evaluation system supported in the feedback and in the obligation of execution, by the student, of the planned tasks, personally, and monitored by the teacher, in all the working sessions (Luckesi 2003).

Assessment is continuous, with feedback; with the complement of behavioral performance evaluation; based on a strong ethical component and in the attitudes of all participants; with the support of the electronic media involved; including those of the agents implicated, in charge of the student (Alarcão & Gil 2004; Costa & Candeias 2010; Raiker 2009).


In order to facilitate personalised learning, the assessment is individual and well argumented for the student (Sawyer 2006; Raiker 2009). Thus, all assessment is based on an individual portfolio, in which the student describes the finished assignments, their main results and key learning notes. The student adds lessons learnt from books and articles during the study units. Thus reflection of own experiences, thoughts and development has been raised in a crucial role in the assessment. For many students, this can be quite demanding, especially for those ones not used to report and assess their own person and activity.

For the assessor, this kind of portfolio gives rather multiple bases to assessment. It makes visible the profession-related real-life tasks that the student has carried out. It also expresses what the student himself considers having learned. The level on which the student can combine the literature (theory) to what he has done (praxis) gives a good insight on the development of the student´s personal skills. In addition, it demonstrates in a clear way how well the theory is assimilated and adapted.

Regarding reporting and assessment of the development of personal skills (team working skills, communication skills, self-management skills, etc.), they are included in most plans of implementations and thus considered by the students when producing the portfolios.

Reflection: Positive outcomes


The students consider BSP as an active learning environment, which raises their motivation. The use of the electronic portfolio enables construction of the student’s curriculum in a way that is visible and informative for the student himself. In addition, the learning process is supported by an organizational environment of high systemic complexity, which is very close to authentic working life conditions. As a third positive outcome, the BSP provides immediate feedback and decision-oriented information, which enables improve the student´s learning.


The students favour the BA learning environment, primarily because most students seem to like the way of learning by doing. In addition, many students seem to like working in team.

As a positive outcome, students get experience of real-life assignments already during studies, which is appreciated by employers (Lehtinen 2006; Kotila 2012; Mourshed 2014). The learning environment enables holistic learning, where students have an option to develop both substance skills and their soft skills.

Students appreciate authentic assignments given by external companies as well – even if they might be more challenging than theoretical assignments. Moreover, the BA method including goal-oriented work teams and authentic tasks often provokes an uncomfort zone in individual students. Thus, it creates a need to learn and it motivates effectively personalized learning (Sawyer 2006; Raiker 2009) and the development of personal skills.

Challenges experienced


The teacher has a role of permanent support to the student, as it is a ”relationship of peers”, and must, using new pedagogies and information and communication technologies suitable to the program content, instil in the student job autonomy and decision making, among other aspects. Thus, the curricular structure should be reconsidered and must rely on the basic formation of competencies, and must conceive education “always” adopting interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary and a systemic basis (Bastos 2016).

As methods and pedagogies pointed so that change happens, emphasis is on active learning methods, group work, ”learning by doing”, and the motivation of the student by placing him in the centre of this whole process.
Thus, the assessment should be formative and not merely forming, having the need to assess the School and the teachers, ”rewarding the most efficient” (Alarcão 2004).


Given that most students have a 12 years’ experience in structured and often teacher-guided way of studies, the change in student mindset demands effort. It seems that they are often more inclined to ‘teach-me’ more than ‘I-learn’.

Thus, the BA method is appropriate for students with self-steering abilities, but it seems not to suite all students.

Dynamics in teams varies according to persons and their characters, whereby some groups never become a real team. Others might have good chemistry of persons but the members will not step out their comfort zone. Finally there are the ones having both team and progress spirit, and consequently will get results.

In order to enhance learning of soft skills, it is important to mention those in the description of the study units, so that the students are aware of them. However, the assessment of these might be a challenge, since it should focus on personal behaviour in addition to the portfolio. Even giving constructive feedback to each student regarding these skills is demanding.

The coach’s role in this kind of learning environment is critical since it requires skills both in business and pedagogy.

Future considerations: both models

Considering the increasing need of skills such as team work, innovation and adaptation (Mourshed 2014; OECD 2016; WEF 2016), business students should possess these kinds of skills in order to proceed and give added value in the labour market. Therefore learning environments should be designed in a way enabling personalised learning and formation of these kinds of person-related skills.

As stated in this article, one of the main challenges regarding new learning environments is students´ mindset and their attitude towards them. They might assume a passive role if they have hesitations about the significance of the skills to be learned. Therefore it is highly important, that the whole faculty or even the whole University is engaged to the learning environment which is proposed.

At TUAS, all faculties will step by step adapt Innovative Pedagogy, the corner stones of which are Team working skills, innovative skills, networking skills and communication skills. These skills will starting from 2018 be embedded in all curricula in each faculty.

Considering future research, it is necessary to identify appropriate methods for assessing personal development and especially the formation of soft skills as well.

Conclusions of BSP and BA

Most involved parts in business life agree that business competencies comprehend increasingly personal skills such as communication, innovation and teamwork. Thus, one challenge in the higher education is to create learning environments that enable the formation of personal development. In this process, known as personalised learning, the student is expected to take an active role. One of the main challenges is whether students are willing/prepared to take the active role needed in personalised learning. Thus, the coaches’ feedback and assessment must be continuous and constructive.

The description and comparison presented in this article confirm that many possibilities are available in order to facilitate personalised learning the formation of soft skills. Most of the students get inspired of new learning methods, mostly because these models give them an option to learn in a more diverse way. The teamwork included in the learning environments is apt to increase team working skills, as well as communication skills. Assignments given directly by companies, or closely related to companies, will give the students more skills regarding adaptation, flexibility and decision making. In order to develop students’ soft skills, further study is needed on the impact of the learning environments upon the students´ abilities and skills.


Susana Bastos, Senior Lecturer, Porto Accounting and Business School (ISCAP), Polytechnic Institute of Porto (IPP), Centre for Organizational and Social Studies of P. Porto (CEOS.PP), Portugal
Kai Schleutker, Lecturer, Team coach (Innovative Entrepreneurship & Digital Marketing),
University of Applied Sciences of Turku – Faculty of Business and Engineering
Liliana Azevedo, PhD (Ed.) (Didactics and Technology of Education), Expandindústria, Portugal

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Exploring the concept of a semi-permeable curriculum: Mixed audience masterclasses in teacher education

Authors: Bregje de Vries, Ilona Schouwenaars, Martine Derks & Wim Folker.


Vocational education needs to find ways to constantly update curricula to raise professionals who can face new theories and practices. In this paper, a multiple case study is presented which explores how mixed audience masterclasses can contribute to a semi-permeable curriculum defined as ‘an open-ended core curriculum with a firm base in evergreen content around which flexible elements about new content can evolve’. Six masterclasses on innovative topics in which pre- and in-service teachers learned collaboratively, were designed and evaluated. Positive findings on the educators’, teachers’ and students’ awareness of, experiences with, and appreciations of the masterclasses indicate the potential of mixed audience masterclasses. Several conditions under which they can become successful emerged, such as administrative support, and explicit design of mixed audience interactions. It is concluded that improvement of the design and implementation of the mixed audience masterclasses could further contribute to realizing a semi-permeable curriculum that offers new professional topics to teachers in all stages of their career.

Introduction to the problem

Because of education constantly changing, teacher education is in constant need of renewing its curriculum to prepare its students for emerging practices (Barnes & Solomon, 2014; Burstow & Maguire, 2014). Teacher education is not the only field facing this need. Shay (2016) explains that higher education in general is confronted with a ‘cross-fire of expectations’ to keep up with change. Through the years, this cross-fire has been mentioned in many domains, such as medical education, finance, and computer sciences (e.g., Churchill, Bowser & Preece, 2016; Jones, Higgs, De Angelis & Prideaux, 2001; Russell, 2007). It raises the question how vocational education curricula can be made more flexible in order to be able to adjust in time to new ideas and practices in the work fields. In other words, the question is what vocational education curricula should look like to be future sensitive and easily adaptable?

Due to the rapid developments in professional domains, vocational education has been confronted with yet another question: how it can contribute to the professional development of in-service professionals. In case of the educational field, the question is how teacher education institutes can contribute to the need for continuing professional development of in-service teachers working in schools. Bachelor and master degrees in vocational education and teacher education have become starting certificates rather than diplomas that last forever. In order to keep up with innovations and improvements, it is deemed necessary that in-service teachers participate in professional development programs that address both individual and organizational needs, and offer a variety of flexible activities to facilitate theory-practice discourses (e.g. Burstow & Maguire, 2014; Garet et al., 2001). Teacher education seems to hold many good cards to provide such programs: they have the network and the expertise. And over the past years, several developments in teacher education already contributed to the professional development of in-service teachers. For instance, schools and teacher education institutes have built school-university networks in which they prepare pre-service teachers and conduct research together (e.g. Baumfield & Butterworth, 2007; Benade, Hubbard & Lamb, 2017; Smith & Ulvik, 2014). This collaboration has increased awareness of a need for professional development of in-service teachers. Therefore, teacher education institutes increasingly feel responsible for offering professional development programs for in-service teachers as well.

In this paper, the central question addressed is how the teacher education curriculum can become more flexible in its structure and content in order to become future sensitive and easily adaptable to emerging theories and practices, and provide up to date programs for both pre-service and in-service teachers. To answer this question, we introduce the concept of a semi-permeable curriculum, and explore how it can contribute to teacher education in particular, and vocational education in general.

Theoretical background

In general, educational designers have frequently suggested that design products should be flexible and adaptable for sustainable implementation. Brown (2009) argues that so-called Adaptive Instructional Materials (AIM) have three characteristics: (1) they consist of building blocks; (2) the building blocks consist of reusable resources and actively support customization; and (3) materials are easily accessible. Brown concludes that “the three characteristics taken together optimally support different modes of use by being sufficiently open-ended to accommodate flexible use, yet sufficiently constrained to provide coherence and meaning with respect to its intended uses (p. 32).” Further, as Barab and Luehmann (2003) put it: “The core challenge is not to design some “correct” version of curricula or assessment that will be implemented “wholecloth” by willing teachers, but to develop flexible support structures that facilitate local adaptation and ownership of each curriculum” (p. 456). Many case studies have been conducted which illustrate that educational renewal is positively supported by design products that allow teachers and educators to make local adaptations (e.g., De Vries, Schouwenaars & Stokhof, 2017; Linn et al., 2003; Squire et al., 2003).

Additional to the micro level of curriculum design there is a well-expressed need to create flexibility at the meso level of higher education curricula that concerns the entire curriculum instead of one subject or school year (Van den Akker, 2013). In earlier years, many pleas and efforts to make higher education curricula flexible at meso level can be found. For instance, as early as 1986 Van Eijl argued that “more flexibility allows for a faster updating of the curriculum, better accessibility of the courses to different groups of students and a better adjustment to developments in the labour market and the needs of society” (p. 450). The solution explored ever since is modular programming, and designers of modular curricula have been in search of the ideal scope of modules to optimize their function as building blocks (Lucena, 2003; Snyder, Herer & Moore, 2011). Moreover, educational designers have explored ways to enlarge the flexibility of such a modular system in an online repository (Churchill, Bowser & Preece, 2016; Cook & Dupras, 2003), and have developed software that produces dynamic routings to address differentiated needs (Snyder, Herer & Moore, 2011). The belief is that modularization supports an external orientation towards the work field (e.g., Hubbal & Burt, 2004; Nieuwenhuis, 1993). In addition, it is expected to promote interdisciplinarity by combining modules from different domains in larger units (Hubbal & Burt, 2004; Lucena, 2003). The flexibility and adaptability at the school level have been given vivid names such as ‘living curriculum’ (Churchill, Bowser & Preece, 2016), and ‘dynamic curriculum’ (Derks, 2016; Hughes & Tan, 2012) to express its ambition to become future sensitive and adaptable to changes in the work field and society on the one hand, and needs of different groups of learners and stakeholders on the other.

Besides creating modular programs, it is suggested that embedding close encounters of theory and practice is a key issue to increase future sensitivity and flexibility at the meso level of curriculum design. Palonen et al. (2014) suggest to put so-called ‘knowledge practices’ at the center of learning. Likewise, Grossman et al. (2009) put a stake in the ground for letting teacher education evolve around ‘core practices’ which represent current issues of professional behavior from the work field around which creativity, adaptive expertise and metacognition are demanded to solve a problem and develop professional skills. Others have suggested to make vocational education research-based to improve the research-practice nexus by implementing authentic research projects within curricula (e.g., Vereijken et al., 2017; Van der Rijst, 2017). All the suggestions in general lead to the creation of regional school-university networks and communities of practice in which teachers in all stages of their careers come together with teacher educators and researchers in projects and programs. As a result, initial and post-initial professional development become intertwined (e.g., Derks, 2016; Timmermans, 2012). Lifelong learning has been mentioned as a framework (e.g., Iredale, 2018). Moreover, dialogue is often viewed to be an essential part of continuing professional development because in interaction professionals with different backgrounds can explicate and share their knowledge and questions and learn with and from each other (e.g., Crafton & Kaiser, 2011).

In this paper, we seek to build on those early efforts to make curricula more future-sensitive at higher levels of curriculum design by introducing the concept of a semi-permeable curriculum, defined as ‘an open-ended core curriculum with a firm base in evergreen content and timeless competencies, around which flexible elements about new content can evolve’ (De Vries, 2016). A semi-permeable curriculum provides an open-ended format at the meso level of curriculum design. It consists of a fixed backbone, surrounded by varying options around innovative knowledge practices. The modular system is taken as a starting point for building dynamic and differing routings for groups of learners. Some modules are obligatory and in fixed order whereas others are a matter of choice through which any kind of student, being a pre-service student or an in-service teacher, can deepen or broaden his/her knowledge and skills. At the meso level of curriculum design a semi-permeable curriculum gains strength by being able to include including varying work formats ranging from lectures to collaborative design and research projects. The variety improves the freedom of choice people have to work and learn in ever-changing settings and groupings. Overall, a semi-permeable curriculum strives to provide both freedom in the structure as well as the offered content and work formats.

Mixed audience masterclasses can be considered as one work format that could help turn a curriculum into a semi-permeable one. We define mixed audience masterclasses as ‘small groups of learners with mixed backgrounds gathering around authentic situations and experiences that are reflected upon by an expert, and a community of fellow learners (cf. Atkinson, Watermeyer & Delamont, 2013; Doherty, 2007). They could contribute to the semi-permeability of a curriculum because they can easily and radically change their content, and connect theory with practice by inviting experts and learners with different backgrounds to come together. Furthermore, they do not radically need to change the structure of the curriculum since fixed time slots can be reserved for the masterclasses. This makes them easily implementable from an organizational perspective. Finally, because they are rather isolated from the core curriculum on basic competencies, they can be planned in such a way that they become accessible for both students as well as in-service teachers.

Hardly any evidence can be found in the research literature on processes and effects of mixed audience work formats, but some case studies have reported positive experiences. For instance, Roback (2003) concludes: “I hadn’t anticipated (but was excited to see) the improved quality of interaction in class sections resulting from a mixed audience. I found that class questions operated on many different levels, all of which enhanced the learning atmosphere in the class” (p. 10). Similarly, Godfrey (1998) concludes that differences in prior knowledge and expectations of mixed audiences gave students a variety of experiences but at the same time demands explicit attention. Both case studies take place in other domains than teacher education, a statistics course and a software engineering course respectively, on which we seek to build with the present study.

In the remainder of this paper, an explorative study on mixed audience masterclasses in the educational field is presented which seeks to answer the following research questions: (1) How does the design of the masterclasses invite a learning dialogue between audiences? (intended curriculum); (2) To what extent can a learning dialogue between audiences be observed during the masterclasses (implemented curriculum)? (3) How do participants appreciate the mixed audience in the masterclasses? (attained curriculum).


Design of the study

The study was organized as a multiple case study of six masterclasses in two subsequent years and ran from 2015 until 2017. The study took place at a teacher education institute for primary education in the Netherlands. As the institute is located at a university of applied sciences, it collaborates with primary schools in its region in a university-school network. A significant part of its curriculum takes place at the workplace, and practice-based research is conducted within the network by teachers, students and with the support from experts and researchers. The mixed masterclasses are offered to the schools present in the network and invite their in-service teachers to join pre-service teacher students at the teacher institute. The six mixed masterclasses were part of a larger list of masterclasses that were not mixed. Pre-service teacher students could choose from the whole list, whereas in-service teachers could only subscribe to the mixed audience masterclasses. The masterclasses consisted of two or three meetings of two hours each. In between, the participants worked on a practical assignment.


Three groups of participants were involved in the masterclasses: (1) teacher educators, hereafter called ‘educators’, who designed and gave the masterclasses, often in collaboration with experts from research institutes or consultancy; (2) pre-service student teachers in their first or second year, hereafter called ‘students’; and (3) in-service teachers with varying years of experience, hereafter called ‘teachers’. The teachers could be mentors of students, but not necessarily of the students who participated in the masterclasses. Table 1 gives an overview of types and numbers of participants.

Table 1: Overview of (subscribed and) present participants in the 6 masterclasses
Masterclass Students Teachers Total 
Total (114) 91 (29) 15 (143) 106 
MC 1 Urban education (22) 9  (5) 3 (27) 12 
MC 2 Talented (9) 8 (8) 3 (14) 11 
MC 3 Values in teaching (19) 16 (3) 3 (22) 19 
MC 4 Bilingual education (20) 19 (3) 3 (23) 22 
MC 5 Programming with kids (13) 13 (3) 1 (16) 14 
MC 6 Urban Education (31) 26 (7) 2 (38) 28 

Students had to follow two masterclasses as part of their bachelor program, and subscribed through the regular student administration system. Teachers enrolled in as much mixed audience masterclasses they wanted as part of their personal development programs. All students and teachers participating in this study participated in one masterclass only. As Table 1 shows more students than teachers enrolled. This could be explained by the fact that participation was obligatory for students whereas teachers voluntarily subscribed. In addition, the numbers of students and teachers dropped significantly after subscription. In case of the teachers the small number affected the mixed nature of the masterclasses.

Instruments and procedure

Data were collected during all meetings of all six masterclasses with a mix of quantitative and qualitative instruments: collection of design products, interviews, observations, and a short questionnaire. Before the start of the masterclass, design products were collected (e.g., setup, powerpoints), and interviews with the coordinating educators were held to collect expectations and background information on the design. During the meetings, an observation protocol was used by which we collected information on (1) number, type and location of participants by drawing a map of how they were seated in the classroom, (2) the lesson structure by noting the time and the (sub)activity, and (3) interaction patterns by noting who was talking to whom about what. At the closure of the last meeting, a questionnaire was used to measure if students (N=78, 13 missing) and teachers (N=14, 1 missing) had been aware of the mixed nature, and how they experienced and appreciated it. Items were formulated as five-scale Likert items, and measured three constructs: awareness of, experience with, and appreciation of (6 items per construct). After the last meeting short semi-structured interviews with an approximate length of fifteen minutes were held with some volunteering students (N=5) and teachers (N=13) in separate small groups to ask about their opinions in more detail. The interview protocol addressed their experience with a mixed audience, their appreciation of the mixed audience in terms of what it contributed to a mixed audience interaction and their learning, and their evaluation of the setup of the masterclass in light of supporting mixed audience interaction. In the weeks after the masterclass, final semi-structured interviews with the coordinating educators (N=6; approx. length 30‒60 minutes) were held to reflect on the mixed nature of the masterclasses.


The data were stored digitally. All interviews were transcribed. Analysis took place in four steps. First, the designs were analyzed for their overall structure and explicit activities/moments aimed at (mixed audience) interaction. Then, the observations were analyzed by segmenting the observed dialogue in the masterclass into dialogue patterns with a beginning, middle and end, and summarizing for all the segments if an IRF pattern (e.g., question-answer-feedback) or an IDRF pattern (dialogue comprising more extended discussion) occurred. Furthermore, the speakers in the segments were coded as either educators, students or teachers to see if and when interaction between mixed audiences took place. Next, the questionnaire data were stored in SPSS and descriptive analysis was conducted summarizing the participants’ scores on the constructs by calculating means and standard deviations. Third, the interview segments were coded and categorized as saying something related to awareness/expectation, experiences/perceptions of what happened, and appreciations. Taken together, the data gave an overview of the design and implementation of each masterclass. Finally, the within-case analyses were synthesized in a cross-case summary of findings on the design, the interaction, and the awareness, experiences and appreciations as expressed by the participants. In the next section, we report the main findings from this cross-case analysis, illustrated by excerpts taken from the individual masterclasses.


We report on the outcomes of the study in three parts. First, we present findings on the designs and expectations of the educators. Then, we present findings on the meetings of the masterclasses both from the observations and reported experiences from the interviews and questionnaire. Thirdly, we present the participants reflections by reporting on their appreciations of the masterclasses as expressed in the questionnaire and interviews.

Intended curriculum: Designs and expectations

The masterclasses were designed by mixed teams of educators, experts and reseachers. The general starting point for all masterclasses was to design a masterclass that inspired by presenting new theory and practice, provided room for gaining new experiences in the practical assignment, and encouraged reflective dialogue on those experiences. All the masterclasses focused on presenting new information in the first meeting, collecting experiences between the first and the second meeting, and reflective dialogue on experiences in the second and third meetings. The design products illustrate this general setup. The powerpoints of the first meeting are extensive, provide new theories and practical examples, and aim at short dialogues between educators/experts and the participants. In the second and third meetings, the powerpoints are limited in size, mainly show procedural information, and more frequently aim at encouraging dialogue between the participants. The worksheets and products that the participants bring with them are put more central. Overall, the design products reveal their focus on interactivity by explicitly encouraging collaboration between participants, for instance: ‘discuss with your neighbour’, ‘work together with someone who has the same idea’, ‘form groups of three for discussing a case’, and ‘think-pair-share’. The examples show that although the focus is on interactivity, the educators did not explicity design mixed interactions between students and teachers. From analyzing the design products, one can not derive that we have entered a mixed audience masterclass. Only in one case, the sheets reveal an exercise in the first meeting aimed at making explicit the differences between the participants with respect to their prior knowledge and expectations.

Although the design products and materials do not reveal the mixed nature of the audience, we know from the interviews with the coordinating educators that they were well aware of the mixed nature, and expressed mixed feelings about it. For example:

“Difficult, such a diverse audience. First year students of whom I do not know what brings them here. Are they interested, are they gifted themselves, what are the questions they have. [ …] I need to look for ‘somewhere inbetween’ teachers with practical experiences, and first year students who just got acquainted with the topic. We struggled with this in the design of the masterclass. I will make that explicit at the start of the masterclass. I do think it is a positive thing, a richness encouraging an open mind. Getting to know different cases.” [ MC1]

“I had very positive expectations, an interesting starting point to let students and teachers meet […] It did not change the content of the masterclass, I did think again about the work formats, and that not all teachers would go sit together. That it will really mix.” [MC3]

Some first experiences led to incidental adjustments in the design of next meeting(s). For instance, MC2 added theoretical input in the second meeting based on expressed needs of participants, MC1 adjusted the home assignment for two participants who wanted to do the assignment in an informal learning environment, and MC1 and MC4 adjusted the content to specific prior knowledge and questions of the teachers.

Implemented curriculum: Interaction processes

In most meetings the classroom is organized in small groups. Only in MC3 the participants are seated as in a bus, and in MC4 and MC5 they sit in a square. At the start of the first meetings, most educators explicitly invite the participants to mix as they get seated. As it turns out, however, most students and teachers seat themselves in non-mixed groups. In the following meetings, the educators do not address mixed seats again at the start. During these follow-up meetings, the participants do mix during group discussions, as far as this is possible given the low number of teachers present in most masterclasses.

Most educators explicitly pay attention to the mixed audience at the beginning of the first meeting. The educator of MC1 mentions the challenge she felt to address different kinds of participants with one masterclass. Most educators start the masterclass with getting to know each other: who is present, what is their background and what are their expectations for this masterclass. In most masterclasses, getting to know each other is a short exercise in which not even all participants tell their stories. In MC1 and MC4, more extensive activities take place in the form of a quiz that makes visible different thoughts and backgrounds of participants. The educators emphasize the equality of all input and backgrounds.

In relation to the general setup, all masterclasses run as planned. The first meeting puts an accent on inspiring and informing, and the next meeting(s) on sharing experiences and reflective dialogues. All meetings are highly interactive taking the form of plenary questioning and answering, and group discussions. Most often, the dialogue is started by the educator(s) with a question or statement, to which the participants react. Although the participants also start to react on each other’s input, overall the initiating and mediating role of the educator(s) remains strong, dialogues remain rather short after which new input is provided by the educator(s). Most dialogues follow a classical IRF pattern in which the educator initiates, the participants respond, the educator gives feedback on the response, and moves on to the next question or topic. To a lesser extent, IDRF patterns emerged in which whole group discussions occured in a more extensive way. In the second and third meetings, IDRF pattters have been observed more often than in the first meeting. The following observation excerpt illustrates an IDRF pattern occurring in MC6 when the whole group discusses the meaning and appearance of ‘underwater behaviour’ from a socio-dynamic perspective. E is one of the educators, T1 is a teacher and S1234 are students:

“E asks to mention underwater behaviour of children they know of.
T1 answers; S1 and S2 also provide an answer.
S1 and S2 explain they do not fully understand the question.
E explains and rephrases: which behaviour do chilren sometimes show which is not conform the values of the classroom, but is left unspoken.
S1 mentions quick glances and mimics of children.
S3 asks: what do you do, how do you talk about it with your children?
S4 adds: is it necessary to discuss such behaviours?
T1: in my experience each group has implicit rules, you see it, but you cannot get a grip on it
S3: but I think you should make it explicit and discuss it, because it is often negative behaviour. But then again, we just concluded a few minutes ago that we should ignore negative behaviour?
E refines: sometimes you do, sometimes you don’t, sometimes you get back to it later
S1: we sometimes address such things by role playing, without names or so, and ask the children: how does this feel for you.”

The excerpt illustrates a discussion in which the educator initiated the topic, but after that the teacher and students start discussing the topic amongst each other, building on each other’s thoughts and experiences. In the second and third meetings, IDRF patters occurred frequently in smaller settings. In those meetings, small group discussions dominated the meeting. In the first meeting, the students did not bring in experiences since often they didn’t have any yet. This changed in the follow up meetings: by the assignment the students have gained some early experiences that they can reflect on. The educators noticed the impact of the students having collected fresh experiences. As one educator put it:

“During the second meeting knowledge sharing was central. And although this occurred to be complicated in the first meeting, this time they really entered a conversation with each other. The students felt more secure. Teachers and students started sharing knowledge with each other.” [MC4]

Summarized, it was observed that in all meetings interactivity was frequent. The interactivity changed after the first meeting, since the participants started working in groups more. But overall, the presence of the educator(s) was dominant in IRF patterns although some examples of IDRF were observed as well. The educators reflected on the interactivity in the masterclasses as being hard work, needing many interventions to maintain the conversation, and address both groups of participants:

“I planned sharing knowledge in small groups. This needed intervention from my side, because all the teachers sat together. In the plenary discussion that followed they dominated the conversation by sharing ‘how it went at their school’. Then I explicitly asked the students: how do you perceive all this, how do you experience it at your school? This intervention was really necessary, to help students take their part because teachers tend to react quickly on each other’s situations and students get forgotten.” [MC2]

The opposite of teachers dominating the conversation was also observed. In some cases the teachers withdrew from the conversation because they were too aware of the differences in experience between them and the students, and did not want to take too much space at the cost of the students. Even more, some teachers felt responsible for the students’ learning (rather than for their own!). Both teachers and educators confirmed this observation in the interviews:

“I noticed that teachers found it interesting, but at the same time were holding back, as if they thought let the students think for a while. A real dissapointment. They kept holding on to the tutor-student relationship.” [educator, MC2]

“The first meeting I felt awkward. Inclined to tell a lot, but then you think no let the students provide input first, because they are still learning. So I kept silent at that moment.” [teacher, MC3]

“It is so much fun to notice that students develop their ideas, even if I think that they might not work that well in practice. I do not say that on prupose, because I think they need to experience it themselves and see why it does or doesn’t work.” [teacher, MC5]

Attained curriculum: Awareness and appreciations

When designing the masterclasses, the educators were very much aware of the mixed audience, being in favor of creating such a rich learning environment, but also feeling anxious at the same time if and how to satisfy all the participants. To what extent and how were the students and teachers aware of the mixed nature of the masterclasses, and experienced and appreciated it? In general, the participants were moderately aware of the mixed audience during the meetings (M=2.91, SD=0.41). The extent to which they experience the mixed nature is also rather moderate (M=3.20, SD=0.40). The dominating finding here is that the number of teachers present was so low that many participants indicated they did not always experience a mixed audience. Unless this low presence of teachers, the questionnaire and interviews indicate that the participants do appreciate (the thought of) the mixed nature (M=3.23, SD=0.38). Both students and teachers explain that they learn from each other:

“Students talk about they think, teachers share experiences. I recognize from their stories they have different contact with parents, real contact that I cannot have yet as a student teacher. I can finetune my own experience by what I have heard.” [student, MC1]

“Students say we can simply do it like this, we can solve this. By experience I know that things run differently, but I do like it, a fresh view on the matter.” [teacher MC3]

Although both groups appreciate the mixed audience, they perceive different gains: students say they hear new things, and can collect real examples by hearing the examples from teachers while teachers explained that they become more aware of the knowledge and experience they have collected during the years. One of the educators confirmed this finding from the questionnaire as follows:

“I think it is really nice for students to hear so many stories from practice, to hear what experienced teachers struggle with. That there will be challenges no matter how experienced a teacher you are. At the other side, I think it is really nice for teachers to see where they come from, to become aware of what they can do already. And the importance to keep developing your skills.” [educator, MC1]

Although both students and teachers perceive knowledge gains, the interviews revealed that for some students the level of the masterclass was too high, whereas some teachers felt there was more in it for the students than for them because much information was not new to them. This finding shows the importance of addressing the participants in the right ‘zone of proximal development’ to really contribute to professional development at any stage. It can also explain for the fact that teachers sometimes stayed in their role of being a tutor, as we have indicated above.

