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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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)

No 2/2018 Abstracts

Editorial: Dialogue between work and learning is the key to development of higher education

Anu Moisio, Process Director (3AMK)
Liisa Vanhanen-Nuutinen, Principal Lecturer
Hannu Kotila, Principal Lecturer, Project Manager
Kimmo Mäki, Principal Lecturer

Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences, Professional Teacher Education Unit

The theme of UAS Journal number 2/2018 is the connection of work and university studies. Universities of applied sciences are important for the local business and industry: students do various project and training tasks at workplaces during their studies, participate in the development of new innovations together with industry representatives, and finance their studies through work.

“Information and theory only gain importance when applied by people functioning in their environment.” This pragmatic starting point has always been at the pedagogical heart of universities of applied sciences. It is best achieved in the integration of authentic work and learning. Throughout their entire existence, universities of applied sciences have looked for and found some natural ways to integrate theory and practice. This continuous dialogue between work and studies makes the universities of applied sciences interesting also in the international arena.

The students become connected to the labour market already during their studies. Research shows that approximately half of the students at universities of applied sciences work regularly alongside studying. This is also, in many ways, an untapped opportunity. Learning at work in the same industry lowers the threshold of finding employment upon graduation. It also provides the students with an opportunity to link knowledge gained at work with their studies, for example, through the process of studifying. The possibilities of studifying work may also attract students who would otherwise not even consider university education.

Competence gained from working alongside studying has only recently been utilised and intertwined with university learning. We are at the beginning of a learning path: now we simply have to find proper opportunities for expertise created at work and study to be fuelled by each other. As the focus moves from completing qualifications to enabling learning, it will challenge the structures of university teaching, teachers’ attitudes and pedagogical leadership. Moreover, the students’ way of thinking about learning will change, and experts at workplaces are obliged to reconsider how to inspire university students. This is a major transformation requiring long-term management and the involvement of different parties in order to be successful.

Workplace projects, traineeships and employment during studies will help the students to engage with work, and to plan and promote their careers. Upon graduation, most students find employment in the nearby workplaces that have become familiar during their studies. All of the aforementioned requires a functioning workplace pedagogy, as well as guidance and cooperation between the university of applied sciences and the workplace.

This theme issue presents a variety of ways to make use of early connection to work. More solutions are being developed in the Totem project. Totem studies and develops practical models for connecting work and university studies. Totem is a higher education development project funded by the Ministry of Education and Culture, and its website can be found at


Working life engagement in studies in the fields of construction and real estate management

Marika Ahlavuo, Science producer, coordinator, culture producer in Aalto University
Mika Lindholm, Head of construction and real estate, Lic. Tech., Metropolia University of Applied Sciences
Hannu Hyyppä, Professor, Dr.Sc. (Tech.), Associate Professor, Aalto University
Kaisa Jaalama, post-graduate student, M.Sc. (Admin.), Aalto University

Working life engagement is based on a long lasting and self-renewing interaction with the student, working life partners as well as with the educational and research staff of the higher educational institution. The article is based on our experiences in student engagement in Helsinki Metropolia University of Applied Sciences and Aalto University’s department of built environment. As we are reflecting the results of the current and previous working life collaboration projects, we are also suggesting further ways in which the higher educational sector could include working life partners as part of higher educational activities.

Thus, we suggest that e.g. higher educational sector in construction engineering could benefit of the business investment and industry intervention in educational activities. Deeper collaboration with higher educational institutions and working life partners could support students in gaining competitive and cross-disciplinary skills through education.


In the network of studyfying every one wins

Eeva-Leena Forma, M.A., Teaching development manager, Toteemi project, Satakunta University of Applied Sciences
Heini Korvenkangas, M.Sc. (Econ.), Lecturer of travel business, ReKey project, Satakunta University of Applied Sciences
Vappu Salo, D.Ed. , Lecturer of food manufacturing, ReKey project, Satakunta University of Applied Sciences

Development of teaching practises is centred on flexible, personal study paths that are closely connected with working life. Development of student oriented studification and co-creation of a network of teaching and work life has been adopted as a common development project of teaching in SAMK. This development work is carried out by combining resources in subprojects within Toteemi, ReKey and eAMK projects, financed by Ministry of Education and Culture. Everyone wins. Students’ work life skills and ability to make knowledge and skills explicit improve. At the same time, studies proceed in a meaningful manner. Organisations will get the required expertise through employees, who expand their knowledge by studying in a University of Applied Sciences. This all will strengthen networking and co-operation between education and work life.

The student programs offer opportunities to career paths

Soili Fabritius, M.A., Lecturer of Finnish language and communications, Oulu University of Applied Sciences
Karoliina Pigg, M.A., Part-time lecturer of Finnish language and communications, Oulu University of Applied Sciences

During the past few years construction companies have started student programs which attempt to attract future experts to create a career path at their service. YIT, Skanska and Lehto Group offer different study programs to the students of Civil engineering at Oulu University of Applied Sciences. Students conduct part of their studies within the program, companies offer work practice and summer job opportunities as well as on-the-job trainings for students close to graduation. As the skills accumulate the work tasks get more challenging and at its best at the end of a path awaits a permanent job.


Satellite education model gives a fresh start for working life to biomedical laboratory science professionals

Sirkka-Liisa Halimaa, Dr.Sc. (Health), Project Specialist, Savonia University of Applied Sciences
Marja Kopeli, M.A., Head Education planner, Savonia University of Applied Sciences
Leena Tikka, Lic.Sc. (Health), Principal Lecturer, Savonia University of Applied Sciences

Satellite education model in this article means distance learning. The digital solutions and collaboration with the regional hospitals make it possible for the students to study in their hometowns. Savonia UAS, University Hospital Kotka Laboratories (Carea) and South-Carelia Social and Health Care District (Eksote) have since 2014 organized Degree Programme in Biomedical Laboratory Science together. Distance learning environments have been implemented in Kotka and Lappeenranta hospitals.

Kotka and Lappeenranta were Savonia’s pilot satellites. According to feedback and study results, both traditional campus education and satellite model provide competences defined in curriculum. Clinical laboratory process competences are more applied in satellite groups. Working life oriented education model helps students also to understand deeper the role of biomedical laboratory science professionals as a part of health care sector. In this model, the students take their place in working life flexibly.


From Google explorer into an innovative expert

Nina Hynnä, M.Soc.Sc., Information Specialist, Häme University of Applied Sciences
Katja Laitila, M.Soc.Sc., Information Specialist, Häme University of Applied Sciences
Tiina Mäntylä, M.A., Information Specialist, University of Lapland

In current information-driven workplace knowledge, employees must know when and what kind of information is required, how to find it, evaluate it and integrate it. Information skills are embedded in basic business functions, and depending on the situation and context, information is defined and handled in different ways. This makes it difficult to talk about information or “information literacy” without a context. There is no one-size-fits-all information literacy model or tools that work in every workplace context. However, there have been various attempts to find solutions on how to support the distribution of information and its usage in an effective and efficient way.


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

Anzelika Krastina, Med., Senior Lecturer, Entrepreneurship coach, International coordinator, School of Business and Culture, Lapland UAS 
Nikolett Plesér (Hungary), International Business (BA) 3rd year student, Arctic Youth Forum (AYF) project leader, Lapland UAS 
Alena Perervenko (Russia), International Business (BA) 3rd year student, AYF team leader, Lapland UAS

Project management competence is one of the core competences that is essential in any field of activity in contemporary working life. Project management can be considered as a separate profession and career opportunity, or it can be regarded and applied as a tool or methodology for efficient and effective business operations. This article aims to reveal actual experiences in what it takes to carry out and lead a rather large development project with multiple work life stakeholders and multinational team, based on student experiences and feedback given during and after the project reflecting their competence development. The Arctic Youth Forum is used as a case example to give more specific insights about the real life learning process.


Which are the key competences in the Hospitality management field?

Päivi Mantere, M.Sc., Lecturer, Project Specialist in ReKey project, Laurea University of Applied Sciences

Article presents how working life and businesses experience the key competences for students in the field of Hospitality management. In the ReKey-project, students interviewed 38 representatives from Hospitality, Tourism and Leisure companies about the Hospitality management students´ key competences.

Research demonstrates some key elements that are crucial in the hospitality field. Education should ensure that students apply hospitable and customer centric approach in their actions. Professional in the service industry should have basic knowledge about products, services and law and regulation in the service field. In addition to that, students should have skills to solve problems and manage their own work. Main characteristic for success in the service field seems to be positive attitude and willingness to serve customers.


Work & Study, learn at work. Perspectives to guidance in work-based learning.

Alisa Pettersson, M.Soc.Sc., Study Coordinator, Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences

Work-based learning has increasingly become an area of interest for the higher education sector. In Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences, we have conceptualized the model of validation of work under the name Work & Study. This article presents the process of work-based learning, concentrating on guidance provided by both the teacher/counsellor and industry representatives. The process can be divided into three main steps: preparing the Work & Study plan, working according to the plan while documenting the process, and finally demonstrating the competencies and undergoing assessment. Essential questions are, what the most student-friendly and reasonable ways to support student´s self-directedness and reflection through the process are, and in which ways to collaborate with the companies and organizations involved in this process?


Master’s Thesis project lead to transition to a new job

Sari Saukkonen, Physiotherapist (B.Sc.), Master’s Student, RDI Specialist, South-Eastern Finland University of Applied Sciences, Xamk
Maarit Karhula, M.Sc., R&D Manager, South-Eastern Finland University of Applied Sciences, Xamk
Merja A.T. Reunanen, Dr.Soc.Sc., Lic.Sc., Principal Lecturer, South-Eastern Finland University of Applied Sciences, Xamk

This article presents a successful transition to a new job while the student was busy with her Master’s Thesis integrated in a RDI project in South-Eastern Finland University of Applied Sciences, Xamk. The aim of the Master´s Thesis is to show the student’s highly specialized knowledge in a field of work, specialized problem-solving skills and responsibility in complex work contexts. Similar competences are required in RDI projects. In this case, a Master’s student in social and health care education was working in OSSI-project and, as a surprise for herself, was chosen to be a RDI expert in this project during her Master’s studies. Integration between Master’s Thesis and RDI projects is highly encouraged.


Where is the focus of the strategic funding of universities of applied sciences?

Kati Komulainen, D.Sc., Manager, Laurea University of Applied Sciences
Tua Hakanpää, M.A., Ph.D. Student, University of Tampere
Helka Luttinen, M.A., Education Planner, Humak University of Applied Sciences

This article examines the allocation of innovation-/profile-oriented funding in relation to employability indicators and students’ integration to the labour market in the universities of applied sciences in Finland.

The research data consists of information gathered from the Vipunen database of educational administration and the open access strategy contracts between universities of applied sciences and the Ministry of Education and Culture for the contract period of 2017–2020.

Funding had been allocated to work-life collaboration in the following universities of applied sciences: Haaga-Helia UAS, Laurea UAS, Oulu UAS and Satakunta UAS. Cooperation with commercial and industrial life had been appointed as the focus of activities in the universities of applied sciences of Lappi and Satakunta. Metropolia UAS allocates its strategy funding to higher education and employability of immigrants. Entrepreneurship was selected as a focal point of strategy funding in Haaga-Helia UAS, Laurea UAS, Oulu UAS, Saimaa UAS, Satakunta UAS and Seinäjoki UAS.

The study revealed that most of the funding was allocated to the following five themes: improvement of admission procedures, structural and strategic alliances, entrepreneurship, organizational development of campuses and internationalization. In proportion to the number or students in the universities of applied sciences the government allocated strategy funds were not distributed evenly. Haaga-Helia UAS got the least (710 euros/ student) and Lahti UAS got the most (1516 euros/ student). Strategy funding is a strong governmental steering devise. In the contract period of 2017–2020 entrepreneurship, internationality and regional development were strongly featured in most contracts between universities of applied sciences and the Ministry of Culture and Education. One way of viewing the strategy funding of universities of applied sciences is to see it as a way of carrying out working life pedagogics.


Utilizing Digitality in Studification of Work

Katja Finnilä M.Sc., Construction Engineer, Lecturer, Tampere University of Applied Sciences
Tommi Lehtonen M.Sc., Lecturer, Tampere University of Applied Sciences
Sirpa Levo-Aaltonen Lic.Tech., M.Sc. (Econ.), Tampere University of Applied Sciences

The article presents the utilization of digitality in studification of work in Tampere University of Applied Sciences. The focus area has been in the degree programme in construction site management. There are courses of Project work, where the students have used the software during their studies. At the same time, there is a project called ”Toteemi”, where practical models will be developed to combine work and higher education studies. In Toteemi, workplace instructors were needed to assess the students during their practical work. Thus, it was planned to develop the digital possibilities to make this and a pilot. This article describes in brief the utilization of digitality and the experiences of the teachers in the courses of Project work. In additional, the article gives some points of views for planning the pilot in which digitality will be utilized in the studification of work.


Skilful study counselling for Master’s students both at work and in studies

Kirsti Kehusmaa, Lic.Tech. (Occupational psychology and leadership) Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences

A Master’s student is usually an experienced professional working in demanding specialist or managerial position. (S)he may have flexibly combined studies and working and achieved many milestones both in education and career. This may create a delusion that no special study counselling is needed for Master’s students. As a matter of fact, there is a wide variety of counselling needs among Master’s students.

The obvious counselling needs concern personal study planning and making thesis. Besides these students may need counselling when adjusting their personal life, career aspirations and demands from their employer with the studies. Many questions concerning career planning or challenges with family life or health are especially complex. The study counsellor needs to have versatile competences in order to offer support in all these different situations. Diversifying study possibilities, like studification, increase individualization opportunities in studies but at the same time, they complicate the counsellor´s work. Teacher teams consisting of diversified competences as well artificial intelligence tools may be a solution when trying to enhance both the quantity and quality in counselling Master’s students.


Are reflection skills prerequisite in working life?

Marja Kopeli, FM, koulutusvastuusuunnittelija, Savonia-ammattikorkeakoulu,
Aija Hietanen, THM, terveydenhuollon lehtori, Savonia-ammattikorkeakoulu,
Kaarina Sirviö, TtT, yliopettaja, Savonia-ammattikorkeakoulu, 

Savonia UAS is organizing dental hygienist education in Päijät-Häme region via distance learning methods. A personal mentor supports students’ professional growth. Toteemi project is funding a coaching for the mentors. Reflection skills play a very important role both in mentoring and professional growth. Reflection skills give tools to look at issues and phenomena from different perspectives, so it is a prerequisite for innovation and development.


PLE and Open Badge as tools in working life engagement

Aija Hietanen, M.Sc. (Health), Lecturer, Savonia University of Applied Sciences
Anna-Leena Ruotsalainen, M.Sc. (Health), Lecturer, Savonia University of Applied Sciences

Personal Learning Environment (PLE) and Open Badges designed in co-operation with working life partners integrate Savonia University of Applied Sciences healthcare students to working life during their studies. PLE and Open Badges validate students’ competences and networks and make them visible. Students can use their PLE content and Open Badges in recruitment and lifelong learning processes as they accompany students from studies to working life and further education.

Waste Management Collaboration between Brazilian and Finnish Students in the SCALA project

Authors: Annica Isacsson, Mirva Hyypiä, Minna-Maari Harmaala and Elias Goulart.

Haaga-Helia School of Vocational Teacher education is coordinating a BEAM-funded Tekes project, Scalable Mobile Learning Services for Global Markets (SCALA), which aims at researching and localizing Finnish digital learning solutions for the Brazilian market. The SCALA project is executed jointly with Lappeenranta University of Technology, three Finnish companies SMEs, and a Brazilian partner from the Municipal University of Sae Caetano do Sul. All of the Finnish companies’ learning solutions have been tested in Brazil, developed further in Finland and piloted in Brazil. The virtual learning environment, however, proved to be difficult to test and pilot without a meaningful content. Hence, a joint Finnish /Brazilian waste management learning module was co-created between a Finnish business college and three Brazilian upper secondary institutes for the purpose of piloting. This article elaborates on the pedagogical need for a virtual environment, the need for waste management content, and the need for a mutual learning module including both Finnish and Brazilian students.

The need for new learning in a virtual flexible environment

Mattila et al. (2013) argue that there are pedagogical needs to develop socio-technically engaging learning environments. According to Mattila and Silander (2015, 2) inclusive virtual 3D learning and educational environments enable ubiquitous learning and distance education that enrich projects and enable boundary-crossing learning.

Furthermore, Mattila and Silander (2015, 2) state that the strength of technology is in supporting social interaction and making it possible to see, experience and learn things that would not otherwise be possible in education. Such environments make it possible to conduct interesting joint modules between countries. Imagine yourself as a teacher in the middle of a classroom, wishing that you could change the learning environment simply by clicking your fingers, in order to better demonstrate the issue to be learned. In a virtual environment, this is already possible, i.e. the learning situation can be changed very quickly from a rainforest into a desert and further into the pyramids of Egypt or space (Mattila 2015, 116). A virtual learning environment supports formal teaching, but it also enables informal and non-formal ways of interaction and learning. In a virtual environment you can learn with peer learners from anywhere in the world.