Conclusion and reflection

In this paper, we posed the following research questions: (1) How does the design of the masterclasses invite a learning dialogue between audiences? (intentional curriculum); (2) To what extent can a learning dialogue between audiences be observed during the masterclasses (implemented curriculum)? (3) How do participants appreciate the mixed audience character of the masterclasses? (attained curriculum). By answering the questions we hope to gain first insight in if and how mixed audience masterclasses could possibly contribute to building a semi-permeable curriculum, which we defined as a future sensitive curriculum that can easily manipulate flexible elements around a fixed core curriculum, seeks the intertwinement of theory and practice, and provides a learning environment for professionals at all stages of their careers. In an answer to the first question, we saw that the design products and materials revealed a focus on interactivity and dialogical learning in either whole class or small group discussions. At the same time, the awareness of a mixed audience was not explicitly taken into account in the designs, which did not specify the different backgrounds of the participants for instance. The intended curriculum, therefore, was not pervaded with a mixed audience yet. What did we see in the implemented curriculum? In answer to the second research question, we conclude that most of the masterclasses addressed the mixed audience to a certain extent. We saw that the start of the first meeting in many cases was used to get to know each other in some way, and to express different backgrounds, experiences and questions in the group. But in several masterclasses this was a rather short exercise, in which not all participants were invited or took the chance to express themselves. In only two masterclasses an effective work format such as a quiz was implemented to make visible the mixed audience. Furthermore, we saw that the interactivity in the masterclasses was high, but the mixed character low for several reasons: the participants did not mix up physically by sitting next to each other or in mixed groups, and much of the dialogue was initiated and maintained by the educator(s) in short IRF patterns. In some cases, especially in the second and third meetings, we did find mixed IDRF conversations in which the participants co-constructed the dialogue from their different backgrounds, and educators took less dominant roles. However, we also noticed that at such “mixed moments”, their roles as tutors in the larger school-university network now sometimes prevented the teachers to put their own needs before the students’ ones even while they were not the mentors of the students participating in the masterclass. Overall, for the time being we conclude that the mixed audience masterclasses were positively evaluated by all the participants. The educators believed in the concept, and teachers and students appreciated the idea although they also indicated to be only moderately aware of the fact that there was a mixed audience.

The pitfall of this study is coming with its explorative nature. We have tried to explore and discover the merits of a new work format, mixed audience masterclasses, which seeks to combine already existing collaboration in a school-university network with fresh ideas about learning together. Being used to being the tutors of students in the workplace, we now invited the tutors to become learners themselves together with pre-service students! We saw that many of the teachers who subscribed dropped out before the masterclasses had even started. Maybe becoming a student amongst students contributed to their dropping out? The teachers who did participate confirmed they had to overcome some feelings of ‘being misplaced’ when they entered the classroom filled with groups of students. Their first inclination was to either return to their cars, or enter the classroom and team up with the few faces they recognized as “being teachers just like me”. Another simple reason that could explain for the dropouts is the back office of the teacher institute, not being used to facilitating subscriptions from outside the institute. The teachers who did show up all explained they subscribed early in the school year, received one confirmation email from the institute, and then never heard from it again. This puts rather high demands on people’s awareness of approaching data, and a sense of urgence. The teacher institute also struggled with the internal registration of students choosing from many options, which could explain for the students who subscribed but never showed up. All in all, the low number of teachers in the masterclasses hampered the exploration of mixing up audiences. The present study indicates the format is promising, but follow-up evaluations are necessary to look for its benefits more extensively. In next cycles of design and evaluation, the outcomes of this study further suggest that the participants’ awareness of the mixed nature of the masterclasses could be raised in order to make the participants more responsible for the process of learning with and from each other. At the same time, the awareness should be fed by explicit elements in the design of the masterclasses. The outcomes suggest that educators should be supported to define design principles for working with mixed audiences, which translate into work formats that explicitly address and use existing differences between participants when it comes to backgrounds and experiences, questions and needs. A design tool such as Van den Akker’s (2003) spider web, which guides micro designing of lesson structures and materials, could be helpful. The spider web discerns nine design issues that need to be addressed in any design: goals, content, activities, teacher role, sources/materials, grouping, context, time allocations, and ways of assessment and feedback. Some of these issues have appeared to be important to realize an effective mixed audience learning environment. For instance, we saw that people do not mix naturally. In the design, interventions to fysically mix audiences should be present (context, grouping). In addition, articulating prior knowledge and learning needs should be part of the design of a mixed audience masterclass, and dialogue activities could guide the constructive comparison and complementarity of the knowledge and questions present. This implies interventions related to content and activities, and should affect the role of the educator (guiding and following the discussion rather than instructing and dominating it) as well as help teachers and students to become equal partners in learning.

As a final reflection, we would like to address the main question raised in this paper, if and how mixed audience masterclasses contribute to a semi-permeable curriculum. We think that our first experiences with the mixed audience masterclasses positively support the expectation that they could contribute to future sensitivity, an improved theory-practice nexus, and lifelong learning. At this stage, educators, teachers and students favor the mixed setting, and recognize several benefits of the encounter. The educational field is full of innovations that need to be introduced and explored by any teacher no matter in which stage of career development (s)he is, and the masterclasses provide room for that in the curriculum. The presented study shows the potential of putting pre- and in-service teachers together around such themes in easy to adapt masterclasses. At the same time, it also reveals several conditions in both the organization and design of the mixed audience masterclasses that are necessary to create new relationships between the mixed audiences for the benefit of all. With the masterclasses we have only begun to see how mixed audience formats, of which a masterclass is only one possibility, could contribute to a flexible and future sensitive professional learning program that starts with initial education but is implemented across all stages of teachers’ careers’.

Practical implications

Now we get back where we started. Almost any profession nowadays deals with rapidly evolving new theories, practices, techniques and strategies. Raising professionals for the future is a design problem recognized by many faculties of (higher) vocational education. As we have argued before, the demands on vocational education are diverse and high, and since we often cannot foretell what will be needed in a profession in the (near) future exactly, curriculum design has to become as flexible as possible to be able to adapt just in time and continuously. In this light, others have presented solutions under the heading of ‘modularization’ (Lucena, 2003; Snyder, Herer & Moore, 2011), ‘living curriculum’ (Churchill, Bowser & Preece, 2016), or dynamic curriculum (Derks, 2016; Hughes & Tan, 2012). The presentation of the concept of a semi-permeable curriculum in this paper seeks to contribute to this quest. Finally, by emphasizing that curricular puzzles need to be worked out at all levels of curriculum design, from nano and micro lessons to meso and macro structures, we suggest that across all those levels, the concept of semi-permeability could be further explored to give further expression to the fact that some parts in a professional field remain evergreen and should be seen as part of a core curriculum, whereas other parts of the curriculum will be fed and constituted by recent developments in either theory or practice that are deemed important in the near future, and may become evergreen elements in time. We hope the concept inspires educational designers and educators to embrace the quest for balance between old and new. Moreover, we hope it inspires many professionals in each stage of their career to embrace lifelong learning and enter the semi-permeable curriculum to learn together.


Bregje de Vries, PhD, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU), The Netherlands
Ilona Schouwenaars, M.Sc., University of Applied Sciences Arnhem en Nijmegen (HAN), The Netherlands
Martine Derks, M.Sc., University of Applied Sciences Arnhem en Nijmegen (HAN), The Netherlands
Wim Folker, M.Sc., Director of SKPCPO Delta, Arnhem, The Netherlands

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Methods and Tools to Improve Collaborative Lifelong Learning

Authors: Rebecca Eliahoo, Marcelo Giglio & Loes van Wessum.


This paper describes a three-stage method for teachers and researchers to collaborate and co-create ideas for future practice, to improve collaborative lifelong learning. Using a thematic network group, practitioner-researchers and practitioners associated with the European Association for Practitioner Research on Improving Learning (EAPRIL) came to a shared understanding of possible teacher actions, methods and tools which can be used to improve collaborative lifelong learning processes and support the professional development of teachers.

Three case studies are given as examples of developing lifelong learning processes through collaboration. The EAPRIL thematic network group borrow and adapt the concept of ‘‘interthinking’’ (Littleton & Mercer, 2013) as a process of investigating collaborative talk in the pursuit of collective intellectual endeavour. The focus was on collaboration, as this can have positive effects of social interaction for learning (Littleton, Miell & Faulkner, 2004). “Of all the conditions that feed deep learning, collaboration is at the heart of them” (Fullan, Quinn & McEachen, 2018, p. 97).

Roundtable discussions were held in an international ‘interthinking’ group’ to collate practitioners’ perspectives on ways of encouraging and supporting creative collaborations and lifelong learning for staff and students. Following this, a call was sent out for international case studies which form part of this article.


Practitioners from one of EAPRIL’s¹ thematic networks ( worked together to gather examples of professional experiences, ideas, educational visions, methods, tools and/or results of research. The question we asked ourselves was: how to improve collaborative lifelong learning for the future of education? These professional insights formed part of an international roundtable workshop which collated practitioners’ case studies and instructive examples.

Part of the roles of Universities of Applied Sciences (UAS) is to encourage creative practices and educational research. Richardson and Placier (2001) consider that teachers can change practice by learning, development, socialization, growth, improvement, implementation of education with new or different visions, cognitive and affective change, and studies. In this sense, our international ’interthinking group’, was largely drawn from UAS institutions within the context of the EAPRIL Conference in November of 2017 in Häme University of Applied Sciences, Hämeenlinna, Finland.

The thematic network group felt that it was important to build collaborative relationships both internally and externally, even to the extent of encouraging schools, and other educational institutions, to plan ways of incorporating collaborative skills alongside discipline-specific competences, for both staff and students.

  1. The ‘inter-thinking group’ used a three-stage method which involved:
  2. The leaders of the thematic network pose questions within a roundtable workshop where interthinking groups collate their answers.
  3. Members of each interthinking group share and collate their answers in a plenary session.
  4. The plenary group co-create a shared understanding through a Cloud-based shared document.

The thematic network group leaders and one member of the interthinking group use the shared understanding to write this article and to include three international case studies focusing on collaborative lifelong learning.

Interthinking group Stage 1

The interthinking group was asked to arrange their roundtable discussions so that each table, comprising three to six members in the same room, was made up of people from different countries. They were asked to focus on exploring the ways in which each country introduces new forms of thinking and acting to improve collaborative learning and lifelong learning in education for all. Participants were asked to focus on three topics:

a) Given any recent educational reforms in your country, what is the role of Universities of Applied Sciences in encouraging creative practice and educational research on collaborative competencies and lifelong learning?

b) Identify any new approaches to teaching quality improvement. This includes teacher actions and research perspectives within your context/level of education, instruction, or vocational training.

c) From these discussions, please write down any new teacher actions and research perspectives you have highlighted in your group.

Interthinking group Stage 2

Each table was asked to appoint a chair who would take notes and share their group’s ideas and observations in a plenary. The thematic network group leaders helped facilitate these discussions.

Interthinking group Stage 3

During the plenary, each chair summarised their group’s comments whilst the thematic network leaders wrote these down in a shared document. As the document was projected on a screen, it could be checked immediately and amended in real time.

The thematic group leaders used the data selected during the interthinking group session to write this article. They invited members of the interthinking group to contribute case studies to add to the article. One of the members accepted and together this article was written.

We begin by reporting on the findings of the interthinking groups’ roundtable discussions from the EAPRIL conference; then we present the more in-depth cases which provide instructive examples of collaborative lifelong learning. Each case is structured in the same way highlighting their context, methods and tools, contribution and implications; and finally, we discuss our conclusions.

Interthinking groups’ roundtable findings

Methods and tools used by Universities of Applied Sciences to encourage creative practice and educational research on collaborative competencies and lifelong learning

In general, for schools, colleges and universities, the interthinking groups reported that one of the ways in which UAS encourage collaborative competences and lifelong learning, would include peer review and observations in classrooms. This could take the form of ‘Learning Walks’, where teachers allow colleagues to observe their classrooms on an informal and non-judgemental basis. The interthinking groups described this peer evaluation as a form of learning, citing other examples such as structured professional discussions between teachers; the creation of personal teaching logs, vlogs (a blog in which postings are primarily in video form) and diaries which can capture important aspects of classroom practice; regular informal meetings and networking, so that teachers share best practices across contexts and institutions; and lifelong career support through mentoring and/or coaching.

Several people suggested ‘intervision’ or ‘action learning’ (McGill & Brockbank 2004), a peer coaching activity which aims to develop professional expertise and help colleagues gain insight into their work problems (see Case Study 2). Practitioners of ‘intervision’ or ‘action learning’ claim that it can bring a practical understanding of theory, as well as contributing towards a collaborative culture where people feel collectively responsible for their organisation and its performance.

Whether it’s through informal learning over a cup of coffee; or through supported experiments, action research or student co-creation, it was felt that collaboration remains an important part of the professional development of educators and students (see Case Study 3).

However, teacher collaboration is a means to achieve an end. The interthinking groups stressed that space must be made for a research-based and scholarly approach in order to help define goals and shed light on outcomes and sustain visions of education’s future. Otherwise, collaboration can become a content-less waste of time. Teachers must feel that collaboration helps them teach and integrate into a professional learning community or community of practice (Wenger, 1998), instead of feeling forced to collaborate and experiencing loss of autonomy. Collaboration only works within a climate of openness and trust, as demonstrated in Case Study 1 (Van Grieken, Meredith, Packer & Kyndt, 2017).

Participants in the ‘interthinking’ groups were contacted after the EAPRIL 2017 Conference and asked if they would like to contribute more in-depth case studies, three of which are presented later in this article.

Professional learning communities as a form of collaborative and lifelong learning

Over the last few decades, the language of collaboration and collegiality has shifted more towards the terminology of ‘professional learning communities’ or ‘communities of practice’ (Wenger, 1998) which comprise different types of institutions or organizations coming together in the interest of a shared enterprise or purpose.

This is illustrated by Little’s research (2006) focusing on community and professional development as foundations for learning-centred schools. She argued that when schools systematically support professional learning, they are more likely to be effective with students. Little’s paper (2006) examines a selective sample of research, looking for the ways in which investment in teachers’ professional learning in North American schools might have an effect on students’ learning.

Little (2006) concluded that schools exhibiting a high level of success with students tend to have working environments that are also conducive to teacher learning:

In these schools, teacher learning arises out of close involvement with students and their work; shared responsibility for student progress; access to new knowledge about learning and teaching; sensibly organized time; access to the expertise of colleagues inside and outside the school; focused and timely feedback on individual performance and on aspects of classroom or school practice; and an overall ethos in which teacher learning is valued and professional community cultivated. (p. 23)

In professional learning communities (PLCs), professionals collaborate on improving student learning and share the responsibility for all students to learn (Lomos, Hofman & Bosker, 2011). This collaboration also contributes to the professional development of the teachers (Stoll, Bolam, McMahon, Wallace & Thomas, 2006; Vescio, Ross & Adams, 2008). If teachers focus on changing their instructional practices, PLCs are successful in improving student achievement (Supovitz, 2002).

Many elements identified by the interthinking groups also appeared in the following three case studies.

Case study 1: Collaboration between an English UAS and community colleges for innovative curriculum design


This case study relates to an innovative initial teacher education course in the UK, which was re-designed by Rebecca Eliahoo in her role as UAS programme leader, in collaboration with course leaders from eight different community colleges. The aim was to improve in-service, part-time courses, for example, by correcting over-assessment and employing a greater variety of assessment for learning methods. The courses offered professional qualifications for teachers in the Lifelong Learning Sector, which has several definitions in the UK, but is generally understood to cover education for students over 16 years of age, as well as adult and community education. This case study is empirical in nature as it deals with the gathering of information through direct personal and professional experience and concerns research applied to a specific group of UK teacher educators.

Method and tools

The course leaders from each college met regularly at the University for professional development workshops facilitated by the UAS programme leader, using Cloud technology to share ideas, resources and draft modules. Module leaders from all the colleges were also invited to assignment writing seminars, research days and cross moderation meetings, where they were provided with discussion materials and resources to discuss ways of improving practice and re-designing the curriculum.

New module leaders and course leaders were given written and oral guidance on their role and offered mentoring, as well as opportunities to collaborate with more experienced practitioners on marking and moderation.


This collegial involvement (Little 1990) provided a benign environment for colleagues from different institutions to exchange practice, design assessments and share resources. The University-college teacher education consortium also jointly won two research bids. For example, two of the colleges worked together to create free resources to help teachers support their learners’ literacy and literacy (see link:

The UAS and colleges’ investment in their lecturers’ time together resulted firstly, in the development of closely bound groups with high levels of trust in each other’s professionalism (Van Grieken, Meredith, Packer, Kyndt, 2017) and with ‘collectively held beliefs, ideas and intentions’ (Little 1990); and secondly, their collaborative work had a positive impact on teacher trainees and ultimately their learners. However, it took a couple of years to embed these collegial working practices, building sufficient trust between colleagues from different institutions.

For example, the emphasis of the courses shifted towards inquiry learning and critical thinking within an ethical framework. Going back to first principles in teacher education, it was felt that assessment of trainee teachers had to be rooted in practice. Course assessments were therefore linked directly to observed teaching practice, so that these were spread throughout the course. Different educational learning theories were actively modelled by module leaders during course delivery; and trainee teachers were asked to evaluate the impact of their teaching on their own learners.

Collaborative and inquiry learning, which exemplified the notion of teaching as action research, were used throughout the courses through supported experiments (Petty, 2017) and then in action research projects, so that the teacher trainees could engage critically with educational literature. Supported experiments involve teachers in experimenting with their teaching, changing something important and reflecting on this in the light of learner and colleague feedback. The assessed research project focused on researching an aspect of subject specialist practice.

Module leaders, who were also tutors and mentors, were asked to audio-record professional discussions with teacher trainees and these were particularly effective for vocational and Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) teacher trainees, non-graduates and those with dyslexia. The piloting of audio recording professional discussions had shown that teacher trainees could identify their strengths and areas for development more critically within a dialogue, rather than in an essay.

The design of valid and innovative assessment methods was a direct result of the grass-roots curriculum development and ideas creation which had emanated from the UAS and college practitioners’ collaborations.


This case shows the crucial role of Universities of Applied Science in supporting the professional development of colleagues from different types of institutions who are also teaching Higher Education courses; as well as the richness and diversity of design ideas and resources which can be garnered from teachers who are not based in Universities.

Case study 2: School leader development programme created through UAS and primary schools’ collaboration


This case study relates to a two-year innovative school leader development programme in the Netherlands led by Loes van Wessum in which nine principals of primary schools (from three school boards) collaborated with five advisors from the UAS. Three of the UAS advisors had pedagogical expertise and two – including the project leader – had expertise in educational change, CPD and leadership.

The focus of the programme was to help principals to develop an analytical culture which could stimulate professionals to work with an inquiry habit of mind within primary schools. In Dutch schools, data are available, but teachers and principals don’t use them very often as information to improve student learning (Schildkamp & Lai, 2013). Three school boards turned to a UAS for help so that schools could develop their capacity to enhance data driven teaching. In line with developing professional learning communities, data driven teaching can also be used as a professional development strategy. Principals were stimulated to use leadership practices which could contribute to the development of PLC’s.

Methods and tools

Principals collaborated with advisors on two intertwined topics: enhancing their learning results in maths and language through collaboratively analyzing and reflecting on these results within school; and enhancing the inquiry habits of minds of teachers by using new forms of leadership practices.

Developing an inquiry habit of mind can be described as a habit of using inquiry and reflection to think about where you are, where you are going, and how you will get there; and then turning around and rethinking the whole process to see how well it is working, before making adjustments (Earl & Katz, 2006). It involves teachers thinking about what they can do to contribute to student learning, acting on it and checking the effects of their instructional practices on students’ learning.

UAS advisors took the role of ‘critical friend’ on the understanding that they would be encouraged to speak truthfully, but constructively, about weaknesses, problems or emotionally charged issues. Principals collaborated with each other on the same topics in three workshops each year using an ‘intervision’ or ‘action learning’ peer coaching approach (McGill and Brockbank 2004).

These workshops were facilitated by the project leader, UAS advisors and a senior researcher. The preparation of the workshops also included the central office administrators from the three boards, who were participating in the workshops. One unexpected result was that these office administrators also started to collaborate within the bounds of the innovative leadership programme.

At the end of each workshop, principals completed learning reports in which they answered two questions about their learning outcomes (‘what did you learn in this workshop?’) and their learning activities (‘what contributed to this?’).


Analysis of all the learner reports showed that principals expanded their practical and theoretical knowledge base; reflected on their roles and underlying assumptions; and learned to experiment with new leadership practices. They mentioned collaboration with both the advisors and other principals as the most important learning activity.

In the first year of the programme, principals collaborated through storytelling and sharing ideas, as well as asking and providing each other with assistance in the form of giving suggestions. In the second (ongoing) year, the programme will also use deeper forms of collaboration (Van Grieken, Dochy, Raes & Kyndt, 2015), such as sharing and analyzing data together, reflective dialogue (in which an analysis is made before giving suggestions to solve the problem) and providing aid and assistance.


Principals’ professional development can be stimulated if it focuses on teachers’ learning and school improvement.  Principals’ learning processes can also be enhanced through the development of explicit collaborative reflection, which can help them in several ways. Firstly, to realize how leadership practices can contribute to teachers’ learning and school development; and secondly, reflection can help them to widen deliberately their repertoire of leadership practices (Ericsson, 2006).  This UAS-school collaboration helped them to become aware of their own tacit knowledge and mental models (Senge, 1990) and in becoming more aware of their own mindsets, they felt able to question them.

As mentioned by the EAPRIL interthinking group, the combination of formal and informal learning activities which contribute to teachers’ learning and school improvement, together with peers and experts, seems to be a fruitful approach for enhancing principals’ professional development.

Case study  3: Group creation & innovation method: professional and collaborative visions of the assessment of cross-curricular competencies


This case study relates to an innovative method of practitioner research in Switzerland, which was designed by Marcelo Giglio in his position as head of research project (UAS HEP-BEJUNE), and in collaboration with Céline Miserez Caperos (HEP-BEJUNE), Régine Roulet (Heads of teachers’ continuing education programmes), Christiane Droz Giglio (Department of Education, canton of Neuchâtel) and thirteen different community colleges.

This case study is illustrated by a dynamic method of co-creation, innovation and co-diffusion of groups among different actors: collaboration and networking between different positions of primary school, teacher education and educational research. The objective is to improve ways of thinking and acting on assessment for learning as part of the prescribed cross-curricular competencies which form part of the new curricula of Switzerland: PER (Plan d’études romand) which apply to school pupils up to the age of 16.

The Swiss canton of Neuchâtel proposed assessment for learning progression with competency expectations across multiple developmental stages, ages and grade levels in primary schools. It isn’t easy for teachers when they have to categorise and organize progression by subject area and by cross-curricular competencies (such as creativity, collaboration and reflection). Children are expected to learn these skills as they progress through their education by using assessed portfolios. Furthermore, these collaborative, lifelong learning skills are always evolving towards the future; are never exhaustive; and need to be assessed.

We can define assessment for learning as a process of collecting and interpreting evidence for use by pupils and their teachers to decide where learners are in their learning progression, where they need to go and how best to get there (Black, Harrison, Lee, Marshall & Wiliam, 2007; Broadfoot, Daugherty, Gardner, Harlen, James & Stobart, 2002). How can teachers learn and develop new forms of assessment for learning in class? In particular, how can teachers assess learning progression on cross-curricular competencies in terms of creativity, collaboration, communication and reflection?

Methods and tools

This case study relates to a three-phase method of Group creation & innovation carried out since 2013 in the canton of Neuchâtel in Switzerland. The goals of this project are:

  • To improve the practices of assessment for learning in primary schools.
  • To increase the quality of teachers’ advisors in assessment for learning progression by portfolios.
  • To enhance the scenarios of teacher education and workplace internships on assessment for collaborative lifelong learning.

Cross-curricular competencies and skills require new teaching actions that focus on collaborative learning progression. This means that pupils could be committed to verbalizing, drawing, writing or presenting a plan, model or theory in the form of a schema, using different ways of thinking, acting and interacting creatively and reflectively in class. Such competences can also benefit their lifelong learning habits.

Indeed, it is necessary that pupils learn to self-evaluate, distinguish and compare their point of view about their own learning progress with the teacher’s (Giglio & Rothenbühler, 2014). This is a challenge for the future of education and learning: to train pupils in lifelong learning, using what is available in today’s world, so that they can adapt to an unknown new world, in ways that are collaborative, creative and reflexive, as well as in ways which encourage deep learning (Fullan, Quinn & McEachen, 2018).

In terms of collaborative learning, social and cultural skills, as well as competencies, can be considered as important as different school subjects. They require both teachers and pupils to use different assessment for learning approaches (Tessaro, Gerard & Giglio, 2017).

Phase 1 – Collaboration as the driver for creativity:

The first phase of this Group creation & innovation method was inspired by R. Keith Sawyer’s study of ‘group genius’ (2007) which considers collaboration to be the driver for creativity. Rather than concentrating on an individual’s capacity to develop creative ideas, Sawyer’s studies focused on innovations emerging from the dynamic of a group.

Each Group creation & innovation comprises six members with different educational professions and institutional roles:

  • teacher,
  • teachers’ student,
  • teacher mentor,
  • teacher advisor,
  • teacher educator, and
  • researcher

The researchers coordinate 90-minute collaborative sessions which aim to provide favourable conditions so that each group member can think about their shared current good practices, on the one hand; and about the future of education and learning, on the other hand. This is not only from their own educational profession and position, but also in a collaborative situation from the point of view of other educational professions and roles.

From each other’s current experiences, each group member contributes, in a creative and innovative way, to professional development and teacher training. In addition, this type of collaboration between teacher educators, teachers’ students, practitioners and researchers is an activity that can trigger what Engeström describes as Expansive Learning (1999). It is by analysing new situations that these education professionals can create and innovate tools, try them out, consolidate them and come up with a new and improved step-by-step educational contribution. This work can help develop new, future uses, creative and perhaps innovative teaching practices, as part of a collective work geared towards education and learning in the future. All these Group creation & innovation sessions were recorded, transcribed and analysed by researchers.

Phase 2 – Sharing, compiling and consolidating collaborative visions in a professional community:

The second meetings are for researchers to present examples of future visions of assessment for learning progression to each working group of teachers’ advisors or to teacher educators. The aim is to collaborate towards a compilation and consolidation of these visions of future education. Each separate 90-minute session was recorded, transcribed and analysed by researchers.

Phase 3 – Co-dissemination and enriching to other colleagues:

The third phase of this Group creation & innovation method is for these visions, as well as the research results, to be shared and enhanced with other colleagues in another session. This is implemented by every team formed of a researcher, or a teachers’ advisor or a teacher educator separately.

Examples of future visions of assessment for learning progression are separately presented to each working group (teachers’ advisors and teacher educators) by the researchers, to consolidate these visions of future education.

Lastly, these visions, as well as the research results, are co-disseminated to other colleagues. This is implemented by every team formed of a researcher, a teachers’ advisor and a teacher educator.

During these co-dissemination approaches, teams use the following approach:

  1. Introduction of the objective of the session;
  2. Presentation of the project’s theoretical and methodological aspects and researchers’ results;
  3. Audio recording of participants’ discussions and noting pathways for proposed visions of future education, especially assessment for learning progression;
  4. Sharing of these creative and innovative visions of education;
  5. Selection and analysis of data (recorded discussions, documents and researchers’ notes).


In the content of the participants’ discussions, we can identify the challenges of collaboration between different institutions (schools, minister and UAS-teacher education) and between different educational roles to improve evaluation in the present and in the future of education. Among these challenges, there is only some coherence between the usual field practices and the tools needed to assess learning progression on cross-curricular competencies in terms of creativity, collaboration, communication and reflection. These competencies are constantly evolving in the face of an unknown future. Evaluation tools must be open to the uncertain future of society and education. In addition, the pupil’s place in the assessment for learning process is very important for their collaborative lifelong learning in terms of creativity, collaboration and communication. We are currently studying the actions of teachers by supporting, coaching and advising pupils in their learning or self-regulated learning.


The Group creation & innovation process allows members of the teaching profession to create a collective group of reflections and analyses, in order to produce certain lines of action and perspectives which are based on the results of the study. These documents and recordings are used by the researchers to witness and supervise new research objects with practitioners from most of these groups of educational professions.

What do these three collaborative lifelong learning cases demonstrate in terms of methods, tools and contribution to professional development?

These three international instructive examples were used as short case studies which showed firstly, that for collaboration to be effective, it requires time to build up trust between participants, as trust and group cohesion are building blocks for innovation. A prerequisite of effective collaboration is the identification of goals and/or aims which should be clearly articulated. The cases highlighted the roles of peer mentoring and coaching which can be powerful tools for group integration and sustainability. Importantly, in all the cases, collaboration between different types of institutions (for instance schools and UAS; colleges and UAS) stimulated positive pedagogical changes that also helped change individuals’ professional mindsets.

Clearly, evaluations of collaborative learning (for example, learner reports) can also contribute to widening the repertoire of pedagogical and leadership practices. Indeed, collaborative learning can be a driver for creativity through triggering expansive learning (Engeström 1999), thereby enabling practitioners, teachers, teacher educators and students to create, experiment with and review new teaching practices.

In all three cases, the ultimate goal was to enhance the assessment performance of teachers or teacher trainees which contributes to students’ learning, especially where this helps develop students’ capabilities to assess their own learning (Hattie, 2009; Dewitt, 2017).

Within schools, research shows that teachers have the greatest impact on students’ learning (Hattie, 2003; Mourshed, Chijioke, & Barber, 2010) followed by the impact of school principals (Leithwood, Harris & Hopkins,  2008). School principals and teacher educators have an important, if indirect, impact on students’ learning because they can enhance teachers’ professional development (Robinson 2007).

In the cases presented above, a systematic and sustainable approach was used. We believe that stimulating the professional development of the secondary contributors towards student learning – teacher educators and principals – as well as focussing on the professional development of teachers and teacher trainees will have a greater influence on learning. This is because school principals and teacher educators would be enabled to facilitate better quality and more targeted professional development for teachers and teacher trainees who, in turn, can enhance student learning.

The cases also show that inter-organizational professional collaboration between teacher educators or principals can benefit from the participation of UAS colleagues in the role of critical friends. When collaboration concerning authentic problem solving is used as deliberate practice for professional development, for example, by setting and reflecting on learning goals or using assessment performance instruments like learner reports, it enhances the cognitive, emotional, motivational and behavioural learning of teacher educators and principals. This is comparable with effective features of professional development programs for teachers (Darling-Hammond, Hyler &  Gardner, 2017).

Deeper forms of collaboration as joint work (Van Grieken,,2015) contribute to professional development of teacher educators and principals. But context also matters. Collaboration contributes to and depends on the development of professional capital (Fullan & Hargreaves, 2012) through sharing and creating knowledge and beliefs as well as mutual trust and respect.


We now return to the initial question posed to the interthinking group: how to improve collaborative lifelong learning for the future of education and learning? Answers came from the participants who were asked to work in roundtable interthinking groups comprising educators from different countries, including Belgium, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Brazil, and the United Kingdom. The principal examples of effective practice that they discussed, based on their own practical experiences, were:

  • The use of video to capture and reflect on one’s own teaching, which participants felt it was relatively easy to set up and which has the potential to enhance teachers’ own learning.
  • Collaboration and networking were effective where school and college leaders provided time for such activities.
  • Students were given a real-world task which was a joint assignment. One example asked students to go through a cycle identifying what the problem was and what research questions there were. Lastly, the students were asked to cooperate and discuss progress with their supervisor and groups of peers. This made them communicate with their peers, tutors, and a real-world assignment holder before the work was assessed by tutors.
  • Another example cited used student groups to tackle a real-world task, with the best assignment being sent to the client as a finished project.
  • Some participants wanted to use ‘ill-defined problems’ in order to provoke discussion and argument around these problems, before being in a position to reach a consensus.

The participants of the interthinking’ group not only came from different countries, but also from a variety of disciplines. They therefore had different theoretical backgrounds and different methodological approaches to learning in their own disciplines.

Researchers in collaborative learning (Littleton, Miell & Faulkner, 2004) highlight the need to discuss the different facets of interaction, within which lie the important roles of conflict, planning, negotiation, exploratory talk and professional dialogue.

The group also highlighted the difficulties which arise in the act of collaboration itself. For example, lack of time – even with online meetings. As social beings, teachers may prefer to collaborate face to face, even when the goals are not very clear. Participants felt that it was important to avoid situations when it’s easier just to muddle along on your own.

The group agreed, however, that without reflection on the experiences of collaboration and networking, there would be no educational benefit. A research-based and/or scholarly approach needs to be taken and actions should represent more than just being ‘a good idea’.

¹ European Association for Practitioner Research on Improving Learning


With thanks to members of the EAPRIL Cloud 3 ‘interthinking’ group at the Hämeenlinna Conference in November 2017.

With thanks to the National Education Association in the USA for permission to cite from Little’s Professional Community and Professional Development in the Learning-Centered School.

With thanks to members of the Service de l’enseignement obligatoire (SEO) du Département de l’éducation et de la famille, Canton et république de Neuchâtel, Switzerland.

Adviser Educational developer 
Lecturer Teacher working in a Further Education college or a Higher Education Institution 
Principal Head teacher of a school 
Pupil A person, especially a child at school, who is being taught 
Student A person who is learning at a college or university 
Teacher School teacher 
Teacher trainee In-service or pre-service teacher in training 


Dr Rebecca Eliahoo, PhD,  Educational consultant
Dr Marcelo Giglio, PhD, Professor, Head of research projects, HEP-BEJUNE, Switzerland & University of Neuchâtel
Dr Loes van Wessum, PhD, Associate professor Leadership in Education, Windesheim UAS, The Netherlands

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ePortfolios as a way to empower students and bridge them to future work places

Authors: Marja Laurikainen & Irma Kunnari.


Rapid changes in the world of work due to globalization and digitalization have transformed higher education and students’ lifelong learning, career management skills and digital competences have become more important. These skills and competences need to be strengthened in authentic settings by engaging students and making their evidence of competences transparent with ePortfolios. In this paper, the authors describe and summarize research done in five European countries and six higher education institutions on three different perspectives (student, employer, teacher) on ePortfolios. The results show that the benefits of ePortfolios need to be made clear for students and the use of ePortfolios needs to be embedded into curriculum to make it systematic and meaningful, not just some extra work. This requires new kind of collaboration between teachers but also students need to take ownership of their learning process and involve other stakeholders to their assessment, i.e. peers, representatives from the world of work. Nonetheless, from the employer interviews it is evident that ePortfolios, if done properly and with thought, can make competences and skills more visible and thus, create better matches in the recruitment processes.

Introduction and theoretical background

The critical points of the quality of learning in competence-based education are the assessment and guidance practices. However, if competence assessment is done by using traditional methods in individual basis and within the school environment, it fails to both motivate the students and to create constructive alignment of the desired competences (Biggs & Tang 2007). In addition, the assessment practices should support the development of competence-based education (Koenen, Dochy, & Berghmans 2015) as well as the 21st century skills (Voogt et al. 2013), which are crucial in the rapidly changing world of work. The globalization and digitalization have transformed studying and working environments, and students’ lifelong learning, career management skills and digital competences need to be strengthened by engaging students to be more involved in their own learning and assessment processes in higher education.

Inspiring assessment and guidance practices, like peer assessment, collaborative digital assessment, and creating evidence of competences in real life settings are still not comprehensively used in higher education (e.g. Medland 2016). Further, the use of multimodal assessments seems to be limited (Connor 2012). Creativity and innovation are needed to under-stand what the evidence of competences is in real life settings and how students can document and make their skills transparent with digital tools. The need to have a digital professional profile has been recognized, but it is evident that there is still a lack of guidance and skills to create that, both from the students’ and teachers’ point of view.

Digital portfolios have a dual meaning – they can be used as a workspace for learning and reflection process making it more transparent and inspiring, and as a showcase being the inventory of all evidence/artifacts of skills and competences (Barrett 2010). With ePortfolios, assessment is not just assessment of learning or assessment for learning, but also assessment as learning. Thus, ePortfolios are used in self and peer assessing, giving feedback, co-creating evidence of competences in shared platforms and utilizing different digital applications. This is likely to increase the students’ feeling of competence, relatedness and autonomy, which are fundamental for creating motivation and wellbeing in learning (Kunnari & Lipponen 2010; Ryan & Deci 2000). In addition, ePortfolio as a story and positive digital identity development (branding) enables students’ choice and personalization, further helping them to find their voice and passions (Friedman 2006).

In this paper, the authors analyze all the data and outcomes collected from one case study (Yin 2009) in “Empowering Eportfolio Process (EEP)” research and development project funded by the European Union, where five European countries (FI, DK, BE, PT, IE) and altogether six higher education institutes (HEIs) participated. Based on the research done in the project, this paper aims to establish a common understanding of ePortfolios and find out what the key elements and challenges in the process of using ePortfolios in higher education are. Not only that, but also how to develop the use of ePortfolios to empower and motivate students in their own learning process and how to improve their employability, and skills related to that. Thus, in this case ePortfolios and the learning and assessment processes related to them are investigated from three different perspectives (student, employer, teacher/educational institution) in order to find elements to empower and engage students.

In the framework of this paper, the authors understand ePortfolios based on the following definition of ePortfolios:

“ePortfolios are student-owned digital working and learning spaces for collecting, creating, sharing, collaborating, reflecting learning and competences, as well as storing assessment and evaluation. They are platforms for students to follow and be engaged in their personal and career development, and actively interact with learning communities and different stakeholders of the learning process.” (Kunnari & Laurikainen 2017.)

This definition highlights the dynamic nature of ePortfolios and students’ ownership, but also how connected the creation of them is to other stakeholders. To develop the use of ePortfolios it was needed to hear all the voices, students’ and teachers’, but also to study and raise the awareness in the world of work. In the current labor market, finding open positions and jobs as well as the recruitment processes are evolving through digitalization. Social networking and online presence help to connect with potential employers, and companies are increasingly following potential employees’ online presence. Indeed, there are less traditional résumés, virtual ePortfolios or résumés are easy to build (technically) and manage because one can access them from anywhere and anytime (Forbes 2011).

The aims of the research of three perspectives on ePortfolio are described below. The methodological approaches in all three are presented in the chapter Methodology.

The aim of the research done on students’ ePortfolio process was to investigate the assessment and guidance processes as well as ePortfolio environments and tools available in participating countries. In addition, the career learning and motivating or engaging aspects of the process were investigated. Ultimately, the research aimed to give an understanding on how students’ competences versus assessment practices are constructively aligned in order to create empowerment for students and what kind of tools can support this the most efficient way.

The research on employers’ perspective aimed to reveal how students’ competences and the needs of the world of work meet. In addition, it aimed to find out what kind of digital portfolios the representatives of various organizations want to see when they are recruiting a new employee and the specific things they assess from the (digital) portfolio. Educational institutions are only starting to understand the meaning of ePortfolios or online presence. Thus, educational processes do not yet fully support the building of the skills and competences needed for this new kind of job hunting. The research on employers’ expectations on digital portfolios was made to improve the ePortfolio process within educational institutions as well as to raise the awareness of employers of the benefits of ePortfolios.

The third and final research aimed to investigate teachers’ guidance processes related to ePortfolios and how ePortfolios are implemented in different participating HEIs. Further, it aimed to describe how ePortfolio processes are integrated into curriculum and how sustainable those processes are, how the assessment processes are organized, and what the structures for good utilization of ePortfolios in the learning infrastructure are.


The data for this article was collected from one case study (Yin, 2009) “Empowering Eportfolio Process (EEP)” research and development project where five European countries (FI, DK, BE, PT, IE) and altogether six higher education institutes (HEIs) participated. All of the HEIs are in different stages of implementing ePortfolios and use them in very different contexts. Two of the HEIs represent initial teacher training, one HEI is starting to integrate ePortfolios in the context of health and welfare education. On the other hand, one HEI focuses on the aspects of adult/continuing education, career guidance and recognition of prior learning, and one HEI represents the point of view of an educational development unit, which promotes the quality of academic education and supports continuing education and other forms of lifelong learning. In addition, one HEI represents both professional teacher training and bachelor level education, in this case especially in the fields of business administration and bioeconomy.

The research was done by teams of 1‒4 researchers who are experienced in different aspects of educational development (digital, pedagogical and curriculum development) as well as implementation of ePortfolios in higher education. The research was conducted between autumn 2016 and spring 2018 in the participating HEIs. During this time, the research teams communicated and collaborated through digital platforms as well as meetings in events on ePortfolios (seminars) which provided opportunities to discuss the findings and draw up common recommendations.

Data was collected in a small-scale field research on three perspectives of the ePortfolio process – from students’, employers’ and teachers’/higher education institutes’ point of view. Firstly, a desk research was made to map the current situation related to national policies, strategies and recommendations, existing practices and models in participating HEIs (and beyond) related to ePortfolios. These were collected into a digital publication “Collection of Engaging Practices in ePortfolio Process” (Kunnari & Laurikainen 2017), which was a starting point for the research on the three perspectives.

For all three studies, there was a unified framework for data collection and analyzing. However, the data collection in each country was implemented in a way that served the purposes and specific circumstances of that specific HEI and country the best possible way. Thus, the methods (e.g. surveys, interviews, literature research, and focus groups) and samples vary but still follow the same overall framework. In addition, in all HEIs participating in this research there were internal pilot activities, which fed data collection and analyzing process.

Methods in investigating students’ perspective

Due to different stages and situations in ePortfolio implementation in each country and participating HEI, the samples used to this research vary in size, degree programme, degree cycle and phase of the studies. The average size of the sample was n=19 and mainly from BA level students. The average response percentage was 35. The country specific information is provided in Table 1.

Table 1. The sample used to investigate students’ perspective on ePortfolios
(Kunnari, Laurikainen, & Torseke 2017; Korhonen, Ruhalahti, & Torseke 2017; Poulsen & Dimsits 2017; Devaere, Martens & Van den Bergh 2017; Van Eylen, & Deketelaere 2018; Pires, Rodrigues & Pessoa 2018; Choistealbha 2018).
ePortfolio stage:
Existing in some programmes and teacher training, Emerging in othersExisting but only in the application/ entrance phaseExisting/
EmergingExisting in some courses/ programmesExisting
Number of studentsn=18 (10 BA, 8 Teacher training students)n=15n=13n=18n=16 (13 for interviews, 3 for narratives)n=32
Study programmesSustainable Development & Professional Teacher TrainingDigital technologies in VET-programmesMedical SchoolMedical Laboratory Technology (MLT)Different programmes, diversity of profiles (criteria of having been in learning situation using digital media in the previous school year or being enrolled in different courses at IPSEducation Studies
Bachelor/Master/PhD/ continuing education/ otherBA & Professional Teacher TrainingContinuing education/adult educationTwo BA groups, 1 MA groupBABA/MABA
Study year2nd year (BA), 1-year teacher studentsThree classes of the same programme, two classes completed in autumn 2016 and one in sprint 2017Three different student groups; 3rd yearthree groups of students for interviews (diverse profiles), three Master students for narrative writing1st to 4th grade, During work placement – i.e. when they were beginning to utilise the ePortfolio
Response rateN/A, targeted survey 33% (15 /48 respondents)46% (6/20 BA; 7/8 MA) 35% (18/52)N/A, targeted survey27% (32/120)

For investigating the students’ perspectives on ePortfolios there was a co-designed overall structure of themes and questions that was used in each participating country, however, the methods were applied based on the situation in each country. The common framework included four themes: 1) Students’ experiences and perspectives on ePortfolios, 2) Identification of the personal dimensions that facilitate students’ engagement in the ePortfolio process, 3) General competences and digital competences developed by students in the ePortfolio process (example: European Commission Framework, 2016: e.g. information and data literacy; communication and collaboration; digital content creation; safety and problem solving), and 4) The learning environments and organizational dimensions that support students in the ePortfolio process (engaging contextual conditions).

The methods of data collection and analysis as well as the content of the study from each country are introduced in Table 2.

Table 2. The methodology used to investigate students’ perspective on ePortfolios
(Kunnari, Laurikainen, & Torseke 2017; Korhonen, Ruhalahti, & Torseke 2017; Poulsen & Dimsits 2017; Devaere, Martens & Van den Bergh 2017; Van Eylen, & Deketelaere 2018; Pires, Rodrigues & Pessoa 2018; Choistealbha 2018)
QualitativeQualitativeQualitativeQualitativeQualitativeQuantitative/ qualitative
ToolOnline questionnaire to a student focus group (GoogleForm)Online surveyOnline questionnaireOnline questionnaire (LimeSurvey)group interviews and narratives written by studentsOnline survey (SurveyMonkey)
Distribution channelFilled in during guidance sessionBy emailBy emailBy emailPersonal contact
QuestionsDiscussion of the common themes and their sub-questions described above; In addition, specific questions for teacher students about the role of ePortfolios in becoming professional teachers, user experiences, benefits/challenges while creating ePortfolios, support for facilitation, ePortfolios in assessment.Ten open questions, statements on: challenges and possibilities of ePortfolio, competences needed to create an ePortfolio, definition of the concept “ePortfolio”.Open questions; BAs experience of their nursing internship during 2015 and 2016 summer and their patientcare internship in December 2016; MAs had no previous experience in ePortfoliosDiscussion of the common themes and their sub-questions described aboveDiscussion of the common themes and their sub-questions described aboveThe research question “What are students’ perspectives of the benefits and challenges of using ePortfolios?” guided the research: Discussion of the common themes and their sub-questions described above
MethodCollected, compiled and analysed with the focus on emerging ePortfolio use and what needs to be addressed and taken into accountFocus on meaning-making, statements of the respondents’ about how to understand/make sense of ePortfolios (concept, learning space)Driven by two aspects: collecting the broad variety of answers due to the exploratory focus of this study and the frequency of answers givenThe responses were further outlined by frequency diagrams and by descriptive analysisQualitative content analysis Thematically in line with the survey questions

Methods in investigating employers’ perspective

The research was implemented in a case study format. Again, there was a common framework and themes to investigate through individual or group thematic interviews with employers, representatives of career services, recruitment companies and other organizations. The themes to discuss were existing recruitment settings, the benefit of ePortfolios in these processes and how employers see their role in supporting the creation of ePortfolios of students, what kind of mutually benefitting collaboration there could be.

There were altogether twelve diversified cases from the participating countries: Finland with five case studies, Denmark with one, Belgium with three, Portugal and Ireland with two cases each. The cases came from the field of medical services, education, universities’ alumni and career services, human resources and recruitment services, project coordination offices, creative industries and digital services.

Methods in investigating teachers’ perspective

The participating HEIs were asked to collect data from their organizations related to teachers’ guidance practices in the ePortfolio process, how they are implemented, is the process integrated into curriculum and how sustainable it is, how the assessment is organized and what the structures for good utilization of ePortfolios in the learning infrastructure are. The research teams in participating HEIs utilized existing materials, discussed them with teachers and others involved in ePortfolio process, and based on these, drew a framework image of their organizational context related to ePortfolios.

During a seminar in Belgium in February 2018, the research teams had a wider discussion on the similarities and differences between each HEI’s context, and based on the discussions they further developed their own frameworks. A consensus was reached that it is very challenging to describe one frame that fits all HEIs due to differences in e.g. structures, programmes and digital environments. However, each HEI can present their own framework and highlight the good practices in it and thus, there is a collection of good practices that others can utilize depending on their own context.

Results of the analysis on three perspectives on ePortfolios

The methods and results from the field research in five countries on three different ePortfolio perspectives (student, teacher, employer) were reported in a structured summary by the participating HEIs. In addition, the preliminary results were presented in poster sessions during three different seminars: in Portugal in March 2017, in Ireland in September 2017 and in Belgium in February 2018. A common qualitative analysis of the findings was made based on both the summaries and the poster sessions. The following three sub-parts describe the findings from each perspective.

Students’ ePortfolio process and development of digital competence

What is evident from this research is that the use of ePortfolios is still emerging only in these six participating HEIs. There are some good examples in singular courses and study programmes but in general, the understanding of ePortfolios is not sufficient, with both students and teachers.
The students had a general positive and engaged attitude towards the use of ePortfolios but the benefits were not completely clear nor the possibilities. They could see how ePortfolios can support their personal and professional development and give transparency to the learning process, which correspond to the previous study related to students’ adaptation to ePortfolios by Lopez-Fernandez (2009). However, this study demonstrated the diversity of students’ experiences related to the use of ePortfolios as well as different conceptions about the process and the tools: not all of them were familiar with the definition of ePortfolio and thus understood it in several different ways. Nonetheless, generally it was seen “as an online student-owned learning space, based on technological and digital tools, that can store and share their reflections, learning outcomes, achievements and evidence of competences, by using non-traditional resources — such as blogs, CV’s, web pages and LinkedIn profiles.” (Kunnari, Laurikainen, Pires & Rodrigues 2017).

The findings showed that two types of digital competences are needed in the ePortfolio process: in the creation of ePortfolio (technical) and in compiling the ePortfolio (editing). In addition, in order to create content for the ePortfolio, students need transferable skills (e.g. reflection, collaboration, communication, organization and visualization). The study also revealed that students perceive their digital competences from intermediate to high level; however, even though they may be competent in using digital tools and apps in their leisure time and socializing purposes, they may not be aware of digital solutions in the learning context. This means that before starting to use ePortfolios, they need preparation and support in their digital skills. (Kunnari, Laurikainen & Torseke 2017).

Another issue students emphasized is that ePortfolio creation and development need to be integrated into curriculum throughout the studies, i.e. there needs to be time allocated for this as well as other resources such as teachers’ guidance. Eportfolio should be in the core of the learning process in collaboration with peers, employers and other stakeholders.

Competence transparency and its innovativeness – Employers’ perspective

In participating HEIs’ contexts, ePortfolios are mainly used as a learning space during the studies where students collect evidence of their skills and competences and utilize self- and peer-assessment to reflect their own learning. In many cases, the connection to life after graduation, i.e. when seeking for an employment and/or further studies, was lacking or not very evident. This corresponds to a more general challenge in Europe, which the European Union has recognized in its modernization agendas i.e. the models and intensity of cooperation between universities and businesses are scattered (European Union 2018). Nonetheless, ePortfolios can increase the potential for matching successfully the skilled future employees with the companies that are recruiting.

What is it then that the employers value in ePortfolios? The findings illustrated in Figure 1. are summarized in three main points: 1) concise and formulated personal evidence of competences, 2) selection of evidence or materials, and 3) person behind the CV.

Figure 1. Summarized findings from the employers’ interviews.

The employers emphasized that ePortfolios need to be well structured and all the main information should be available in an understandable format with a quick look. They also highlighted that if they want to go deeper into something very specific, they should be able to find more details behind links. Thus, the structure and navigation should be carefully thought in order to make it simple and logical but having different layers of information. Another important issue the employers pointed out is that some crucial information e.g. work experience should be opened up in more detail to the reader. It means that instead of using just titles (place, position), one should explain more what the specific roles and tasks were, in what kind of networks one operated, etc.

This leads to the next point, which is selection. The employers accentuated that the content of ePortfolio should match the specific position or work profile, i.e. one should select from all the materials the ones that are relevant evidence of competences for a specific work position they are applying. In addition, it is beneficial to think about what kind of other material can support this specific application process – perhaps something from the leisure time activities e.g. voluntary work or maybe evidence of personal characteristics. In any case, the materials one selects should highlight the person behind the ePortfolio, which leads to the third point the employers pointed out.

Employers are mostly looking for the right kind of persons to fit to their working community, having the right kind of attitude and the way of working. Thus, it is important that they see the person behind the ePortfolio and all the selected evidence. Moreover, not only the person but also their dreams, visions, motivation, and what drives them further. As Dan Schawbel said in his blog on Forbes: “Job seeker passion has become the deciding factor in employment” (Forbes 2011)

Employers receive amounts of applications from equally educated and qualified people. This means that one needs to stand out from the mass and this can be done with cleverly planned and visually implemented ePortfolio where all the relevant information is available and also other supportive evidence to demonstrate e.g. transferable skills that are increasingly important for employability but in a much more flexible and visual way than mere CV.

Teachers’ engaging assessment and guidance processes

As has been stated before, the findings of the analysis on teachers’ processes reveal that ePortfolio as a learning space exists, although not systematically, but the second phase i.e. showcase ePortfolio is still rather challenging for many universities (see figure 2.). As the whole connection with the world of work, also the showcase ePortfolio process needs to be developed and requires new kind of thinking from the teachers and the educational organizations in how they understand their role in the surrounding society. In addition, students need to see the benefit of ePortfolios from the lifelong learning perspective, i.e. how they can utilize their ePortfolio after graduation as a tool to find their first employment and later on to build their professional identity and career aspirations.

Figure 2. Simple illustration of an ePortfolio process in higher education institution.

The foundation for a successful use of ePortfolios as an essential part of learning processes is that it is embedded to curriculum. This means that ePortfolio process is in the structures and there is allocated time and resources to develop it. However, in order to establish the use of ePortfolio systematically in the entire programme (and organizational) level and throughout the studies requires that teachers collaborate with each other and plan the ePortfolio process together. Thus, at first teachers (or at least most of them) need to see the benefit of ePortfolios. Further, teachers need to realize how ePortfolios can support student-centered and competence-based education, continuous guidance and assessment processes and how students themselves should take the role in these processes and ownership of their own learning.

As in student-centered education in general, the role of a teacher shifts more towards a facilitator of learning and building of competences; this is the case with ePortfolios as well. Students need to have the ownership of their ePortfolios and freedom to build them the best way for their own purposes and goals. First, teachers need to justify the benefits and purpose of ePortfolios to students and then give them space for creativity in demonstrating the competences, collaborating with their peers and others as well as networking with the world of work. However, sometimes the structures of HEIs do not support the building of students’ ownership.

Many HEIs use standardized ePortfolio platforms that do not leave much space for students’ creativity. There are some good tailored examples of platforms (e.g. in IE with Mahara) that are structured but give some possibilities for students to modify the layout of their ePortfolios. Nonetheless, certain space for creativity motivates and engages students more and thus, builds up the ownership of their ePortfolios. Further, the ideal situation would be that students could choose their ePortfolio platform or tool themselves. Another issue, which could be solved with students’ own choice of ePortfolio is related to the ideology of lifelong learning; in many cases if the HEI has its own ePortfolio platform, the students lose their access to it after they graduate. They can only download the content but cannot edit it anymore. This is a problem when thinking about the whole purpose of ePortfolio as a tool to demonstrate personal and professional growth, especially in transition phases in life such as from education to employment. (e.g. Cejudo 2012; Vuojärvi 2013; Fiedler 2012)

In the creation of the showcase ePortfolio, the role of a teacher is crucial, as students do not always have a clear view of how to demonstrate their strengths – if they can first even identify them. In addition, sometimes students do not have a full understanding of the world of work and its requirements. Teachers need to encourage students to be innovative with feedforward and support the peer cooperation between students so that they can benefit from other points of view and further develop their own ideas and evidence of competences. (Kunnari, Laurikainen, Pires & Rodrigues 2017).

Conclusions and discussion

The results from the research on three perspectives (student, employer, teacher) on ePortfolios show that there already are good ePortfolio practices in Europe but mostly they are isolated islands within higher education institutions, not systematically implemented in programme (not to even mention institutional) level throughout the studies. The following conclusions and recommendations arise from the findings:

1) Understanding the benefits of ePortfolios:

  • Teachers need to understand how ePortfolios can support students’ employability by making their skills and competences visible and transparent.
  • Teachers need to highlight the lifelong learning perspective of ePortfolio and students need to understand how ePortfolio serves them in different situations in their lives. If they find the process meaningful and they are empowered and engaged during the ePortfolio process, this should happen automatically.

2) Embedding ePortfolios into curriculum and normal educational structures within the institution:

  • Time and resource allocation for students to create ePortfolios and for teachers to facilitate and guide the process,
  • Collaboration between teachers to implement the use of ePortfolios in the entire programme level
  • Teachers need to understand assessment as a continuous process where students take an active role

3) Freedom and ownership of students:

  • Teachers need to support the ownership of students in the ePortfolio process and give space for students’ creativity, collaboration with their peers and networking with world of work.

4) Skills needed

  • Two types of digital skills are needed: technical skills to establish ePortfolio and editing skills to compile the content for ePortfolio
  • In addition, certain transferable skills are needed and developed during the ePortfolio process (e.g. reflection, collaboration, communication, organization and visualization).

5) Clear formulation of the content of ePortfolio

  • Concise and well-formulated personal evidence of competences
  • Simple and clear structure (easily browsed, more detailed information available behind links)
  • Selection of evidence to match the specific work profile the employer is looking for
  • Selecting the evidence is probably the most difficult part in building up the ePortfolio. Perhaps one should have a “meta ePortfolio” with many kinds of information and select the most suitable evidence to a showcase ePortfolio that suits the specific situation or purpose.

6) Show personality

  • Employers emphasized that they want to see the person behind the CV
  • Show your interests, dreams, goals, passion and motivation in order to stand out from the mass of applicants

Even though this research was done in higher education context, these recommendations can be transferred to any level of education (with perhaps some adjustments in lower levels). The future generation, the digital natives are used to operating in digital environments from their first years of education and digital appearance is a norm to them. In addition, the digitalization of the world of work, and the whole society, requires new kind of digital management and presentation of competences and personal identity. It is easy to foresee that ePortfolio will be a common tool to be used in education (and beyond) in the future where the presence in digital networks and social media and digital branding is probably a skill one needs to learn very early on in life.


Marja Laurikainen, M.BA., Education Development Specialist (Global Education), Häme University of Applied Sciences
Irma Kunnari, M.Ed., PhD Fellow, Principal Lecturer (Global Education and Research), Häme University of Applied Sciences

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MOOCs in the continuing vocational training – what motivates employees in MOOCs?

Authors: Merja Drake & Päivi Rajaorko.


Our aim with this study was to find out how Universities of Applied Sciences (UASs) could respond to the training needs of the world of work and the workforce by offering MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses). We found out that MOOCs are a suitable method for updating knowledge, and an easy way to participate in continuing vocational training. Working students considered MOOCs as a good way to learning new skills in their chosen field, and the major motivation for participating in them was a desire to gain knowledge and skills they needed in their job.

Our research focus was on two particular MOOCs, namely Sustainable Energy Solutions and Almost Zero Building. These topics are new EU level directives in the energy and building sector, and therefore create pressure to train professionals in the field.

We used the action research method, and the research data consisted of Moodle analytics, student feedback, questionnaire data and interviews with both students and employers. As an analysis matrix we used the student-teacher dialectical framework within self-determination theory.

Introduction and the key concepts

The world of work is in transition. The skills, qualifications and knowledge required in the world of work are changing rapidly, which requires a continuous training of the employees. The continuing vocational training at Universities of Applied Sciences (UASs) is often too slow to meet the needs of the fast changing industrial sectors. The aim of this study is to find out how Universities of Applied Sciences (UASs) could take into consideration the sudden training needs of the world of work and workforce by offering a transparent form of continuing vocational training i.e. massive open online courses (MOOCs). New skills are required in the building and energy sector due to the new European Union directives on the energy performance of buildings, which creates pressure to educate energy and building sector professionals throughout Finland. The MOOCs we examined have developed to fill this continuing vocational training gap. Most of the MOOC participants were employees from the building and energy sector, and they were the target group of our study.

Our research questions were: What motivates employees in MOOCs? What kind of a continuing education method is a MOOC, in the viewpoint of the employees and employers? The key concepts of our study were continuing vocational training, MOOC, motivation and student-teacher dialectical framework.

Continuing vocational training is defined by EU Commission (2011) as follows: “A training process or activity which has as its primary objective the acquisition of new competences or the development and improvement of existing ones, and which is financed at least partly by the enterprises for their employees, who either have a working contract or who benefit directly from their work for the enterprise, such as unpaid family workers and casual workers. The training processes or activities must be planned in advance and must be organised or supported with the special goal of learning.”

MOOCs “are courses designed for large numbers of participants, that can be accessed by anyone anywhere as long as they have an internet connection, are open to everyone without entry qualifications, and offer a full/complete course experience online for free” (OpenupEd, 2015). Various types of MOOCs have been suggested, depending on the learning approach in the course. Examples of these are xMOOCs, cMOOCs and sMOOCs. xMOOCs tend to have a more traditional teacher-centred learning approach with content presented through short video lectures and learning tested through quizzes. cMOOCs emphasise creation, creativity, autonomy, and social networked learning. (Siemens, 2012; Clow, 2013.) sMOOCs stress intercreativity to work towards collective intelligence (Acedo & Cano, 2016; Brouns et al., 2015). Even though numbers are high for enrolment into MOOCs, the average MOOC completion rates are low. Number of reasons has been suggested for student drop-out e.g. lack of time, starting late, unrealistic expectations, course difficulty and lack of support, feelings of isolation and the lack of interactivity, insufficient background knowledge, lack of digital or learning skills, and earlier bad experiences (Khalil & Ebner, 2014; Onah, Sinclair & Boyatt, 2014). However, it should be realized that completion rate is not a relevant metric to measure student engagement in MOOCs (Hew, 2016). Nor does it mean that MOOCs are ineffective (Rai & Chunrao, 2016). Students may e.g. be only interested in particular topics or materials (Wang & Baker, 2014).

Motivation is contextual and it alters in different situations, based on an individual’s understanding of his or her abilities. Motivation concerns aspects of activation and intention like energy, direction, persistence and equifinality. (Deci & Ryan, 2000.) Motivation is a force that energises and directs behaviour (Reeve, 2009). Factors like future economic benefit, development of professional identity, challenge and achievement might influence students´ motivation to learn (Yuan & Bowel, 2013). Motivation to participate in MOOCs is one of the most important factors that may prevent students from completing a MOOC (Khalil and Ebner, 2014). In addition, the level of student engagement can influence student retention (Hew, 2016; Xiong et al., 2015). Motivation is significantly predictive of student course engagement. In turn, engagement is a strong predictor of retention. If students are not engaged, motivated or committed enough, they might drop out even before the first assignment is due (de Freitas, Morgan and Gibson, 2015). Accordingly, our first research question was: What motivates employees in MOOCs?

The main focus on the majority of research on MOOCs has concerned university or further education courses (Bayne and Ross, 2014; de Freitas, Morgan and Gibson, 2015; Hew, 2016; Macleod, Haywood, Woodgate & Alkhatnai, 2015; Veletsianos, Collier & Schneider, 2015). So far, there have only been a few studies on the use of MOOCs in continuing vocational training. According to Wulf, Blohm, Brenner & Leimeister (2014) MOOCs are suitable for vocational target groups because of their independence of place and time. This being so, in our second research question we wanted to consider what kind of continuing vocational training methods MOOCs are, from the viewpoint of employees and employers.