In 3D learning environments such as in Finpeda, FSV users can customize their avatars to look exactly how they want. Generally, an avatar is the embodiment of a person or idea. However, in the computer world, an avatar specifically refers to a character that represents an online user. Avatars are commonly used in multiplayer gaming, online communities, and Web forums (Avatar n.d.). Avatars make it possible to try out different roles, such as gender or nationality. In addition to roles, simulations and role playing games can also be arranged in environments that suit different themes.

The need for sustainability

Students at Haaga-Helia were involved in the SCALA project by doing a PESTEL analysis for the benefit of the project. A PESTEL analysis is a framework or tool used by marketers to analyze and monitor the macro-environmental (external marketing environment) factors that have an impact on an organization. PESTEL stands for political, economic, social, technological, environmental and legal (Professional Academy n.d.).

The students produced a report (Sorokins et al. 2017) on the Brazilian market. One of the conclusions in their analysis was that the Brazilian Government considers environmental education as one of the important factors that has significantly influenced the development of the country. Therefore, creating contents related to environmental education could be a strategy for Finpeda to enter the local market. However, as the Brazilian Ministry of Environment has already conducted several courses for environmental e-learning courses, perhaps SCALA/Finpeda should focus on content and learning environments that can bring added-values to the existing ones.

Inspired by Haaga-Helia students’ findings and experts in Brazil waste management, educational content was integrated into the Finpeda 3D virtual FSV environment. The course content has been produced by a Haaga-Helia Principal lecturer responsible for teaching and enhancing knowledge related to sustainable development. The course content consists of four themes and topics, of which specifically waste management will be dealt with during the joint module. The description of content can be found below.

Table 1. Waste Management course content

Recycling and reuse of wasteThe recycling business (recycling centers, second-hand shops)Recognize the significance of recycling and reuse
The possibilities for reuse Identify the business potential of recycling and reuse
Producer responsibilityDescribe the principle and operation of producer responsibility
Utilization of waste as material and energyIndustrial utilization of wasteList the material and energy utilization potential of different types of waste
Utilization of construction and demolition wasteDescribe the waste management and sorting process
Utilization of organic wasteExplain the basic principles of waste material recovery and utilization
Utilization of recycled fuelsList examples of commonly used waste utilization methods
Utilization of waste in energy production
Production of new goods using recycled materials
Final disposal of wasteFinal disposal sites: principles, structures and operating proceduresDescribe the structures and operating procedures of final disposal sites
The future of final disposal sitesExplain the order of priority of waste and the place of final disposal in it
Estimate the future importance of final disposal
Present ways of reducing the need for the final disposal of waste
From waste to resources Future prospects in the worldRecognize the value of waste as a resource
Utilization of landfill waste (landfill mining)Recognize the growth and significance of the waste management business in the future
End-of-waste success storiesRecognize the need for new innovations

The pilot survey

The empirical data used in this article come from a wider research and development based SCALA project (September 2016–April 2018). The three Finnish case companies are small and medium-sized organizations operating nationally and internationally in the online learning business. Viope provides learning solutions for mathematics, Promentor for language skills and Finpeda for the virtual environment.
The upcoming Finpeda pilot involves a Finnish vocational business school and sixteen students, as well as three Brazilian upper secondary institutes with six students per school. Each school will design their own avatar. The implementation of the joint learning module is planned to take place during six weeks in February–March 2018, and the plan is to arrange six FSV video conferences, one each week. One avatar per group from different schools will participate in the weekly meetings.

The pilot involves a survey phase, during which the Finnish and Brazilian students get acquainted both with the learning environment and the Waste Management content. In the next phase, the students observe their daily waste management practices, and compare and document them through pictures, audiovisual and written material. The third phase contains sharing of findings and demonstrations in the Finpeda FSV Waste Management space.

Due to the results of the pilot study last year (2017) in Brazil, significant challenges for the upcoming pilot are recognized. First, most online learning systems require continuous Internet access, which is not available in Brazil as readily as it is in Finland. In addition, the infrastructure of Brazilian school buildings is not designed for mobile learning devices. For example, the possibility of recharging their batteries is not always guaranteed; there is a shortage of sockets in the classrooms. Furthermore, the virtual learning environment is not optimized for smartphone use. Most students use their own smartphones as availability of tablets or laptops in different schools are rather limited. It was also noted that a Portuguese language option is needed in the initial learning solutions and in the manuals. Video-based instructions for different solutions were highly recommended. Moreover, the pedagogical skills and educational systems differ between Finland and Brazil; for example, in the Nordic region, problem-based learning methods or self-directed group work is commonly used in various disciplines and at many levels of education whereas in Brazil a more teacher-oriented approach is more common.

The SCALA pilot study is interested in researching how waste management and mobile learning, as well as collaboration in the virtual environment take place between Brazilian and Finnish education. Additionally, the information and experiences of users are of crucial importance in order to develop the virtual learning environment further, as well as for the benefit of approaching the emerging markets.


To test and pilot a joint Waste Management course implemented in a digital 3D environment within the SCALA project, is a brilliant idea, and a challenging venture. The idea of integrating Finnish and Brazilian students for learning and interacting in a virtual environment through waste management content is a globally important. The challenges are related to a five hour difference in time, different learning cultures, mobile accessibility and connections.

The pilot implementation has just started, so we cannot say much about the results at this state, other than the fact that everybody seems very eager and enthousiastic to be part of the project. Both in Brazil and Finland both teachers and students are motivated, and find not only the theme and topic to be important, but also the co-learning and global dimension of the pilot.


Annica Isacsson, Ph.D. (Econ.), Research Manager, Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences, annica.isacsson(at)
Mirva Hyypiä, D.Sc. (Tech.), Senior Researcher, Lappeenranta University of Technology, LUT Lahti, mirva.hyypia(at)
Minna-Maari Harmaala, Ph.D. (Econ.), Principal lecturer, Haaga-Helia ammattikorkeakoulu, minna-maari.harmaala(at)
Elias Goulart, Ph.D. (Tech..), Professor, Municipal University of Sae Caetano do Sul, elias.goulart(at)

Avatar (n.d.). Retrieved on 15 March 2018 from

Mattila, P. (2015). New educational technology. In Mattila, P. & Silander P. (eds). How to create the School of the Future – revolutionary thinking and design from Finland, 113-122. Retrieved 16 March 2018 from

Mattila, P., Arhippainen, L., & Ryymin, T. (2013). Towards Innovative and User-Friendly Future Learning Spaces. 2013. Teacher Education Policy in Europe Conference, 16–18 May 2013, Helsinki, Finland.

Mattila, P., Silander, P., (2015). Introduction. In Mattila, P. & Silander P. (eds). How to create the School of the Future – revolutionary thinking and design from Finland, 1–2. Retrieved 16 March 2018 from

Professional Academy (n.d.). Marketing Theories – PESTEL Analysis. Retrieved 15 March 2018 from—pestel-analysis

Soronkis, A., Huynh, A., Ten, D., & Barbosa, R. (2017). Scalable Mobile Learning Services for Global Markets. Haaga-Helia Degree Programme in International Business student report.

No 1/2018 Abstracts

Resource efficiency requires a change in thinking

Ms. Sirpa Pietikäinen, M.Sc. (Econ.), Member of European Parliament, Member of the editorial board of AMK-lehti // UAS Journal

The use of resources is continuously growing. There is an increasing number of people in the world with continuously more available income, in other words, opportunities to acquire goods from a constantly growing selection. Meanwhile, the service life of products shortens all the time either by artificial ageing, following the changing seasons of fashion or by developments in technology.
The equation is unsustainable for the Earth’s resources. We currently consume 1.5 times the World’s resources every year. According to forecasts, the demand for raw materials is going to triple globally by 2050.

Resource efficiency is the most important factor in solving climate change. A ‘tenth factor’ should be taken into practice: the same production and welfare should be reached with a tenth of current resources, and a tenth of today’s emissions. Only then would ambition be high enough to have any real impact on slowing down climate change and limiting the use of resources to match the Earth’s capacity.
The necessary steps must be planned depending on where we need to be in terms of resource efficiency. If by 2050 we have to produce the same welfare with a tenth of the resources, we need to decide what procedures are required in order to reach that goal. There is no point in practising hurdles, if in the real competition we have to cope with pole vault. Efficiency measures must be assessed. If the results are estimated not to be adequate or right, the measures should be adapted accordingly.

The main goal of circular economy is to design off waste. All products and goods should be designed in such a way that their use will not generate waste but recyclable material.

By design choices, products can be made improvable, repairable and recyclable, so that precious materials remain for as long as possible in the service for which they have been intended, or end up in a more valuable or longer-term use. The quality of recyclable materials must be kept as high as possible from one circulation to another, as is currently the case with bottles recycled on a deposit-based return system.

At the same time, the economic structure must be changed to support circular economy. Everything possible should be made available for rent, borrowing and sharing. Good models have already been developed for office furniture, lighting, carpet care, printer ink cartridges and construction machinery available for rent.

Modular thinking should be developed in which equipment and buildings are made of interchangeable components, which can be exchanged and recycled according to the customer’s needs and wants. This is what consumers want, too. According to the Eurobarometer survey done in 2014, 77 percent of Europeans would prefer repairing their old equipment to buying a new one.

The question is not only about environmental and climate policy. Circular economy has high economic opportunity. Europe is more dependent on imported raw materials than any other economic area. Competition on scarce resources is accelerated – the winner is the one who is capable of making more from less. The implementation of circular economy could create an estimated 1.2 to 3 million jobs in Europe by the year 2030.

Resource efficiency must be supported with the right incentives. It matters whether support goes towards waste incineration plants or the development of bio-based packaging materials. This spring, the parliament will discuss introducing incentives to the financial sector that would promote sustainability and environmental responsibility. Public administration should be a forerunner and make environmental criteria mandatory in public procurement.

The activity and choices of individuals go hand in hand with the developing regulations. As part of the plastic strategy, right incentives are being sought for influencing both producers and consumers. Consumer choices – quality, organic, local – can affect the entire food chain from the origin of the food to food waste. Circular economy should be taught at all educational levels from primary schools to universities until it becomes a mantra, and the development of new things springs automatically from the idea of ’sustainable, repairable, recyclable’. This is especially important in polytechnics and vocational institutions, where the makers and doers of everyday life are trained.

Finland has the opportunity to be a pioneer. SITRA has the right attitude in its strategy work and projects. Increased collaboration between operators in Finland is also needed in order to develop funding applications, for instance, to EFSI, European Fund for Strategic Investments.


Waste Management Collaboration between Brazilian and Finnish Students in the SCALA project

Annica Isacsson, Ph.D. (Econ.), Research Manager, Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences
Mirva Hyypiä, D.Sc .(Tech.), Senior Researcher, Lappeenranta University of Technology
Minna-Maari Harmaala, Ph.D. (Econ.), Principal lecturer, Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences
Elias Goulart, Ph.D. (Tech.), Professor, Municipal University of Sae Caetano do Sul

Haaga-Helia School of Vocational Teacher education is coordinating a BEAM-funded Tekes project, Scalable Mobile Learning Services for Global Markets (SCALA), which aims at researching and localizing Finnish digital learning solutions for the Brazilian market. The SCALA project is executed jointly with Lappeenranta University of Technology, three Finnish SME companies, and a Brazilian partner from the Municipal University of Sae Caetano do Sul. All of the Finnish companies’ learning solutions have been tested in Brazil, developed further in Finland and piloted in Brazil. The virtual learning environment, however, proved to be difficult to test and pilot without a meaningful content. Hence, a joint Finnish /Brazilian waste management learning module was co-created between a Finnish business college and three Brazilian upper secondary institutes for the purpose of piloting. This article elaborates on the pedagogical need for a virtual environment, the need for waste management content, and the need for a mutual learning module including both Finnish and Brazilian students.


Education for circular economy – cooperation creates know-how and skills for students and enterprises

Henna Knuutila, M.Eng., Lecturer, Project Manager, Turku University of Applied Sciences
Pia Haapea, Lic. Tech., Principal Lecturer, Lahti University of Applied Sciences
Marketta Virta, M.A., B.Eng., Turku University of Applied Sciences
Piia Nurmi, M.Sc. (Econ. and Bus. Admin.), Leader of Education and Research, Turku University of Applied Sciences
Ulla Häggblom, Education Manager, Tampere University of Applied Sciences

In order for Finland to become the top country in circular economy, it is necessary to have cooperation and a new kind of mindset in every sector of society. Future professionals, experts and decision-makers have an important role to play in transition to circular economy and education and research must support this. In Finland, the significance of the circular economy has been identified in universities of applied sciences and circular economy has already been taught in some of the higher education Thinstitutions.

The #circulareconomy project aims to spread good practices and experiences of circular economy education in the universities of applied sciences in Turku, Tampere and Lahti for all universities. Teaching methods in these universities are documented and piloted in the partner universities. Later, these method packages will be available for both national and international use and for all levels of education.


”Anything out of anything!” – recycling material without any production design restrictions

Reijo Heikkinen, Lic. Tech., Principal Lecturer, Lahti University of Applied Sciences
Kirsti Cura, Ph.D., Development Manager, Lahti University of Applied Sciences

This article presents a digiManufacturing project which is lead by Lahti University of Applies Sciences during 1.9.2017-31.12.2019. The digiManufacturing project will build a new 3D printing technology for recycled materials with related software technology and robotics. It will advance business opportunities in the Päijät-Häme region such as new 3D printing applications for companies, and new service-based 3D printing and production business. In addition, a roadmap for further measures to promote the 3D printing in the area, as well as company-specific 3D printing the development / implementation plans and associated 3D printing know-how development plans will be developed.


The possibilities and challenges of circular economy in Lapland: Circular economy center in developing the region

Sanna Tyni, Ph.D., Specialist, Lapland University of Applied Sciences
Juha-Pekka Snäkin, M.Sc. (Agr.), Specialist, Lapland University of Applied Sciences

Circular economy in North Finland is focused on heavy industries and their side streams and waste management. Mining and steel sector is strong and growing. Forest industries in Kemi and Kemijärvi cities are extensive. Investment plans for biofuels and biorefinery have been made by Chinese investors. Kemin Digipolis Oy started to invent heavy industries’ side streams in 2012. Since that, sectors like SME’s, municipalities and agrobusinesses have also been covered. In 2017 Sitra released funds for establishing national bio- and circular economy center in Kemi city. The center will be run in cooperation with Digipolis and Lapland University of Applied Sciences (LUAS). The center will offer services for local businesses. This should yet be done in parallel with existing project portfolios of various organizations and clusters to avoid e.g. overlapping. LUAS for example has over 30 on-going circular economy projects. To fulfill its tasks, bio- and circular economy center should strive for open information and sharing policies. This calls for efforts towards succesfully balancing between public type of information and business secrets.


Know-how for plastic materials is needed in circular economy

Mirja Andersson, Ph.D., Principal Lecturer, Arcada University of Applied Sciences
Stewart Makkonen-Craig, M.A., Senior Lecturer, Arcada University of Applied Sciences
Maiju Holm, B.Eng., Arcada University of Applied Sciences
Kristo Lehtonen, M.Sc. (Tech.), M.Sc. (Econ.), Managing Director, 3DBear Oy

Recycling of plastic materials has been an important research topic for Arcada University of Applied Sciences during past few years. Arcada has been involved in several public and private research partnerships developing the plastics technologies towards the principles presented in the circular economy model, by closing the material loops. The applied recycling research at Arcada has been in good coordination with the educational development of Plastics Technology / Materials Processing Technology. This article describes in brief the recent projects of RDI at Arcada, connected to circular economy.


The Festival ’Kekola’ is a gathering for those interested in circular economy

Pia Laine, M.Sc. (Food Science), Lecturer, Metropolia University of Applied Sciences
Tuija Nieminen, B.Sc. (Crafts & Design), Lecturer, Metropolia University of Applied Sciences
Marjut Haimila, B.Eng., Metropolia University of Applied Sciences
Malla Tuuri-Sarinko, Entrepreneur at Kinuskilla Coffee Shop in Ruukki, Main Organizer of Ruukki Circular Economy Festival

The Festival on circular economy (called Kekola) will be organised first time at the Ruukki area of Tuusula in 26th of May 2018. Originally, Ruukki (established in 1795) operated as an ironworks, but nowadays it is the heart of Kellokoski village. The collaboration between the companies of Ruukki area and Metropolia University of Applied Sciences, as well as the presence of other local players in Tuusula (organizations, companies, and local people) and the support of Tuusula City makes the festival project possible. The aim of the festival project is to share information by getting together people who are interested in circular economy. The festival program consist of the results of the student projects such as textile arts made of recycled materials and various innovations how to use waste food.


Openness of cooperation enables circular economy

Virpi Käyhkö,  M.Sc. (Tech.), Project Manager, Oulu University of Applied Science

Circular economy in businesses is based on the need to find new operating models, which would enhance the use of underutilized resources in the business in question. Circular economy has become a part of daily operation in businesses, often in cooperation with other players. Openness and innovativeness are needed to start cooperation based on circular economy. This is something that we, as representatives of a neutral education and development organization, are able to influence in.