Background theory

Our background theory is based on self-determination theory (SDT). We wanted to find out what motivates our target group in MOOCs, and SDT focuses on the relationship between the students’ motivation and the learning environment that in this case was a MOOC. We were especially interested in the student-teacher dialectical framework within self-determination theory because it gave a relevant matrix for our research data evaluation. Even though the framework uses the viewpoint of classroom affordances, we wanted to test how it is applicable in a MOOC environment.

SDT differentiates between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Intrinsically motivated people inherently seek out new challenges, are keen to learn and exercise their capacities and explore different matters. People who have extrinsic motivation perform an activity in order to obtain some outcome separated from the activity itself. (Ryan & Deci, 2000). According to Niemiec & Ryan (2009) students tend to learn better and are more creative when intrinsically motivated, particularly on tasks requiring conceptual understanding.

Figure 1 shows a dialectical relationship between student motivation and the learning environment from a SDT perspective. The high level of student motivation and engagement arises both from inherent and acquired sources of motivation. Students’ inherent sources of motivation include intrinsic motivation and three psychological needs: autonomy, competence and relatedness. Competence refers to a person’s ability to deal adequately with a task. Autonomy is the feeling that one has power over one’s own behaviour, for example over one’s own learning activities. Relatedness refers to the need to both feel like a part of a group and to feel connected to others in the same group (Ryan and Deci, 2000). Students’ acquired sources of motivation include self-endorsed values, intrinsic goals and personal aspirations that are internalised through cultural experience and self-reflections, and vary from student to student. In addition, they include students’ different individual orientations and their cause and effect relationship. (Reeve, 2012.)

Figure 1. Student-teacher dialectical framework within self-determination theory.

Educational practices that support a student’s satisfaction of autonomy, competence and relatedness are associated with greater intrinsic motivation and autonomous types of extrinsic motivation. Both the teacher’s orientation and specific aspects of learning tasks are perceived as autonomy. The student’s competence can be supported by introducing learning activities that are optimally challenging and allow students to test and to expand their capabilities. Students will only engage and personally value activities they can understand and master. (Niemiec & Ryan, 2009.) Every learning environment has specific external features, such as learning goals and structures, different types of materials and assignments, rewards and feedback systems (Reeve, 2012). It is important that students are provided with the appropriate tools and feedback to promote success and feelings of efficacy, thus providing relevant information on how to master the tasks at hand. (Niemiec & Ryan, 2009).

Other learning environment influences are interpersonal relationships, including e.g. those with teachers, peers and study-related groups, like workplaces and communities as well as social and cultural forces, such as values and learning climate. External events and interpersonal relationships provide students with opportunities, hindrances and an overall climate in which their self-motivation grows. The important factor in the learning environment is the quality of the teacher’s motivating style, whether it is autonomy supportive or controlling. (Reeve, 2012.)

Research method and data

We followed the steps of the action research cycle (Tripp, 2003). In action research, there are following basic steps in the cycle of action: 1. Identification of the problem area, 2. Collection and organization of data 3. Interpretation of data 4. Action based on data 5. Reflection (Ferrance, 2000). Action research is a collaborative and self-critical enquiry for teachers (Hult & Lennug, 1980; McKernan, 1991). Fischer (2001) claims that it is a natural part of exploring effective ways of teaching. In action research, it is important to have collaboration between the researcher, informants and other parties of the research (Ferrance, 2000).

Firstly, we realized that due to the new EU directives in energy and building sector there is an educational gap. We started a project in which we developed the MOOCs as a network of teachers, senior lectures and online pedagogy and educational technology experts from ten Finnish Universities of Applied Sciences. We had industry-related company representatives also participating in the planning process. We planned and designed the MOOC contents, and created two pilot MOOCs into Moodle platform, namely Nearly zero-energy buildings and Sustainable energy solutions which both have different sub-courses (MOOC modules) worth 1‒3 credits that can be separable studied.

Our MOOCs are very similar to xMOOCs. They include video lectures, reading materials, and the videos are available as pdf files. Evaluation consists of automatically evaluated multiple choice quizzes, short answer questions where participants are asked to answer in one or two words or numbers, written reports and some peer reviewing tasks. There is no starting date nor a deadline for submitting assignments. In each module, there is a discussion forum where participants can ask questions.

Secondly, we tested the courses and then marketed them. Into our research, we collected data on four MOOC modules: 1) Energy efficiency of buildings, 2) Energy efficiency calculation, 3) Energy efficiency requirements, and 4) Solar energy. After the students had completed these modules, we collected the statistics on their progress from Moodle (n = 157), including performance measures. We then studied the course feedback (n = 38), and distributed a questionnaire to the students. However, only 17 of the 157 students answered the questionnaire.

Eventually, we interviewed twelve fulltime or part-time employees and seven employer representatives from the energy and building sector companies, whose employees participated in one of the four MOOC modules. For the interview, we chose participants among those employee participants who had a company email address. We recorded the interviews and transcribed them afterwards.

Finally, we analysed the collected data using the Student-teacher dialectical framework within self-determination theory. We specifically looked for factors that represented different aspects of students’ motivation i.e. autonomy, competence and relatedness as well as learning environment features. As the answers to the questionnaire, as well as comments given as part of the course feedback, were very similar to what we learned from the interviews, we have therefore chosen to combine these results for reporting purposes.


In Table 1, we present each course module’s participant percentages of performance measures taken from Moodle. The numbers in each section represent the number of students. The total number of students mentioned in Table 1 is the number of registered participants in a module by the time of our Moodle analytics (15.8.2017). The total number of registered participants to all four modules was 157 by that time.

The data shows that there are only few participants who have gone through all the material and completed all the assignments. The number of those who have not yet even opened the first page is 58 percent (64 out of 110 participants) in module 1 (Energy efficiency of buildings), 45 percent (21 out of 46 participants) in module 2 (Energy efficiency calculation), 65 percent (13 out of 20 participants) in module 3 (Energy efficiency requirements), and 56 percent (76 out of 134 participants) in module 4 (Solar energy). The conclusion is that motivation to complete the course varies, between the extremes of either studying the whole course, or dropping out without ever starting it. Some students just browse the material and skip from one site and assignment to another, without any intention of completing the course.

Table 1. Performance measure of MOOC modules, number of students
Module01‒20 %21‒40 %41‒60%61‒80%81‒99 %1Total

Our first research question was: What motivates employees in MOOCs?

Even though the figures show that most of the students did not finalise the course, it does not mean that they have no motivation to study. The motivation of our interviewees (employees) for participating in MOOCs arises from the desire to learn and deepen their knowledge. They mentioned that one of the reasons for their participation was that the course contents are relevant to their present or future work, for which reason they want to develop their knowledge and skills. Some have a general interest in the energy field. However, some interviewees showed personal interest in the course topics. They need the information at home or during their leisure time. Interviewees also mentioned that they want to share the knowledge with their colleagues and customers. However, interviewees picked just the information relevant to them and that is one reason why there was no need to complete the course.

HS2M: I enrolled to gain new information, because the world is changing rapidly and I need to stay up to date on developments.
HS4M: This interests both me and others who make inquiries, and so I need to be up to date.
HS7M: It gives me background information and know-how for my research primarily, but I also have a general interest in the topic.
HS5F: I have always been interested in developing myself, and this course seemed topical, so I decided to participate.

When it comes to student autonomy, independent learning is a very important factor for employees. All interviewees (employees) felt competent enough to study by themselves. We identified several components supporting their autonomy such as free timetables, studying at their own pace, the power to decide what materials to study and what not to study, and the possibility to do the assignments, watch videos and read the material as many times as they wanted.

HS1M: I really liked this way of studying, because I was able to study whenever I had the time.
HS2M: In my opinion, it’s good that the timetable is flexible so that it is not compulsory to study certain materials at a given time. I like being able to choose my study pace.
HS11F: I would not expect that in a free course there would be somebody there to guide you all the time. At the workplace, you must be self-directed, if you cannot perform independently, things do not work. So it’s good that this is a self-directed course.

The data shows that students with a high level of autonomy want to set the learning outcomes on their own, and the learning outcomes are related to their intrinsic goals. We asked, “How will you benefit from the knowledge and skills you gained from the course?” Most of them answered, ”In my present work.”, “I want to search for new working possibilities. I hope I can use the knowledge to my benefit in my future workplace.”

We discovered some aspects that narrowed their autonomy, such as lack of instructions or insufficient instructions, unclear course structure, nobody to ask for technical or other help, inadequate skills for using the learning platform, and the fact that the course material was not always available when students would have had time to study. All the respondents mentioned that lack of time slowed the progress of studying, or blocked it completely.

Interviewees considered the material mostly useful and relevant to their present or future work. However, some estimated that the content was not challenging enough, and that was their reason for not continuing the course. Some interviewees (employees) mentioned that they were already familiar with the course content and would therefore like to have had more profound information. That may be considered as a competence factor, but it also relates to classroom affordances, as the content did not challenge them enough. Anyhow, this was one reason why some students were not motivated to continue studying.

HS6F: I browsed some of the course content and did some assignments. Nevertheless, as there was nothing new for me, I was not motivated to continue.

The attitude towards using video as learning material was contradictional: interviewees (employees) either liked them or considered them difficult to watch at work or monotonous. Those who liked them said it was an easy way to get information, that videos make learning more alive and were easy to use. Some interviewees said that it is useful to have the videos in text-format as a PDF file as well, as it made reviewing the video easier. Two interviewees (employees) said that it would have been nice to have some podcasts as learning material. It would have then been possible to listen to the podcasts anywhere, i.e. on the way to work.

HS3M: The strength of the video lectures is that you can stop it and rewind backwards if you need to check something.
HS4M: First I watched the video then read the text, as it is easier that way to recall the content.
HS6F: I found the video material difficult to watch. I prefer text. At work, when the phone rings, it is difficult to watch videos intensively.
HS5F: I like reading more. Concentration may be disturbed when listening, but it depends on the person of course and how the subject/matter is presented.

Opinions towards the assignments also varied: some interviewees (employees) liked multiple-choice quizzes, as they were easy to fill out, a good way to rehearse the content and test understanding. Some found them useless and preferred assignments where more independent information retrieval is necessary. Short answer questions were good in one interviewee’s opinion, providing that the expected answer format was made clear. Some interviewees preferred multiple small assignments instead of one or two larger ones, as they are easier to finish when time is limited. One interviewee stressed that in the world of work, they do not write essays – they write reports and abstracts, and therefore the same terminology should be used in the courses. Some mentioned that the assignments did not serve their needs; hence they did not complete them.

HS9F: I learn better when I have to find the information by myself. On the other hand, I do not prefer very large assignments; I prefer smaller ones even though I have to make several of them.
HS10M: Sometimes, the assignment did not serve my interest or needs in the best possible way.

Nearly all interviewees (employees) liked the fact that there was no timetable for returning assignments. One said that when studying among other things such as work, timetables would have helped to complete the course sooner. Timetables would have been useful, for example, if students complete the assignment by a specific date, they can then participate in a particular session as a “reward”. Nonetheless, if such timetables existed, they should not be used as a condition to participate in the course.

Having adequate study skills is crucial to being able to successfully complete one’s studies. Online learning requires self-directed learning competence. Nearly all interviewees (employees) had previous experience in online learning. Not all had the same level of technical competence, but they learned quickly how to use the learning platform. The data show that all participating students had sufficient ability to complete the courses.

Regarding relatedness, it seems that MOOCs are suitable for those who have strong autonomy. A majority of the students mentioned that they had no need to be connected with other students. Some interviewees (employees) claimed that interaction was not needed between the other students, but interaction with the teacher would have been desirable in some cases, e.g. live online video sessions.

HS2M: For a strong-minded person like me, it is better to study on my own. I don’t need the presence of a teacher nor other students.
HS4M: I did not need any interaction and was not interested in participating in the discussions. It probably depends on the character of the person.
HS10M: I did not miss interaction with the other students, but more with the educators.
HS10M: Maybe there could be a discussion forum to ask questions and get answers and instructions.
HS7M: I would have expected more online video sessions.

A majority of the interviewees (employees) said they did not need any certification from the studies. One mentioned that when having a permanent job, there is no need for a certificate. Interviewees’ only motivation is to learn and gain the information needed. That is a kind of sign of a participant’s intrinsic goals and motivation. Only one hoped that courses are credited so that it would be possible to gain a degree out of them.

HS10M: I do not need the certificate at the moment. I participate only to get the knowledge.
HS11F: Not necessarily. If someone asks what I have learned, I can say that I now know these and these matters. If you have a certificate, and you later forget most of what you have learned, what use is the certificate then?
HS8M: These kinds of courses should be credited so that you could do them in your own order along with work and little by little gain a degree out of them. So that you do not always have to be a student at an institution in order to get a degree. However, it was not my intention to participate in this course because of credits. To get information was the main reason.

Our second research question was: What kind of a continuing vocational training method is a MOOC, in the viewpoint of the employees and employers?

The employers we interviewed had a positive attitude towards the continuing vocational training of employees. Some of them had external educational partners, such as universities, consulting companies or vocational training institutions. Companies are increasingly investing in online training because they consider it an easy way to train employees, especially in situations where employees´ work is decentralised. However, interviewees (employers) said that they were not familiar with MOOCs – both with the word and the study method. One of the interviewees (employers) mentioned looking for training possibilities from the website of the online course company Coursera, but was not aware of MOOCs. The interviewee (employer) suggested that it would be useful to have one website where information is collected, e.g. several continuing vocational training courses offered by different training institutions, organised by theme or sector area.

Although the meaning of the word “MOOC” was unclear, their opinions on MOOCs as a method of continuing vocational training were positive. One advantage of online learning that was mentioned is that it can be done anywhere, meaning there is no need to travel to training events, e.g. from northern Finland to the southern part of Finland. Another made the point that MOOCs are a good way to advance in one’s career. Only one felt that the traditional face-to-face method is better.

HS8M: This is a great idea. Whatever the subject, if you want to learn and to gain knowledge, it is a great idea. It is possible to do everything at your own pace and in whichever way you want. This gives many people good possibilities for advancement in their careers.
HS10M: Maybe it would be appropriate for some types of training, but I think that a conventional training method is better, as it enables interaction and networking.


The aim of our study was to find out how Universities of Applied Sciences could respond to the training needs of the world of work and the workforce by offering MOOCs. Firstly, we were interested in our target group’s motivation in MOOCs. The student-teacher dialectic framework within self-determination theory (SDT) offered a very interesting matrix for our data analysis and helped us to discover our target group’s relationship between the students’ motivation and the MOOC learning environment. For most of the students in our research, the motivation to participate in MOOCs was mostly intrinsic and based on personal aspirations. Their motivation arises from the desire to learn new knowledge and skills needed in their work, to develop themselves or even get a better job. These results are similar to Yuan and Bowel (2013) who discovered that future economic benefits and development of personal and professional identity might influence students’ motivation to learn.

The completion rates of different course modules varied considerably. That result is very similar to other MOOC related studies (Khalil & Ebner, 2014; Onah, Sinclair & Boyatt, 2014). However, that relates not necessarily to the students´ motivation. As Deci and Ryan (2000) claimed the motivation alters in different situations, and is based on each individual´s abilities and intrinsic human needs i.e. competence, relatedness and autonomy. Hew (2016) stressed that completion rate is not even a relevant metric to measure student engagement in MOOCs. According to Wang and Baker (2014) students might be interested only in particular topics or materials. Belander and Thornton (2013) identified gaining an understanding of the subject matter with no particular expectation for completion as one of the factors affecting students’ motivation in MOOCs.

In the student-teacher dialectic framework within SDT, the learning environment has specific external features, such as learning goals and enriched materials and assignments (Reeve, 2012). Niemiec and Ryan (2009) also stressed that challenging enough assignments and the way learning tasks are introduced have an effect on intrinsic motivation. It seems that in a MOOC environment, at least in this research study, the students decide on these features themselves, and they arise from the students’ own intrinsic goals. Students wanted to set their learning goals by themselves, and they learned just what was necessary to them. Their primary goal was not complete the courses.

Independent learning seems to be a very important factor for the working students. It supports their autonomy and possibilities flexible study schedules and studying at own pace. It also gives students the power to decide what materials to study and what not to study as well as possibility to do the assignments, watch videos and read the material as many times as they want. Also Wulf et al. (2014) consider MOOCs being suitable for vocational target groups due to independence of place and time.

Students mentioned some aspects that narrowed their autonomy and slowed down their study progress or stopped it completely. Among the factors that restricted autonomy were lack of instructions or insufficient instructions, unclear course structure, not having access to technical or other help related to the course, and the fact that the course material was not always available when students would have had time to study. These results are also very consistent with previous MOOC studies. In student-teacher dialectic framework, these are learning environment factors affecting students’ motivation. When offering MOOCs for working students there need to be good study instructions, clear course structure, technical help available and course material ready when course starts. Otherwise, there might be a risk that these students stop studying.

All our interviewees’ jobs were somehow related to the course modules’ content matter. They had competence enough to start studying. Some felt, however, that the content was too basic. They expected to gain deeper information about the subject. Because the intrinsic goals and personal aspirations were not met, these students did not have enough interest to continue their studies. In MOOCs that are targeted to students who are working and are supposed to have diverse prior knowledge on the course content, the materials and assignments should be versatile and multi-level in order for the course to meet the needs of various participants. Otherwise, these students’ psychological need for competence might suffer.

Diverse and sufficiently challenging learning activities can enable students to achieve their learning outcomes without the presence of teachers. That is also, what the student-teacher dialectic framework requires. In addition, good instructions for studying and a forum to ask questions will help the students to study by themselves. Videos and podcasts enrich learning and make it more interesting. When it comes to the external events by the framework, the rewards for the students in our research come from the self-set learning outcomes and the feedback from the employer and the customers.

In student-teacher dialectical framework, the relationship with the teacher and the peers is relevant (Reeve, 2012). In this study, the psychological need of relatedness did not play a very significant role. Therefore, it seems that employees in our research preferred xMOOCs instead of e.g. sMOOCs. The reason could be that the students were more autonomy-oriented in their studying. Instead, we found the relationship with other workers in the company and other work-related groups, e.g. the students’ customers, to be more important. Therefore, we suggest that these relationships are supported more in a MOOC learning context in continuing vocational training.

Neither the employers nor the students were very familiar with MOOC as a word, but they considered MOOCs as a practical and flexible way to learn new skills, competences and gain knowledge needed in the world of work. One advantage of online learning is that it can be accessed anywhere; hence, there is no need to travel to the training events. One participant suggested that if it were possible to earn study credits for MOOCs, one could gradually study towards a degree while studying alongside work.

MOOCs seem to be a good model for continuing vocational training, especially for those who do not need so much relatedness. MOOCs offer possibilities for working individuals to gain new competencies as well as to develop and improve existing skills of the employees as the definition of continuing vocational training (EU Commission, 2011) suggest. Companies are investing more in online training. For companies, MOOCs are an easy way to train employees, especially in situations where employees’ work is decentralised. More information about MOOCs would however be needed. A platform where companies and employees would find several continuing vocational training MOOC courses would be necessary. For MOOCs that are targeted to working students, the materials and assignments should be versatile and multi-level in order for the course to meet the needs of a wide variety of participants, with a diverse range of prior knowledge. In addition to all above mentioned, when Universities of Applied Sciences (UASs) are planning to offer MOOCs for continuing vocational training, the needs of companies should be taken into account, and workplaces should be regarded as learning environments.


Merja Drake, PhD, Principal Lecturer, Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences
Päivi Rajaorko, M.Ed., Project Manager, Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences

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Team-Based Learning: Engaging learners & creating team accountability

Authors: Joy de Vries, Simon Tweddell & Rebecca McCarter.


Team-based Learning (TBL) is a new teaching strategy that may take small group learning to a new level of effectiveness. TBL shifts the focus from content delivery by teachers to the application of course content by student teams. Teams work on authentic problems, make collaborative decisions, and develop problem-solving skills required in their future workplace. Prior to redesigning the MPharm programme according to TBL principles, several pilots were set up to research how students responded to this new way of teaching. One pilot focussed on the introduction of TBL as a phenomena and aimed to find out if and how TBL engaged students, how students were held accountable by their teams, and more importantly how that affected their lifeworld. Ashworth’s lifeworld contingencies provided the theoretical framework as it ranges from students’ selfhood, embodiment and social interactions to their ability to carry out tasks they are committed to and regard as essential (Ashworth, 2003).

Problem context

Findings in educational research identified collaboration as an effective social process of knowledge building that requires students working as interdependent teams towards a clear objective resulting in a well-defined final product, consensus, or decision (Wright et al., 2013). The educational practice of our MPharm programme however, still relied heavily on information transmission or content delivery to learners. As practitioners we were challenged to redesign activities requiring collaborative decision making within authentic scenarios. This study helped us to research how TBL would be received by our students and if redesign of the curriculum would ensure learner engagement and accountability.

Theoritical embedding

The student-centred instructional strategy Team-based Learning is firmly grounded within constructivist theory (Hrynchak and Batty, 2012). In constructivist learning theory, the role of teachers shifts from ‘transmitters’ of knowledge to ’facilitators’ of learning (Kaufman, 2003). In TBL students learn how to work collaboratively in teams solving authentic problems related to their future workplace. By creating a setting that facilitates learning how to make collaborative decisions, despite differing opinions, and then justify and defend the team decision, previous research suggests that this method of learning and teaching may help prepare graduates better for the modern workplace (Currey et al., 2015)

In TBL students work in permanent teams of 5‒7 members.They are given advanced assignments to complete before class. The Readiness Assurance Process consists of an individual assessment followed by a team assessment, to incentivise preparation and attendance and, along with peer evaluation, to develop team accountability. Both assessments are summative. Afterwards instructors give targeted feedback based on these test results. The majority of time in class is spent on application activities designed to develop problem-solving, collaborative decision-making, and promote learning through elaboration, discussion and debate. Figure 1 represents a typical teaching pattern of a TBL module.


Figure 1. Typical teaching pattern in a TBL module.

Earlier research shows that in TBL students learn how to work collaboratively in teams solving authentic problems and as a result, they report a high level of engagement in TBL modules (Levine et al., 2004; Chung et al., 2009). If and how the introduction to TBL affects student’s lifeworld however, remains unknown.

According to Ashworth the lifeworld is a central concept within phenomenological psychology and seen as an essential structure which is fundamental to all human experience (Ashworth, 2003). The seven contingencies are used to describe the lifeworld as explained in table 1.

Table 1. The lifeworld contingencies as explained by Ashworth.
Life World contingencies
SelfhoodWhat does the situation mean for the social identity; the person’s sense of agency and the feeling of their own presence and voice?
Sociality How does the situation affect the relation with others?
EmbodimentHow does the situation relate to feelings about their own bodies, including gender, emotions and disabilities?
Temporality How is their sense of time, duration and biography affected?
Spatiality How is their picture of geography of the places they need to go to and act within affected by the situation?
Project How does the situation relate to their ability to carry out the tasks they are committed to and which they regards as essential to their life?
Discourse What sort of terms, educational, social, commercial, ethical etc. are deployed to describe- and thence to live- the situation?


How do students’ lived experiences of Team-Based Learning when introduced to it for the first time, affect the contingencies of their lifeworld.


The methodological orientation is towards phenomenology in which philosophical principles are used to study the way a phenomenon appears to our consciousness. Any experience or event that presents itself to our consciousness can be studied by phenomenology because it does not matter whether the phenomenon is real, imagined, empirically measurable or subjectively felt. If we are aware of it, it is part of our consciousness and therefore part of our world (van Manen, 2014). Phenomena are always someone’s lived experiences, hence data are considered subjective and personal (van Manen, 2014).

The pilot involved final year students taking one module of the undergraduate MPharm programme. Student teams were provided with authentic patient case-based application exercises and asked to make a collaborative decision to justify this to other teams. Facilitators drew out discussion, facilitated debate, and optimised deep approaches to learning.

Data collection


Following ethical approval, five students in their early twenties (3 male, 2 female) from a cohort of 88 volunteered to take part in an interview or focus group, designed to elicit the lived experiences of students who were introduced to TBL for the first time. In this study a convenience sample was used; the entire cohort was invited to participate and five participants volunteered to take part in the study. The five students were from different teams. Students were given the choice of which data collection method they preferred.


Two students elected for individual interview and three for focus group using identical semi-structured questions. Data were transcribed verbatim and subjected to interpretative analysis. Students were given a participants’ number to ensure anonymity and results were only used once for research purposes.

Data analysis

Team members listed their own biases prior to data analysis and researchers first individually coded the data on a line-by-line basis using the life world contingencies as a template. Open codes were discussed and the coding structure was compared against transcripts and existing literature, until a deeper understanding was reached. Ashworth’s lifeworld contingencies provided the theoretical framework for analysis (Ashworth, 2003). Data analysis revealed two main themes: engagement and accountability. Subthemes related to contingencies in students’ lifeworld (see table 2).


Students spoke about all seven life world contingencies when exposed to TBL for the first time. As a team students seemed to be engaged and committed to carry out tasks (project). They felt that contributing to the team effort in an engaging way helped their learning (selfhood). Students believed that they benefited from collaborative discussions and felt teamwork enhanced their collaborative skills (sociality). Students held strong opinions on those who were not engaged and did not contribute (discourse). Students also believed that they benefited from being held accountable indicating a shift in their motivation from not being motivated to prepare for classes, to wanting to be prepared prior to attending class (selfhood, embodiment). Suggestions for improvement were related to application sessions during which they believed time could be managed better (temporality). Students indicated that the reduction of the number of people during those sessions would be an improvement (spatiality, embodiment) and help their learning within the given setting.

Table 2. Students’ quotes organised by Ashworth’s lifeworld contingencies (focus group P1, P2 & P3, interviews P4& P5).
Lifeworld contingencies Engagement Accountability
Selfhood"The team test when you’ve and every one in your group has pulled their weight in the team discussion this has a lot more impact." (P2)"Sometimes with lectures you’d just leave it last minute; you can’t do that with this you have to keep the work constant." (P3)
Sociality "It’s good, we have our ups and downs. I mean to be honest in our group four of us have got really similar thinking and one has a different method of thinking but we find our way around it." (P4)"Sometimes if there’s no driving force and no one to take that first step then sometimes the group just lingers around and stagnates, asking each other ‘ shall we do this, shall we do that’ sometimes you need someone to say let’s choose this otherwise it’s never going to get done." (P2)
Embodiment"If you don’t contribute anything you're not really learning how to work in a team." (P4)."If someone’s just sat there then there’s no point of them being there because they’re not a team member then at the end of the day." (P5)
Temporality "Because sometimes people in your group don’t understand what you’re trying to explain, so therefore you have to go into a lot more detail." (P1)"I think the person in charge needs to be stricter with time." (P5)
Spatiality "Because in a really big class, sometimes voices get lost and don’t get heard. We have 18 groups and it gets to a point when there’s too much conversation in that room." (P5)"As a team I think that a lot of the things you can’t understand individually comes out during the group sessions." (P1)
Project "So this is good in a way that you get to hear other people’s way of thinking, and your own, and better your own knowledge." (P3) "Like now I know everything that I learned yesterday but if I had to go for a normal exam, half of the stuff would be gone by now. Because you’re doing it as you go along and you’ve had that chance to think about it, it makes a lot more sense." (P4)
Discourse "Sometimes when you argue for five minutes, with regards to answer you tend not to forget that argument. After that you don’t forget the discussion because it’s so vibrant." (P2)"Then you argue the fact that this is right, and then someone else will say no this is it. But then you’ll argue and discuss together to come to a compromise or come to combined answer or agreement. I’ve noticed the advantage of that." (P3)


The students’ lived experience suggests that TBL was well received and seems to affect their lifeworld in a positive way. This new way of teaching seemed to enhance students’ engagement and accountability and as a result positively affected their selfhood and relationships with others. Students felt motivated to come to class prepared and experienced the value of learning how to work in teams, listening to others, and contributing to a team effort. TBL takes a constructivist approach and seems to have great potential as an active learning and teaching strategy in higher education.


Joy de Vries,  M.Sc., Educational scientist/faculty developer, TBL Academie, The Netherlands
Simon Tweddell, , EdD, Senior Lecturer in Pharmacy Practice, Bradford School of Pharmacy and Medical Sciences, University of Bradford, The United Kingdom
Rebecca McCarter, B.Sc., Educational Development Consultant, Centre for Educational Development, University of Bradford, The United Kingdom

Ashworth, P. (2003). An approach to phenomenological psychology: the contingencies of the lifeworld. Journal of Phenomenological Psychology, 34(2), pp 145-157.

Biggs, J. B. & Tang, K. (2011). Teaching for Quality Learning at University, What the student does. 4th ed. McGraw-Hill Education (UK).

Currey, J., Eustace, P., Oldland, E., Glanville, D. & Story, I. (2015). Developing professional attributes in critical care nurses using Team-Based Learning. Nurse education in practice, 15(3), 232-238.

Chung, E.-K., Rhee, J.-A., Baik, Y.-H. & A, O.-S. (2009). The effect of team-based learning in medical ethics education. Medical Teacher. Taylor & Francis, 31(11), pp. 1013–1017.

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Hrynchak, P. & Batty, H. (2012). The educational theory basis of team-based learning. Medical Teacher, 34(10), pp. 796–801.

Kaufman, D. M. (2003). Applying educational theory in practice. British Medical Journal (Clinical research ed.). Houston, TX: Gulf Publishing Company, 326(7382), pp. 213–216.

Letassy, N. A., Fugate, S. E., Medina, M. S., Stroup, J. S. & Britton, M. L. (2008). Using team-based learning in an endocrine module taught across two campuses. American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education, 72(5).

Levine, R. E., O’Boyle, M., Haidet, P., Lynn, D. J., Stone, M. M., Wolf, D. V. & Paniagua, F. A. (2004). Transforming a clinical clerkship with team learning. Teaching and learning in medicine. Taylor & Francis, 16(3), pp. 270–275.

Manen van M. (2014). Phenomenology of Practice. Meaning-Giving Methods in Phenomenological Research and Writing. Walnut Creek: Left Coast Press Inc.

Moon, J (2004) A Handbook of Reflective and Experiential Learning, London, Routledge Falmer.

Wright, K. B., Kandel-Cisco, B., Hodges, T. S., Metoyer, S., Boriack, A. W., Franco-Fuenmayor, S. E., Stillisano, J. R. & Waxman, H. C. (2013, December). Developing and assessing students’ collaboration in the IB programme. College Station, TX: Education Research Center at Texas A&M University. Submitted to the International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO).

Enhancing the involvement of children with low socio-economic background at preschool

Authors: Hannelore De Greve, Jo Van de Weghe, Lien De Coninck & Jan Van de Wiele.


In search to contribute to the closure of the performance gap between children with low SES-background and children with middle or high SES-background, our teacher training institute, Karel de Grote University College Antwerp (Belgium) developed a didactical approach, that heightens the involvement of preschoolers with low SES-background. In this approach, preschool teachers discover what children would like to experience and learn at school and adapt their activities towards these interests. The research we present addresses two questions: 1) How can we discover what children with low SES-background would like to do and learn at school? and 2) Does our didactical approach make a difference in involvement in preschoolers with low SES-background? Using design-based research, we developed a format for an exploratory activity as an answer to the first question. Switching replications helped us in determining the positive effect of the exploratory activity on the involvement of children with low SES-background.

Problem context

In Flanders (Belgium), as in other European countries, children from families with low socio-economic-status (SES) are having difficulties to perform in school at the same level as their peers with middle or high SES (Poesen-Vandeputte & Nicaise, 2010). There is no coincidence in the fact that PISA, the OECD Programme for International Student Assessment, examines not only what students know in science, reading and mathematics, but also analyze the equity in education. In 2015 (and before) PISA finds that socio-economic status is linked to significant differences in performance in most countries. Belgium is known as a ‘poor student’ in this perspective, as the impact of social background and immigrant status on performance appears to be above average (OECD, 2015).

Already in preschool, there is a struggle to get children with low SES involved in activities offered by preschool teachers. In a search to contribute to the closure of this performance gap our teacher training institute, based in the super-diverse city of Antwerp (Vertovec, 2007), developed a didactical approach for preschool teachers, in order to heighten the involvement of children with low SES-background. In this approach preschool teachers try to discover the interests of children, investigate what a certain topic evokes in them, what they would like to experience and learn at school. With these insights, the teacher thinks up and adapts the educational activities towards the experiences and interests of every child in class.

As most preschool teachers have a different SES-background, they do not have a clear understanding of the life of people with a low SES-background. When they are preparing class activities, it is quite logical that they use their own frame of reference. By doing so they often miss opportunities to address the interests of children with low SES. What teachers offer them in class is poorly connected to their real life experiences and knowledge (Roose, Pulinx & Van Avermaet, 2014). We all know that learning is cumulative. Therefore, it is necessary that teachers have insight in the prior learning of pupils so they can build up new knowledge, skills and experiences (De Corte, 1996; Gagné, 1968). Next to that, we advocate the ideas of experiential education which state that children will be involved (and learn more and deeper) when they show intrinsic motivation; when they learn about things they want to learn about (Laevers, Jackers, Menu & Moons, 2014). According to these two principles and inspired by the open framework curriculum as described by Hohmann and Weikart (1995) and the emergent curriculum (Jones, Evans & Rencken, 2001) our teacher training institute elaborated a roadmap for preschool teachers with the aim of carrying out a program that is tailored to the experiences, needs and interests of the children in their class. We named it the roadmap for experiential educational practice.

Roadmap for experiential educational practice

The roadmap starts with choosing a theme together with the children. Through observation and conversation, the teacher discovers which topics are popular. Which themes are coming forward throughout the spontaneous play of children? What are they talking about to each other? What topics are coming up in the morning circle talk? Etc. Most of the time these themes refer to the real-life-experiences of the children, for example the birth of a baby brother, a huge exhibition of Lego® in the city, snow during winter, a mum who is afraid of spiders, etc. Based on these observations the teacher selects one or more themes, which he/she presents to the children for voting. The decision about what theme they will learn about in the following weeks is made together.

In the second step, the teacher prepares and introduces an exploratory activity of the theme together with the children, where they try to find the answer to the following questions:

  • What is the meaning of the theme for the children in our class?
  • What does this theme evokes in them (feelings, spontaneous reactions, …)
  • What do they already know and what are their experiences with the theme
  • What do the children want to learn about the theme? What questions do they have?
  • What do the children want to do, experience, try out, … in the context of the theme?

Based on the input of children in the second step the teacher prepares a temporary plan for the coming two (or more) weeks. This plan consists of a fair amount of educational activities customized towards the learning interests and needs of the children in the class. The particularity of this plan is that it is temporary and that it does not fill the whole schedule. There are open spaces left that can only be filled in after a few days working on the theme. Throughout careful observation, conversation with the children and reflection the teacher adjusts and completes the plan according to the involvement, interests and needs of the children. This means that the teacher does not know how a theme will end, because he/she is trying to follow the children’s initiatives. For example: while working, playing and learning around the theme ‘police’ the children show fascination for the fact that some policemen ride horses. When the teacher is sensitive towards this signal he/she can start preparing activities where the children can learn more about riding horses and horses in general. In this way, the theme ‘police’ ends up with a complete different focus than the teacher could have imagined before.

Research questions

Since 2010, we ask student-teachers to use our roadmap for experiential practice during their internships. From their experience, we learned a lot about the applicability and the usefulness of the roadmap and we had to admit that there was room for improvement, especially in addressing children with low SES. Next to that, we felt the need to make our didactical approach more evidence-based (Davies, 1999). For years we passed along our enthusiastic beliefs in the experiential way of working with young children, but we never investigated its actual effectiveness. A new research proposal was born.

During our practice-based research, we addressed two research questions:

  1. How can we improve step 2 of our roadmap (exploratory activity), in order to better understand what children with low SES-background would like to experience and learn at school?
  2. Does step 2 of our roadmap (exploratory activity) influence the involvement of preschoolers with low SES-background?

For reasons of reliable and valid research we narrowed our focus in both research questions on one step of the plan, namely exploring a theme (for example ‘my house’, ‘spiders’, …) together with children. Because of the aim for inclusive didactics, we also studied the effect of this step on the involvement of preschoolers with middle or high SES.


As for the first research question, we used design-based research (DBR) to optimize the format of the exploratory activity with 4- to 5-year-olds. This approach bridges the gap between research and educational practice and is used for the development and refinement of didactical tools (Schoenfeld, 2009). In DBR, research is done in cooperation with practitioners in authentic contexts (Reeves, 2006). As for that, eight experienced teachers (teaching in our super-diverse city) tried out the exploration of a theme together with their children and helped us consider what works, when we try to find out what children with low SES want to learn about. We gathered data in three iterative cycles and used multiple data gathering instruments: video recordings, reflection forms, semi-structured interviews and in-depth group discussions. All data were transcribed and then analyzed by an open and double coding process in search for patterns, relations and factors for success. The conclusion of this process was a clearly described format of the exploratory activity with 4- to 5-year-old children, which has been proven effective. This means that a preschool teacher can get a reasonable understanding of what the theme evolves in children with low SES, what it means for them and what they would like to experience and learn about it.

As for the second research question, we used the model of switching replication (Shadish, Cook & Campbell, 2002) in eleven classes to measure whether the new format of the exploratory activity resulted in higher involvement of the children. In switching replications, respondents are alternately assigned to the control and the experimental group. The major advantage of this method is that there is no need to control for nuisance variables, such as teacher characteristics. So when a first group of teachers (A) was asked to explore a fixed theme together with their children and adjust their activities towards the input of the children, the other group (B) was asked to simply prepare activities within the fixed theme (without the exploratory activity as starting point). On a later moment, with a new fixed theme, group A represented the control group and did not execute the exploratory activity and the former control group (B) did. The design started with a baseline measurement within the theme ‘spiders’. ‘Christmas’, ‘chairs’, ‘my house’ and ‘music’ were the following themes (cf. figure 1). Although imposed themes are not in line with the first step of the roadmap, we needed to assure that as much variables as possible were constant and not interfering in the measured involvement. After all the focus of our research question was step 2 and not the roadmap as a whole.

Figure 1. Design switching replications.

All classes were working on the same theme in fixed weeks. During these weeks, we measured the involvement in eleven classes, applying the Leuven Involvement Scale for Young Children (Laevers, Depondt, Nijsmans & Stroobants, 2008). High involvement is a state in which the child is completely absorbed by an activity; operating to your full capabilities; it is challenging and therefore you show concentration, creativity, precision, energy and persistence (Laevers, Jackers, Menu & Moons (2014). This means that observing high involvement is to see somebody developing and learning. The Leuven Involvement Scale for Young Children defines five levels of involvement, starting from complete absence of involvement (1), to mainly continuous activity without signals for involvement (3), ending with the highest possible involvement (5). In the scanning procedure, you set a score for involve after observing a child for a few minutes (Laevers & Laurijssen, 2001; Van Heddegem, Gadeyne, Vandenberghe, Laevers & Van Damme, 2004). For reasons of reliability we observed each child twice during a theme (2×4 scannings) during morning or afternoon (Laevers, Depondt, Nijsmans & Stroobants, 2008). The average of these eight scores was used as an estimation of involvement of that child according to the theme-activities.

We analyzed the data from 119 children using a mixed model design, with ‘condition’ and ‘socio-economic status’ as predictors and ‘involvement’ as dependent variable. This multi-level model takes into account that children (level 1) are nested in classes (level 2), which implies that those observations are not independent.

At the end of every theme, the preschool teachers were interviewed to give more insight in factors that potentially influenced the observed involvement. In addition, the interviews provided some kind of follow-up for the participants in order to optimize the operationalization of the experimental condition.


The core finding for the first research question was the idea to have different phases in exploring the theme with children (cf. figure 2).

Figure 2. Phases in exploring a theme together with children.

Our format, developed through design-based research, starts with a phase of pre-teaching for low-SES children whose contribution to exploring activities normally is low or even lacking. For teachers it is difficult to find out what the themes mean for those children and what they would like to experience and learn. By giving them a head start in a small group, they are more activated and come up with some input and ideas. When the teacher explicitly refers to their input during the plenary exploration (phase 2) with the whole group, the well-being and involvement of these children increases. Because of that they also dare to speak more than they are used to. In interaction with the teacher and the other children they deepen their own ideas and comment on ideas of others. The plenary exploration that should be recognizable for the pre-teaching group, results in a brainstorm of ideas that the teacher uses to prepare a week plan (cf. figure 3).


Figure 3. Brainstorm as a result of the plenary exploration (theme ‘bicycles’).

During the theme, it turned out to be very interesting to further explore the chosen theme with the children. In a third phase a limited part of the theme (a specific interest) is broadened or deepened together with the children, resulting in more ideas for activities for the coming days. A successful method for phase 3 is setting up a new corner together with the children.

In our research for example, a teacher followed the input of a child that had never showered before, because she only has a bathtub at home. Another child came up with the idea of building a shower in the classroom. Together with a small group of children, they thought about what they would need to build a shower, what accessories they would need, what steps they would follow, etc. For some children it is easier to think along when the brainstorm is about a more delineated subject and some children need more time to come up with ideas or need to be immersed in a theme before they can start making plans.

In figure 4, we present the final format as the answer to our first research question: How can we improve step 2 of our roadmap (exploratory activity), in order to better understand what children with low SES-background would like to experience and learn at school?


Figure 4. Format exploratory activity.

Next to the phasing, we also found five didactical guidelines in exploring a theme together with children:

  1. Before you expect children to bring in ideas, give them a strong impression about the theme. Bring some materials with you, show them a video clip, take them out for an excursion, etc.
  2. Combine conversation with playing and doing. You can get insights in what the children want and need by listening to them, but also by observing them carefully. Instead of talking about what music they like, put them on a stage with a microphone and look what they bring to you. Instead of asking what happens in a hospital according to them, give them a Playmobil® hospital and observe their spontaneous play.
  3. Support children in formulating their ideas. For example during a theme exploration about volcanoes, a girl said “Little rocks are flying”. As a reaction to the teachers question: “What do the rocks look like?”, she says “orange, with fire”. The teacher verifies “Do you mean that lava stones are coming out of the volcano when it is erupting?”.
  4. Visualize the ideas of the children and mark the ideas when you have fulfilled them. For example, you can place all ideas on a green blackboard and move them to a red blackboard when accomplished. Use this in a conversation with your children: maybe they have more ideas to fill the green blackboard again; maybe they are not interested anymore in some items on the green blackboard. Doing a re- and preview with your children is recommended: thinking about what you have done and what you still want to do, empowers them in sharing ideas, taking initiative, etc.
  5. Emphasize that these ideas are their ideas. We saw how children were really proud and involved when they knew that they came up with the idea for this particular activity. They feel acknowledged. In doing so children experience that their ideas are really taken into account, which leads to more ideas the next time you explore a theme with them. This observation can be linked to the idea of epistemic agency in Knowledge Building theory (Scardamalia, 2000; Scardamalia & Bereiter, 2006). Teachers turn agency over to the children so that children can take responsibility in their own learning process.

Although it was not the focus of our research, teachers tentatively stated that children with low SES more often came up with things they wanted to do, try out, explore and experience, while children with high SES were more likely to come up with specific questions they want answers for. In trying to understand reality, it seems that children with low SES are more relying on their senses and children with high SES are more likely to approach reality in a cognitive way. Of course, these statements are premature findings that need to be investigated more in depth in the future.

We set up a quasi-experimental design to find an answer to the second research question: Does step 2 of our roadmap (exploratory activity) influence the involvement of preschoolers with low SES-background? The idea behind this research question is that we believe that learning activities in our Flemish preschools are not connected enough with the perspective of children with low SES. With our exploratory activity, we help teachers to get connected with this perspective and we ask them to address specific learning interests and needs of these children in their preparation for activities. The question is whether this results in a higher involvement of the children with low SES and hence in more and deeper learning effects. If we can prove this, we have something that can help us to bridge (or maybe even to prevent) the performance gap between children with low SES and the others.

In analyzing the data (3081 individual involvement scores; 523 average involvement scores), we found promising results. Exploring a theme together with children, following the instructions of the provided format, leads to significant higher involvement, both for children with low as for children with middle or high SES, F (1, 441.789) =8.99, p = 0.003. Interesting to know is that we also detected a general difference in involvement between children with low SES-background and the other children (F (1, 245.357) = 4.559, p = 0.034). This confirms our initial research problem stating that there is a challenge for low SES-children in Flemish education. To sum up, we found significant main effects for socio-economic status and condition (with or without exploratory activity), but did not find a significant interaction effect between these predictors. As we aspire an inclusive approach, this was the best result we could hope for. Both children with low SES and children with middle or high SES are benefiting from a teacher that prepares activities based upon an exploration of the theme together with them.

To end with, we would like to share a last outcome, though it was not the focus of our research. Comparing 60 boys to 59 girls, we could not find a significant difference in involvement according to gender. As we often experience that our primary education is more directed towards girls, we think it is hopeful that this appears not to be the case for early childhood education.

Conclusion & discussion

Society is confronted with an increase of socio-economic differences and education faces many challenges in this perspective. Because education towards children until they are six years old is crucial for the social, emotional and cognitive development and could be the lever to reverse the negative impact on children living in vulnerable contexts (Roose, Pulinx & Van Avermaet, 2014), we should extend research on this topic and make new findings accessible for all.

In this research study, we examined our didactical approach towards education for young children. Building upon the ideas of experiential education, open framework and emergent curriculum we developed a roadmap for preschool teachers that they can use to let children participate in deciding what they want to learn and what they want to do and experience at school. Two questions came up: 1) How can we know what children with low SES-background want to learn and experience? and 2) If we offer activities based upon the ideas of all the children in our classes (low, middle and high SES), will the children be more involved?

In answering the first question, we can give preschool teachers guidance in how to gain more insight in what a theme means for children with low SES-background and what they want to learn about. As for this ‘format’ (illustrated more thoroughly above), we need to emphasize that this only works with 4- to-5-year-old children. In our follow-up research we are developing a format for the youngest children in Flemish education, who are 2.5 to 3 years old. Preliminary results suggest again a multi-phased design, where in depth observation of play plays a very important role.

Finding a significant effect of the exploration of the theme together with children on their involvement in class is very important. This means we can use this didactical approach to enhance learning in preschool, both for children with low SES and for children with middle or high SES. Of course, we also wonder whether this approach could work in primary, secondary and even higher education. We believe that education should make more use of the intrinsic motivation to learn about reality, the urge to explore – something every person initially holds. It is a way of empowering people in their learning process and even in the way they want to lead their lives.

At the end of this article, we would like to point out that doing research together with practitioners is very enriching for both parties. We could experience the fact that design-based-research bridges the gap between educational research and practice. Together, as colleagues, we examined the obtained data, we discussed and suggested preliminary answers on our research question. Based on those answers they went back to their classrooms to try out a new format. This practice was again the starting point for a new cycle in the design-based-research set-up. The teachers, involved in our research, were praising the beneficial effects of the participation in this project. Reasons for this were the acknowledgement of their expertise, the chances to share ideas and experiences with peers and researchers and the opportunity to reflect upon their every-day-practice in a more profound way. Participating in this research meant a profound and sustainable way of professionalization for these preschool teachers.


Hannelore De Greve, M.Sc. (Ed.), Teacher educator, Karel de Grote University College, Belgium
Jo Van de Weghe, M.Sc. (Ed.), Teacher educator, Karel de Grote University College, Belgium
Lien De Coninck, M.Sc. (Ed.), Teacher educator, Karel de Grote University College, Belgium
Jan Van de Wiele, M.Sc. (Ed.), Teacher educator, Karel de Grote University College, Belgium

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Changing paradigms: moving higher education into the 21st century

Author: Zarina Charlesworth.


Institutes of higher education can no longer pretend that the Fourth Industrial Revolution will not impact the way that learning is viewed, and education delivered. This article looks at changes in education from the perspective of students, educators, administrators complemented by practitioner action research in the classroom. In answer to the question of how to induce 21st century change in higher education, a meta-interpretation (Weed, 2005) of six related research studies carried out over the period 2014‒2017 was conducted. This in turn has allowed for a comprehensive analysis and the identification of key change-related findings that cut across the afore-mentioned stakeholder groups. A framework for change is put forth for administrators and examples for innovative classroom practice are provided for educators.


It is clear that what is frequently described as the Fourth Industrial Revolution (Schwab, 2016) is having an impact not only in more traditional industries but in education as well. In 2012, digital technology was identified as one of the five key drivers of change taking place in education with one report going so far as to say “Campuses will remain, but digital technologies will transform the way education is delivered and accessed, and the way value is created by higher education providers, public and private alike” (Ernest & Young, 2012, p. 4). Three years later it was said that “the impact of technology on education delivery remains sub-optimal […and contributions] to teaching and learning have yet to be fully realised and exploited” yet, “it is vital that teachers become active agents for change” (OECD, 2015, p. 4). Educators today are faced with a world in mutation and it behoves us to tailor the learning experience so as to provide our higher education students with the competencies and knowledge that they will need as they move into the work force. As much as this is an exciting time, change can also be difficult and confusing, sometimes missing the overview necessary to move ahead and in turn often lacking coordination. A transition, first mentioned by King from “sage on the stage” to “guide on the side” (1993), is clearly underway, however, the opportunities afforded by technology add a level of complexity to the educational reality that has not yet sufficiently been taken into account (Jörg, Davis, & Nickmans, 2007; Reigeluth, Beatty, & Myers, 2017). The ongoing change in practices “will mean that more emphasis is placed on the teaching processes being situated as active ‘co-learning’ experiences [and that the] adoption of a more scholarly and reflective approach to teaching practice is clearly a logical strategy to help achieve this shift (Conole & Alevizou, 2010, p. 21).

The vision of the future of education held by those involved in the studies referred to is one full of hope and enthusiasm as we enter an age of unlimited possibilities where learning starts at an early age and goes on throughout one’s life. It is an exciting time, but we have a long way to go. The use of technology certainly does, however, afford educators, the possibility to add value to the learning experience (Ertmer & Ottenbreit-Leftwich, 2013; Howland, Jonassen, & Marra, 2012; Jonassen, 1996). Surprisingly, and despite all the resources available to educators, there has been relatively limited change in course delivery in higher education. What are the barriers and drivers to this paradigm change? Perhaps a better understanding of these issues will allow us to move forward with conviction and enthusiasm into a 21st century that is already well under way allowing the higher education community to become proactive in the shaping of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (Abu Mezied, 2016).

This article examines the nature of change in education through a meta-interpretation of a series of selected studies taken from two practice-based action research projects (2014‒2016 & 2016‒2017) carried out at the University of Applied Sciences and Arts of Western Switzerland. The reason for this type of interpretation being to provide the whole picture as we are looking at a paradigm change and not just a snapshot of innovative classroom practice. A paradigm change does not necessarily mean starting completely afresh, however. The research presented here is firmly anchored in existing theory, which provides the guiding thread linking all the studies in this meta-interpretation together and shows how one can move from the past into the future without having to make any kind of break.

The paper closes with the key findings of this analysis and a discussion of how to meet some of the challenges faced. Examples, based on the action research, are provided for the easy integration of technology in the classroom that may be of interest to educators. The conclusions drawn here are based on and aimed primarily at higher education providers but may be applied in general.

Theoretical background


The research referred to in this article draws on two main bodies of literature to link together the series of studies referred to in this meta-interpretation. The point of departure and the pivot for all the studies conducted was the concept of self-regulation. In Zimmerman’s (1989) words, “self-regulated learning strategies are actions and processes directed at acquiring information or skill that involves agency, purpose, and instrumentality perceptions by learners” (p. 329). This process, first introduced by Bandura (1986, 1991), is seen to be subject to the impact of personal, environmental and behavioural influences. These influences may vary in strength depending on the learning situation. For example, a group project conducted across countries with different time zones may be subject more to environmental influences than would a project conducted at a local level. Today the environmental influence is of particular importance as it relates not only to the physical environment but to the virtual as well.

The idea of self-regulation was later taken up by Nicol and MacFarlane-Dick who see it as “manifested in the active monitoring and regulation of a number of different learning processes: e.g. the setting of, and orientation towards, learning goals; the strategies used to achieve goals; the management of resources; the effort exerted; reactions to external feedback; the products produced.” (2006, p. 199). Adding to this, the work of other researchers (Pintrich, 2004; Winters, Greene, & Costich, 2008; Zumbrunn, Tadlock, & Roberts, 2011) emphasizes the role of directed learning through its active construction and purposeful engagement. The management of learning thus takes on new proportions which in turn rely more than ever on the development of self-regulation processes.

In today’s ‘educational ecosystem’ (Cristol, 2014) higher education students are faced with an unprecedented amount of information, a need to sift through, select and share it as well as use it to further their knowledge. Zimmerman saw the process of self-regulation as going through three phases (Zimmerman, 2000). This was later taken up by Dabbagh and Kitsantas and then revisited by Charlesworth & Sarrasin taking technological advances into account. Table 1 presents a comparison of these frameworks (Charlesworth & Sarrasin, 2014).

Table 1. A Comparison of Frameworks.
 Zimmerman (2000)Dabbagh and Kitsantas (2012)Charlesworth and Sarrasin (2014)
1ForethoughtPersonal information managementOrganization and searching
2Performance or volitional controlSocial interaction and collaborationInformation exchange
3Self-reflectionInformation aggregation and managementCo-creation and co-construction of knowledge

The link between the levels shown in Table 1 and the competencies that higher education is called upon to develop in 21st century graduates, including those of critical-thinking, creativity, communication, and collaboration, (World_Economic_Forum, 2015) is clear.

Organization and searching skills can be linked to both the organization of study as well as to information literacy. Higher education students today need support in the search for information and especially in the validation of what information is reliable, a role both the institute as well as its educators need to fill. In terms of information exchange students are generally quite capable yet often default to more basic types of exchange through the institute’s learning management platform (LMS), Dropbox, WhatsApp, etc. But when called upon to go past simple exchange and delve into the co-creation and co-construction of knowledge which technology easily allows one to do “few students naturally do this well” (Zumbrunn et al., 2011, p. 4). These skills and competencies rely heavily on collaboration. Related literature that has taken this up (De Corte, 2012; Järvelä, Näykki, Laru, & Luokkanen, 2007; Lee & Tsai, 2011; Leinonen, Järvelä, & Häkkinen, 2005; Li, Ingram-El Helou, & Gillet, 2012), suggests that educators giving support for individual learning through the use of structured collaboration will encourage students to develop strategies that allow for the co-creation and co-construction of knowledge.

Change Management

Clearly the onus for learning is increasingly on the students themselves and in each of the afore-mentioned levels they are expected to perform. It is in the third level, however, that the idea of a paradigm change comes to fruition as it is here that the educator has a large role to play. A role which goes far past just adapting one’s course syllabus but calls into question what learning in the 21st century really is and calls on the educator to examine his/her educational practice. This in turn leads us to the idea of change. To better understand the mechanisms of change, the second body of literature referred to in this article is that of change management (Kotter, 1995; Lewin, 1958; Quinn, Amer, & Lonie, 2012). The foundations for organizational change were embraced by management / industry some twenty years ago. These have since been taken up in education with a framework put forth by Quinn et al. (2012). This framework is shown in order that conclusions can be drawn not just about what changes might be pertinent but how to have such change embraced by educators.

There is little published research on change management in higher education that looks at the principal stakeholders: students and educators. Faculty developers as change agents have been looked at (Dawson, Mighty, & Britnell, 2010) as have academic support centres (Diamond, 2005). “Unfortunately, much of what is at the disposition of the educators comes from instructional designers and support personal whose time in the classroom is often limited and may be overly “tool” oriented” (Charlesworth & Sarrasin, 2017a, p. 7376). As pointed out by Kirkwood & Price (2013) educator’s questions are often concerned with the use of a particular tool or technology rather than with the more creative “How can I enable my students to achieve the desired or necessary learning outcomes?” or “What forms of participation or practice are enabled for learning?” (p. 332). The question remains of how to engender this kind of change.

Using Lewin (1958) as the starting point with his three-step: unfreezing, moving, refreezing description of organisational change, together with Kotter’s 8-step model (1995), Quinn et al. (2012) came up with three related phases for driving change in education as shown below:

Phase 1: Setting the stage in order to “break open the shell of complacency” (Lewin, 1958, p. 211) through actions which encourage change.

Phase 2: Making change happen means allowing change to happen through “empowering of others to act on the vision through encouraging risk-taking, and non-traditional ideas, activities, and actions” (Kotter, 1995, p. 3).

Phase 3: Making it stick where actions involving systems and structures emphasize the commitment of the institute.

Clearly the relationship between evolving student needs and managing change at the level of the institute is complex. The question that this paper looks to answer is, how, taking the various stakeholders and their perspectives into account, can one hope to drive change.

Methodological orientation & procedures

Rather than present research findings from one or more isolated studies, this article provides a meta-interpretation (Weed, 2005) of related research studies conducted over the period 2014‒2017. What is proposed here is to synthesize the results of these studies in order to look at how best to move change forward in higher education and this at levels from the student through to the administration.

The synthesis of research, both quantitative and qualitative, has taken on increasing importance over the past twenty years. Going from a focus on the synthesis of quantitative studies, frequently through the use of a meta-analysis, the methodological literature now describes any number of ways for synthesizing all data types. There seems to be some consensus that despite the variety of methods referred to, there should always be an element of structured synthesis. A distinction can, however, be made based on “the extent to which the various methods aim to test, explore, or generate theories and the extent to which they interpret evidence from the included studies” (Snilstveit et al. 2012, p. 414).

It is of importance to note that “the re-interpretation of original research is not a valid way to proceed” (Weed, 2005, paragraph 36). Where more traditional research synthesis and review tended to rely on a summary of findings, the narrative approach to synthesis aims to generate new insight allowing for a more holistic approach. The approach taken in this paper is that of Secondary Analysis of Primary Data as defined by Weed (2005) where the original interpretations are considered to be the raw data for the secondary analysis.

As mentioned by Weed (2005), and in the tradition of qualitative research, the terms validity and reliability are not appropriate in this type of analysis. This is not, however, to refute their importance but to redefine them accordingly. In the case of this current work, ‘research quality’ the term used by Weed (2005) and seen as “referring to ensuring the quality and integrity of the meta-interpretation approach” (paragraph 37) is particularly well suited. Guaranteeing this quality calls for a selection of the studies to be included and for transparent nature of the process where all studies referred to are available for the reader to access.

The six studies referred to in this analysis were carried out between 2014 and 2017 and called on a range of methods including: the use of student focus groups (2 having n=17 participants); faculty interviews (n=5; n= 16); administrator interviews (n=9); faculty workshops (20 having n=252 participants) with a follow-up questionnaire (n=39); and finally two revised courses (BA students and Continuing Education students) which each went through three action research iterations as well as allowing for a quantitative component (BA students n=85) and a virtual community analysis (Continuing Education students n=95).

The choice of these six studies was dictated by the fact that they were all part of two related research projects carried out in the same university allowing a coherent and holistic approach to the issue.

As suggested by Weed (2005 paragraph 43), this type of interpretation calls for:

  • A focus on meaning in context;
  • Interpretations are the raw data for synthesis;
  • An iterative approach to the sampling of studies for synthesis.

This approach allows for a more comprehensive approach to the findings. Accordingly, the selected studies have, in the first instance, been grouped by context before proceeding to the final analysis.


The interpretations for each of the studies included in the meta-interpretation are considered to be the raw data or the “primary subject for secondary analysis” (Weed, 2005, paragraph 35). A total of six studies have been included in this analysis. A compilation of the original interpretations is shown below in Table 2. Once again, the object is not to reinterpret neither to summarize but to provide, through further analysis, an interpretation that goes beyond that of each individual study, rather like making a collage of photos and as the whole picture emerges being able to see something new.

Table 2. Compiled Studies 2014‒2017: Reported findings.

Changing paradigms, largely due to digitalization, are going on all around us. Whether educators are inclined to go the route of technology enhanced learning becomes a moot point because technology, whether in the classroom or not, is now ubiquitous. Its impact has been to change the teacher-student dynamic, to alter the time-distance relationship and to give students unlimited access to all the knowledge they could desire, calling on educators to add real value or be shunned by their students. All of the research presented here has been subject to a meta-interpretation highlighting barriers and drivers to this paradigm change.

The findings reported in Table 2 confirm the impact of technology on course delivery today. Even though innovation in the classroom does not necessarily call for the use of technology it clearly needs to be considered in any course redesign.

Table 3 is a recompilation of the findings shown in Table 2 by stakeholder group and divided into barriers and drivers to classroom innovation.

Table 3. Barriers & Drivers to innovation in the higher education classroom.
Stakeholder groupBarriersDrivers
StudentsDigital native ≠ Digital learner
Feeling a loss of control in a non-traditional classroom
Resistance to change
Expecting teachers to add value
Asynchronous time-distance relationship seen as positive
Appreaciate being involved in the learning process
FacultyUnclear on changing role of educator
Relatively low level of digital fluency
Insufficient time available to embrace change
Use of technology is motivating & created a dynamic classroom
Clear benefits for collaboration & networking beyond the classroom with student involvement
AdminA number of campuses over a large distance
Insufficient communication from the top down
Overall vision not clear to educators
A teacher training department
A certain level of support for innovation-related projects
Support for conferences

Going past just a synthesis by category of stakeholder but to a cross-stakeholder synthesis it becomes clear that there are interacting relationships worth highlighting, allowing us to identify key findings. Key findings risk remaining just that if measures are not taken in response to them. At the end of the day, what is shown in these studies is that there is uncertainty, confusion, resistance, and a certain passivism on the part of both students and teachers. To move this forward, the administrators have a certain responsibility and through the principles of change management, as experienced and described previously, there is a clear path to follow. Here we turn to Quinn et al.’s (2012) framework for change suggesting that the findings be addressed in a manner so as to make the most impact.