Oulu University of Applied Sciences joined the FISS network (Finnish Industrial Symbiosis System, coordinated by Motiva) in the spring of 2017. The practical work in which circular economy and low-carbon economy in businesses and communities are promoted is done in a project called ’Northern Ostrobothnia Industrial Symbiosis System’ (NOISS). Workshops that operate according to the FISS model have been organized as a part of circular economy events. There new uses and users have been paired with unutilized minor flows of businesses.


Good practices in bio-based circular economy from the Päijät-Häme region into Europe

Susanna Vanhamäki, M.Soc.Sc., RDI Specialist, Lahti University of Applied Sciences
Katerina Medkova, M.Eng., M.B.A., Planner, Lahti University of Applied Sciences
Riika Kivelä, M.Sc. (Econ.), Project Coordinator, The Regional Council of Päijät-Häme

The BIOREGIO project promotes good practices in bio-based circular economy. In addition to the Päijät-Häme region, the project is carried out in regions of Spain, Greece, Slovakia, Romania and France. The aim of the project is to define best practices of bio-based circular economy, promoting both cooperation models and best available technologies of biological materials that are resource-efficient, build on cooperation and are applicable elsewhere in Europe. The project is closely involved with the strategic planning of each area, through which the information provided by the project is transposed into the regional programs. Criteria for good practices of the bio-based circular economy have been created. Based on the criteria, the Päijät-Häme bioeconomy experts propose seven good practices from the area to be shared at EU level. Good practices will be described and evaluated by EU experts before them being published in the EU database.


Gamification, geospatial data and renewable energy – possibilities in following and visualization of energy usage

Juho-Pekka Virtanen, M.F.A., Doctoral Student, Aalto University
Kaisa Jaalama, M.Sc. (Admin.), Doctoral Student, Aalto University
Arttu Julin, M.Sc. (Tech.), Doctoral Student, Aalto University
Harri Hahkala, M.Sc. (Tech.), Project Engineer, Metropolia University of Applied Sciences
Matti T. Vaaja, D.Sc. (Tech.), Professor, Aalto University
Hannu Hyyppä, D.Sc. (Tech.), Professor, Aalto University

In the ERDF project ”Soludus”, researchers from Aalto University developed demo applications and gaming concepts for visualizing information related to producing renewable energy and improving energy efficiency. To provide background information, the use of geospatial data in existing computer games was studied. An expert survey was performed to evaluate how gamification could promote energy savings and improve the awareness on renewable energy production. It was observed, that game engine technology is applicable for information visualization and development of interactive applications outside the traditional gaming domain. The emerging high fidelity geospatial data sets released as open data, such as 3D city models, support this development. The methods and processing workflows developed in the Soludus project can be further applied in other projects involving digitalization of the built environment and use of game engine technology.


Towards circular economy in the Päijät-Häme region by using a roadmap

Maarit Virtanen, M.Sc. (Admin.), RDI Specialist, Lahti University of Applied Sciences
Anni Orola, Student, Lahti University of Applied Sciences

The Päijät-Häme region in Finland is among the first European regions to launch a road map towards circular economy. The aim is to concretize and implement the national and regional circular economy visions. The road map process is a part of European Regional Development Fund project, Kiertoliike, coordinated by Lahti University of Applied Sciences.

The road map includes a regional vision: “Päijät-Häme – the successful resource efficient region”, goals under five themes, and concrete activities. The themes are: 1. Closed loops of technical streams to create added value, 2. Sustainable business from bio circular economy, 3. Towards energy self-sufficiency by sustainable transport and energy solutions, 4. New consumption models and business opportunities, 5. Piloting and demonstrating innovative circular economy solutions. The road map process continues with specifying and updating activities through, for instance, regional workshops.


Turning the bio-waste of reindeer and fish industry into raw materials

Petri Muje,  M.A., Project Manager, Lapland University of Applied Sciences
Aki Ranta, Student, Project Worker, Lapland University of Applied Sciences 

In Lapland province sparse population, long distances and disintegration of side-streams are challenges for circular economy and bio-waste treatment. The ideas of circular economy will be emphasized in the project Bio-waste as raw material – circular economy of commercial inland fisheries and reindeer herding (Biojätteestä raaka-aineeksi – kala- ja porotalous osaksi kiertotaloutta) funded by SITRA. Lapland University of Applied Sciences (lead partner), Digipolis and VTT Technical Research Center of Finland carry out the project 1.11.2017–28.2.2019. In the project the amount, quality, geographical and seasonal availability of reindeer slaughtering and commercial inland fisheries side-streams is estimated in Lapland province. The use of processing side-streams will be investigated, too. Rethinking the food chain and side-streams will yield new alternatives for the use of the side-streams and increase the sustainability of the production.


Renewable energy as a circular economy solution in Namibia

Teija Järvenpää, B.Eng., Project Researcher, Satakunta University of Applied Sciences
Nina Savela, M.Pol.Sc., Doctoral Student, University of Turku
Minna Keinänen-Toivola, Ph.D., Research Manager, Satakunta University of Applied Sciences

The consumption and need of energy increases rapidly in quickly developing African countries. The increased population also leads to greater amounts of waste. In Tekes BEAM research project NAMURBAN, the circular economy of energy sector and its potential was studied as a part of urban development in Namibia by SAMK. The energy sector in Namibia is greatly dependent on imported energy from Southern African countries, which also is a threat in the future. The strengths of Namibia are the abundant natural resources, which be used as a source for renewable energy, such as solar, wind and bioenergy. Biogas technology is one of the potential solutions for lack of energy and circular use of waste. As a result of the project it was found that key factors for a successful biogas plant in Namibia are the correct size, suitability to local conditions and services such as training adjacent to technology.

Chat – the Future Platform of Finnish Education Exports?

Authors: Kaius Karlsson, Jonas Tana, Outi Ahonen.

Image: A screenshot of a DeDiWe Slackinar in October 2017 delivered in Slack by lecturer Marge Mahla from Tartu Health Care College. The left-hand sidebar displays channels and workspace members. A Slackinar group chat channel is active in the center. The right-hand sidebar exhibits one of the channel’s several threaded discussions. Screenshot image by Kaius Karlsson.

Starting next year, the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture (2017) will channel 75 million euros into the development of university and UAS level education. Specifically, one target for funding is the enhancement of digital learning environments. Finland already holds a reputation as an education powerhouse (Arene 2016) and a digital pathfinder, so leadership in higher education online learning solutions should be a natural way forward.

In our current delivery of the Developer of Digital Health and Welfare Services study module, or DeDiWe in short, we are experimenting with what we consider an example of a forward-thinking online learning solution. The DeDiWe study module brings together a diverse virtual learning community whose lecturers and students come from various professional orientations in several institutions, universities, and UASs in different countries. (Arcada 2017).

DeDiWe’s pedagogic framework is based on the Learning by Developing Action Model, or LbD in short, which in itself is a Finnish education innovation dating back to 2002 when it was first used in Laurea (Pirnes 2008, 102). In LbD, lecturers, students, and professionals from working life partnerships collaborate in a shared learning environment. (Raij 2014, 14).

The DeDiWe study module was piloted in 2016-2017. Feedback from students stirred an urge to modernize the study module’s delivery. In order to co-learn, co-design, and co-create eHealth service development in the DeDiWe study module, experts of nursing and welfare must join in collaboration with experts of software engineering and service design. For this, we looked for a platform that is accessible, communication-focused, and intuitive to use — a platform that could provide an equal playing field for our diverse community of students, lecturers, and participants from professional partnerships.

Everything Is Based on Chat

From currently available online collaboration solutions, we picked Slack as the platform for the 2017-2018 curriculum. Slack is a professional virtual workspace service used by productive communities such as NASA, Harvard, and Oracle (Slack 2017). Originally, DeDiWe’s modernizer Kaius Karlsson utilized Slack throughout his studies in Laurea UAS. Typically, Karlsson set up a Slack workspace for his fellow students and himself when a new Learning by Developing group project started. Later, as a student in DeDiWe, Karlsson set up a Slack workspace for fellow DeDiWe students when the communication features of a traditional virtual learning environment were deemed insufficient.

In traditional learning management systems, assignments, source materials, and interaction are usually arranged behind folders and tabs. Interestingly folders, tabs, and even email can be seen as virtualized relics from the age of paper and pen. Their efficiency and productivity in online learning delivery can be questioned.

Interestingly folders, tabs, and even email can be seen as virtualized relics from the age of paper and pen.

Slack’s growing popularity (Forbes 2017) in itself can be regarded as part of a movement where users are looking for alternatives to traditional online collaboration and communication methods. On a platform like Slack, everything is based on chat. Instead of folders and tabs, files and documents shared in Slack are organized and rediscovered by taking advantage of features like pinning and favoriting.

For example, an interesting comment or a shared PDF document can be pinned to a Slack channel for quick rediscovery for all the channel’s members. One can think of pinning in Slack as in pinning to a virtual bulletin board. Likewise, an individual member may favorite comments and contents and thus accumulate a personal list of bookmarks within the workspace.

As part of the modernization, the study module’s content delivery and learning processes were rethought, simplified, and repackaged around what we call Slackinars — a term first coined by DeDiWe’s modernizer Kaius Karlsson in his 2017 blog post (Karlsson 2017). A Slackinar is perhaps best described as a chat-based seminar delivered in Slack.

During a Slackinar, the transnational DeDiWe learning community lights up into a fervent two-hour group chat session where virtual contents are fluidly shared and commented on. Between Slackinars, students work in small groups on LbD assignments. The small groups have their own chat channels where their learning activity is focused on different development themes. The development themes are based on professional interests expressed by students in an entry questionnaire.

Figure 1. A visualization of the cyclical interplay of Slackinars, small group collaboration, summaries, and Learning by Developing of the DeDiWe study module in Slack. Each cycle is designed to propel the small groups’ creative development processes.

It could be said that we are future-proofing our students by introducing them to a true working-life professional collaboration environment. We are building a virtual chat-based pedagogic foundation with an emphasis on dialogue, openness, and transparency — factors we consider imperative to innovation and collaboration.

During recent Slackinars, we have enjoyed discussion threads populated with comments by dozens of students, some of them engaging in heated topic-related debates. According to a short survey conducted in October 2017, the DeDiWe students strongly agreed that Slack works well as a learning platform for the study module.

Simplicity, Openness, and Spontaneity

Since all the interaction in our chat-based workspace is in text form, each piece of commentary and shared content is logged chronologically and is thus accessible for swift retrospection. The entire workspace can be searched by keywords, user names, time frames, and other search criteria. Ideally, the chat channels can be regarded as live communal learning journals that are accumulated and indexed for rediscovery throughout the curriculum.

Ideally, the chat channels can be regarded as live communal learning journals that are accumulated and indexed for rediscovery throughout the curriculum.

Specified searches in Slack are also a great way for lecturers to monitor student activity. Tutoring dialogues between a student and a lecturer can be conducted discreetly through direct messages. Voice or video calls can be initiated on impulse by clicking on a user’s name.

The lecturers can maintain a private teachers’ room channel for planning and administration purposes. For example, the lecturers can have their own private group chats on things like evaluation and student attendance in a Slack channel that is completely inaccessible and invisible to students. Also, lecturers can collaborate for example on a study unit manual in private before sharing it to public channels where students can access it.

The simplicity and openness of professional chat-based platforms means we can spontaneously invite new participants into our learning workspaces — guest lecturers, consultants, student interns, and professional partners that are essential to collaborative learning. A chat-based online communication culture may reduce the need for time sensitive telephone conversations and video conferences — not to mention actual traveling. By taking advantage of chat-based professional collaboration platforms, we can promote cost-effective, low-emission know-how mobility on a global scale while spending less time managing our email inboxes.

Changing the Conditions

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (1996, 1) has written that ”it is easier to enhance creativity by changing conditions in the environment than by trying to make people think more creatively”. Indeed, we believe the condition change of online education towards chat-based platforms can be a step towards enhanced creativity.

We believe that the solutions we have now created for study module delivery through Slack are broadly applicable in the field of online education. These solutions are mostly compatible with other chat-based platforms like Microsoft Teams which has recently become available for use in the majority of Finnish universities of applied sciences. Microsoft Teams (Microsoft 2017), like Slack, is based on chat groups and can hence be used in similar fashion as Slack — students and chat-based group sessions can be assigned their own respective channels while the workspace as a whole can remain highly navigable and searchable.

According to the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture (2016), fresh approaches to education such as digital platforms require swiftness and agility from proponents of Finnish education exports. The motivation for fresh approaches is further emphasized when we consider the multi-disciplinary requirements of today’s rapidly evolving fields such as eHealth service development. With sufficient ambition and bravery we can conceptualize chat-based online learning solutions and export them internationally as pioneering Finnish education innovations.


Kaius Karlsson, Bachelor of Social Services, Bachelor of Journalism, DeDiWe Modernizer, Laurea University of Applied Sciences, kaius.karlsson(a)
Jonas Tana, R.N, M.A., Researcher, DeDiWe Communications Manager, Arcada University of Applied Sciences, jonas.tana(at)
Outi Ahonen, MNSc, Senior Lecturer, DeDiWe Project Manager, Laurea University of Applied Sciences, outi.ahonen(at)

Arcada. (2017). The Developer of Digital Health and Welfare Services. Accessed 15 November 2017.

Arene. (2016). Finnish Excellence in Education. Accessed 26 October 2017.

Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1996). Creativity – Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention. HarperPerennial. HarperCollinsPublishers.

Forbes. (2017). Slack Passes 6 Million Daily Users And Opens Up Channels To Multi-Company Use. Accessed 26 October 2017.

Karlsson, K. (2017). DeDiWe Is Going Slack. The Developer of Digital Health and Welfare Services. Accessed 26 October 2017.

Microsoft. (2017). Microsoft Teams – Group Chat Software. Accessed 15 November 2017.

Ministry of Education and Culture. (2016). Koulutusviennin tiekartta 2016–2019. Accessed 26 October 2017.

Ministry of Education and Culture. (2017). Erityisavustus korkeakouluille korkeakoulutuksen kehittämiseen 2018-2020. Accessed 26 October 2017.

Pirnes, H. (2008). LbD:n haasteet monikulttuurisessa oppimisympäristössä. Case: suomalais-japanilaisen vanhuspalvelumallin kehittäminen. In a Laurea Publication: Oppiminen Learning by Developing -toimintamallissa edited by Kallioinen, O. Laurea Publications A61. Vantaa.

Raij, K. (2014). Learning by Developing in Higher Education. In a Laurea Publication: Learning by Developing Action Model edited by Raij. K. Laurea Publications 36. Accessed 26 October 2017.

Opportunities in Cleantech Education Export to Kazakhstan

Authors: Katerina Medkova, Kati Manskinen, Harri Mattila.

Figure: Cleantech Education VIP Day organised by KFEIG, Finnish Pavilion, EXPO 2017 Astana, Kazakhstan, photo taken by Timur Mukanov.

Green Economy Concept – Environmental Challenges Identified

According to the Central Asia Research Forum series (2017), Kazakhstan as the ninth largest country in the world is a large emitter of the greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, Kazakhstan is regarded as one of the five carbon-intensive countries with 70 to 75% of the electric power generated by using coal. The world’s average carbon intensity is about 0.58 kg of CO2 emitted per USD 1000 of economic activity, in comparison with 2.59 kg in Kazakhstan. Table 1 shows some interesting facts about Kazakhstan.

Table 1. Facts about geography and economy of Kazakhstan.

In 2013, President N. Nazarbayev approved a National Concept for Transition to a Green Economy, an ambitious sustainable development paradigm. The Concept aims at an economy of increased wellbeing of the Kazakhstani people while it alleviates the impact on the environment and degradation of scarce resources. By adopting the principles and goals of the green economy concept, Kazakhstan may become one of the 30 developed countries in the world. At the same time, it is expected to increase the GDP of the country by 3% and create over 500 000 new jobs by 2050. The reasons behind the need of “greening” the economy is the overall deterioration of natural resources noticed in every sector in Kazakhstan, leading into potential yearly economic losses of USD 7 billion by 2030. (CONCEPT 2013)

The transition toward a green economy is implemented through several strategic program documents, such as the Strategy Kazakhstan 2050 with bold targets:

  • Power sector – to reach 50% share of alternative and renewable energy in electricity generation by 2050
  • Energy efficiency – to reduce energy intensity of GDP by 10% by 2015 and by 25% by 2020 compared to 2008 baseline
  • Water sector – drinking water supply to be determined by 2020 and agricultural water supply by 2040
  • Agriculture sector – to enhance the productivity of the agricultural land by factor of 1.5 by 2020
    (CONCEPT 2013, 6)

The Concept also identifies six main principles in the transition to a green economy:

  1. Resource productivity improvements as a central economic indicator to indicate the value creation ability along with the environmental footprint minimization
  2. Resource use responsibility including increased monitoring and controlling of the resource use and the state of the environment
  3. Use of the most efficient technologies to modernize the economy
  4. Attractive investment measures for efficient use of resources – tariff and price setting
  5. Prioritization of profitable measures to improve the environmental situation and economic benefits
  6. Education and culture to support environmental awareness among the population of Kazakhstan
    (CONCEPT 2013, 8-9)

In the Concept (2013), Kazakhstan acknowledged education as a powerful driver of the transition and environmental culture development of its nation. It promotes education reforms and development of a new modern education system and vocational training (CONCEPT 2013, 9). Due to Kazakhstan’s resource-intensiveness, it is essential to educate a substantial number of professionals with expertise in environmental protection and resource productivity. Therefore, these lacking areas of expertise should be included in the curriculum of all engineering education. For thousands of existing engineers, and other involved parties, such as authorities and farmers, on-the-job training and further education could develop their skills. Furthermore, the environmental awareness and education of the general public is fundamental for creating a new eco-culture concerning the consumption of energy, water and other resources, as well as waste separation. Here, it is vital to spread information on resource usage and environmental problems. Finally, “greening” the curricula of the primary and pre-school education will contribute to increased environmental awareness. (CONCEPT 2013, 48)

Finland’s Opportunities

Finnish education is regarded to be one of the best in the world and a pioneer in the Cleantech and environmental sectors, both in know-how and education, as well as technologies. These facts, well recognized in Kazakhstan, give Finnish education institutions and companies, immense business opportunities in developing curricula at all levels, pedagogical education, and learning environments (Finpro 2017).