Setting the stage – where complacency is no longer accepted

Key finding #1: Both students and educators are novices in the use of technology for learning
For example, students, despite their digital native status do not really know how to use technology for learning. Many educators get put off by the idea of digital natives, worried that they might not be able to keep up. What they do not realize is that although students are often tech-savvy they are no further up the learning curve than the educators themselves in terms of how best to use technology in the classroom. This translates into an excellent opportunity for educator-student collaboration and even co-creation as they discover together what can be done. If educators are encouraged to take on this challenge without fear of recrimination or the possible consequences of negative student evaluations the stage will be set to go further.

Key finding #2: Innovation-related projects and conferences call for more than lip service
Clearly the instauration of innovation-related projects and conferences is a good start, yet it is not sufficient for the institute to applaud these events rather real involvement, time allocation for those involved, publicity for the outcomes and follow-up could make much more of an impact.

Making change happen – giving substance to vision

Key finding #3: A need to close the gap between institutional vision and what is happening on the ground
Clearly there is a gap between what those in administration see as the vision for the future of the institute and what is communicated, or not, to the educators. A real effort is called for to close the gaps in perception of where to next.

Key finding #4: There is a real need for scaffolding and institutional support
The need for scaffolding in their own learning on the part of the educators involved is not to be underestimated. Educators are being pulled in many directions with often more than just teaching commitments. It is insufficient to tell educators that they have permission to go ahead and make changes without providing the required support. Support that should go beyond the possibility of seeing a pedagogical advisor or taking a course but support that brings together discipline champions with those searching for new solutions and gives educators the time and space needed to experiment.

Making it stick – where systems and structures are impacted

Key finding #5: Sufficient time for change in course delivery is lacking
Telling educators that they have the liberty to run their courses as they see fit and to say that innovation is encouraged but unfortunately this does not merit an additional time allowance simply does not give the right message. Encouragement needs to go as far as allowing time and space for the creativity that will be needed as education evolves.

Key finding #6: The need for a centralized resource centre
It is one thing to give educators the go ahead to change their methods of course delivery and encourage instructional diversity but if the infrastructure does not evolve hand-in-hand with technology this cannot work. The new generation classroom calls for tables and chairs that are easily reconfigured, ideally several beamers, movable white boards, wireless access, and sufficient sockets to plug electronic equipment into. The standard classroom setting with tables cabled together will not work.

New ideas and innovative solutions will not suffice to change the face of education and the still dominant paradigms of teaching and learning but a more strategic and integrated approach such as shown above is called for in order that lasting change takes place.

Discussion and conclusions

A meta-interpretation of the results suggests that there are many sides to this story and that research often informs on only one aspect. In some cases, this is sufficient but in the case of fundamental changes, such as we are now seeing in the educational paradigm, this will not suffice. Jasinski (2007) speaks of inter-related enablers, some of which have also shown up in our research and which include “a work culture that embraces and supports innovation; a robust technology infrastructure; technology tools that are appropriate for teaching and learning purposes; a senior champion who drives the process; a willingness to consult and share; and supportive managers, peers and support professionals” (pp. 4‒5). These are all important elements, but our research supports the idea that for educators to embrace change there are other even more important elements including: time allowed, valorisation of effort, support and recognition from all levels and encouragement. Unfortunately, administrators tend to default to Industrial-Age mental models or mindsets (Reigeluth et al., 2017) and continue to evaluate education along well-known standard lines which often penalize the risk-taking educator who wants to try something new in the classroom. The key findings presented in the previous section provide clear direction in answer to the question posed at the outset of how to induce 21st century change in higher education.
If nothing else, the action research experience has taught us not to be afraid of making mistakes and trying new things out in the classroom even if at first one does not succeed. Below are two examples of actions that were carried out successfully during the action research and to the enjoyment of educators and students alike.

Importance and relevance for practice

The importance of doing this type of meta-interpretation is that it allows one to see the big picture. As illustrated in the story of the blind men and the elephant (PeaceCorps, undated), the Jain-based theory of manifold predications states “ to be competitive, innovative and successful we need the team to look at the larger picture collectively rather than get one view” (Sharma, 2011 paragraph 11). The suggestions put forth here should help move change in the educational paradigm, currently often only occurring at the individual educator level, to the collective school and community levels.


Zarina Charlesworth, PhD (Ed.), University of Applied Arts & Sciences of Western Switzerland, HES-SO, Switzerland

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Työn ja oppimisen vuoropuhelu uudistaa korkeakoulutusta

Kirjoittajat: Anu Moisio, Liisa Vanhanen-Nuutinen, Hannu Kotila ja Kimmo Mäki.

UAS Journalin numeron (2/2018) teemana on työhön kiinnittyminen korkeakouluopinnoissa. Ammattikorkeakoulut ovat merkittäviä alueen työelämälle; niiden opiskelijat toimivat erilaisissa projekti- ja harjoittelutehtävissä työpaikoilla opintojen aikana, osallistuvat uusien innovaatioiden kehittämiseen yhdessä työelämän edustajien kanssa ja tekevät työtä mm. rahoittaakseen opintojaan.

Tiedolle ja teorioille syntyy merkitys vasta, kun niitä soveltavat ympäristössään toimivat elävät olennot.

Tämä pragmatistinen lähtökohta on ollut aina ammattikorkeakoulupedagogiikan ytimessä. Parhaiten se toteutuu autenttisen työn ja oppimisen integraatiossa. Koko olemassaolonsa ajan ammattikorkeakoulut ovat etsineet ja osin löytäneet luontevia integraation reittejä teorian ja käytännön välille. Työn ja opiskelun jatkuva vuoropuhelu tekee ammattikorkeakouluista kiinnostavia myös kansainvälisillä areenoilla.

Opiskelijat kiinnittyvät työmarkkinoille jo opintojen aikana. Useiden tutkimusten mukaan noin puolet ammattikorkeakouluopiskelijoista tekee säännöllisesti työtä opintojen aikana. Tämä on monelta osin myös hyödyntämätön mahdollisuus. Opiskelu saman alan töissä madaltaa rekrytoitumisen kynnystä valmistumisen yhteydessä. Se myös tarjoaa mahdollisuuden työssä syntyneen osaamisen liittämiseksi osaksi omia opintoja, esimerkiksi opinnollistamisprosessin kautta. Työn opinnollistamisen mahdollisuudet voivat myös tuoda korkeakouluopintojen piiriin opiskelijoita, jotka eivät muuten edes harkitsisi korkeakouluopiskelua.

Opiskelijoiden opintojen aikaisesta työssäkäynnistä kertyvää osaamista on vasta viime vuosina ymmärretty hyödyntää ja sitoa osaksi korkeakouluoppimista. Olemme osaamispolun alussa ja tähän on vain löydettävä ja luotava kunnollisia mahdollisuuksia, joissa työssä syntyvä osaaminen ja opiskelu ruokkivat toinen toisiaan. Painopisteen siirtyminen tutkintojen suorittamiskeskeisyyden ohjaamisesta osaamisen mahdollistamiseen haastavat opetuksen ja ohjauksen rakenteet korkeakoulussa, opettajiston asenteet ja pedagogisen johtamisen. Myös opiskelijoiden tapa ajatella oppimistaan muuttuu, samoin työn paikkojen asiantuntijat joutuvat pohtimaan korkeakouluopiskelijan sparraamista uudestaan. Kyseessä on merkittävä korkeakoulun muutosprosessi, joka vaatii pitkäjänteistä johtamista ja eri osapuolien osallistamista onnistuakseen.

Työelämäprojektit, työharjoittelu ja omaehtoinen työssäkäynti opintojen aikana auttavat opiskelijoita kiinnittymään työhön, suunnittelemaan ja edistämään työuraansa. Useimmat opiskelijat myös työllistyvät valmistuttuaan opiskelupaikkakunnalleen tai sen lähistölle työpaikoille, jotka ovat tulleet tutuiksi opintojen aikana. Kaikki tämä edellä mainittu edellyttää toimivaa työelämäpedagogiikkaa, ohjausta ja yhteistyötä ammattikorkeakoulun ja työelämän välillä.

Tämä teemanumero esittelee erilaisia tapoja hyödyntää varhaista työhön kiinnittymistä. Lisää ratkaisuja kehitellään Toteemi-hankkeen piirissä. Toteemi tutkii ja kehittää käytännönläheisiä malleja työn ja korkeakouluopintojen yhdistämiseen. Toteemi on Opetus- ja kulttuuriministeriön rahoittama korkeakoulutuksen kehittämishanke ja sen verkkosivut löytyvät osoitteesta


Anu Moisio, prosessijohtaja (3AMK), anu.moisio(at)

Liisa Vanhanen-Nuutinen, yliopettaja, liisa.vanhanen-nuutinen(at)

Hannu Kotila, yliopettaja, projektipäällikkö, hannu.kotila(at)

Kimmo Mäki, yliopettaja, kimmo.maki(at)

Haaga-Helia ammattikorkeakoulu, Ammatillinen opettajakorkeakoulu

Vanhanen-Nuutinen, L., Saari, J., Kotila, H. & Mäki, M. (2018). Opintojen aikainen työssäkäynti – ongelma vai mahdollisuus ammattikorkeakouluopinnoissa? Eurostudent VI -tutkimuksen artikkelisarja. Opetus- ja kulttuuriministeriö, Helsinki 2018

Työhön kiinnittyminen rakennus- ja kiinteistöalojen opinnoissa

Kirjoittajat: Marika Ahlavuo, Mika Lindholm, Hannu Hyyppä ja Kaisa Jaalama.

Työhön kiinnittymisessä rakennetaan pysyvää ja alati uudistuvaa vuorovaikutusta niin opiskelijan, työelämäkumppaneiden kuin oppilaitoksen opetus- ja tutkimushenkilöstön kanssa.

Kirjoitus perustuu kokemuksiimme opiskelijan työhön kiinnittymisestä nykyisten ja aiempien työelämäkumppaneiden kanssa tehtyjen projektien osalta Metropolia Ammattikorkeakoulun rakennusalalla sekä Aalto-yliopiston rakennetun ympäristön alalla. Esitämme syitä siihen, miksi ja millä tavoin syvempää yhteistyötä voitaisiin yritysten ja työelämäkumppanien kanssa toteuttaa. Rakennus- ja kiinteistöalat toimivat hyvänä esimerkkinä uudistuvista käytännönläheisistä aloista, joissa yritysten panostukset voisivat tukea nykyistä enemmän kilpailukykyisen koulutuksen kehittämistä.

Rakennus- ja kiinteistöalojen erikoispiirteitä

Rakennus- ja kiinteistöalat vastaavat noin kolmanneksesta maamme bruttokansantuotteesta ollen suurin yksittäinen liiketoiminnan sektori maassamme (Hyyppä 2012). Haasteena ovat nopea digitalisoituminen, monialaistuminen ja toistuvat laatuongelmat. Alojen käytännönläheisyys houkuttelee opiskelijoita jo hyvin aikaisin opintojen alussa ympärivuotiseen työharjoitteluun, mikä on ristiriidassa yhtenä ammattikorkeakoulujen tulosmittareista toimivan, vaaditun 55 opintopisteen, vuositahdin kanssa.

Muuttuva ammattikorkeakoulujen työelämäyhteistyö

Opiskelijalle varsinkin pidempiaikaiset työelämäprojektit, harjoittelut ja omaehtoinen työssäkäynti opintojen aikana antavat mahdollisuuden tutustua työnantajiin ja suunnata opintojen teoriaopinnot vastaamaan omia sekä alan tulevaisuuden tarpeita. Yrityksillä ei ole edelleenkään mahdollisuuksia matemaattisten aineiden teoriaopetukseen tai pedagogiseen ohjaukseen, joten alojen vaatima vankka teoriapohja on opittava korkeakoulussa. Tämä on haaste työn opinnollistamiselle.

Koulutetut työpaikkaohjaajat, jotka tuntevat oppilaitoksen sekä yrityksen käytössä olevat keinot, tavat ja tavoitteet, ovat saaneet kiitosta yhteistyökumppaneilta. Ongelmana työpaikkaohjaajien hyödyntämisessä on ollut rahan puute. Suuret rakennusyritykset ovat kokeneetkin tarpeelliseksi muodostaa omaan ohjaukseen perustuvia työpaikkaohjelmia. Yritysten sisäiset valmennusohjelmat turvaavat opiskelijalle sen, että yrityksen tavat ja erilaiset työnkuvat taitoineen ja osaamisineen tulevat harjoittelussa tutuiksi. Tulevaisuudessa uudistuvat muutokoulutukset huomioivat työelämälähtöiset opinnot ja harjoittelut nykyistä yksilöidymmin. Tätä kautta ammattikorkeakouluissa opiskelijoille tulee mahdollisuus hyödyntää yritysten tarjoamia työpaikkaohjelmia yhä enemmän opinnoissaan.

Metropoliassa on tehty suurimpien rakennusalan toimijoiden kanssa yhteistyösopimuksia. Näiden avulla on tunnistettu yritysten näkökulma koulutuksen ja tutkimustoiminnan kehittämiseen. Valtaosa Metropolian rakennusalan 130 opinnäytetyöstä ja 80 innovaatioprojektista tehdäänkin yhteistyössä työelämäkumppaneiden kanssa.

Yritysten ja korkeakoulumaailman yhteistyö on saanut monipuolisia muotoja

Metropolian työharjoitteluseminaari on vuosittain järjestettävä rekrytointitapahtuma, jossa kymmenet yritykset esittelevät työllistymispolkujaan opiskelijoille. Seminaarit, sponsoroidut opinnot (esim. työturvallisuuskortti), ekskursiot, järjestöjen yrityspäivät ja pop-up -rekrytointitilaisuudet sekä monet alan ilmaiset ja kohdennetut messutapahtumat ovat esimerkkejä uudistuvista yritysten ja järjestöjen tapahtumista, joilla innostetaan nuoria alan töihin. Samalla alaa ja yrityksiä autetaan uusien työntekijöiden löytämisessä uudistuviin työtehtäviin.

Metropolian ja HTW Berlinin kansainvälisen maisteriohjelman ”Construction and Real Estate Management” tavoitteena on tuottaa kansainvälisiin projekteihin ammattilaisia ja integroida heitä suomalaisiin yrityksiin. Kaksoistutkinto-ohjelma sisältää vuoden opintoja ulkomailla ja toisen vuoden opintoja Suomessa.

Yritysten ja korkeakoulumaailman välistä yhteistyötä ovat viime vuosina vahvistaneet myös erilaiset innovaatiokilpailut, joissa sovelletaan uuden teknologian mahdollisuuksia rakennetun ympäristön tarpeisiin. SICK Oy on esimerkki innovaatiokilpailuja edistäneestä yrityksestä. SICK on yksi maailman johtavista anturien ja anturisovellusten valmistajista teollisuuden-, logistiikan- ja prosessiautomaation sovelluksiin. (SICK 2017).

Hackathonit (Virtanen ym. 2015) ovat kilpailuhenkisiä koodaustapahtumia, jotka järjestetään yhteistyössä lukuisten yritysten kanssa. Tyypillisesti osallistujat muodostavat ryhmiä, jotka rajoitetussa ajassa ideoivat ja kehittävät toiminnallisen prototyypin. Esimerkkinä alan opiskelijoiden suosion saaneesta, toteutetusta tapahtumasta on Water Hackathon, jonka Aalto-yliopisto järjesti yhteistyössä Suomen ympäristökeskuksen, CGI:n ja Karttakeskuksen kanssa.

Kuva 1. Tiivis yhteistyö kaupunkien, toisen asteen koulutuksen, ammattikorkeakoulujen, yritysten ja kuntien sekä kaupunkien kanssa on ainoa tapa tuottaa pysyviä tuloksia digitalisoituvan rakennusalan kanssa. Kuva Espoon kaupungin ja OMNIAn aikuisten osaamiskiihdyttämön avajaista.

Yritysten huippuosaajat voimavarana opetuksessa?

Suomessa koulutusjärjestelmä käyttää opetukseen yhä vähemmän rahaa ja työvoimaa sekä halvempia tai mielellään ilmaisia ohjelmistoja ja aineistoja. Ammattikorkeakouluissa on kuitenkin ylläpidetty traditiota, jossa Suomen eturivin rakennusalan ja muiden alojen huippuosaajat yrityksistä ja muualta työelämästä käyvät korkeakouluissa luennoimassa vahvistaen työelämän ja koulutuksen välistä vuoropuhelua. Metropolian rakennusalan opinnoissakin eri alojen vaikuttajat kuten Mikael Jungner, Risto Vahanen, Atte Blom ja Timo Vuorensola ovat esitelmöineet opiskelijoille niin johtajuudesta kuin sosiaalisten taitojen tärkeydestä työelämävalmiuksissa.

Metropolia AMK:n ja Aalto-yliopiston rakennus- ja kiinteistöalojen yhteistyö käynnistyi 2007. Yhteistyössä on koulutettu osaajia tulevaisuuden digiajan työtehtäviin rakennusalan ja laajemmin rakennetun ympäristön alalle. Toimivan yhteistyön tuloksena on saatu jatkojalostettua lukuisia ajankohtaisia alan yhteisjulkaisuja ja yhteisiä ulkopuolisesti rahoitettuja tutkimushankkeita. Opiskelijoiden työllistyminen alalle on ollut joustavaa, koska Aalto-yliopistolla ja Metropolialla on vahvoja kumppanuuksia kiinnostaviin työelämätoimijoihin. Innovaatio- ja opinnäytetöissä on ennakoitu lähitulevaisuudessa alaa läpileikkaavia haasteita, joita opiskelijat ovat selvittäneet kirjallisuushakujen, yrityskyselyin ja haastatteluin. Opiskelijoiden selvitystöiden kohteina ovat olleet esim. terveellinen rakennus, palvelutalon pihapiirin uudistaminen yhteistyössä hyvinvointi- ja rakennusalojen opiskelijoiden kanssa, sosiaalisen median mahdollisuudet sekä RFID-tunnisteiden käyttömahdollisuudet rakentamisessa.

Uudenlaiset tavat kytkeä yrityksiä opetukseen

Lukuisat koulutusorganisaatiot, avoimet yliopistot ja verkossa pidettävät sadat yliopistojen tarjoamat avoimet kurssit (MOOCit) edistävät perusopetuksen rinnalla työmarkkinoiden tarpeisiin pohjautuvien kurssien tarjontaa. Opetussisältöjen toteutuksen osittainen kilpailuttaminen voisi avata läheisemmän suhteen yritysmaailmaan. Usealla alan yrityksellä on vuosien yhteistyössä kertynyt ainutlaatuista ja yksityiskohtaista osaamista sekä myös pedagogista näyttöä omalta toiminta-alaltaan. Uusi vaihtoehto koulutuksen toteuttamisessa voisi olla, että tutkimus- ja opetusinfrastruktuurit olisivat oppilaitoksen hallinnassa, jolloin opetussuunnitelman mukaiset kurssit ja opintokokonaisuudet, tai osa niistä, kilpailutettaisiin. Tällä voitaisiin turvata opetuksen uudistuminen ja ajantasaisuus. Kilpailutetun opetuksen toteuttaisi valittu voittanut osapuoli, yritys, tutkimuslaitos, korkeakoulu tai näistä koostuva konsortio. Koulutusorganisaatiot voisivat yritysten rahoittamilla maksullisilla opintojaksoilla säästää miljoonia ja opetus uudistuisi. (Hyyppä & Ahlavuo 2017.)

Kuva 2. Uusi digitekniikka, avoimet aineistot, kiinteä yritysyhteistyö ja henkilöstön liikkuvuus ovat rakennus- ja kiinteistöalojen valtteja.


Rahoitusmallin aiheuttama paine rakennus- ja kiinteistöalojen opetuksen jatkon kannalta johtanee siihen, että alan suurimpien toimijoiden kanssa siirrytään vähitellen yritysten sisäisten valmennusohjelmien kautta opinnollistamaan työssä opittuja taitoja. Toisaalta korkeakoulutuksen muovaantuminen opetuksen mahdollisen kilpailuttamisen, yritysyhteistyön, hackathonien, innovaatiokilpailujen ja MOOCien myötä voi tukea monipuolisia opetussisältöjä ja opiskelijan oppimista, jos ne osataan nivoa mielekkäästi ja pedagogisesti osaksi opetussuunnitelmia ja oppimisen tavoitteita.


Marika Ahlavuo, tiedetuottaja, koordinaattori, kulttuurituottaja Aalto-yliopisto, marika.ahlavuo(at)

Mika Lindholm, osaamisaluepäällikkö, TkL, Metropolia Ammattikorkeakoulu, Rakentaminen ja arkkitehtuuri, mika.lindholm(at)

Hannu Hyyppä, professori, TkT, dos. Aalto-yliopisto, hannu.hyyppa(at)

Kaisa Jaalama, tohtorikoulutettava, HtM, Aalto-yliopisto, kaisa.jaalama(at)

Hyyppä, H. (2012). Rakennus-ja kiinteistöalan tulevaisuuden näkymiä. Metropolia ammattikorkeakoulu, rakennus- ja kiinteistöala.

Hyyppä, H. & Ahlavuo, M. (2017). Opetusta kilpailuttamalla uutta osaamista? Maankäyttö 3/2017:18:20.

Karttakeskus (2018). Water Hackathon Aalto-yliopiston-projektikurssi 19.1.-2.2.2018. Haettu 1.4.2018 osoitteesta

SICK (2017). SICK 25 v Innovaatiokisan tulokset. Haettu 1.4.2018 osoitteesta

Virtanen, J-P. & Hyyppä, H. & Ahlavuo, M. & Hyyppä, J. & Laitala, A. (2015). Hackathon rantautuu maankäyttöalalle. Maankäyttö 3/2015:6:9.


Opinnollistamisen verkostossa voittajia ovat kaikki

Kirjoittajat: Eeva-Leena Forma, Heini Korvenkangas ja Vappu Salo.

Opetuksen kehittämisen keskiössä ovat joustavat ja työelämäläheiset opintopolut. Opiskelijalähtöisen työn opinnollistamisen menetelmäkehittäminen ja opetuksen verkottuminen työelämän ja koulutuksen yhteisverkostoksi on SAMKissa otettu koko opetuksen kehittämistehtäväksi. Kehittäminen etenee tutkintokoulutuksessa OKM:n tuella ja Toteemi-, ReKey- ja eAMK-osahankkeissa voimia yhdistämällä. Voittajia ovat kaikki. Opiskelijoiden työelämäosaaminen ja taito tuoda osaamisensa esiin kasvavat ja opinnot etenevät mielekkäällä tavalla. Työelämä saa tarvitsemaansa kehittyvää osaamista ammattikorkeakoulussa osaamistaan syventävän työntekijänsä tuomana. Koulutuksen ja työelämän verkottuminen ja yhteistyö vahvistuvat.

Opinnollistaminen tuo koulutukseen uusia yhteistyömalleja

Satakunnan ammattikorkeakoulu (SAMK) työstää käytännönläheisiä malleja työn ja korkeakouluopintojen yhdistämiseksi yhteistyössä elinkeinoelämän ja muiden korkeakoulujen kanssa. Opiskelijalähtöinen opinnollistaminen nähdään osana opintoja jouduttamassa valmistumista ja luomassa osuvampaa ja oikeanlaista osaamista työmarkkinoille. Kehittämisen keskiössä ovat ratkaisut, jotka mahdollistavat opiskelijalle yksilöllisen oppimispolun ja yritykselle mahdollisuuden kehittää liiketoimintaansa. Uudenlaisten yhteistoimintamallien tarkoituksena on myös vahvistaa ammattikorkeakoulujen roolia työelämän kehittämisessä. Ammatillisten valmiuksien oppimisessa yhteistyö elinkeinoelämän kanssa tuottaa hyvän tuloksen, kun korkeakoulutasoinen oppiminen ja työelämän käytäntö lähentyvät konkreettisesti. Tämän takia on tärkeää, että myös kehitystyötä tehdään yhteistyössä elinkeinoelämän kanssa.

Opinnollistamisen lähtökohtana on kokonaisen opintojakson tai useamman opintojakson yhdistelmän opinnollistaminen opiskelijan aloitteesta. Työelämässä oleva, alaa harkitseva tai enemmän työelämäkontaktia kaipaava opiskelija voi valita opinnollistamisen vaihtoehtoiseksi suoritustavaksi. Opiskelijan tulee opinnollistamissuunnitelmassaan osoittaa, että siihen kytketty kehittämistehtävä vastaa tavoitteiltaan opetussuunnitelman osaamistavoitteita. Suunnitelmassa esitetty teoreettinen viitekehys paitsi varmistaa kehitystehtävän soveltuvuuden korkea-asteelle myös luo pohjan opiskelijalle kehittää osaamistaan.

Opinnollistamisen menetelmien ja niihin liittyvien opetus- ja arviointiosaamisen kehittämisellä halutaan tukea ja edistää erilaisissa elämäntilanteissa ja erilaisilla oppimisvalmiuksilla olevien opiskelijoiden opinnoissa etenemistä. Osaamisperustaisten menetelmien kehittäminen edellyttää oppimisen toimintaympäristökäsityksen laajentamista ammattikorkeakoulun ulkopuolelle, työelämään ja vapaa-ajan toimintaankin liittyväksi. Oppimisympäristön vaikutus saavutettavissa oleviin osaamistuloksiin on puolestaan keskeinen arvioinnin kriteereiden määrittämistä ohjaava tekijä (Saranpää 2012, 72–73).

Autenttinen, opiskelijan yksilöllinen oppimisympäristö edellyttää korkeakouluissa arvioinnin osaamisen kehittymistä kolmikantaiseksi, myös työelämän ja opiskelijan itsearvioinnin huomioon ottavaksi. Elinkeinoelämää palveleva oppiminen tapahtuu perinteisiä oppimisympäristöjä useammin erilaisissa tiedon rakentamisen ympäristöissä (knowledge building environment, KBE; ks. Scardamalia & Bereiter 2003). Niissä avainsanoja ovat oppiminen ja osaaminen sekä niihin liittyvän tietämyksen lisääminen verkostomaisesti toimien. SAMKissa verkostoyhteistyötä hyödynnetään osaamisalueiden rajat ylittävissä, substanssiosaajien muodostamissa osaajapooleissa. Niissä opintojen sisältöjä, toteutusta, menetelmiä ja arviointia kehitetään tietoa ja kokemuksia jakaen ja kokeillen. Laajassa, avoimuutta tavoittelevassa, itseään johtavassa verkostossa, jollaisiksi osaajapoolit on perustettu, tarvitaan koordinaatiota määrittelemään suuntaviivat toiminnalle (Järvensivu 2017). Osaajapoolien yhtenä tavoitteena on vakiinnuttaa ja yhtenäistää opinnollistaminen yhdeksi pedagogiseksi käytännöksi erityisesti opinnoissa, joissa on vuosittain useita toteutuksia.

Asiantuntijuuden verkostot kehittyvät työelämässä

Kaikista yli 30-vuotiaista korkeakouluopiskelijoista 59 prosenttia käy ansiotyössä, ja 53 prosenttia ilmoittaa, että heidän ansiotyönsä liittyy hyvin tai melko läheisesti koulutusohjelman sisältöön. Opiskelijoista 74 prosenttia ilmoittaa tekevänsä ansiotyötä saadakseen työkokemusta. Päätoimisista opiskelijoista 20 prosenttia käy säännöllisesti ansiotyössä ja 25 prosenttia silloin tällöin. Sivutoimisista opiskelijoista 83 prosenttia käy säännöllisesti ansiotyössä. (Potila, Moisio, Ahti-Miettinen, Pyy-Martikainen & Virtanen 2017, 32, 45.) Nämä Eurostudent VI -tutkimuksesta saadut tiedot tukevat osaltaan vahvasti sitä, miksi korkeakouluissa on tärkeää tunnistaa työelämä opiskelijan oman osaamisen kasvun voimavarana, jota korkeakoulun tarjoama syvempi teoreettinen osaaminen tukee ja vahvistaa.

Organisaatiot, joissa opiskelijat toimivat projekteissa, harjoittelussa tai työskentelevät työsuhteessa, tarjoavat monipuolisia, ammatillisen oppimisen ja kasvun mahdollistavia oppimisympäristöjä. Opinnollistettavalle työlle on ominaista työn tekeminen eri paikoissa ja erilaisissa vaihtuvissa verkostoissa, kuten työpaikoilla tai työpaikan ulkopuolella (Collin 2007, 206). Moni korkeakouluopiskelija on mukana erilaisissa vapaaehtois- ja järjestötoiminnan vastuutehtävissä. Myös tätä työtä voidaan opinnollistaa. Opiskelijat syventävät silloin osaamistaan organisaation toimintatavoissa ja tavoitteena on tukea asiantuntijuuden kehittymistä opiskelijassa.

Asiantuntijuus ei ole vain yksilön taito, vaan samalla kehittyy koko sosiaalinen prosessi, jossa hän on mukana omaksuen samalla yhteisiä toimintatapoja, arvoja ja normeja (Lave & Wenger 1991, 51–53). Tämä edellyttää ammattikorkeakouluilta prosessimaista, joustavaa pedagogista lähestymistapaa, joka tukee opiskelijan identiteetin kasvua. Eteläpellon (2007, 90) mukaan työhön liittyvä identiteetti yhdistää ammattialan yhteiskunnallisen, sosiaalisen ja kulttuurisen käytännön sekä työntekijän yksilölliset käsitykset ja merkitykset työn asemasta elämässä. Työidentiteetti rakentuu henkilöhistorian varaan sisältäen tulevaisuuden odotukset suhteessa työhön. Ammatillinen kasvu on eliniän mittainen prosessi, ja opinnollistaminen on keino edistää opiskelijan työ- ja ammatti-identiteetin kehittymistä opintojen alusta lähtien.

Pilotoinnit toteutuvat erilaisissa oppimisympäristöissä

SAMKissa opinnollistamisen pilotteja toteutetaan useiden koulutusten voimin. Olemme järjestäneet workshopeja, joissa työelämän edustajat ja opiskelijat yhdessä opettajien kanssa keskustelevat opinnollistamisen haasteista ja mahdollisuuksista. Opettajia on perehdytetty opiskelijalähtöisen opinnollistamisen erityiskysymyksiin useissa tilaisuuksissa. Osaajapooleissa opinnollistaminen on keskeinen teema. Ensimmäiset pilotoinnit ovat toteutuneet ja toteutumassa matkailun, viestinnän, liiketalouden, hoitotyön ja sähkötekniikan opetuksessa. Mukana on sekä päivä- että monimuotototeutuksissa opiskelevia tutkinto-opiskelijoita. Organisaatiot edustavat ketjuja, yksityisyrityksiä ja järjestötoimintaa. Opinnollistamisen kohteina yrityksissä ovat esimerkiksi asiakaspalautejärjestelmä, verkostotoimintaan ja ympäristösertifikaatin uudistamiseen liittyvät toimenpiteet.

Workshopeissa korostuivat opinnollistamisen eri osapuolilta vaatimat tavoitteellisuus, sitoutuminen ja joustavuus. Tärkeänä pidettiin resurssitehokkaiden mallien kehittämistä. Opinnollistamisen keinoin organisaatiossa toteutettavan kehittämisen koettiin hyödyttävän sekä yritystä että opiskelijaa. Yrityksen etuna nähtiin mahdollisuus päästä käsiksi sellaiseen osaamiseen, jota sillä ei vielä ole tai joka kaipaa vahvistamista.

Työnantaja näkee mahdollisuuden kehittää ja kehittyä

SAMKin opinnollistamisen pilottikokeilussa on mukana esimerkiksi porilainen Original Sokos Hotel Vaakuna. Heidän työntekijänsä suorittaa ensimmäiset opintopisteensä opinnollistamalla työpaikallaan. Hotellipäällikkö Riina Ojanen on innostunut kokeilusta nähden opinnollistamisessa vain hyviä puolia. Haasteet hän kääntää voitoksi. Hän iloitsee pystyessään tarjoamaan motivoituneelle henkilölle mahdollisuuden kehittää osaamistaan. Ojanen korostaa opiskelijan vastuuta opinnollistamisessa. Hän näkee, että oppimisen teoreettisia asiantuntijoita ovat opettajat ja oppimisen käytännön tuki tulee tässä mallissa työnantajalta. Hän korostaa, että onnistuminen edellyttää opiskelijalta työ- tai harjoittelusuhdetta. Tällöin hänelle voidaan antaa salassapitosopimusta edellyttäviä tietoja.

Haasteena Ojanen näkee työelämän kiireellisyyden. Opiskelijan onkin laadittava sellainen selkeä ja kehitystehtävää tukeva prosessisuunnitelma, että yritystoiminta ja hänen ammatillinen osaamisensa kehittyvät. Positiivisina puolina opinnollistamisessa Ojanen mainitsee yhteistyön lujittumisen työelämän ja koulutusorganisaation välillä sekä yhteistyömallien monimuotoisuuden. Opinnollistamisen tarve voikin syntyä yrityksen ja työelämän lähtökohdista, jolloin opettaja tarvittaessa toimii linkkinä työelämän ja opiskelijoiden välillä. Ojanen kannustaa opiskelijoita olemaan aloitteellisia ja yrityksiä lähtemään mukaan opinnollistamaan.

Opinnollistaminen nähdään tulevaisuuden mahdollisuutena kehittää koulutusta ja työelämää yhteistyössä. Innostuneet opiskelijat tarvitsevat tuekseen asiantuntevia ohjaajia sekä koulutusorganisaatioista että työelämästä. Opinnollistamista onkin syytä kehittää eteenpäin verkostoyhteistyönä.


Eeva-Leena Forma, FM, opetuksen kehittämispäällikkö, Toteemi-hanke, Satakunnan ammattikorkeakoulu, eeva-leena.forma(at)

Heini Korvenkangas, KTM, matkailuliiketoiminnan lehtori, ReKey-hanke, Satakunnan ammattikorkeakoulu, heini.korvenkangas(at)

Vappu Salo, KT, ruokatuotannon lehtori, ReKey-hanke, Satakunnan ammattikorkeakoulu, vappu.salo(at)

Collin, K. (2007). Työssä oppiminen prosesseina ja ohjauksen haasteena. Teoksessa Anneli Eteläpelto, Kaija Collin ja Jaana Saarinen (toim.) Työ, identiteetti ja oppiminen. Helsinki: WSOY, 198–2.15

Teoksessa A. Eteläpelto, K. Collin & Saarinen, J. (toim.) Työ, identiteetti ja oppiminen. Helsinki: WSOY.

Järvensivu, T. (2017.) Voimaa verkostoista -seminaari 24.11.2017. Toteemi-hanke. Satakunnan ammattikorkeakoulu.

Lave, J. & Wenger, E. (1991). Situated Learning. Legimate Peripheral. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Potila A-K., Moisio J., Ahti-Miettinen O., Pyy-Martikainen M., Virtanen V. (2017). Opiskelijatutkimus 2017. Eurostudent VI -tutkimuksen keskeiset tulokset. Opetus- ja kulttuuriministeriön julkaisuja 2017:37. Helsinki.

Saranpää, M. (2012). Arvostan osaamista, arvioin osaamisia. Kriteerien kriteerit. Teoksessa Hannu Kotila ja Kimmo Mäki (toim.), Ammattikorkeakoulupedagogiikkaa 2. Helsinki: Edita Prima.

Scardamalia, M., & Bereiter, C. (2003). Knowledge building environments: Extending the limits of the possible in education and knowledge work. Teoksessa A. DiStefano, K.E. Rudestam, & R.Silverman (toim.), Encyclopedia of distributed learning. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.


Uraohjelmat paras ponnahduslauta työelämään

Kirjoittajat: Soili Fabritius ja Karoliina Pigg.

Rakennusalan yritykset ovat viime vuosina käynnistäneet opiskelijaohjelmia, joiden avulla he houkuttelevat tulevaisuuden osaajia urapoluilleen. Oulun ammattikorkeakoulun Rakentamistekniikan osaston opiskelijoille on tarjolla kolme ohjelmaa: YITin, Skanskan ja Lehto Groupin. Opiskelijat suorittavat ohjelmassa osan opinnoistaan ja yritys lupaa harjoittelu- ja kesätyömahdollisuuksia sekä päättötyöpaikan. Kun taidot karttuvat, tarjolla on haastavampia tehtäviä ja parhaimmillaan polun päässä odottaa vakituinen työsuhde.

Räätälöityjä urapolkuja

YIT-opinnoissa ja Skanskan Oppiva-harjoitteluohjelmassa on yhdistetty teoriaopintoja ja työmaajaksoja tai itsenäisiä tehtäviä. Tarkoituksena on perehdyttää opiskelijat monipuolisesti paitsi rakentamiseen ja työmaan käytänteisiin myös projektinhallintaan ja johtamiseen. (Skanska 2017; YIT 2018.)

Opinnoissa käsitellään mm. työturvallisuuteen ja rakentamisen laatuun liittyviä asioita ryhmätöiden, case-esimerkkien ja työmaakäyntien avulla. Lisäksi varmistetaan, että tulevat ammattilaiset oppivat ymmärtämään projektien aikatauluttamiseen liittyvät asiat sekä esimiestyön.

Skanskan Oppiva-harjoitteluohjelmassa opiskelijat hakevat suoraan johonkin tiettyyn työtehtävään. Resurssisuunnittelun avulla kartoitetaan, millaisiin tehtäviin henkilöstöä tarvitaan kolmen vuoden kuluttua, ja paikkoja laitetaan tarjolle sen mukaan. Tulevaisuuden työvoimatarpeita ennakoidaan siis hyvissä ajoin.

Oppiva-harjoitteluohjelma kestää kolme vuotta. Keväisin järjestetään valmennuspäivät ja kesäkuukausina opiskelijat ovat harjoittelussa Skanskan eri työmailla ja toimistoilla. Kesän lopussa käydään palautekeskustelut, joissa kootaan kesän harjoittelujakson anti, kirjataan ylös odotukset seuraavalle työvuodelle ja valmentaudutaan kohti seuraavaa tehtävää.

– Räätälöimme työtehtävän mukaisen perehdytyksen, ja näin jokaiselle muodostuu henkilökohtainen Oppiva-polku, henkilöstönkehittäjä Tiia Nurminen toteaa. Yksilöllisestä koulutuksesta huolimatta opiskelijoita kannustetaan verkostoitumaan tiiviisti toisten opiskelijoiden kanssa.

– Ryhmäytymistä tuetaan jo perehdytysvaiheessa kokoontumalla yhdessä keilaamisen tai muun harrasteen äärelle. Tavoitteena on, että valmistumisen jälkeen tuoreella skanskalaisella on tuttuja kollegoja työmaillamme eri puolilla Suomea, Nurminen kertoo.

Tuorein yritysten tarjoamista opiskelijaohjelmista on Lehto Groupin (2018) Uralupaus-ohjelma, joka on käynnistetty vuoden 2018 alussa. Sitä ei ole sidottu mihinkään yhteiseen aikatauluun vaan mukaan voi mennä missä vaiheessa opintoja tahansa.

– Uralupaus-ohjelma tarkoittaa käytännössä palkallista harjoittelua omalla työpaikalla – oli se sitten rakennustyömaalla, toimistolla tai tehtaalla. Opiskelija voi osaamisen kehittyessä edetä yhä haastavampiin tehtäviin, kuvailee HR-asiantuntija Tanja Kanerva Lehto Groupilta.

Opiskelijaohjelmista työvoimaa ja tuoreinta osaamista

Uraohjelmiin rekrytoidaan vuosittain merkittävä määrä opiskelijoita, joten niiden suunnittelu ja toteutus vaativat paljon työtä. Liikkeelle lähdetään rekrytointiprosessista, ja valintojen jälkeen vuorossa ovat koulutuspäivien, kesäharjoittelujaksojen ja opinnäytetöiden organisointi ja ohjaus. Rekrytoinneista vastaava Tanja Kanerva kertoo kaiken olevan vaivan arvoista:

– Opiskelijoista huokuu innokkuus oppia uutta ja myös kehittää toimintaamme. Heillä on alan tuoreinta tietoa, ennakkoluulottomuutta ja he ovat tärkeä osa myös innovaatiotoimintaamme. Toimivin tiimi syntyy nuorten osaajien ja rautaisten konkareiden yhdistämisestä.

Lähijaksoja, kehitystehtäviä ja työmaavierailuja

Kuva 1. Antti Kurvinen ja Kanerva Huovinen ovat viittä vaille valmiita rakennusinsinöörejä. Kurvinen pääsi opiskelijaohjelmaan toisena opiskeluvuonnaan, Huovinen kolmantena työskenneltyään YIT:llä kesän ajan työnjohtoharjoittelijana. Kuva: Karoliina Pigg

Kanerva Huovinen päätyi YIT-opintoihin saatuaan positiivisen harjoittelukokemuksen.

– Harjoittelu oli hyvin ohjattu ja työporukka mukava. Sain antaa ja vastaanottaa palautetta. Toiveitani kuunneltiin, esimerkiksi sain lisää vastuuta pyydettyäni sitä. Ajattelin, että haluan työskennellä YIT:llä jatkossakin, Huovinen kertoo.

– Ajattelin, että YIT-opinnot voisivat auttaa hahmottamaan koulussa opiskeltuja sisältöjä yrityksen näkökulmasta käytännössä. Myös tulevat harjoittelu- ja lopputyömahdollisuudet yrityksessä motivoivat.
YIT:n tarjoamiin opintoihin sisältyi kolme lähijaksoa ja kaksi kehitystehtävää.

– Lähijaksojen sisältöihin saimme itse vaikuttaa. Kuulimme YIT:läisten uratarinoita ja opimme esimerkiksi yrityksen kulttuurista ja arvoista, rakentamisen laadusta, työturvallisuudesta ja asiakasymmärryksestä.

– Erityisesti esimiehenä toimiminen erilaisissa tilanteissa työmaalla oli helpompaa, kun asioita oli lähijaksoilla käsitelty, toteaa Antti Kurvinen.

Kurvinen oli tyytyväinen myös vierailuihin:

– Kävimme mm. Triplan työmaalla, josta sai perspektiiviä, miten asiat oikeasti isoilla työmailla hoidetaan.

Kuva 2. Huovinen vietti kesän 2017 työnjohtoharjoittelussa, jonka jälkeen hän jatkoi osa-aikaista työskentelyä vesitornityömaalla Raahessa. – On ollut mukavaa saada työskennellä opintojen ohella. Opiskelun ja työn yhdistäminen vaatii kuitenkin opiskelijalta paljon aikatauluttamista ja suunnitelmissa pysymistä. Jotkut asiat saattavat vaatia reagointia, vaikka olisi juuri opiskelutehtävien kimpussa tai ostosten kanssa kaupan kassalla. Kuva: YIT Rakennus Oy

Opinnoissa ei päällekkäisyyksiä

Antti Kurvisen mielestä Oamkin ja yrityksen tarjoamat opinnot tukevat toisiaan:

– YIT-opinnoissa asioita käsitellään yrityksen edun näkökulmasta, ja johtamisen ja esimiehenä toimimisen teemat koin erityisen hyödyllisiksi. Yrityksen tarjoamissa opinnoissa asioita käsitellään konkreettisemmin ja käytännönläheisemmin kuin koulussa. Oamkin tuotannon kurssit, kuten laadunhallinta- ja työturvallisuuskurssit, valmentavat hyvin YIT-opintoihin.

Kanerva Huovinen arvioi:

– Minulle oli tärkeää verkostoituminen muiden YIT-opinnoissa mukana olevien opiskelijoiden kanssa; hehän ovat tulevaisuudessa työkavereitani, kertoo Huovinen.

– Parasta oli juuri tutustuminen samanhenkisiin ja motivoituneisiin opiskelijoihin.

Tulevaisuus selkeänä

Kanerva Huovinen valmistuu rakennusinsinööriksi loppukeväällä. Jo ennen valmistumispäivää hän työskentelee kokoaikaisesti työmaainsinöörinä Kuopion Kuntolaaksossa, joka käsittää uuden uimahallin ja pysäköintilaitoksen rakentamisen sekä jäähallin perusparannuksen. Valmistumisen yhteydessä työsuhde vakinaistetaan.

Suunnitelmat ovat selkeinä Kurvisellakin:

– Haluan tehdä työnjohtajan tehtäviä jonkin aikaa, ehkä muutamia vuosia valmistumisen jälkeen. Tulevaisuudessa haluan olla kehittämässä tuotantoa ja työmaiden toimintaa, esimerkiksi kehitysinsinöörinä tai jonakin ylempänä toimihenkilönä konttorilla.

Aito kosketuspinta työelämään

Rakentamisen tuotantotekniikan yliopettaja Antero Stenius näkee yritysyhteistyön erittäin tärkeänä ja palkitsevana:

– Aktiivisten kontaktien avulla meillä säilyy aito yhteys työelämään ja pystymme tarkkailemaan rakennusalan töiden ja opiskelun vastaavuutta. Ala kehittyy koko ajan, joten eteen tulee uusia asioita, joita opinnoissa ei ole voitu käsitellä. Tuoreimpana esimerkkinä Stenius mainitsee YIT:n käyttöön ottaman TAHTI-aikataulusuunnittelumenetelmän, jolla pystytään lyhentämään merkittävästi sisävalmistusvaiheen läpimenoaikaa. Menetelmän opettaminen on sisällytetty välittömästi Oamkin insinöörikoulutukseen.

Antero Stenius kertoo myös opiskelijoiden hyötyvän oppilaitoksen ja yritysten välisestä yhteistyöstä:

– Opiskelijat ovat selvästi motivoituneempia päästessään tekemään harjoitustöitä aidoista aiheista. Tunneilla ja harjoitustöissä on voitu ratkoa yhdessä esimerkiksi rakentamisen laatuun ja työturvallisuuteen liittyviä ongelmanratkaisutehtäviä. Lisäksi on käyty läpi tuotannonohjauksen toimintamalleja esimerkiksi tilanteissa, kun urakoissa on jääty aikatauluista jälkeen. Yrityksiltä saatu monille opiskelijoille opinnäytetyötilauksia.
Antero Steniuksen mukaan yritysten ja oppilaitosten yhteistyö sisältää myös yhteiskuntavastuuta, sillä tavoitteena on edistää rakennusalan koulutusta yleisesti. Oulun ammattikorkeakoulun Rakentamistekniikan osastolta valmistuu vuosittain satakunta rakennusinsinööriä, -mestaria ja -arkkitehtia alan työtehtäviin. Oulun ammattikorkeakoulun osaajat ovat merkittävä tekijä Pohjois-Pohjanmaan elinkeinoelämässä.

Yhteistyön muodot tukevat hallituksen tavoitteita

Yksi pääministeri Juha Sipilän hallitusohjelman osaamisen ja koulutuksen kärkihankkeista on työelämään siirtymisen nopeuttaminen. Ohjelman mukaisesti tavoitteena ovat alkupäästä pidemmät työurat, mahdollisimman joustavat opintopolut koulutusasteiden sisällä ja välillä sekä nopea valmistuminen sekä siirtymät työelämään. Hallitus haluaa lisätä myös työpaikoilla tapahtuvaa oppimista. (Valtioneuvosto 2015.)

Oulun ammattikorkeakoulun strategiaan 2017 – 2020 on työelämäkumppanuus kirjattu yhdeksi neljästä keskeisimmästä päivittäistä toimintaa ohjaavasta arvosta. Se on näkyvä osa oppilaitoksen arkea. (OAMK 2016.) Työelämän ja koulutuksen vuorovaikutuksen tiivistäminen esimerkiksi ammattikorkeakoulujen ja yritysten yhteisillä opiskelijaohjelmilla tukee hallituksen tavoitteita saumattomasti.

Artikkelikuva: Kanerva Huovinen oli mukana perustusten teossa Simon tuulipuistotyömaalla 2016. Kuva: YIT Rakennus Oy


Soili Fabritius, FM, suomen kielen ja viestinnän lehtori, Oulun ammattikorkeakoulu, soili.fabritius(at)
Karoliina Pigg, FM, suomen kielen ja viestinnän tuntiopettaja, Oulun ammattikorkeakoulu, karoliina.pigg(at)

Lehto Group (2018.) Lehto Uralupaus – opiskelijaohjelman kautta uutta potkua opiskeluihin. Haettu 5.4.2018 osoitteesta
OAMK (2016.) Elinvoimaa ja hyvinvointia pohjoiseen. Oulun ammattikorkeakoulun strategia 2017 – 2020. Oulu: Oulun ammattikorkeakoulu. Haettu 5.4.2018 osoitteesta
Skanska (2017.) Skanska Oppiva -harjoitteluohjelma. Haettu 5.4.2018 osoitteesta
Valtioneuvosto (2015.) Ratkaisujen Suomi. Pääministeri Juha Sipilän hallituksen ohjelma 29.5.2015. Hallituksen julkaisusarja 10. Sivut 17– 18. Haettu 3.4.2018 osoitteesta
YIT (2018.) Paras ponnahduslauta tulevaisuuteen. Haettu 5.4.2018 osoitteesta

Satelliittikoulutuksesta bioanalyytikoille startti työelämään

Kirjoittajat: Sirkka-Liisa Halimaa, Marja Kopeli ja Leena Tikka.

Ammattikorkeakoulujen laatutekijänä pidetään oppimisen autenttisuutta sekä tiivistä vuoropuhelua työelämän kanssa. Autenttisuus muodostuu jatkuvasta kosketuksesta työelämän toimijoihin ja opiskelijoiden aidosta työelämäkokemuksesta.

Savonia-ammattikorkeakoulu, HYKS, HUSLAB, Laboratoriopalvelut (Carea) ja Etelä-Karjalan sosiaali- ja terveyspiiri (Eksote) ovat vuodesta 2014 lähtien järjestäneet yhteistyössä bioanalyytikkokoulutusta, joka toteutuu sairaaloihin rakennetuissa etäoppimisympäristöissä Kotkassa ja Lappeenrannassa. Koulutus perustuu sopimukseen, ja sen mukaisesti Savonia huolehtii koulutuksen järjestäjälle kuuluvista vastuista ja Carea ja Eksote vastaavat mm. etäopiskelutiloista ja -välineistä sekä harjoittelun ohjauksesta.

Savoniassa puhutaan Kaakkois-Suomen satelliittikoulutuksista. Satelliittikoulutuksen käsitteellä korkeakouluissa tarkoitetaan opetuksen toteuttamista kampuskaupunkien ulkopuolella, jolloin opiskelijat voivat opiskella omilla paikkakunnillaan digitaalisia ratkaisuja hyödyntäen.

Kaakkois-Suomen satelliitissa on kyse työelämälähtöisestä opinnollistamisesta. Aloite koulutukselle tuli sairaaloista, koska alueella oli pulaa koulutetuista bioanalyytikoista. Syksyllä 2014 ja 2017 aloittaneet opiskelijaryhmät ovat jakaantuneet Kuopiossa opiskelevaan lähiryhmään sekä etäryhmiin Kotkassa ja Lappeenrannassa. Etäryhmät opiskelevat Carean ja Eksoten sairaaloiden tiloissa ja osallistuvat oppitunneille videoneuvotteluyhteyden avulla.

Bioanalyytikon opintoihin kuuluu harjoittelujen lisäksi runsaasti ns. teoriaopintoihin sisältyvää käytännön taitojen harjoittelua laboratorioympäristössä. Etäryhmille myös nämä harjoittelut järjestetään sairaaloiden laboratorioissa. Opintoihin liittyvät oppimistehtävät nousevat sairaaloiden kehittämistarpeista. Opiskelijat ovat opintojen alusta lähtien jatkuvassa vuorovaikutuksessa henkilöstön kanssa ja aloittavat oman osaamisensa mukaisen työskentelyn ammattialansa tehtävissä osana työyhteisöjä. Sairaaloiden henkilöstö osallistuu opiskelijoiden ohjaamiseen sovitun työnjaon mukaisesti.

Syksyn 2014 Kotkan ja Lappeenrannan ryhmät olivat Savonian satelliittikoulutusten pilotteja. Etäkoulutusmallin suunnittelu ja toteuttaminen on edellyttänyt opettajien, opiskelijoiden ja työelämän asiantuntijoiden välistä tiivistä yhteistyötä. Satelliittipilottiin valittujen pedagogisten ratkaisujen toimivuudesta ja koulutusten työelämävastaavuudesta haluttiin tietoa, ja siksi eri osapuolilta koottiin kokemuksia ja palautetta kyselyillä ja haastatteluilla koulutuksen edetessä.

Itsekuri ja ryhmän tuki auttavat satelliittiopiskelijaa

Opiskelijoiden vastausten perusteella etäkampuksella opiskelu vaatii hyvää itsekuria ja keskittymiskykyä. Opetuksessa, jossa opettaja ei ole läsnä, näytön jatkuva seuraaminen vaatii vahvaa motivaatiota opiskella ja kiinnostusta asiaa kohtaan. Lisäksi ennen videovälitteisen opetuksen aloitusta on tärkeää perehdyttää sekä opettajat että opiskelijat perusteellisesti käyttämään ja hyödyntämään digivälineitä.

Vaikka etäopiskelu vaatii itsekuria, opiskelijat ovat olleet tyytyväisiä mahdollisuuteen opiskella omalla paikkakunnalla ja näkevät, että se on hyvä vaihtoehto perinteiselle päiväopiskelulle. Opiskelijat ovat olleet tyytyväisiä myös Eksoten ja Carean heille järjestämiin opetustiloihin. Jotkut kokevat etäopiskelun jopa lisäävän opiskelumotivaatiota. Opiskelijat ovat ryhmäytyneet hyvin ja tukevat toinen toisiaan.

Etäopiskelua edistävät opiskelijoiden mukaan mukavat opiskelutilat ja rauhallinen työelämäläheinen oppimisympäristö sekä ryhmän tuki. Ryhmän tuen merkitys korostuu, koska opiskelija joutuu ottamaan enemmän vastuuta ja vuorovaikutus opettajan ja ohjaajan kanssa on vähäisempää.

Opettaja kutsuu työelämän jakamaan osaamistaan

Opettajien kokemuksen mukaan työelämäkontekstissa toteutuvan koulutuksen suunnittelu vaatii uudenlaista suunnittelua ja orientoitumista koulutuksen aloittamiseen. Työelämäorganisaatioissa monet korkeakoulumaailmassa itsestään selvät järjestelyt, mm. tenttien järjestäminen, ovat vieraita, ja pedagogiset periaatteet ja ratkaisut saattavat vaatia useita keskusteluja ennen kuin ne näyttäytyvät kaikille osapuolille samanlaisina.

Yleisesti ottaen opettajat pitävät etäryhmien opiskelua autenttisessa sairaalaympäristössä mielekkäänä ja haastaisivat työelämän ammattilaiset tuomaan osaamisensa osaksi opiskelijan oppimisprosessia enemmänkin.

Etäopetuksen haasteet opettajalle ovat samoja kuin lähiopetuksessa: tarvitaan vuorovaikutusta, opiskelijoiden motivointia ja aktivointia sekä arviointia, mutta toimintatavat vain ovat erilaisia. Digiratkaisujen tulisi olla vuorovaikutuksen mahdollistavia, ja tietoteknisen tuen aina nopeasti saatavilla.

Opettajien ja opiskelijoiden näkemykset etäopetuksesta ja -opiskelusta ovat lähes yksi yhteen. Myös opettajat korostavat etäyhteysmenetelmään perehtymisen merkitystä, vuorovaikutusta ja teknisen tuen tärkeyttä sekä opiskelijoiden etäopiskelutaitoja. Erona kyselyjen perusteella on, että opettajat korostavat hyvää suunnittelua, opiskelijat omaa motivaatiota. Ne ovat asioita, jotka ovat kummankin osapuolen omissa käsissä.

Työelämä hyötyy yhteistyöstä

Carean ja Eksoten vastuuhenkilöiden kokemukset koulutusyhteistyöstä ovat olleet positiivisia ja kannustaneet jatkamaan yhteistyötä. Yhteistyö on johtanut keskinäiseen luottamukseen, kun alun kiperistäkin keskusteluista on päästy eteenpäin. Sairaalat nostavat palautteena esille erityisesti koulutuksen vaikuttavuuden ja hyödyn sekä organisaatioille että koko Kaakkois-Suomen alueelle. Merkittäviä tuloksia ovat uuden tiedon tuottaminen, henkilökunnan osaamisen kehittyminen, uudet verkostot sekä uudenlaiset ratkaisut ja menettelyt sekä työssä että koulutuksen toteuttamisessa.

Kaikki 2014 aloittaneet bioanalyytikon tutkinnon suorittaneet ovat sijoittuneet työhön joko Eksoteen tai HUS/Carean laboratorioihin. Mikäli koulutusta ei olisi aloitettu 2014, Kaakkois-Suomessa olisi huutava pula bioanalyytikoista. Satelliitin ansiosta alueelle on valmistunut 20 ammattilaista. Laboratoriohenkilöstö on opiskelijoita ohjatessaan joutunut paneutumaan ammattialansa teoreettiseen tietopohjaan ja näyttöön perustuvaan tietoon perustellessaan käytännön toimia ja löytänyt tätä kautta työhönsä uudenlaisia näkökulmia.

Satelliitti tuottaa työelämärelevanttia osaamista

Opintojen loppuvaiheessa 2014 aloittaneilta opiskelijoilta selvitettiin ryhmätenttimenetelmää soveltaen, eroavatko sairaaloiden tiloissa opiskelleiden oppimistulokset ja työelämävalmiudet Kuopiossa kampusympäristössä opiskelleiden oppimistuloksista ja työelämävalmiuksista. Selvityksen pohjana olivat bioanalyytikon kompetenssivaatimukset.

Tulosten mukaan molemmat koulutusmallit tuottavat kompetenssien mukaista osaamista. Työelämäläheisessä opiskeluympäristössä opiskelleiden kliinisen laboratoriotyön prosessiosaaminen on kuitenkin enemmän soveltavaa. Lisäksi opiskelun työelämäläheisyys kehittää yleisiä työelämävalmiuksia: bioanalyytikon osaaminen, tehtävät ja työ osana terveydenhuollon kokonaisuutta hahmottuvat paremmin ja ymmärrys moniammatillisen yhteistyön merkityksestä, eettinen osaaminen ja asiakaslähtöinen ajattelu kehittyvät pidemmälle.


Työelämäyhteistyössä järjestettävä koulutus on ollut haastava tehtävä, koska entistä mallia ei ollut. Satelliittimallia on kehittänyt ohjausryhmä, jossa on ollut edustajat Savonian johdosta, opettajista, sairaaloista ja opiskelijoista. Lisäksi koulutusta on kehitetty opiskelija- ja työelämäpalautteiden sekä eri osapuolille suunnattujen kyselyjen avulla.

Ammattikorkeakoulut näkevät koulutuksen ja työelämän vuoropuhelun sekä opetuksen autenttisuuden tärkeänä osana strategiansa toteuttamista. Savonia, Carea ja Eksote ovat rakentaneet yhteistyössä koulutusmallin, jossa opiskelijat ovat ikään kuin osa työelämää jo koulutuksen alusta lähtien. Koulutusmallissa opiskelija siirtyy sujuvasti työelämään erilaisten tehtävien, harjoittelun ja vähitellen opiskelun ja työn vuorottelun kautta. Opiskelijoiden palaute on, että koulutus on mahdollistanut heille uuden ammatin ja paremman työmarkkinakelpoisuuden. Se on vaikuttavuutta, jos mikä.


Sirkka-Liisa Halimaa, TtT, projektiasiantuntija, Savonia-ammattikorkeakoulu, sirkka-liisa.halimaa(at)

Marja Kopeli, FM, koulutusvastuusuunnittelija, Savonia-ammattikorkeakoulu, marja.kopeli(at)

Leena Tikka, TtL, yliopettaja, Savonia-ammattikorkeakoulu, leena.tikka(at)

Google-löytöretkeilijästä innovatiiviseksi asiantuntijaksi

Kirjoittajat: Nina Hynnä, Katja Laitila ja Tiina Mäntylä.

Riippumatta siitä, tähtääkö yrittäjäksi vai palkkatöihin, opiskelijoille voisi myydä ajatusmaailmaa, jossa korostetaan tiedonhakua, idearikkautta ja ideoiden läpiviemistä. Siitä on konkreettista hyötyä missä tahansa ammatissa, oli sitten putkimies, parturi-kampaaja tai taloushallinnon tradenomi.

Näin sanoi tradenomi Daniel Farzan Tradenomi-lehden haastattelussa vuonna 2012 (Flinkkilä 2012). Informaatiotaidot ja luovuuden tärkeys ovat entisestään korostuneet alati muuttuvassa työelämässä. On pystyttävä oppimaan ja omaksumaan uutta sekä arvioimaan löydetyn tiedon luotettavuutta ja paikkansa pitävyyttä.

Asiantuntijuus keskiössä

Korkeakouluista valmistuneet työllistyvät pääasiassa asiantuntijatehtäviin. Valtioneuvoston kanslian tulevaisuusselonteon mukaan asiantuntijatyö lisääntyy tulevaisuudessa, samalla kun rutiinimaisten työtehtävien määrä vähenee (Oksanen 2017, 22).

Asiantuntijatyössä korostuvat uuden luominen ja elinikäinen oppiminen (Tynjälä 2010, 79). Asiantuntijuuden tutkimuksessa voidaan tunnistaa kolme näkökulmaa asiantuntijuuteen: kognitiivinen eli yksilön tiedon hankintaa korostava, sosiaalinen eli asiantuntijakulttuuriin osallistumista painottava ja tiedon luomisen lähestymistapa, jossa yhdistyvät kognitiivinen ja sosiaalinen näkökulma (Paloniemi, Rasku-Puttonen & Tynjälä 2010, 13). Tiedon luomisessa on kyse yksilön ja yhteisön vuorovaikutuksesta, jossa yksilöt ovat usein avainasemassa uuden tiedon luomisprosesseissa.