The uniqueness of the Finnish education was also presented at the international exposition EXPO 2017 in Astana, Kazakhstan from June 10 to September 10. Finland was the only Nordic country exhibited in Astana. Altogether, there were 3.8 million visitors at the world exhibition, and 300 000 of them explored the Finnish pavilion. The Finnish pavilion, Sharing Pure Energy, was designed by Ateljé Sotamaa and was awarded with a gold medal for theme development in the category of pavilion with less than 400 m2 (Finpro 2017; Garton 2017). At EXPO 2017, the Kazakstani-Finnish Education and Innovation Group, shortly KFEIG, represented Finnish higher and vocational education.


KFEIG is a consortium of four Finnish educational institutions: Häme University of Applied Sciences (HAMK), Lahti University of Applied Sciences (LAMK), Jyväskylä University of Applied Sciences (JAMK) and Tampere Adult Education Centre (TAKK).

The KFEIG Consortium offers a wide range of education related services, from Bachelor’s and Master’s degree programmes, open studies, continuing education, competence-based vocational secondary education to teacher training and consultation. KFEIG also cooperates with one of the largest global education financiers, the World Bank, in international education projects in developing countries. JAMK and LAMK have been cooperating with the Ministry of Healthcare and Social Development of Kazakhstan and providing its expertise and development in the healthcare education already since 2012. (LAMK 2016; Malinen et al. 2017)

KFEIG aims to strengthen its position in Kazakhstan and extend the cooperation to other areas of education, such as environmental education and teacher training (Malinen et al. 2017). During EXPO 2017, KFEIG organised a series of three VIP Days in the Finnish Pavilion. The themes of these VIP Days were healthcare (21.8.2017), teacher education (25.8.2017) and Cleantech education (29.8.2017).
Figure 1 is a photo taken during the Cleantech Education VIP Day in Astana on 29 August 2017.


During the EXPO 2017, the VIP events enabled meaningful discussions with local education authorities and decision-makers. Positive visibility to Finnish education know-how was reinforced. Furthermore, the advanced results in environmental protection received a lot of interest from the Kazakhstani media and press. An example of this is the fact that in the region of Lahti in Finland, 97% of the waste is utilized and only 3% of the waste is landfilled. In comparison, in Kazakhstan, 97% of the waste is landfilled.

Finland as a pioneer in Cleantech expertise has an enormous opportunity to share knowledge with Kazakhstan and other developing countries. In Finland, the progress in environmental issues has taken over 20 years. Due to education export in these fields, developing countries may reach a high environmental performance level quickly. However, it requires a tailor-made cooperation to fulfill the specific goals.

Currently, Finland is paying attention to resource preservation and circular economy. It is important to acknowledge that these terms might not yet be recognized in other countries. Therefore, it is worthwhile to point out challenges related to national and cultural differences. For instance, when exporting Cleantech education to Kazakhstan, it is better to talk about green economy rather than circular economy. After all, we would like to point out, that due to a success in healthcare education in Kazakhstan, as well as good reputation of Finnish education and environmental performance, Finland has a huge opportunity to begin education export in the Cleantech sector.


Katerina Medkova, MSc., Environmental Project Coordinator, Lahti University of Applied Sciences, katerina.medkova(at)
Kati Manskinen, DSc., RDI Director in Cleantech, Lahti University of Applied Sciences, kati.manskinen(at)
Harri Mattila, Adjunct Professor, DSc. (tech.), Principal Lecturer (Research), Häme University of Applied Sciences (HAMK), harri.mattila(at)

Central Asia Research Forum. (2017). Sustainable Energy in Kazakhstan: Moving to cleaner energy in a resource-rich country. Edit. Kalyuzhnova, Y. & Pomfret, R. Routledge.

CONCEPT for transition of the Republic of Kazakhstan to Green Economy. (2013). Decree of the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan approved on May 30, 2013. Astana. Kazakhstan [referenced 29 September 2017]. Available at:

Finpro. (2017). Kazakhstan reforms its education system – strong demand for Finnish offering. Team Finland [referenced 27 September 2017]. Available at:

Garton, A. R. (2017). Finland’s pavilion wins gold medal in Astana Expo. Daily Finland. Finnish News Network. Rovaniemi. Finland [referenced 29 September 2017]. Available at:

LAMK. (2016). Developing the nursing education in Kazakhstan. LAMK. Lahti. Finland [referenced 26 September 2017]. Available at:

Malinen, H., Paloniemi, A. & Pusa, H. (2017). How to Gain Visibility for Universities of Applied Sciences. in Finnish Universities of Applied Sciences on the Verge of a New Era: Value, Viability and Visibility of International Education. Eds. Vanhanen R., Kitinoja H., Holappa J., JAMK University of Applied Sciences: Jyväskylä, Finland [referenced 11 October 2017]. Available at:

PISA 2015. (2015). Results in Focus. OECD 2016 [referenced 29 September 2017]. Available at:

No 4/2017 Abstracts

First steps taken in the export of education – a time of growth lies ahead

Programme Director, Dr Lauri Tuomi, Finnish National Agency for Education (EDUFI)

Finland is a ’superpower’ when it comes to education. Ten years ago our PISA result (relating the skills and competences in 15-year-old students) brought our Finnish education system to the attention of the whole world. However, the quality of our education system paints a broader picture than the PISA results would indicate. It is more a matter of how we teach, rather than what we teach. Our reputation is reflected in all levels of education. With university tuition fees, we are now part of one of the world’s fastest growing service export sectors.

The size of the global education market has been determined by British investment bankers on a cost-orientation basis. The estimated size of the market is between 4,000 and 5,000 trillion dollars. The estimates vary according to the point of view, although, whatever the case, it is a business worth billions.   Finland’s share is tiny. Roughly speaking, the export of education this year will be worth about 300 million euros.

Early childhood and upper secondary school education are the current areas of focus.  Non-formal adult education, in its various forms, is also part of the education export sector.  In recent years, much has been done to break down legislative barriers. This needs to continue. It is also important to identify the factors that hinder progress.  These may, for example, relate to taxation practices or a lack of accreditation models.

Alongside the export of education by educational organisations, Finland has witnessed the evolution of a significant ’edtech’ startup sector. What the two have in common is the desire to dominate the globe with the best education technology solutions.  Products and services are being developed in cooperation with educational institutions  It is also becoming more common for innovative teachers to run their own businesses. Currently, Finnish education export companies are still either college- or innovation-based.

Wide-ranging education export tenders, in particular, need to incorporate the perspective of a comprehensive service. It is interesting to consider when we will be seeing the first business- and college- based export company.   Could the universities of applied sciences show the way here as centres of strong business expertise?

There is still plenty of scope for boosting the export of education. The Education Finland education export growth programme is the answer. The task will be to deliver the best services for the exporters of the world’s best education.  The programme now has 51 approved members. In all, 23 companies or colleges have been invited to join the group of those moving into the education export phase.  A total of 11 universities of applied sciences are represented, either directly or through a joint venture.

The programme’s services have been structured in collaboration with its members to support a scalable business.  The rate of growth among members is robust: it averages 212% (growth in education export turnover in 2016 and 2017). There is investment in a market presence in China, Southeast Asia, the Gulf region and Latin America.   A start has also been made to identify the remaining legislative barriers and the factors that cause delays.

A new feature of the programme is that it is located within the teaching sector at the National Board of Education.  Close cooperation with the Ministry of Education and Culture, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs plays a crucial role.  The immense expertise of the National Board of Education in its role as development agency has brought a whole lot more to the enterprise.  The most essential consideration, however, is cooperation with the exporters of education. There is an ongoing process for applying to join the programme. Welcome!

The challenges associated with the commercialisation of internationalisation in universities of applied sciences

Pirjo Aura, R&D Coordinator, Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences
Sami Heikkinen, Lecturer, Lahti University of Applied Sciences
Elisa Kannasto, Lecturer, Seinäjoki University of Applied Sciences
Helli Kitinoja, Senior Specialist, Export of Expertise, Seinäjoki University of Applied Sciences
Jaana Muttonen, Research Manager, Häme University of Applied Sciences
Mikhail Nemilentsev, Lecturer, South-Eastern Finland University of Applied Science

In the Strategies for the Internationalization of Higher Education Institutions (HEI) in Finland (2009-2015, 2017-2025) education and expertise were seen as nationally significant exports, and the export of expertise and competence are one of the main aims of the strategies. The Roadmap for Education Export, released by the Ministry of Education and Culture offers an action plan for 2016–2019 for the export of expertise. During last few years the Finnish HEIs have reached the phase of commercialization in the development of their international activities. Different concepts are in use in the fields where educational institutions and companies sell education and other expertise. In this article global education services also covers the concepts export of education and export of expertise.

Based on a survey carried out in 2016, half of the Finnish universities of applied sciences (UAS) have been active in the export of education and expertise since 2010, but most UASs are still in the initial phases of these activities. Finnish UASs also recognize the importance of networks, strategic partnerships, consortiums, students and alumni in increasing exporting activities. Strategic decisions and management within the organization are core elements when it comes to attaining positive results in the field of global education services.

FLEN – The Food Learning Export Network

Antti Pasila, Senior Specialist, RDI, Seinäjoki University of Applied Sciences
Elina Puska, RDI specialist, Seinäjoki University of Applied Sciences
Jukka Lähteenkorva, CEO, Foodknow Oy

The FLEN (Food Learning Export Network) is an educational export pilot for food business. FLEN combines the strengths of five Finnish Universities of Applied Sciences for one network, where different experts can share their knowledge under the food chain theme in cooperation with SMEs and food technology sector. FLEN creates an operational model, which has the necessary skills and prestige in order to achieve international success. The tools and methods produced by FLEN are object-oriented which include innovative viewpoints and actions in order to test the food -thematic actions in practice together with the food chain companies. Food quality management and food safety systems are strengths of the Finnish food chain and export business. FLEN also adds value for the Finnish food export by offering educational solutions for food quality and safety related issues, especially, in developing countries, Asia or Persian Gulf region. The FLEN has gained project financing until 2019 from the ERDF (European Regional Development Fund) by South Ostrobothnia region. As an expected result a new concept is drafted which lowers the threshold to start food chain export.

Education helps boost the growth in tourism in Vietnam

Jaana Häkli, Lecturer, Saimaa University of Applied Sciences

Saimaa University of Applied Sciences is starting to export Finnish tourism and hospitality education to Vietnam. There is a lot of potential for different forms of co-operation e.g. in the form of double degrees or online studies. Tourism industry has a major role in the development of the entire country as increased tourist flows and revenue modernize the country. Due to good experiences in teaching Vietnamese students, personal contacts and flexibility, Saimaa UAS sees a lot of potential in the future co-operation and has jumped on the bandwagon.

The export of education is an opportunity to reflect critically on one’s own endeavours

Henna Juusola, Project Coordinator, Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences

Good success in international surveys such as in PISA (relating the skills and competences in 15-years old students) and PIAAC (relating the skills and competences of adults) are often seen as a guarantee of the high quality of Finnish education. This has increased the international awareness and interest towards Finnish education and thus contributed the implementation of education export activities. However, good global reputation as such does not provide a basis for the quality assurance of education export activities. This article explores quality assurance of education export activities from a national and international point of view by highlighting those issues that may be relevant to take into account in the institutional quality assurance practicalities. In addition, this article will give an overview of the groundwork that is currently going on at Haaga-Helia in the frame of quality assurance of education export activities.

Competence-based practices in the export of education – how do we make the curriculum more flexible?

Marjaana Mäkelä, Principal Lecturer, Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences

Competence-based pedagogy provides a functional tool for UAS institutions in curriculum development, assessment, validation, international cooperation and relations with industries. However, in context of export of education, understanding of competences on an institutional scale does not always meet the objectives of education export projects that require flexible, bespoke solutions.

A case example from Haaga-Helia UAS and a partner institution in Malta, Institute of Tourism Studies, unfolds some aspects of an export project where competence-based curriculum needs to be re-interpreted. The modular training is based on hospitality management courses, with a novel combination of studies fitting the needs of highly skilled participants. Moreover, validation of prior learning is applied as part of the process.
To succeed in export projects, UAS institutions need to critically evaluate their curricula and related discourse. The European Qualifications Framework is of help in this work.

Satakunta University of Applied Sciences is exporting education to two continents

Minna Keinänen-Toivola, Research Manager, Satakunta University of Applied Sciences
Viveka Höijer- Brear, Lecturer, Satakunta University of Applied Sciences
Tiina Savola, Director of Business, Satakunta University of Applied Sciences
Markku Paukkunen, Project Manager/ Senior Adviser on China, Satakunta University of Applied Sciences
Ari-Pekka Kainu, Head of International Affairs, Satakunta University of Applied Sciences

Satakunta University of Applied Sciences has worked with educational export to China almost ten years and to Namibia about five years. In China, parliamentary co-operation and twin city activities are key to concreate co-operation. In Namibia, the actions were started by a ship sale, in addition to an active role of the Embassy of Finland. In the article, examples from health and welfare are presented. In China, Satakunta University of Applied Sciences and Changzhou University signed a co-operation agreement on nursing double degree in fall 2016. In Namibia, SAMK, SAIMIA, SeAMK and XAMK started to building up joint in-service training product for physiotherapy. Co-operation with the city and university of Changzou as well as with many instances in Namibia are starting point for wider markets in China and Southern Africa. In educational export, patience and ethics are the main elements for success.

The export of education to provide a new stimulus for Finnish universities

Jorma Nevaranta, Head of Unit, Seinäjoki University of Applied Sciences

Education export is a new challenge and possibility for the Finnish Higher Education Institutions (HEI). Tuition fee is only one example in this sense and it has been possible in Finland only since the beginning of 2016. In principle, Finland has excellent possibilities to increase education export activities because of the good reputation of its education systems.

This article describes the conduct and experiences of one tailor-made training programme carried out by the School of Technology in Seinajoki University of Applied Sciences. The target group consisted 11 persons in Shenzhen Polytechnic Institute in China.

The contents of this training programme were based on the wishes of the participants. The offer of the one week programme in Seinajoki was made in April 2017 and the programme itself was conducted in August. The experiences of the participants as well as the presenters were very positive after the busy training week.

Ten years of the export of teacher training – what we have learnt

Jari Laukia, Director, Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences, School of Vocational Teacher Education
Pekka Risku, Director, JAMK University of Applied Sciences, School of Vocational Teacher Education

The Finnish educational system is highly respected abroad. This has had a positive influence also to the education export of vocational teacher education. Universitie of Applied sciences are responsible for arranging the training programs for teachers of vocational education and training (VET) in Finland.
In his article the focus is in export of vocational teacher education, the clients as well as experiences of previous and ongoing activities. Both the challenges and the positive results of the projects have been documented. The enthusiasm and competence of the teachers are essential to the success of education. International co-operation can have a positive impact also on the traditional teacher education programs in Finland.

Our education export success factors: research, customer orientation and a concentration on effective action

Essi Ryymin, Principal Lecturer, Research Manager, Häme University of Applied Sciences
Maaret Viskari, Sales Manager, (Global Education), Häme University of Applied Sciences

The goal of this article is to describe the success factors of education export at Häme University of Applied Sciences (HAMK). We concentrate especially on the continuous professional teacher training programmes to Brazil during the last three years. We summarize our experiences to the following three principles: 1) Research corrects the coordinates, 2) Customer before the expert and 3) Concentration on effective action.

Finland 100 years: TAMK donated a week of education to Brazil

Heini Pääkkönen, Marketing Coordinator, TAMK EDU, Tampere University of Applied Sciences

To celebrate long-term educational cooperation and Finland’s 100-year independence, TAMK wanted to donate the Brazilian public sector schools a sample of what investment in teacher education and staff motivation can achieve. The one-week education in São Paulo offered 25 public sector school representatives the chance to experience Finnish educators’ inspiring and practical teaching and reflect and develop their competence together with their colleagues.

Redesigning for Student Centricity: A Four-Step Process

Authors: Ann Padley, Antti Piironen.


 The concepts of customer-centered and human-centered have grown in popularity in the business world to refocus on what really matters—the people an organization exists to serve. In the same way, the idea of student-centered learning is on the rise in higher education. This marks a paradigm shift from education as a vehicle for distributing knowledge to an avenue for facilitating learning and encouraging active student engagement (ESG 2015). It is a shift supported by a deeper understanding of the science of learning (Hinton, Fischer, Glennon 2012) and offers higher education an avenue for becoming more adaptable and responsive to the needs of students and those of our rapidly changing world (Ojasalo 2015).

The benefits for learners of a student-centered approach include increased motivation, sense of responsibility and engagement in learning (ESG 2015, 12; Bovill 2014, 21). The practical realization of such a paradigm shift requires new ways of thinking and working. This article presents a four-step process educators can use to rethink a learning experience using a collaborative, student-centered approach. The teacher becomes a designer partnering with students to understand their needs, interests and perspectives to inform the design of the learning experience.

First piloted to support Research, Development, and Innovation (RDI) for a professional summer school course called The Digital Wellbeing Sprint (The Sprint), the process helps educators work to understand what students hope to achieve from the learning experience. This understanding is integrated into the design along with the intended learning outcomes set by the educator or organization. This approach supports the alignment between student and teacher perceptions, thereby increasing the likelihood the experience will meet the expectations of both stakeholders (Könings et al. 2014).

Case: The Digital Wellbeing Sprint

Laurea, Haaga-Helia, and Metropolia Universities of Applied Sciences (UAS) organized the first joint Professional Summer School (PSS) in 2016 under the name Digital Wellbeing Co-creation and Start-up Summer School. Later renamed the Digital Wellbeing Sprint, the intensive two-week course brought together multidisciplinary teams of bachelor’s and master’s degree students to learn about service innovation using the ”Conceive Design Implement Operate” model (CDIO 2017).

Students solved real challenges from partnering organizations while learning tools and methods for co-creation and service design. In the first week, students explored their challenge by doing field and desktop research to learn about users, the service provider, the business environment, and relevant trends. Teams then generated ideas for a new service concept and spent the second week on prototyping, business model generation, and pitching their newly created concept to the clients (Piironen et al. 2017).

Armed with results and feedback from the first year, the newly formed UAS alliance wanted to apply the service innovation approach to develop The Sprint concept further, starting with gaining a better understanding of its own users: the students.

The process

The four-step process (Figure 1) used to pivot the design of The Sprint for 2017 combines the UK Design Council’s Double Diamond model (UK Design Council  n.d.) with an education-based design process created by the American firm iDesign (Kilgore 2016). The integration of the two models frames the use of design methods within an educational context. Divergent thinking is used to explore multiple perspectives and convergent to make sense of what was learned and identify next steps. Each step in the process builds on the other, starting with Learn and Evolve, on to Discover, then Define, and finally Develop.

Figure 1. Four-step design process.

Step One: Learn & Evolve

In Learn and Evolve, one embraces past experiences by gathering the perspectives of the education delivery team and students. This feedback is used to Learn from the last implementation of the course then Evolve or iterate the learning experience. (Kilgore 2016).

Interviews and the analysis of existing data can both be useful in this phase. In the case project, six interviews 30-60 minutes long were conducted with planning and teaching staff. The goal was to hear varying perspectives on the course, understand the organizational goals, and begin to establish how the research would contribute to the further development of The Sprint. Existing sources of student feedback were also analysed including:

  • open-ended questions from The Sprint application questionnaire
  • responses to a survey distributed mid-way through The Sprint
  • notes from interviews conducted during The Sprint by Piironen et al. (2017)

Student feedback was reviewed and categorized by development area, for example, communications, mentors, or curriculum. Comments related to each area were then further analyzed using an adapted Value Proposition Canvas (Osterwalder et al. 2014) to sort by pains (problems), gains (benefits or added value) and ideas for improvement. The goal of this step was to understand what elements contributed to the sense of value students experienced from The Sprint and which detracted from it.

In Learn and Evolve, insights from the staff interviews and student feedback offer immediate context and perspectives for the teacher-as-designer to consider in the ongoing development. This is where the analysis of feedback often stops, however, it is important to continue the process.

Step Two: Discover

Learn and Evolve offers insight into what perceptions students have of the experience—what worked and what did not. Discover offers the opportunity to dig deeper, to understand why. The focus of this step is to uncover what students hope to achieve through participation, or their Job to Be Done. This is a divergent step; the intention is to collect information and perspectives, making sense of them will happen in the next step, Define (UK Design Council 2007).

In Discover, interviews are used to gain insights from students. These interviews are not about asking students what they want; they are about understanding what the student is trying to accomplish (Bettencourt & Ulwick 2008). From this, one can form an understanding of the conditions for accomplishing their goal, the desired outcomes and the obstacles they face. In the case of The Sprint, six previous attendees were interviewed and the information collected was carried on to the Define stage.

Step 3: Define

In Define, a convergent step, one makes sense of the information collected thus far and defines, or redefines, the problems and opportunities. This step is about bringing actionable insights (Design Council 2007) and a deeper understanding of the learner into development. The process brings together the educators’ experience and the what and why of the student experience (Figure 2).

Figure 2. Various perspectives of ’Define’.

In the case of The Sprint, interviews with students were first analysed individually (see Patton 2001,41). The insights were then compared to identify patterns (see Christensen et al. 2016a, 59 or Kumar 2012, 141). The result was a set of statements summarizing what students hoped to achieve (see Silverstein, Samuel & DeCarlo 2012, 10). The statements fell into three main categories: the students wanted to learn from others, collect experiences, and take the next step. Within each category, core jobs and associated sub-jobs and outcomes were identified. For example, in learning from others, students hoped to a) learn from experienced professionals b) receive feedback to support their iterative learning process c) and learn from each other through peer-to-peer learning (see Padley 2017).

How might we questions were used to frame the findings as opportunities to feed into the development phase (IDEO 2012, 19; Berger 2012) and to bring together the student and educator perspectives. For example, by participating in The Sprint, students wanted to learn from experienced professionals and receive feedback to support their iterative learning process. A strategic goal of The Sprint is to support a smoother transition to working life. These perspectives were combined to ask, “How might we use mentorship and feedback to help students advance?” This question, in combination with the context from the research, could then be used by the development team to identify solutions that would meet the needs of both students and the organization.

Step Four: Develop

It is often not realistic to postpone development while focusing solely on research. In this model, Develop spans the length of the process representing development as an ongoing activity. This allows for an agile process and requires open communication and a willingness to adapt planning based on new insights. For example, early student and staff feedback about inconsistencies among the ten different projects in 2016 resulted in partnering with only one client during the 2017 Sprint. Student perceptions about the role of mentors and teachers inspired the addition of an afternoon training session for The Sprint support team. The training served to build shared best practices among the team and offer a deeper understanding of why students were attending The Sprint and what they hoped to gain. Finally, students’ desire for peer-to-peer learning further reinforced the multidisciplinary approach to learning.


The proposed four-step process offers one feasible way to move towards a more student-centered learning environment. It was developed during the Digital Wellbeing Sprint in 2016 and tested during the 2017 Sprint. It provides a framework which can be used to improve future implementations of the Digital Wellbeing Sprint or in developing similar learning events.

Taking a student-centred approach can drive innovation in education and improve learning outcomes and motivation of both the students and teachers.


Ann Padley, MBA in Service Innovation and Design, Teaching Fellow in Design Thinking, University of Bristol Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, ann.padley(at)
Antti Piironen, Ph.D. in Physics, Principal Lecturer in Smart Systems Engineering, Metropolia University of Applied Sciences, antti.piironen(at)

Berger, W. 2012. The secret phrase top innovators use. Harvard business review. Accessed 22 February 2017.

Bettencourt, L. & Ulwick, A.W. 2008. The Customer-Centered Innovation Map. Harvard Business Review. 86 (5) Accessed 3 January 2017.

Bovill, C. 2014. An investigation of co-created curricula within higher education in the UK, Ireland and the USA. Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 51(1), 15-25.

Christensen, C.M., Hall, T., Dillon, K., & Duncan, D.S. 2016. Know your customers’ ‘jobs to be done’. Harvard Business Review, 94 (9), 54-62.

ESG. 2015. Standards and guidelines for quality assurance in the European higher education area (ESG). Brussels, Belgium. Accessed 13 January 2017.

Hinton, C., Fischer, K., & Glennon, C. 2012. Mind, brain, and education. Jobs for the Future. March 2012. Accessed 4 August 2017.

IDEO. n.d. Design thinking for educators toolkit. IDEO LLC. Accessed 22 February 2017.

Kilgore, W. 2016. UX to LX: the rise of learner experience design. EdSurge, 20 June 2016. Accessed 20 December 2016.

Könings, K., Seidel, T., & Van Merrienboer, J. 2014. Participatory design of learning environments: integrating perspectives of students, teachers, and designers. Instructional Science 41(1). Article from Research Gate. Accessed 9 May 2017

Ojasalo, K. 2015. Using service design methods to improve student-centricity of higher education. In: International Business & Education Conference, New York City, August 2015.

Osterwalder, A., Pigneur, Y., Bernarda, G., Smith, A., & Papadakos, T. 2014. Value proposition design: how to create products and services customers want. 1st edition. Hoboken, New Jersey: Wiley.

Padley, A. 2017. Designing a student-centered learning experience: The Digital Wellbeing Sprint. MBA. Service Innovation and Design. Laurea University of Applied Sciences.

Piironen, A.K., Haho, P., Porokuokka, J., Hirvikoski, T., Mäki, M. 2017. Experiences on a Multidisciplinary CDIO Project. The 13’th International CDIO Conference, Proceedings, 279-287.

UK Design Council. 2007. Eleven lessons: managing design in eleven global brands. Accessed 27 February 2017

UK Design Council. n.d. The design process: What is the double diamond? Accessed 27 February 2017.


Collaboration with Industry: Open Innovation Approach

Author: Eero Nousiainen.


The amount of completed degrees can be considered as one of the key criteria for assessing how universities of applied sciences (UAS) have succeeded in achieving their goals and how necessary and viable the new qualifications that have taken place in the workplace are. Also, one of the key objectives of UASes is their local impact. The task of UAS is to strengthen regional development and to respond to the needs of regional higher education.

Understanding and using open innovation enable the university to remain competitive and to respond rapidly and flexibly to changes in the environment, despite the development time and life cycle of products and technologies. By developing education continuously and by being in close cooperation with companies, the university has a better chance of achieving its goals.

Open Innovation Inside the Curriculum

One of the special features of UAS is a strong link with the needs of working life. Curricula and qualifications are designed to serve professional expert tasks. There is a clear need in the Finnish higher education field for work-oriented higher education degrees, where the curricula is based on a vision of the needs of business life. Since higher education is largely financed by public funding and its state funding is unlikely to increase significantly in the next few years, resources must be used to the fullest.

According to the principles of open innovation, all the top specialists in the education field are not working at our university but also in companies that we are dealing with. We must work with competent people both inside and outside the university. If we create the best possible combination of internal and external ideas, we have the opportunity to achieve even better results in the meaningfulness and motivation of the studies, which has a positive impact on the progress of the studies and graduation within the normative time.

Structure of the Curriculum

The structure and contents of the Degree Programme in ICT of Oulu University of Applied Sciences (OUAS) are designed to meet the needs of working life. In this model, students study basic and professional studies at OUAS for 2.5 years. After that, they have the opportunity to study for 1.5 years in different companies. In these companies, they do different development tasks in cross-sectoral and multicultural teams.

The first and second study year

During the first and second year of studies, students study 120 ECTS credits of basic and professional studies in each Option of ICT curriculum. The structure of the studies is shown in Figure 1, where each period of the academic year is compiled into one joint development project of 15-credit.

Figure 1: Structure of first and second year studies.

Each joint implementation has its own theme, and in addition, these collaborative implementations include basic and professional studies combined into one entity. During the first two years, there are four joint implementations. Each joint implementation takes one period and each joint implementation is preceded by basic and professional studies. The common teaching method is based on problem-based community learning and project-based teaching methodology. Basic and professional studies provide for the necessary basic information for future joint implementation and provide a basis for project execution. In lectures, there can be people from industry telling from their point of view issues related to the theme of the implementation and thus motivating the students in their studies.

The third and fourth study year

The third and fourth year studies comprise the study path shown in Figure 2.

Company-Oriented Product Development Projects  I-III are studies of Information and Communications Technology at Oulu University of Applied Sciences. The total number of studies is 30 ECTS credits consisting of three parts of 10 ECTS credits. R & D projects are generally carried out starting from the third year. At best, different product development projects will lead the students to a flexible start of the bachelor’s thesis, graduating within the normative time and even finding their first job.

In the development project work, the student becomes acquainted with the tasks related to the requirement analysis, as well as design and implementation of the project. The aim is to deepen the work skills required in IT projects while at the same time to acquire practical technical expertise in the target system. The tasks are defined more accurately by projects. Projects can be individual development tasks, but they can also be targeted at one and the same development task or target system.

After completing the first company-oriented project, the student will start working as a summer trainee for the company where they have made the project. After the summer work has finished, the student can continue in the company and start their second company-oriented development project. The bachelor’s thesis is the last work to be done in this study path. Both companies and students have found this continuum meaningful.

In addition, the projects prior to the free-choice study package of 15 ECTS can be directed to support the   product development projects. The student can allocate 90 credits to these work-life based studies.

Figure 2: Third and fourth year study path.

Projects will be launched in both autumn and spring semesters. The course aims to be implemented in as realistic conditions as possible, under the guidance of IT teachers and people working in the company. Project penetration always follows a certain process whose starting points and the desired result are clearly defined. The good design of the project creates the conditions for the success of the project. In this case, timetables are defined, resources are allocated and the working methods used in the project agreed on.

The educational objectives of the third and fourth year studies

After completing third and fourth year studies, the student gets an idea of ​​how the company works and experiences practical teamwork. The student is able to apply the previously taught theory in different courses. The student also understands the significance of project work as the work proceeds and knows how to act as a member of a project team. In addition, one of the teaching objectives is that the student masters the use of the methods and techniques used in the project.

The product development project, designed and implemented with good objectives and resources, provides a variety of positive developments. It always increases the customer’s knowledge of the project area. It increases the student’s expertise and provides a good experience for future project work and career development. A good project is valuable to all those involved in it. At its best, open innovation based co-operation between the university and companies will

– develop the company’s operations and processes
– provide more functionality to the company’s product
– create traineeships and permanent jobs
– promote the introduction of different technologies
– increase co-operation between different organizations
– be disseminated and widely exploitable
– have a positive impact on the environment
– promote the university way to co-operate with companies
– work as a new constructor of the teaching profile

The successful completion of the project naturally requires that the company has a real problem to be solved. Students’ know-how (i.e. completed studies, competence and practical experience) should always be taken into account when defining the problem.

To accomplish this task, the project team needs adequate resources and support throughout the project. The company’s genuine, continuous interest in the project work and its outcomes directly affects the project team’s motivation, work and project results.


The feedback – on the ICT curriculum of OUAS – from companies, students and teachers is generally positive. The curriculum is contributing to the renewal of teaching technology and to the growth of a new kind of education culture. In this culture, teachers are no longer just the puppeteers in the classroom, but they are working together with colleagues and people in companies in multicultural teams.

In this competitive world, if universities want to ensure a good economic performance, they have to produce innovative study possibilities, meet their customers’ (i.e. students and companies) needs, and respond quickly to market demands. Because of that, universities must understand that they do not necessarily have all the competencies to perform every operation themselves.


Eero Nousiainen, M.A., Team Manager, Oulu University of Applied Sciences, eero.nousiainen(at)

No 3 (2017) Abstracts

Universities of applied sciences at the core of modern innovation policy

Bror Salmelin, Adviser, Innovation Systems, European Commission

Innovation is an often used magic word, expected to resolve all problems. Such magic word are very easy to use, since they often offer an easy escape, without you needing to do too much thinking or to take real measures that would demand courage.

Curiosity and courage are essential parts of innovation; The curiosity to try things and the courage to think and act outside the box. We live in an age, where digitisation causes fundamental changes in both society and the academic and industrial modes of operation. How are we prepared for that, and how will the Finnish education system be able to address the competence challenge?

The modern concept of innovation is increasingly based on a Quadruple Helix Model where the users, the public sector, academia and businesses work together. This kind of approach also means that new innovation methods need to be developed. When experiments and trials are performed, and prototypes created in the real world with actual users, it shows already in the early stages of projects which ideas are implementable and scalable. Similarly, ‘difficult-to-implement’ solutions become thwarted at a very early stage, enabling the assignment of resources in the best possible way with a view to the outcome.

Therefore, experimentation culture coupled with co-creation lies at the very heart of the new open innovation policy. The Open Innovation 2.0 paradigm is based on seamless collaboration of all stakeholders involved, and it places the users/citizens at the very core of the innovation process.

As significant regional operators, universities of applied sciences are excellently positioned to assume a role between the various actors. At best, they become a glue that unites the operators under a shared vision and also breaks barriers between different technological fields and application areas. The modern innovation policy not only crosses barriers, but it eliminates them to create a common goal.

Digitisation requires also totally new skills. Traditionally, we have only been talking about the competencies of information technology users, or, at the most, the need to have new digital experts on the labour market. However, this is not enough. Creating and developing open innovation systems requires totally new abilities that the existing education system does not support. In the following, I describe the four main types needed.

A Curator is in charge of building thematic entities and for ensuring that the quality standard of the theme and its openness to collaborate with other themes is maintained.

A Bridger is a person genuinely interested in ‘everything’, who knows how to link different themes, technologies, applications and, first and foremost, various innovation field players together. Innovations are created by making ideas collide, and to create innovations it is necessary to find competences for achieving the shared goal. The Bridger combines curated competences.

An Orchestrator is in charge of creating a common goal in the same way as a conductor. A conductor brings out the skills of individual players and creates an enjoyable entity for the listeners in accordance with his or her own vision. The Orchestrator communicates strongly with other stakeholders to ensure that seamless co-operation continues.

A System Designer, on the other hand, is a person who enables all the operations described above. Knowledge of information technology, group psychology and application areas at a systemic level lies at the core of his or her activities.

Could the Finnish education system, with the universities of applied sciences as the key actors, create training programmes for creating open innovation environments in Finland? Would this initiative also have export potential? Open innovation is becoming an increasingly important paradigm, where actually the Finnish operating culture – or the Nordic operating culture in general – makes the adoption of open innovation easier than in most of our competitor countries.

The Directorate-General for Research and Innovation of the European Commission is a strong advocate of the 3O strategy: Open Innovation, Open Science and Open to the World. This is and will be increasingly reflected in the Horizon 2020 EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation. Examples of this include the Open and Disruptive Innovation instrument (seeking significant ideas, the first prototypes of which will be granted direct funding), major projects in the field of the application of information technology (seeking early and seamless inclusion of users, and early prototypes and pilot applications realised in the real world) and competitions within various thematic areas (where the problem solvers are rewarded, and where the methods or technologies to be used have not been defined in advance).

Open innovation environments are inclusive by nature. As technologies and society change, this is increasingly important, so that the necessary shift can be effected at the national level and, on top of that, in such a way that sore points can be avoided as far as possible. In my opinion, it is important to recognize the opportunity to create something new hidden in this transition. Seamless collaboration between all stakeholders is the key when totally new markets, services and products are being created. Today, the focus is too much on improving the old, without us being able to see the opportunity for anything new.

Automation, robotics and artificial intelligence are often regarded as necessary evils. They all will change job descriptions and cause replacement of old work tasks with new ones. However, progress has shown that social structures have coped well with the structural challenges brought on by productivity growth. The duties typical for humans will be creative tasks that require collaboration and are often to be performed in an as yet unstructured environment. Can the Finnish society be steered into this direction? What is the meaning of basic income with a view to changing the structures? In addition to active innovation policy, maintenance of the productivity of labour is one of the key tasks for ensuring that a socially and economically sustainable development can be guaranteed.

Finland needs a strong policy that supports open innovation, based on real-world experimentation and seamless collaboration between all stakeholders.

We need courage and new competences.

Will Finland and the universities of applied sciences accept this challenge?

A good reference on the pillars of open innovation can be found behind the following link:

Sustainable and open RDI activities, and novel processes

Hannu Hyyppä, Professor, D.Sc. (Eng), Head of the Institute, Aalto University, Humak University of Applied Sciences
Marika Ahlavuo, Science Producer, Coordinator, Cultural Pruducer, Aalto University, Humak University of Applied Sciences
Elina Ylikoski, Ph.D. (econ.), Innovation Director, Humak University of Applied Sciences

There is a need for improvement in the efficiency and interaction of sustainable and open R&D&I work activities in several polytechnics and universities in Finland. This article is based on our experiences on working with multidisciplinary and cross cutting teams and on executing innovation and R&D&I projects e.g. in Metropolia, Omnia, Laurea, Humak, and Aalto University. Our approach has been to enhance the functionality of our digital, sustainable, and open R&D&I process. We also suggest that the financiers of R&D&I activities should focus on better coordination between the overlapping themes in R&D&I and thus should target projects that supplement but not overlap each other. In that case, the time that can be saved from not doing overlapping work can be utilized better within the society by using the means of digitalization. Finally, we will present our own solutions on how we have increased the interaction.

The EU’s Network and Information Security (NIS) Directive will affect the innovation activities at universities of applied sciences

Jaakko Riihimaa, PhD, General Secretary, AAPA – Network of CIO’s in Finnish Universities of Applied Sciences

EU member states must during May 2018 latest to translate the directive to improve data protection for individuals (EU GDPR) into national law. This new standard has some effects also to UAS’s RDI activities.

On one hand, open science is assumed to have greater access to scientific inputs and outputs, so it can improve the effectiveness and productivity of the research and innovation systems. On other hand, in modern digitalized world data has become essential to the success of modern innovations and data can almost be handled as a new currency. Especially valuable is people’s personal data.

There is the tension between openness of innovation activities and privacy. Within UAS’s innovation activities this tension must be recognized and be reacted in an appropriate way when working with students, teachers and business partners. Tools for that can be found for example among quality systems, enterprise architecture methods and risk analysis.

Experimentation ecosystem as a growth platform for innovation activities

Anu Kurvinen, M.Sc.(Econ.), Senior Lecturer,  Faculty of Business Administration, Saimaa University of Applied Sciences, Lappeenranta
Pasi Juvonen, D.Sc. (Eng.), Senior Lecturer,  Faculty of Business Administration, Saimaa University of Applied Sciences, Lappeenranta

The basis of this article lies in Experimental Development Ecosystem (EDE) that is a framework including researchers from university of applied sciences and a technological university, students from both institutes, team entrepreneurs and lecturers, local enterprises and local cities. This article aims at describing utilization of the EDE as a platform for open innovation in three different cases: Innovation assignments given to the team entrepreneurs by local companies and organisations, Hackathons organized in conjunction with “Digikaappaus” event organized by team entrepreneur students in February 2017, and an experiment that was conducted based on the needs of cities of Imatra and Lappeenranta.

Open innovation is a way of thinking and doing in which creating innovations is done in co-operation with different stakeholders and networks. The EDE has been created according to the principles of open innovation.  Based on the experiences from the three presented cases, the most important issues in promoting open innovation are linked to the change in the ways of thinking and through that removing the possible obstacles for cooperation between different parties.

The changing role of a teacher – one of the corner stones of innovation pedagogics

Tiina Hirard, M.A., Senior lecturer, Turku University of Applied Sciences
Mervi Takaeilola, M.A., RN (UAS), Senior lecturer, Turku University of Applied Sciences

This article deals with the innovation pedagogy and the renewing teaching with activating learning and teaching methods, multidisciplinarity and development-oriented assessment. The renewing teaching was emphasized in the implementation of preparatory studies for higher education in the field of health and well-being at Turku University of Applied Sciences in 2016. The entire implementation was based on co-teaching between a Finnish language teacher and two nursing teachers and the co-teaching was put into practice both in planning, implementing and assessing the training. Learning and teaching was built on doing together so that in a multidisciplinary learning environment the knowledge was not only shared but also produced and verbalized together both during the contact lessons and online. Assessing students’ competencies was interactive and the main goals of the continuous assessment were guiding the students, forwarding the learning process and reinforcing the students’ self-assessment skills.

Haaga Place to Be: experimentation, insights and joint learning

Saija Laitinen, M.Sc (Nutrition), senior lecturer, Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences
Johanna Rajakangas-Tolsa, Ph.D (Nutrition), principal lecturer, Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences

At the hospitality campus of Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences, innovation together with companies has been integrated to the Haaga Place to Be innovation platform that aims to develop professional kitchens. It brings together industry actors to test, gain insight and learn with students and teachers, but it also brings together companies to develop their business. The innovation platform aims to promote a culture of experimenting, learning together and understanding. At the moment 19 industry partners from kitchen appliance distributors to restaurants are participating in the concept. In practice the concept is shown for example at the campus in the lunch cafeteria, where the pop-up kitchen has been used by students and companies to test new products. Also other joint activities and development has proven the concept to bring innovative projects to the students, to make collaboration with the industry easier, and trough networking bring benefits to all parties involved. For more information visit

Students of Industrial Management and Engineering are innovating theatre marketing

Esa Laihanen, M.A., Senior Lecturer (Finnish Language and Communication), Language Centre, Saimaa University of Applied Sciences

The article describes an innovation project where students of Industrial Engineering and Management innovated the marketing of Lappeenranta City Theater. The assignment was part of the course Finnish written and oral communication in Business and Economic Life organized by Saimaa University of Applied Sciences Language Centre in spring 2017. The project produced several applicable ideas for the marketing of the theater, served as a meaningful learning assignment for a communication course and contributed to the theater’s education work.

DRAFT teams innovate with the help of micro funding

Kirsi Taskinen, M.Sc., Project Coordinator, Karelia University of Applied Sciences
Marja-Liisa Ruotsalainen, M.Sc.Econ. & Bus.Adm., Senior Project Manager, Karelia University of Applied Sciences
Heikki Immonen, M.Sc., Principal Lecturer of Entrepreneurship, Karelia University of Applied Sciences

Since 2012, Karelia UAS and University of Eastern Finland have offered micro funding to their students and staff for testing business ideas and social innovations. The idea of the Draft Program developed at Karelia UAS is simple: First, teams interested in the Program send a description of their idea via email. Second, pre-selected teams present their idea to the Draft board, which selects teams with the most promising ideas to the Draft Program.

Every year about 20 teams receive 1000 euros – the first lot of Draft funding. During the Draft Program, the best teams have the possibility to receive up to 4000 euros of funding.

Draft Program is funded by Karelia UAS, UEF, William and Ester Otsakorpi Foundation and PKO Regional Co-operative. The alternating members of the Draft board represent Karelia UAS, UEF, North Karelian companies, Joensuu Science Park Business Incubator, Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation as well as various student organizations.

Why research is so hard to become innovations?

Kari Laasasenaho, project manager (Seinäjoki University of Applied Sciences), PhD student (Tampere University of Technology)

Abstract: Currently, Finnish government has decreased funding for research and education. This has been affecting especially on young researchers, because it is hard to get funding without previous experience and results. Researchers must apply money more often and different sources. This means more time on bureaucracy and less time for research and innovation activity. The use of time is personal resource that has to be taken into account in the innovation activity. It is very important to realize that the reduction of research money is indirectly affecting on Finnish economy. One solution for the problem could be that the government increase research funding if the public economy will rise in the future.

The Karelia RDI environments are open for anyone

Helena Puhakka-Tarvainen, Senior Project Manager, M.Sc., Karelia University of Applied Sciences

Karelia University of Applied Sciences implements open science and research through multidisciplinary research infrastructures. Those study and service environments include technology and wood construction infrastructures, environments for wellbeing, simulation and physiotherapy, as well as facilities for media and creative businesses. Key issues for creating innovations are multi-stakeholder partnerships, open development platforms and inclusion of Karelia staff and students for the research and development work. Innovativeness of Sirkkala Energy Park is embedded in open data share and close cooperation with energy production related SMEs. Innovation platform for wood construction is spread outside from campus into existing pilot buildings. Voimala offers an environment for wellbeing-related learning and development for hundreds of students and stakeholders annually. Systematic processes for open publication through Theseus-database support the culture of openness.

Creative activities in an international context contribute to cultural sensitivity, awareness and personal development

Authors: Marina Arell-Sundberg,  Sissel Horghagen, Tania Hansen, Camilla Pyndt.


The network ‘Occupational Therapy in Nordic and Baltic Countries’ was established in 1992 and is a network under Nordplus Higher Education Programme (Nordplus). It is represented by the Nordic countries; Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway and Sweden. The participating universities take turns to coordinate the collaboration in the network. The aim of the network is to increase student and teacher mobility and increase the collaboration between occupational therapy educations in the Nordic and Baltic countries. The network also works to reach high quality education and development through mobility, supportive relations and cooperation between the partner institutions. An overall aim is to create a unanimous knowledge base in regards to occupational therapy education, praxis and development within the collaborating universities in the member countries. The biggest effort has been in organizing an intensive course: “Creativity as a means in occupational therapy”. It has been developed through mutual planning and it fits into the curriculum of all partners, which is very important since all partners don’t have the possibility to send out students for longer exchange periods.

Description of the course

Through using self-experiences and third person perspective pedagogic approaches, the purpose of the course has been to enhance students’ own insight and evidence-based knowledge about relations between creative activities and health from a diversity viewpoint (including cultural traditions, communication and creative crafts). Students have been introduced to different perspectives on creative occupations. The benefits of participating in creative occupations and its relation to health and wellness have been identified. The occupational therapist uses creative activity, but also uses any activity in a creative way so therefore the creative design process is essential for occupational therapists. Pierce (2003) writes about building therapeutic power and in order for this to happen there needs to be creative thinking. Using individual or group interventions in creative activities, gives a flexibility that from the clients own perspective have great benefits from both a personal enhancement and developmental aspect (Pierce 2003; Horghagen; 2014).

Through evidence-based knowledge, experience and observation, the students have analysed demands and possibilities in activities with a focus on enablement through creativity. The students have practiced methods to explore the use of creative occupations and propose ideas related to health and occupational therapy intervention. They have explored their own creativity and learned about creativity in groups, and cultural diversity perspectives.

The learning outcomes of the course are about students knowing the conceptual foundations of creativity as used within occupational therapy and about the value of various creative activities for participation in occupation, health and wellbeing. They are also about how to identify oneself as a member of a group and how to gain a wider knowledge on diverse ways to express oneself and communicate through creative means.

The form of the course

Through the three last years the intensive course has been carried out in Finland, Latvia and Denmark. The pedagogic methods used in the course have been self-studies, lessons, workshops, group-work and presentations of group-work (Wlodkowski & Ginsberg 2010: 1-8). The students have been working in international teams throughout the course. Totally about 90 and approximately 30 students from the different countries have participated each year.

The involved teachers, in an average 4 on every course, have been cooperating with the planning, the implementation of the course, and the examination of the students. The planning has followed the 7 strategies as presented by Wlodkowski & Ginsberg (2010: 52-68):

  1. To allow for all to get to know each other and introduce themselves
  2. To provide multidimensional opportunities for sharing
  3. To concretely show what is expected of the participant before, under and at the end of the week.
  4. To use collaborative and cooperative learning experiences
  5. To present clear and concrete learning objectives and goals
  6. To show the connection between what has been learned and how it can be used within Occupational Therapy practice.
  7. To assess every students learning process in a graspable way

The three critical elements of cultural competence Understanding and awareness of one´s own cultural values and biases, knowledge and information of history, perspectives and values of culturally different groups and how to adapt one´s behaviour and skills to successfully interact with one another during the week, has guided the planning of the content of the week (Wlodkowski & Ginsberg 2010:48). The students also had literature to read as a preparation and exercises to present in the beginning of the course (Wlodkowski & Ginsberg 2010: 9). The course has the following issues: Lessons about creative activities and about fantasy, ideas and innovation as well as workshops on the topics. The students have received 2 ECTS; based on participation and presentation. The course content has been distributed though the network and has only been available to the members within the network. All member universities have access to all material through a mutual cloud service. Following an example of one of the days during the intensive Course in Denmark 2015:

The examination has been both oral and written. In groups, students have written reports of their work. The reports have been structured differently: both as a scientific paper (introduction, aim, method, results, and discussion) and as an article for a newspaper. The examination has also been about presenting therapeutic use of creative activities for a defined group. The evaluation of the assignments has its core in the aims of the course and has been carried out by using peer review.

Experiences with the course

The feedback and the experiences of the course where gathered though both a questionnaire and a group discussion. The students got information about the usage of both the content of the questionnaire and the discussions for this article, and they all gave their consent.

Theoretical reasoning and practical skills for therapeutically use of creative activities

The students developed understanding of the reasoning of using creative activities in occupational therapy practice and achieved knowledge about creative activities. Students also expressed that they developed skills in applying creative activities; they learned tools and techniques from lectures, but also skills in the arranged workshops. Related to one of the oral evaluations a student expressed: “Through the lectures I have learned to think out of the box and the word “creativity” now has a new and wider meaning”.

Developing cultural sensitivity and awareness

Students also experienced and reflected on how they have developed as human beings, as well as occupational therapists, through participating in the course. The most unexpected event was how the students described their growth in cultural sensitivity and awareness. Through that awareness, every student’s personal recognition of him/herself as a creative occupational therapist has also grown. Through the group-works, they reflected upon their own culture and other participants’ culture. We assume that the duration of the course, it lasted a week, was a factor for making this possible – they became familiar and comfortable with each other.

Participation in creative activities contributed to personal development

The students described a discovery of themselves as creative occupational therapists by being creative in different innovative ways. This implies an understanding of a therapeutic use of self within the creative activities. This has been two-fold, they have seen how people can develop their potential through creative activities, and they have experienced that they developed as human and therapist through participation in the course. This personal development was something that we had not expected to emerge. It was new to us, that the students expressed their experiences of personal development to such an evident extent. In a course like this, students get an international competence that enriches both education and practice in the students’ homelands.


There is a discussion and further challenge to make foundations of creative activities in the theories of activity in the profession. A course like this can contribute to building that foundation. The evaluations also underline a new learning outcome; namely, how the students experience and develop self-development for their future professional role as occupational therapists, plus in cultural awareness and sensitivity. Students as well as the teachers participating and arranging the course, get an international competence that enriches both education and practice in their homelands. This aspect contributes to an internationalisation of higher education.


Marina Arell-Sundberg, Senior lecturer, MA. in Rehab, OTR, Arcada University of Applied Siences Helsinki Finland, arellsum(at)
Sissel Horghagen, Principal lecturer, Ph.D., OTR, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim Norway, sissel.horghagen(at)
Tania Hansen, Senior lecturer, MA (Ed) in Educational Anthropology, OTR, University College Sjælland, Næstved, Denmark, taha(at)
Camilla Pyndt, Senior lecturer, MA in Heath Services, OTR, University College Sjælland, Næstved, Denmark, cpy(at)

Erasmus (2016). Erasmus+. Programme guide. Version 2(2016):07/01/2016

Horghagen, S., Fostvedt, B., & Alsaker, S. (2014). Craft activities in groups at meeting places: supporting mental health users’ everyday occupations. Scandinavian Journal of Occupational Therapy, 21(2), 145-152.

Pierce, D. E., & Pierce, D. (2003). Occupation by design: Building therapeutic power. FA Davis company.

Wlodkowski, R.J. & Ginsberg. M.B. (2010). Teaching Intensive an Accelerated Courses: Instruction that Motivates Learning. San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons.

No 2 (2017) Abstracts

Busy times and new ventures in social welfare and healthcare development

Timo Sinervo, D.Soc.Sc. (Doctor of Social Sciences), Docent at University of Tampere, Research Manager, Research in social welfare and healthcare, National Institute for Health and Welfare

The social welfare and healthcare sector is undergoing a tremendous upheaval. The government’s social and healthcare reform naturally is the most important driver of this change, but even without it, the sector has changed and will be changing at a fast pace. The local government sector, which has been considered rigid, is in a state of constant flux on closer inspection.

The social and healthcare reform remains difficult to fathom, as many details are still missing. It seems obvious, however, that the county will be responsible for organising the services, while their provision will be entrusted to publicly owned enterprises and private companies.

The social and healthcare reform is a combination of an extremely extensive merger, launch of completely new activities (the counties as a government organisation and organisers of social and healthcare services), large-scale corporatisation as well as introduction of new practices (freedom of choice, personal budgeting). A merger in which over 200,000 employees will be looking for their new roles and thousands of directors for their positions would be a challenging task as such. Merely getting salaries paid in January 2019 and ensuring that customers can access services without disruptions would be a sufficient goal. In most mergers the operative changes are carried out at a later stage, whereas in the beginning, the merger is mainly a technical step.

If the draft acts are passed more or less in their current form, functions performed by public enterprises (hospitals, social work, specialised services, public administration activities) could in principle continue as before in many respects. However, it is likely that the organisation and management structures will change, and in the initial phase, this will create a lot of confusion; what will we do now, where do I get a new keyboard or a mouse when the old ones no longer work? Renewal of practices is naturally needed in all activities, and cooperation structures also keep changing.

Corporatisation will be a significant change for the employees in social welfare and health centres, services for older people and many others. Competing for customers is a new venture for the public sector, and it is likely that the social and healthcare centres, at the very least, will unavoidably lose some of their customers as new actors enter the market. The public sector is way behind and only establishing its companies, while private actors are already staking their claims in the market and getting ready for action. The public sector is accustomed to thinking of how customers could cope with as few services as possible, and attracting customers is a new challenge. Customer service and seeing the customer’s problems as a whole could be an area in need of development.

However, the structures are only the beginning, and the most essential challenge is still ahead: how to develop services that are more customer-responsive?

The reform will take a long time to complete, even after the new organisations are up and running. It is likely that fast consultations and solutions to practical problems will be needed in the midst of the change. Hopefully, one of the stakeholders can also find money for carefully monitoring the change. Failing to study the greatest change project of the last few decades would be a pity – and the studies should also focus on the process of change, not only the end result.

Once the structures have been sorted, the practices will be renewed. In order to support the change, there will certainly be demand for different types of development and research: consultants, research institutes, universities and universities of applied sciences alike. It is likely that development projects will be needed to come up with new operating models – combined with training, consultations, evaluation and benchmarking. As they are close to the labour market, the universities of applied sciences will play a key role in this. The question is how we can make the most of this cooperation with the world of work.

At this point, we should strain our ears and listen carefully to labour market needs. As the actors change, contacts in many areas need to be re-established. A public sector service provider will in many cases be replaced by a company owned by the private or the public sector. Will this change anything? What competence will be needed in the future, and how can education, training and development respond to future needs? How can attitudes and practices be reformed? What new competence will the current social and healthcare professionals need in the future? And do the current degree programmes have what it takes? If we aim for cooperation between social welfare and healthcare, should this cooperation also be more prominent in education?

If the social and healthcare reform follows the course plotted by the draft act on the freedom of choice, the services will be increasingly fragmented and provided by a greater number of actors. On the other hand, the counties will marshal activities that are scattered around the municipalities. As services are provided by companies and public enterprises of different owners, there will be greater need for service coordination and counselling. Up till now, flexible service chains responding to customer needs and teams of professionals have been created mainly by bringing the professionals together in the same organisation or facilities – even if this development is still in its early stages.

The majority of the resources are provided for customers who use a lot of services of many different types. It is thus clear that we must invest in services for this customer group. A change in practices and attitudes is needed to avoid a situation where we only look after an older person’s left knee. We should also consider how the older person, who is living alone and also otherwise is in a poor condition, can manage after a knee operation at home, on the second floor of a house with no elevator. The customer’s other service needs should also be assessed, and we should establish where these other services for the customer can be obtained.

In the future, we must increasingly build service chains between different actors. The difference is that the next link in the service chain will no longer be managed by another unit of the municipality. Instead, the customer should choose the physiotherapist or home care company that he or she wishes to do business with. Who will take care of this task and where? The county, the public enterprise or the companies that provide services? Do experts with sufficient knowledge of both social welfare and healthcare services exist to manage customer guidance or service coordination? Do the current experts consider the customer’s needs with a sufficiently holistic approach? And how can we persuade the service providers in the counties to work in line with the objectives set by the county?

A recurring problem in development and research efforts has been that the projects are small and disjointed. The municipalities already are up to their ears in projects of this type. The reason for this often is that research and development organisations have to work within the framework conditions set by funding: the actors research or develop whatever they can get funding for. This does not always serve the needs of the customers or providers of services.

Is it perhaps time to consider how different types of funding could be used to create more extensive projects between several actors that would genuinely serve the needs of the counties and service providers?

Partnerships on many fronts

Anu Niemi, Lic.Med., Development Director, Siun sote 
Sari Salminen, MHS, Nursing Director in charge of teaching, Siun sote
Mari Matveinen, MHS, Teaching and Research Coordinator, Siun sote
Tuula Kukkonen, Dr.Soc.Sc., Principal Lecturer, Karelia University of Applied Sciences 
Anneli Muona, MSc (Sports), Lecturer, Karelia University of Applied Sciences
Päivi Sihvo, MHS, Lecturer, Karelia University of Applied Sciences
Tuomas Lappalainen, M.Soc.Sc., Development Manager, Karelia University of Applied Sciences

The Karelia University of Applied Sciences, the North Karelia Educational Community and the North Karelia Social and Health Services, Sensate, have entered into a strategic partnership agreement in February of 2016. The strategic partnership is based on the parties’ strong expertise, mutual trust and benefit for all parties involved. Through this new cooperation methods, new multidisciplinary approaches, such as on-the-job learning and training as well as joint development projects were created.

Through this project, for example, new home care models and strengthening the digital competences of social and health professionals will develop.

Management in the social services and health care sector in the future

Terhi Laine, D.Soc.Sc., Director of Innovations, Diaconia University of Applied Sciences
Ilse Vogt, M.Ed, Regional Cordinator, Diaconia University of Applied Sciences

Social welfare and health care reform will change the structure of services in Finland. This article focuses on social services and health care management today and in the future. The data was collected from Master’s Degree students who work at social services and health care sector. Some of them were in leadership position in their working places. In data collection there were four reflective group discussions which were recorded and littered. The analysis was based on the content analysis.

The analysis indicates that there is the basis of management which describes the situation of today. It consists of interaction, declaration of core tasks, capacity to do decision making capacity and development of know-how. We can find those elements also in the future of management in the social services and health care sector. Furthermore there will be enhanced other issues such as coaching, remote leadership, leadership of interprofessional networks, management by knowledge and communication skills of manager. These elements are important in ongoing social welfare and health care reform, which requires change management.

Front-line management studies develop mentoring in supervisory work

Arja-Irene Tiainen, Principal Lecturer, PhD (Education), MHS, Specialist Nurse, Karelia University of Applied Sciences
Jaana Pasanen, Assistant Head Nurse, Specialist Nurse, Supervisor, Siun sote/PKKS 

The demands for health care managers’ competence have grown. Many first-line managers in the field of health care have recognised the need for supplementary leadership education. At Karelia University of Applied Sciences, we wanted to meet this demand by developing leadership education for first-line managers in health care (60 ECTS). This article describes a practical mentoring assignment conducted by a leadership student. Mentoring is one of the oldest development methods for transferring silent knowledge from a mentor to an actor. Mentoring is useful for both the mentor and the actor since both will learn and develop themselves during the mentoring process. One part of the leadership education at Karelia UAS is the course Human Resource Management. During this course, the student’s task was to start a mentoring process at the intensive care ward she was working at as a Head Nurse. Previously, mentoring had been used at this ward, but it was not currently in use. The article describes the student’s work on re-introducing mentoring at the ward as part of first-line management. Mentoring can be seen as one method of contributing to the wellbeing of employees in the field of health care.

Competence related to procurement supports a successful social and healthcare reform

Esa Väänänen, Licentiate of Science (Economics), M.Sc. (Tech.), Lecturer, Metropolia University of Applied Sciences
Erja Turunen, Licentiate of Science (Economics), Principal Lecturer, Metropolia University of Applied Sciences

In this article, a significant competence challenge is presented for organisations both in the private and public sector as they take part in the implementation of a major societal change, namely the renewal of the social and health care sector in Finland. In his recent doctoral dissertation, the main author argues: procurement competence is needed and its significance is not sufficiently known nor appreciated in organisations. Many of the best practices utilized in the private sector can be transferred to the public sector. Similar conclusions appear in Master’s Theses he has supervised. The second author is a colleague interested in RDI activities of universities of applied sciences and has closely observed the development and implementation of a Master’s degree programme in Supply Chain Management (Procurement) led by the main author.

Reinforcing the well-being and social inclusion of young people

Kati Peltonen, Dr.Sc. (Econ.), MEd, RDI Director, Lahti University of Applied Sciences
Minna Elomaa-Krapu, Dr.Sc. (Nutr.), Head of Master’s programmes in health, Metropolia University of Applied Sciences
Anne Määttä, D.Soc.Sc., Senior Specialist in service system development, Diaconia University of Applied Sciences
Minna Kahala, Dr.Sc. (Nutr.), Lecturer, Satakunta University of Applied Sciences
Marko Kananen, PhD, Researcher, South-Eastern Finland University of Applied Science

A majority of young people in Finland are feeling well, but at the same time a number of young people facing unemployment and situations of social exclusion and poverty is increasing alarmingly. This article opens up the multilayered concept of inclusion and addresses different dimensions which are intertwined and constitute and have effect on young people’s subjective experiences on their wellbeing and social inclusion. The article brings up the crucial role of psychological factors such as resilience, coherence and self-beliefs in enhancing youth mental wellbeing.

Social, Mental and Body – More together

Marjo Keckman, MHS, Lecturer, Satakunta University of Applied Sciences
Tiina Mikkonen-Ojala, MHS, Lecturer, Satakunta University of Applied Sciences
Mari Törne, MHS, Lecturer, Satakunta University of Applied Sciences

The university of applied sciences (UAS) students have different forms of studies. Most students handle the work load well and their experienced health is good. However, psychosomatic problems have increased among UAS students. SomeBody® method was invented to meet the students’ needs and SomeBody groups have been provided for SAMK students. This method combines body awareness, emotional and social skills. The focus is on awareness of and relationship with the surrounding people and society. The course participants get tools to cope with stress and social situations. They learn ways to react physically, mentally and socially and to express their emotions. An ability to recognize one’s own resources and strengths is also needed at work in the future. Health care professionals should be able to guide the clients towards their own resources and self-reflection. SomeBody® method is still being developed in order to better response to the needs of the UAS students’ well-being.

Developing well-being services together – customer first

Birgitta Lehto, Dr.Sc. (Nutr.), Nurse, Lecturer, Saimaa University of Applied Sciences
Minna Taipale, Bachelor of Culture and Arts, Specialist, Humak University of Applied Sciences

The Agency of Cultural Wellbeing is a three-year-long project coordinated by Humak University of Applied Sciences in cooperation with Saimaa and Turku Universities of Applied Science.

The Agency of Cultural Wellbeing wants to bring together the customers and providers of inclusive art. It’s main goal is to promote equal access to arts and culture. Cooperation between universities of applied science can offer wide range of networks, Up-to-date R & D know-how and international contacts.

The Agency of Cultural Wellbeing is training artists, cultural producers and professionals of social services and health care to work together to create new art based products especially for the use of social services and health care. Good example of our work is TUNNE I KEHO –method created by multiprofessional group during the training. Method was developed together with customers of mental care basing on their needs.

Olopiste teaches students to take a closer look at long-term unemployed people

Helena Hatakka, Lic.Ed., Principal Lecturer, Lahti University of Applied Sciences 
Erno Hokkanen, Bachelor of Business Administration, Project Manager, Harjula Settlement
Tarja Kempe-Hakkarainen, M.Ed., Lecturer, Lahti University of Applied Sciences
Pasi Viitaniemi, Practical Nurse, Supervisor, Kaupunkikylä Sylvia-koti yhdistys ry

The ESR funded (2015-2018) project Olopiste (S20362), which is a non-threshold support action for long-term unemployed and socially excluded people. It aims to strengthen the participants’ abilities to participate in society’s normal activities. It also aims to strengthen their working abilities and well-being through support and provided activities. There are both individual and group activities for clients in Olopiste. Bachelor of social services students are implementing these activities together with the staff. Olopiste is also an authentic learning environment. Clients have been involved in evaluation of Olopiste´s activities. Generally, they are content with the current activities. Developmental activities have lately focused on marketing and finding more clients. Next the individual counselling work and how to maintain Olopiste as a service after the project are the main issues. Partners are Harjula Settlement, Lahti University of Applied Sciences and SylviaKoti Association/Kaupunkikylä.

Results by genuine cooperation -Occupational therapy group as a boundary object

Jennie Nyman, Master of Medical Sciences in Occupational Therapy, Teacher in Occupational Therapy, Metropolia University of Applied Sciences
Sanna Piikki, Master of Health Sciences, Teacher in Occupational Therapy, Metropolia University of Applied Sciences

Is it possible to teach students and serve working life partners at the same time? This was the main question we asked ourselves as we started to plan a new way of carrying out a course on group leading skills for occupational therapy students. As teachers at Metropolia University of Applied Sciences we wanted to include the task of addressing the needs of the working life as a key component of our course.

In this article we describe our choices when planning a course that provides services for working life partners, enhances the learning for our students and uses the teachers’ resources effectively, all at the same time. The most central decision was to involve working life partners already in the theoretical studies. We also found it to be very important that the students get firsthand experience of planning and leading a group and that they get the possibility to learn from each other’s experiences as well. We designed a course where the students work in pairs when planning and carrying out occupational therapy groups in different work environments. The students share experiences with each other, and the teachers’ role is to provide support and supervision along the way.

Increased well-being through 3D technologies

Hannu Hyyppä, Professor of Measuring and Modeling, D.Sc., Head of the Institute, Aalto University, Humak University of Applied Sciences
Marika Ahlavuo, Science Producer, Coordinator, Cultural Pruducer, Aalto University, The Research Institute of Modeling and Measuring for the Built Environment (MeMo), Humak University of Applied Sciences
Matias Hyyppä, Student of Technology, Aalto University
Kaisa Jaalama, urban designer, M.Sc (Public administration), Aalto University, MeMo
Matti Kurkela, Studio Manager, Lic.Tech., M.A., Aalto University, MeMo
Juho-Pekka Virtanen, Doctoral Student, M.A., Aalto University, MeMo
Jussi-Matti Kallio, Project Coordinator, Seinäjoki University of Applied Sciences
Matti Vaaja, Postdoctoral Researcher, D.Sc., Aalto University, MeMo
Petri Rönnholm, Senior University Lecturer, D.Sc., Aalto University
Arttu Julin, Doctoral Student, M.Sc., Aalto University, MeMo
Juha Hyyppä, Professor, D.Sc. (Tech), National Land Survey of Finland’s Geospatial Research Institute

Digitalization transforms health and social care. Explicit measurements of the living environments as well as of human bodies can be assisted by 3D technologies that have become increasingly cheap over the years.

Digital footprint can now be analyzed and applied in new kind of products for the purposes of well-being and health. Individual measuring becomes global. Means of moving as well as knowledge of surrounding environment and its possibilities will increase. Emerging technologies combine measuring and time dimension that enables tracking changes in human bodies and in the surrounding environment effortlessly. Technology slowly merges to the environment and changes the way individuals evaluate their well-being in their everyday life, work and living. Conclusions were made in technological pilots and vision work generated by Humak University of Applied Sciences, Metropolia University of Applied Sciences, Seinäjoki University of Applied Sciences and Aalto University.

With a cross-sectoral approach, everyone is a winner!

Andrew Sirkka, PhD (Education), Principal Lecturer, Satakunta University of Applied Sciences
Sari Merilampi, Dr.Sc. (Tech.), Senior Researcher, Satakunta University of Applied Sciences
Krista Toivonen, Lecturer, Team Leader, Sataedu

Shared cross-sectoral expertise is required to attain optimal benefits from technology potential in health and welfare service development. Wellbeing Enhancing Technology research group (WET) at Satakunta UAS (SAMK) actively and intentionally integrates RDI with education (and vice versa) utilizing cross-sectoral and cross-national expertise. RDI activities take place in close collaboration with a great number of working life organisations, entrepreneurs, students and international partners. Based on the feedback, crossing sectors and levels of education as a genuine conjunction of action is motivating all parties. Exposing oneself and bringing one’s own frame of reference into seeking the optimal solutions generates actors and innovators with novel skills.

Could mobile applications have a role in evidence-based customer work in the social and healthcare sector?

Mari Punna, MHS, Lecturer, JAMK University of Applied Sciences
Essi Heimovaara-Kotonen, MHS, Project Specialist, JAMK University of Applied Sciences

The use of digital methods has increased worldwide within health and social services’ client counselling. Mobile applications are forecasted to be a key factor in developing current services and creating opportunities for new kinds of services. However, all the new mobile applications do not correspond to evidence-based care or well-being promotion.

In Me First –project a tool for assessing health and well-being mobile applications has been created in co-operation with developers and social- and healthcare professionals, utilizing previous research. The developed assessment tool can be used in mobile application assessment to respond to individual needs of patients.

The assessment tool consists of three sections evaluating the mobile application: 1) contents of health and well-being counselling, 2) usability, and 3) information security and safety of usage.

Using existing health and well-being mobile applications with clients and patients is an interesting future opportunity to increase client-centered working methods.

Shaping the transformation of well-being

Leena Unkari-Virtanen, DMA, Metropolia University of Applied Sciences
Eeva Tawast, MA (Psych), psychologist specialising in developmental and family counselling, Metropolia University of Applied Sciences
Jari Pihlava, MHS, Psychotherapist with advanced level of competence, occupational therapist, Metropolia University of Applied Sciences
Päivi Eskelinen-Roos, MEd, Metropolia University of Applied Sciences
Raili Honkanen-Korhonen, Lecturer, Master in Music Pedagogy, playback theatre director, Metropolia University of Applied Sciences

The historic but empty psychiatric hospital of Lapinlahti, Helsinki, was turned into a centre of mental wellbeing in a project called Join at Lapinlahden Lähde 2015-2017. Metropolia University of Applied Sciences was part of the project and provided a team of experts, which task was first to observe the functions of project and, in turn, to create a concept of wellbeing that can be duplicated and transferred in to other old, empty spaces and buildings. In the team lecturers of varied areas of culture and social wellbeing brought different perspectives on the concept. Starting point of the concept design was positive psychology. This concept of mental wellbeing consists of three parts: narrative, visual and functional parts.

Lypsylove promotes well-being in rural areas 2025?

Johanna Hautamäki, MA, Project Manager, Centria University of Applied Sciences
Annukka Tapani, D.Soc.Sc., Principal Lecturer, Tampere University of Applied Sciences
Minna Sipponen, Bachelor’s Degree in Hospitality Management, Tourism (YAMK), lehtori, Lapland University of Applied Sciences
Leila Kakko, MMM, lehtori, Tampere University of Applied Sciences

This article describes, through a practical example, how a UAS can act as a partner with working life in developing welfare services. A workshop was organized in co-operation between three UAS’s, where hospitality management students brainstormed to come up with ideas for future welfare services in rural areas using service design methods. This workshop is part of a longer anticipation process that is carried out at Centria UAS together with working life partner, ProAgria Ostrobothnia.

The workshop was organized at Tampere UAS, bringing together 39 third year students. The aim was to get new ideas and perspectives. The workshop resulted in eight services ideas. Four of them focused on enhancing digital services, two on increasing meeting and exchanging know-how and two on building on nature’s possibilities.

Increased well-being through 3D measurement of green infrastructure in the living environment

Kaisa Jaalama, urban designer, MHS, Aalto University
Hannu Hyyppä, Professor of Measuring and Modeling, D.Sc., Head of the Institute, Aalto University, Humak University of Applied Sciences
Marika Ahlavuo, Science Producer, Coordinator, Cultural Pruducer, Aalto University, Humak University of Applied Sciences
Satu Räty, BA, Aalto University
Arttu Julin, Doctoral Student, M.Sc., Aalto University
Juho-Pekka Virtanen, Doctoral Student, M.A., Aalto University
Matti Kurkela, Studio Manager, Lic.Tech., M.A., Aalto University
Matti Vaaja, Postdoctoral Researcher, D.Sc., Aalto University

Wellbeing and the quality of the living environment are being enhanced by the assistance of emerging 3D technologies. This will be seen as 3D technology assisted everyday life services but also as 3D spatial information, that can be used in increasing the quality of the living environment. We are developing indicators based on spatial information and 3D technologies that work as a tool in evaluating existing green infrastructure, quality and attractiveness of the residential and urban areas. Important questions are how 3D spatial information can be combined with empirical and residents’ knowledge, and how this information can be applied in urban planning and services.

Digital Solutions in Teacher Education enhance Wellbeing and Expertise

Authors: Essi Ryymin, Irma Kunnari and Alexandre Fonseca D’Andréa

Teacher education programme for Brazilian teachers

Häme University of Applied Sciences (HAMK) has coordinated The VET Teachers for the Future – Professional Development Programme for Brazilian teachers since 2014 together with its partner Tampere University of Applied Sciences (TAMK). The programme has been implemented altogether three times now. One training lasts about 7-9 months including study sections both in Finnish and in Brazilian learning environments. The programme scores 30 credits.

Altogether 106 teachers have graduated from the programme so far, and thousands of students and teacher colleagues have been contributed to regional development work in Brazil. The participants of the programme represent several disciplines and sciences, for example biotechnology, agricultural engineering, agronomy, computer science, chemistry, mathematics, linguistics, educational sciences and business administration. The teachers’ work in the Federal Institutes in Brazil, which are institutions for higher, basic and professional education specialized in offering vocational and technology education. The goal of the Federal Institutes is to answer to social and economic demands of the region by using applied research to boost innovations and the local development.

The goal in The VET Teachers for the Future programme is to encourage the participants to collaboratively rethink and design innovative education and learning environments to respond to their on-going regional and future challenges. The main contents of the program include competency-based education with 21st century skills and cooperation between universities and the world of work. The teacher students create and implement an individual or a shared development project during the training. The projects include a wide spectrum of inventions from the scientific research to high tech and social innovations, for example new digital applications and games for education, school management models, new pedagogical practices and training programmes as well as pedagogical models for preventing social exclusion.

Making professional development transparent by digital solutions

In the programme digital solutions were consciously utilized in order to make teachers’ professional development visible, especially issues related to relatedness, social connections and networked expertise. For example, teachers were encouraged to solve educational challenges together and share, and further develop, their thinking collaboratively and openly on different digital platforms. Hakkarainen and his team (2004) have developed a theoretical and methodological framework to examine networked expertise; higher-level competences that arise, in appropriate environments, from sustained collaborative efforts to solving problems and building knowledge together.

Many theorists have defined relatedness as a basic human need that is essential for wellbeing (Baumeister & Leary 1995; Deci Ryan 2012), and others have suggested that having stable, satisfying relationships is a general resilience factor across the lifespan (Mikulincer 1998). The role of positive emotions in the formation of social bonds (Baumeister & Leary 1995) and in the creation of important skills and resources (Fredrickson 2001; Sheldon King 2001) has been widely noticed.

Creating wellbeing for members of the community can be understood as a learning process that enhances relatedness, competence and autonomy (Ryan & Deci 2000; Sheldon & King 2001; Hakkarainen, Palonen, Paavola & Lehtinen 2004; Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi 2000). These basic psychological needs are determinative with regard to optimal experience and wellbeing in daily life, also in an educational environment. Creating wellbeing within a teacher education programme can be seen then as an active, collaborative and situated process in which the relationship between individuals and their environment is constantly constructed and modified (Soini, Pyhältö & Pietarinen 2010).

The first study results reveals creative use of digital solutions

There in an ongoing study in which Finnish and Brazilian programme partners try to capture optimal practices of teachers’ professional development, in terms of building relatedness, feeling of competence, autonomy and networked expertise. A key question is also how the digital solutions can be used in wellbeing and networked expertise building?

During the training programme the group of teacher students from Brazil were personally interviewed. Also the data from the use of different digital platform and database was gathered, e.g. from learning diaries (blogs), discussion forums and competence demonstrations from interactive applications. The transcripts and the digital data is qualitatively analyzed. The content analysis (Krippendorff 2004) aimed to define the teachers in professional development practices by using case analysis of each participant’s descriptions of key events promoting professional development during the education programme (Patton 1990, 376-377).

The first study results (Kunnari & Ryymin 2016; Ryymin, Kunnari, Joyce & Laurikainen 2016; Ryymin et al. 2015) reveal that practices such as building, caring and respecting connections, creating positive interpretations and affordances together, adopting practices according to the perceived needs of the teachers have an impact on relationships that fostered senses of relatedness, competence and autonomy of teacher students. These relationships appeared to play an important role in creating successful social conditions for learning, wellbeing and pedagogical change. This can be seen as an interpersonal flourishing, which is a core feature of quality living across cultures.

The preliminary findings suggest also that the teachers consciously constructed networked expertise and socio-psychological wellbeing by applying digital solutions creatively, and this had a positive impact on their pedagogical practices. Creative, flexible and open use of digital solutions enhanced wellbeing for example by multiplying emotional, societal and cognitive support and by making peer support, positive feedback, reciprocal respect as well as cultural knowhow, knowledge, sensitivity and understanding transparent and accessible. The networked expertise was evolved, e.g. by sharing connections and resources, consulting colleagues and linking people and by solving relevant regional challenges together. The digital solutions seemed to facilitate the process effectively. The programme, as well as the applied research process, is ongoing, iterative and dynamic by its nature, and more detailed findings and conclusions will be reflected and dialogued later in the process. It is also very important to analyze what the challenges and obstacles in teachers’ professional development and pedagogical change are, as well as what are the qualities for successful international teacher education in the future.

Picture 1. The Graduation Seminar of the third The VET Teachers for the Future – Programme on 9th of December 2016 in Maceió, Brazil. HAMK Study Group together with their Tutor Teachers.


Essi Ryymin, Ph.D., Research and Development Manager, Principal Lecturer, Häme University of Applied Sciences, essi.ryymin(at)
Irma Kunnari, M.Ed., Principal Lecturer, Ph.D. Student, Häme University of Applied Sciences, irma.kunnari(at)
Alexandre Fonseca D’Andréa, Ph.D., Teacher of Basic, Technical and Technological Education, Federal Institute of Education, Science and Technology of Paraíba,

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Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. 2012. Motivation, personality, and development within embedded social contexts: An overview of self-determination theory. In R. M. Ryan (Ed.), Oxford handbook of human motivation (pp. 85-107). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Fredrickson, BL. 2001. The Role of Positive Emotions in Positive Psychology: The Broaden-and-Build Theory of Positive Emotions. The American psychologist. 2001;56(3): 218-226.

Hakkarainen, K., Palonen, T., Paavola, S. & Lehtinen, E. 2004. Communities of networked expertise: Professional and educational perspectives. Advances in Learning and Instruction Series. Amsterdam: Elsevier.

Krippendorff, K. 2004. Content Analysis: An Introduction to Its Methodology (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage

Kunnari, I. & Ryymin, E. 2016. Successful Teacher Development in the Digital Era – The Role of Wellbeing and Networked Expertise. Paper presented in EAPRIL (The European Association for Practitioner Research on Improving Learning) Conference, 3.-25.11.2016, Porto.

Mikulincer, M. 1998. Attachment working models and the sense of trust: An exploration of interaction goals and affect regulation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74, 1209-1224.

Patton, M.Q. 1990. Qualitative evaluation and research methods (2nd ed.). Newbury Park, CA.

Ryan, R.M. & Deci, E.L. 2001. On Happiness and Human Potential: A Review of Research on Hedonic and Eudaimonic Well-Being. Annual Review of Psychology, 52, 141-166.

Ryymin, E., Kunnari, I., Joyce, B. & Laurikainen, M. 2016. Networked Expertise Empowering Brazilian Teachers’ Professional Development and Pedagogical Change. International Journal for Cross-Diciplinary subjects in Education, 7(2), 2755-2760. DOI: 10.20533/ijcdse.2042.6364.2016.0375

Ryymin, E., Corado, C., Joyce, B., Kokkomäki, J., Kunnari, I., Laurikainen, M., Lianda, R & Viskari, M. 2015. Finnish-Brazilian Learning Process as an Experimental Path towards Pedagogical Change. Paper presented in NOLAN, The 8th Nordic Latin American Research Network Conference, 11.-13.6.2015, Helsinki.

Seligman, M.E.P., & Csikszentmihalyi M. 2000. Positive Psychology. An Introduction. American Psychologist, 55 (1), 5-14.

Sheldon, K.M., & King, L.A. 2001. Why positive psychology is necessary. American Psychologist, 56, 216-217.

Soini, T., Pyhältö, K. & Pietarinen, J. 2010. Pedagogical well-being: Reflecting learning and well-being in teachers’ work. Teaching and teachers: theory and practice, 16, 735–751.

No 1 (2017) Abstracts

Higher education institutes creating digital reality

Tiina Valkendorff, Lecturer, Humak University of Applied Sciences
Markus Söderlund, Lecturer, Humak University of Applied Sciences
Elina Ylikoski, Dr. Sc. (Econ.), Innovation Director, Humak University of Applied Sciences

The rapid digitalisation of society affects higher education institutes in many ways. Firstly, higher education institutes have an important role in forecasting, researching and developing the digital operational, learning and work environments of the future. Secondly, the role of higher education institutes is to renew and produce the kinds of expertise that are required for these changes, including both life-long learners and teaching staff. Thirdly, higher education institutes must be ready to quickly take on board digital tools and operating models in their own operations, which includes all their different learning and service environments.

Now, at the beginning of 2017, Finnish higher education institutes have already tried out, developed and used digital tools, processes, learning environments and solutions in all their operations in numerous ways. Now it is already possible to examine in a multifaceted way what digitalisation means in the higher education environment.

The articles in this themed issue have been produced by authors from different higher education institutes and organisations from around Finland. The texts illuminate broadly how higher education institutes are operating as promoters and beneficiaries of digitalisation, and they also show well how digitalisation affects not only traditional information and communication technologies but also every other discipline, from mining to pedagogy and from social work to tourism.

The articles talk of different experiences with digitalisation and the kinds of information, expertise and learning digitalisation has produced. In addition, they also highlight the different opportunities and benefits of digitalisation that have been observed in higher education institutes. As digitalisation has penetrated different disciplines, new kinds of cooperation and operating models have developed, and also new international networks and business opportunities.

The articles also point out clearly the challenges related to digitalisation. In the higher education sector, just as anywhere else, there are old machines, incompatible systems and outdated working models. A number of authors also highlight the way that the systems and digital learning environments in use in different organisations and higher education institutes are sometimes so different that cooperation is challenging. The internet is placeless, but a digitalised university is still quite firmly fixed to a particular location. A local identity can be a strength, but in a globalised society a digitalised university must be able reach beyond its physical operating environment. The articles also draw out good examples of how different cooperation models have been developed and how much interest higher education institutes have in national and international networking.

A digital university needs appropriate digital tools and environments. In the end, a key role is played by the people that develop and use these tools and environments. The expertise and motivation of students and staff are key factors. People vary significantly in their preparedness for adopting new practices in digital environments. Although there is much talk of digital natives, many young people do not have basic digital skills. Digital exclusion is a real issue. Becoming familiar with new and continually changing operational environments can seem to be a tiring and challenging task which takes up a lot of time. On the other hand, the opportunities offered by open environments can inspire both students and staff to learn and develop new things. Students also can have new skills to offer in this area right from the beginning of their university studies.

In Humak University of Applied Sciences, digitalisation has been selected as a broad development programme covering education, IT operations and joint services. The development work for students and staff will be realised in 2018 as a digital campus which will contain different kinds of learning environments, provision of internet courses, learning support services, services and