Informaatiolukutaito työpaikalla

Asiantuntijatyössä informaatiota on kaikki se, millä asiantuntija rakentaa merkityksen työhönsä ja mikä auttaa ”tolkullistamaan” työtehtävät. Informaatiota voivat olla faktat, mielipiteet, vastaukset, työtehtävän ratkaisua tukevat vihjeet ja tietojärjestelmien erilaiset data-aineistot. (Cheuk 2017a, 137.) Työelämässä puhutaan vuorovaikutus-, ajanhallinta-, projektinhallinta- ja tiimityöskentelytaidoista mutta harvoin, jos koskaan, informaatiolukutaidosta. Akateemisesta maailmasta tuotu informaatiolukutaidon käsite ei avaudu työelämän kontekstissa. Informaatiotaidot ovat sulautuneena organisaation perustoimintoihin niin, että niistä ei puhuta erillisenä ilmiönä. (Cheuk 2017a, 133.)

Informaatiolukutaito eli kyvykkyys informaation hallintaan tarkoittaa työelämässä taitoja, joiden avulla kehitetään toiminnan tuottavuutta. Riippuen organisaation toimialasta nämä taidot voivat käsittää esimerkiksi informaation käyttöön liittyvän lainsäädännön periaatteiden ymmärtämistä, markkina- ja yritystiedon seurantaa, tutkimus- ja tiedon organisoinnin taitoja, raporttien kirjoittamista, data-aineistojen hakemista ja visualisointia, sosiaalisen median käytön ja sen vaikutusten ymmärtämistä. Kaikkia näitä taitoja tarvitaan jossakin vaiheessa asiantuntijan eri rooleissa. (Cheuk 2017b.)

Työpaikoilla tietoa jaetaan ja käytetään konteksti- ja tilannesidonnaisesti. Ensisijaista on saada työ tehtyä, saavuttaa päämäärät ja tavoitteet olemassa olevilla resursseilla. Asiantuntijatyössä ollaan jatkuvasti vuorovaikutuksessa informaation kanssa, ja informaatiota vaihdetaan keskusteluissa. Digikyvykkyys eli pääsy tiedon lähteisiin, tiedon käyttäminen ja esittäminen erilaisten sovellusten ja teknologioiden avulla, ovat taitoja, joilla ollaan vuorovaikutuksessa informaation kanssa niin, että tehtävät saadaan hoidettua. Koska työelämässä tarvitaan erityyppistä informaatiota erilaisissa tilanteissa, on vaikeaa määritellä yhtä, kaikille sopivaa mallia informaatiolukutaidosta. Informaatiosta tai informaatiolukutaidosta ei voi puhua huomioimatta kontekstisidonnaisuutta. (Cheuk 2017a, 134−139.)

Informaatiotaitojen opetus ja ohjaus

Ammattikorkeakoulujen informaatiolukutaidon (IL) opetus on alusta lähtien hakenut yhteyttä sekä ammattiaineiden opetukseen että työelämään. Hollanti (2009) on koonnut katsauksen ammattikorkeakoulujen IL-opetuksen kehittymisestä. Opetuksen kirjo ulottuu verkkokursseista autenttisiin oppimisympäristöihin. Hollanti (2009, 4) totesi tuolloin, että IL-opetuksen toteuttaminen vaihtelee huomattavasti eri ammattikorkeakouluissa ja jopa korkeakoulujen sisällä eri koulutusohjelmien välillä.

Palveleeko tämän päivän informaatiotaitojen opetus ammattikorkeakouluissa työelämään valmistautuvia opiskelijoita? Opetuksen lähtökohtina ovat pitkään olleet informaatiolukutaidon standardit tai osaamistavoitteet (ACRL 2000), jotka keskittyvät yksilön tiedonhakutaitoihin sekä tiedon vastaanottamiseen ja hyödyntämiseen. Valtakunnallisissa kirjastojen asiakastyytyväisyyskyselyissä tiedonhallintataitojen opetuksen tarve ja tärkeys on perinteisesti näkynyt (esim. Niemelä 2013), mutta viimeisimmässä amk-kirjastojen kyselyssä (2017) opetusta ei pidetä yhtä tärkeänä kuin kirjaston tarjoamia muita palveluita (Kinnari ja Klinga-Hyöty 2017). Kinnari ja Klinga-Hyöty (2017) näkevät kyselyn tuloksen olevan yhteydessä ammattikorkeakoulujen yhä joustavampiin koulutusrakenteisiin ja opiskelijoiden yksilöllisiin opintopolkuihin. Tämä osaltaan selittäisi, miksi henkilökohtainen ohjaus koetaan tärkeämmäksi kuin ryhmäopetus.

Uudet työelämälähtöiset IL-opetuksen mallit tuovat informaatiolukutaitoon yhteisöllisyyden ja tiedon tuottamisen ja jakamisen näkökulmia, jotka vastaavat paremmin työelämän vaatimia informaatiotaitoja. Myös IL-osaamistavoitteet on päivitetty. (Esim. Lloyd 2017; ACRL 2015; ks. myös Hakala-Puttonen 2017, 17.) Työelämäkonteksti on kuitenkin erilainen verrattuna korkeakoulukontekstiin. Jos halutaan tuottaa vaikuttavaa ohjausta ja opetusta, on selvitettävä, millaisia informaatiotaitoja tarvitaan ja miten niitä opitaan. Miten pystytään varmistamaan opiskelijoiden hyvät informaatiotaidot, kun he siirtyvät työelämään?

Haasteeseen pyritään vastaamaan monin tavoin. Yksi mielenkiintoinen mahdollisuus on hakemusvaiheessa oleva Laurean koordinoima hanke, jonka aiheena on työelämän informaatiolukutaito (Marjamaa 2018). Lisäksi eri ammattikorkeakouluissa on käynnissä erilaisia kokeiluja, joissa informaatiotaitojen ohjausta ja opetusta pyritään integroimaan osaksi työelämää. Esimerkkinä integroivan ajattelun taidon oppimisesta (Tynjälä 2016, 241−242) on hoitotyön opiskelijaharjoittelijan pitämä osastotunti sairaalan henkilökunnalle, jossa opiskelija tuo käsiteltävään tapaukseen näyttöön perustuvaa aineistoa. Näin osastotunneilla käytännöllinen ja teoreettinen tieto integroituvat toisiinsa.


Nina Hynnä, YTM, Informaatikko, Hämeen ammattikorkeakoulu, nina.hynna(at)

Katja Laitila, YTM, Informaatikko, Hämeen ammattikorkeakoulu, katja.laitila(at)

Tiina Mäntylä, FM, Tietoasiantuntija, Lapin yliopisto, tiina.mantyla(at)

ACRL (2000). Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education. American Library Association.

ACRL (2015). Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education. American Library Association. Haettu 27.3.2018 osoitteesta

Cheuk, B. (2017a). The ‘hidden’ value of Information Literacy in the workplace context: how to unlock and create value. Teoksessa: M. Forster (toim.) Information literacy in the workplace. London: Facet Publishing, 131–147.

Cheuk, B. (2017b). Information Literacy in the Workplace: Who cares? Blogijulkaisu 9.9.2017. Haettu 15.3.2018 osoitteesta

Flinkkilä, J. (2012). Opiskeluporukan outolintu. Tradenomi 6/2012, 14.

Hakala, H. & Puttonen, K. (2017). Työelämän informaatiolukutaito – joko siihen pitäisi tarttua? Signum 3/2017. Haettu 27.3. 2018 osoitteesta

Hollanti, P. (2009). Kohti kolmen toimijan yhteistyötä: Informaatiolukutaidon opetuksen kehittyminen Suomen ammattikorkeakouluissa. Signum 2/2009. Haettu 3.4.2018 osoitteesta

Kinnari, S. & Klinga-Hyöty, E. (2017). ”Olisi sulaa tyhmyyttä olla käyttämättä kirjastoa” – käyttäjäkysely 2017. Kreodi 3/2017. Haettu 4..2018 osoitteesta”Olisi-sulaa-tyhmyyttä-olla-käyttämättä-kirjastoa”-–-käyttäjäkysely-2017.htm.

Lloyd, A. (2017). Learning within and beyond: exploring a workplace Information Literacy design. Teoksessa: M. Forster (toim.) Information literacy in the workplace. London: Facet Publishing, 97–112.

Marjamaa, M. (2018). AMK-kirjastojen kimppautumisen vuosi edessä. Kreodi 1/2018. Haettu 4.4.2018 osoitteestaä.htm.

Oksanen, K. (2017). Valtioneuvoston tulevaisuusselonteon 1. osa: Jaettu ymmärrys työn murroksesta. Haettu 27.2.2018 osoitteesta

Paloniemi, S., Rasku-Puttonen, H. & Tynjälä, P. (2010). Asiantuntijuudesta identiteettiin – Anneli Eteläpellon tutkimuspolkuja. Teoksessa: K. Collin, S. Paloniemi, H. Rasku-Puttonen & P. Tynjälä (toim.) Luovuus, oppiminen ja asiantuntijuus. Helsinki: WSOYpro, 13–37.

Tynjälä, P. (2010). Asiantuntijuuden kehittämisen pedagogiikkaa. Teoksessa: K. Collin, S. Paloniemi, H. Rasku-Puttonen & P. Tynjälä (toim.) Luovuus, oppiminen ja asiantuntijuus. Helsinki: WSOYpro, 79–95.

Tynjälä, P. (2016). Asiantuntijan tieto ja ajattelu. Teoksessa: E. Kallio (toim.) Ajattelun kehitys aikuisuudessa. Helsinki: Suomen kasvatustieteellinen seura, 227–244.

Development of project management and multiple work life skills through real life projects – case Arctic Youth Forum

Authors: Anzelika Krastina, Nikolett Plesér and Alena Perervenko.

In Lapland UAS, International Business students are encouraged to learn actual challenges of real life projects through taking an initiative and leading the project. Learning by projects is a part of the curricula in International Business (IB) study programme. However, where and how to get those real life projects? One of the most common ways to get a real life project into the classroom is to cooperate with the companies and to work on specific problems defined by the company. The other way is to initiate own projects based on the identified societal, global, environmental, economic, technological or any other problems. The project is a problem scheduled for solution. Usual initiation of the project in practice begins with defining the problem, analyzing causes and effects of the existing problem, defining possible solutions and deciding on the strategy for the project. This way the project idea is born. While junior students usually work on the projects smaller in their scope, senior students are required to work through entire project lifecycle from project initiation, to project planning, implementation and evaluation.

Case Arctic Youth Forum

Arctic as a region has recently gained global attention. It can be explained by many factors, including climate change, environmental issues, large deposits of natural resources and opening new sea routes and future possibilities for large industries, mining, oil and gas, as well as increasing potential for business development. Arctic studies became a background for many project initiatives of international students. Understanding the region, students gain better vision for the future work, career and business opportunity.

During the problem analysis workshop within the course related to Arctic studies, students realized that actual youth involvement in the Arctic development and cooperation discussions is rather limited. The impression that young people had, was that they are not heard or listened to, although it is obvious that young people are a very important part of the Arctic population, and the youth is the human capital that will shape the future of the region. Young people, the students of the IB programme, decided that they need to take an initiative and take the issue in their own hands. This way the idea of the first Arctic Youth Forum was developed within the course Innovation and Entrepreneurship Project Work (10 ECTS) at Lapland UAS. Students decided to create a forum connecting young people, influencers and decision makers to discuss existing problems develop new ideas together. Thus, students moved from a problem of lack of dialog between decision makers and youth of the Arctic towards a solution to create a dialog platform under the name of Arctic Youth Forum.

The first edition of Arctic Youth Forum was organized in the form of a panel presentation, round table discussion and workshops as a side event of Rovaniemi Arctic Spirit conference organized by the Arctic Center. It took place on the 13th of November 2017 in Rovaniemi, Finland. More than fifty young people from the region came to discuss core topics with the panelists and other participants in organized interactive workshops focusing on:

  • Arctic/Barents cross-border cooperation/ Innovation and Cooperation in the Arctic
  • Arctic Industries
  • Future of Rovaniemi / Regional development
  • Arctic Economic and Business Development
  • Circumpolar health and wellbeing; Gender studies
  • Ideas for a better Artic. How to do things better in the Arctic?

Engagement of young people and panelists during the event showed that this type of forums are really needed and are important venues for dialog between young people, who have good development ideas, and decision makers, who can take these ideas into account and promote them further when creating policies and regional development strategies.

Project and real work life skills developed during the project

Article aims to reflect on what competences related to the real work life were developed and increased as a result of organizing a unique event such as “Arctic Youth Forum”. First, it aimed to solve real life situation problems identified in the Arctic region. It was not an artificial problem created for the purposes of the course exercise. Secondly, in order to organize the event, most of the work and communication happens outside traditional setting of the classroom. Based on the performance assessment, reports and the feedback by the students, the following skills, competences and abilities have been developed or improved throughout the project implementation. Hereby the findings and a few important student comments reflect their learning and personal development.

In the initiations phase, students found and decided on an idea through problem analysis, cause and effect analysis, deciding project strategy and finally project goals.

Our main idea was to give a platform for young people to express their opinions and ideas concerning the future of the Arctic while connecting them with influencers and decision makers…We want our Arctic to be lively, buzzing even in 20 years from now. We need young people to stay in the Arctic and for this to be possible we gave a chance for them to express their ideas and opinions.

During the planning phase, students learnt creating the hierarchy of project objectives, deciding project indicators, quality criteria, defining risks and assumptions. Creating work breakdown structure and activity schedule in the Gantt Chart, planning the resource and budgeting. In the implementation phase, students organized the venue, arranged equipment, found, invited and hosted panelists from government to business organizations and from different countries, made a marketing plan and carried out promotion. Creating the script and planning to carry out smooth workshop process, as well as hosting the event itself were also their tasks. In the evaluation phase, students collected feedback, analyzed it and wrote a report. In addition, they learnt assessing the success of the project against set indicators. Analyzing personal performance and development, and setting new development goals were in the core in evaluating their learning.

Being like a company was interesting because we were in charge of an event and everybody had to work for a common goal. An important event like this motivates people to work hard and not disappoint the group members… Things like the Gantt chart, WBS or Concept Note were something new for some of the members, but at the end we realized that were useful things to work with.

The project helped significantly to improve leadership and teamwork skills.

This project helped me to improve my team-work abilities…it was even more interesting because almost every team member was from different country which sometimes brings some difficulties, but also brings new ideas and solutions which may not occur in teams from the same country or background.

As a leader, I have received such great feedback from the panelists and participants. I am utterly grateful for everyone who worked with me and supported me as now I know what I can achieve if I have a great team (or three) behind me. Project helped me to believe in myself and achieve things like the youth forum, where we actually connected young people with important people involved in decision making and possibly created something, which will continue as a great movement in the future as well.

I learned from my mistakes and I will do my best so as not to make them again in the future. It was a great accomplishment for me as a person. Now I know that it is possible to work on leadership skills through practice and new experiences. And I know that if I made it ones, I can do it again. Leaders are not born. They are made.

Innovation and entrepreneurship competence development reflected through the ability to create an added value by solving an existing problem, observe trends and spot weak signals in order to set the best strategy for the project. Becoming familiar with the social innovation and entrepreneurship concept and principles, developing entrepreneurial mindset, carrying out innovation workshops during the forum and generating new innovation solutions to different problems discussed in the Arctic, students realized that they have gained better understanding of real work life situations.

I learnt a lot though this event, it not just taught me the importance of practicing my knowledge in the real life, but also taught me to cooperation with people. This real life project is really helpful when I begin working in the future.

During networking and collaboration with outside stakeholders, it is important to develop relevant business communication skills, for formulating proper business letters and emails, invitations and promotion material targeted for various beneficiaries.

Partnership was really important thing for the project and its goals, and our partner, the Arctic Centre, was fundamental for the correct implementation of the event. Communication with the stakeholders and the panelists was conducted by the core team frequently…With these kind of things we realized how important are the sponsors and partners for the projects.

For many foreign students, the learning by project work helped them to better understand the Finnish education system. The team in charge of the project implementation consisted of young people from different countries, some of them were local or international degree students, and some of them were exchange students, who came for one semester to Lapland UAS from another country.

As an exchange student this class helped me to better understand Finnish education system, especially approach which is used at the University of Applied Sciences, which is more focused on practical skills´ development.

Regardless of the challenges that real life projects can bring, it is an excellent platform for experiencing, practicing and developing necessary work life skills.


Anzelika Krastina, Med., Senior Lecturer, Entrepreneurship coach, International coordinator, School of Business and Culture, Lapland UAS Anzelika.krastina(at)

Nikolett Plesér (Hungary), International Business (BA) 3rd year student, Arctic Youth Forum (AYF) project leader, Lapland UAS Nikolett.Pleser(at)

Alena Perervenko (Russia), International Business (BA) 3rd year student, AYF team leader, Lapland UAS Alena.Perervenko(at)

Mistä on restonomiosaaminen tehty?

Kirjoittaja: Päivi Mantere.

Tämä artikkeli kertoo restonomien osaamisesta ja työelämän odotuksista restonomien palveluosaamiselle. Aineisto on hankittu osana OKM:n rahoittamaa restonomikoulutuksen ja elinkeinon yhteiskehittämisen ReKey-hanketta (ReKey 2017). Tavoitteena oli selvittää, mitä palveluosaaminen on ja millaista osaamista alan työpaikoilla edellytetään.

Laurea-ammattikorkeakoulun restonomiopiskelijat haastattelivat 38 matkailu- ja ravitsemisalan ammattilaista. Matkailun ydinklusterin jaottelun mukaisesti tarkasteltuna haastateltavat edustivat alaa seuraavasti: majoitustoiminta (15), ravitsemistoiminta (15), ohjelmapalvelutoiminta (8) (TEM 2015, 9). Selvityksen taustalla on Arenen valtakunnallisessa Marataverkostossa vuonna 2016 määritellyt restonomin osaamisvaatimukset (Marataverkosto 2016).

Matkailu- ja ravitsemisala restonomin toimintaympäristönä

Restonomit työskentelevät monipuolisella matkailu- ja ravitsemisalalla (myöhemmin mara-ala). Matkailu- ja palveluliiketoiminnassa tulee hallita palvelutilanteita, ylläpitää asiakassuhteita ja kehittää työn ja työyhteisön toimintaa. Suomessa on 140 000 työntekijää matkailutoimialalla, ja alalle työllistyy vuosittain uusia ammattitaitoisia osaajia (Mara 2017). Matkailu-, ravintola- ja tapahtuma-ala on kansainvälinen asiakaspalveluala. Palvelut ja elämykset tuotetaan asiakkaiden tarpeiden ja odotusten sekä taloudellisen kannattavuuden pohjalta. Alan tärkeitä arvoja ovat mm. asiakaslähtöisyys, ammattitaito, ympäristön viihtyisyys sekä palvelujen hyvä hinta-laatu-suhde. (Koppinen ym. 2002, 14–16.)

Matkailun keskeisimpiä palveluja ja alatoimialoja ovat majoitus- ja ravitsemispalvelut, henkilöliikennepalvelut, matkatoimisto- ja matkanjärjestäjäpalvelut, kulttuuripalvelut kuten tapahtumat, ohjelmapalvelut, huvi- ja teemapuistojen toiminta sekä kylpylät. Matkailuun suoraan liitännäisiä elinkeinoja ovat kiinteistö- ja laitehuolto, turvallisuusala, päivittäistavarakauppa, erikoiskauppa, elintarvikkeiden tuotanto sekä elintarvikkeiden jalostus ja jätehuolto. Matkailulla on vaikutusta myös maa- ja metsätalouden sivuelinkeinona. (TEM 2016, 9.)

Restonomikoulutukseen kuuluu pakollisena harjoittelujaksot. Näiden ohella mara-alalle ovat tyypillistä erilaiset työelämälähtöiset projektit ja kehittämistehtävät. Yhä enemmän käytetään myös mahdollisuutta opinnollistaa eli hankkia opintopisteitä työtä tekemällä. Restonomiopiskelija voi siis moninaisilla tavoilla harjoitella opinnoissa saavutettuja taitoja työelämässä sekä luoda verkostoja ja suhteita tulevaisuuden uraa varten.

”Kaiken muun voi oppia, mutta ei hyvää asennetta”

Haastattelut osoittavat, että restonomikoulutus luo hyvän pohjan alaa varten. Osaamisen ohella haastatteluissa painottui osaajan persoonallisuus ja henkilökohtaiset ominaisuudet. Asiakaspalvelutyössä ei voi työskennellä ilman oikeaa asennetta.

Alan kansainvälinen määritelmä ”hospitality” kääntyy hankalasti suomenkieleen. Vieraanvaraisuus on sanana sen lähin käännös, vaikka sekään ei oikein sujuvasti aukea meille. ”Hospitality is the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests and strangers” (Brotherton 2008, 38–39). Ajattelu pitää siis sisällään lähtökohdan, jossa kohdattava ihminen otetaan avosylin, palveluasenteella vastaan. Organisaatiot vieraanvaraisuusalalla ovat luonteeltaan palveluorganisaatioita ja siten niiden toiminnan keskiössä on asiakas. (Kandanpully 2002, 23.)

Haastatteluilla pyrittiin pureutumaan siihen, mitä vieraanvaraisuus tarkoittaa alalla. Yhtä selkeää määritelmää tähän ei löytynyt. Näkökulma on kuitenkin tärkeä, koska ”koko ala pyörii vieraanvaraisuuden ympärillä”. Kysyttäessä vieraanvaraisuuden soveltamisesta se nähtiin usein synonyyminä kokemukseen, jossa asiakkaalla on lämmin ja tervetullut olo. Vieraanvaraisuuden merkitys näkyy siinä, että joissakin organisaatioissa asiakkaita kutsutaan vieraiksi. Alalla menestyvän restonomin vieraanvaraisuuteen kuuluu taito osata kuunnella ja lukea asiakasta. Myynnin ja kehittämisen tulee olla asiakaslähtöistä. Tilannetajua ja ihmistuntijuutta tarvitaan, että asiakkaan toiveet voidaan täyttää ja jopa ylittää. Mainittiin, että täytyy olla ”rakkautta ja intohimoa alaan”.

Alaspesifi tuotetietous tuli jonkin verran esille haastatteluissa. Alan lainsäädäntö pitää olla hallinnassa ja tarpeen tullen oma osaaminen tulee päivittää ajan tasalle. Alalla keskeistä on myös oma kiinnostus tuotteisiin. Esimerkiksi ruoka- ja juomatietous kuuluu ravintolassa työskentelevän restonomin osaamiseen. Liiketoiminnan kehittäminen edellyttää esimerkiksi katelaskennan hallitsemisen ja strategista ajattelua. Myyntihenkinen, kannattava liiketoiminta on kaiken tekemisen edellytys.

Esimiestyössä korostuu taito toimia yrittäjämäisesti ja johtajana työyhteisössä. On tärkeää olla luotettava ja osata kantaa vastuuta sekä löytää uskallusta tehdä vaikeitakin päätöksiä. Esimiehen on tärkeää pitää huolta omasta ja muiden hyvinvoinnista; ”ei kannata väsyttää itseään keräämällä liikaa hommia”. Hyvä esimies osaa jakaa vastuuta muillekin. Paitsi muiden, niin myös oman työn johtaminen tuli esille monessa haastattelussa. Sen piirteitä ovat esimerkiksi positiivinen asenne ja halu uuden oppimiseen, paineensietokyky, omatoimisuus, organisointi- ja ongelmanratkaisukyky, aktiivisuus ja oma-aloitteisuus.

Työelämäkeskustelu on viime vuosina ollut muutoskeskustelua. Suurimpia muutosvoimina nähdään globalisaatio ja digitalisaatio. (Sitra 2017, 5.) Digitalisaation asema ja painoarvo vaihtelevat yrityksissä suuresti. Sitä kautta myös osaamistarpeet eroavat. (EK 2017, 4-5). Kyky hyödyntää teknologiaa on eduksi järjestelmiä käytettäessä. Asiakas arvostaa työntekijää, joka pystyy tarjoamaan tukea sähköisten viestintävälineiden käytössä. Esimerkiksi mainittiin, että ravitsemispalveluissa sähköiset palvelut nopeuttavat palvelua.

Restonomin työssä on tärkeää tuntea kohdeyleisö ja jatkuvasti muuttuvat viestintäkanavat. Esimerkkinä mainittiin, että tapahtumatuottajalla tulee olla hyvät yleiset viestinnälliset ja erityisesti sosiaalisen median taidot. On tärkeää, että viestintä on nopeaa, ajantasaista ja asiantuntevaa.

Hyvä kielitaito on vaatimus mara-alalla. Tärkeintä ei ole täydellinen kieliopin ja sanaston hallitseminen, vaan että myyntityössä tapahtuvan tuotteen tai palvelun sisältö pitää pystyä kertomaan selkeästi asiakkaalle. (EK 2014, 10.) Kansainvälisellä alalla kielten osaamisen nähtiin myös olevan osa vieraanvaraisuutta ja eri kulttuurien tunteminen katsotaan eduksi. Matkailu-ja ravitsemisalan restonomi toimii myös globaalisti vastuullisesti. Esimiehenä ja tiimin jäsenen tulee toimia sosiaalisesti vastuullisesti muita työntekijöitä kohtaan. Restonomin on oltava ajan tasalla alansa muutoksista.

Restonomilta vaaditaan kipinä alalle, mutta miten koulutus voi sitä tukea?

Tuloksista voi tehdä kiinnostavia havaintoja. Asiakkaiden ja käyttäjien osallistaminen ja siten asiakaskeskeisyys eivät olleet vahvasti haastatteluissa esillä. Ainakin näin sanoitettuna yhteiskehittäminen ei siis sinällään näyttäydy havaintoina aineistossa. Haastattelujen perusteella voisi pohtia, että toiminta on kyllä vahvasti asiakaslähtöistä, mutta ei vielä asiakaskeskeistä. Samanaikaisesti yleisesti palveluliiketoiminnassa jo ymmärretään asiakaskeskeisen yhteiskehittämisen tärkeys. Pystyvätkö tulevaisuuden restonomit muuttamaan alaa tähän suuntaan?

Eettisillä ja esteettisillä ratkaisuilla odotettiin olevan suurempi painoarvo. Myöskään kannattavien ja asiakaslähtöisten mara-alan palvelujen kehittämistä ei nähty niin merkityksellisenä kuin olisimme odottaneet. Tämä ehkä johtui asetelmasta, jossa toivottiin, että osaamisvaatimukset laitetaan tärkeysjärjestykseen. Vieraanvaraisuus ja asiakaslähtöisyys ovat niin merkityksellisiä, että muut näkökulmat jäävät niiden varjoon. Voihan olla myös niin, että alalla koetaan kyseisten osaamisten sisältyvän osaksi vieraanvaraista ja asiakaslähtöistä toimintaa. Luotettavuuden rajoitteista huolimatta selvitys avaa näkökulmia restonomien osaamistarpeista vuonna 2018 ja lähivuosina.

Selvityksestä kannattaa nostaa muutamia näkökulmia, joilla koulutus mahdollistaa restonomiopiskelijan sijoittumisen ja menestymisen alalla. Opetuksessa tulee korostua vieraanvaraisuusosaaminen, koska se selkeästi muodostaa alan ytimen. Asiakaslähtöinen toiminta on tärkeää ja sitä tulee tukea. Sisältöosaaminen vaihtelee, mutta alan keskeinen lainsäädäntö ja tuotetietous tulisi hallita. Koulutuksen tulee tukea oman työn johtamista. Itsensä johtaminen liittyy läheisesti myös ongelmanratkaisukykyyn, joka taas on yhteydessä aidosti asiakaslähtöiseen ja vieraanvaraiseen toimintaan. Matkailu- ja ravitsemisala on kansainvälinen ala, joten koulutuksen tulee taata paitsi kielitaito-osaaminen, mutta myös kulttuurien kohtaaminen sekä työyhteisössä että asiakaspalvelussa.

Menestyäkseen alalla restonomiopiskelijan tulee omata asiakaslähtöinen palveluasenne, ja sitä kannattaa harjoitella sekä opinnoissa, harjoittelussa ja muussa työelämäyhteistyössä. Koulutuksesta kannattaa poimia elementit, jotka varmistavat mahdollisuuden toimia tulevaisuudessa palveluiden kehittäjänä. Tällaisia ovat esimerkiksi kansainvälisyys, työelämäyhteys ja asiakaskeskeinen toiminta.

Opiskelijoiden mukaan haastatteluja oli mukava tehdä ja niitä olisi voinut olla lisääkin. Keskustelut olivat antoisia ja hyviä verkostoitumisen kannalta. Opiskelijat oppivat alan vaatimuksista ja yrityksistä. He loivat uusia kontakteja, joista voi olla hyötyä tulevaisuudessa. Osa haastateltavista kertoi, että ottavat mielellään alan opiskelijoita kesätöihin ja harjoitteluun. ”Meille jäi hyvä tunne tästä projektista.”


Päivi Mantere, MMM, kuluttajaekonomia
Lehtori, tutkintovastaava, projektiasiantuntija ReKey-hanke
Laurea-ammattikorkeakoulu, paivi.mantere(at)

Brotherton, B. & Wood, R.C. (2008). Hospitality management. Los Angeles: Sage.

EK (2014). Kielitaito on kilpailuetu, EK:n henkilöstö- ja koulutustiedustelu 2014. Saatavilla osoitteessa:

EK, 2017. Henkilöstön osaamistarpeet digitaloudessa. EK:n henkilöstö- ja koulutustiedustelu. Maaliskuu 2017.

Kandanpully, J.A. (2002). Services management. The new paradigm in Hospitality, Tourism and Leisure. New York: Hawort Hospitality Press.

Koppinen, S. (2002). Peti & safka. Hotelli- ja ravintola-alan perusteet. Helsinki: Tammi.

Mara. (2017). Matkailu- ja ravintolapalvelut. Saatavilla osoitteessa:

Marataverkosto (2016). Restonomin osaamisvaatimukset. Arenen koulutusalakohtainen kehittämisverkosto. Julkaisematon lähde.

ReKey (2017). Restonomien koulutuksen ja elinkeinon yhteiskehittämisen hanke.

Sitra (2017). Uusi tapa lisätä korkeakouluopiskelijoiden työelämävalmiuksia. Arola, M. (toim.) Sitran selvityksiä 123. Saatavilla osoitteessa:

TEM (2015). Matkailuklusterin ydintoiminnot. Saatavilla osoitteessa:

TEM (2016). Toimialaraportti: Matkailun ohjelmapalvelut. Työ- ja elinkeinoministeriö. Toimialaraportti. Saatavilla osoitteessa: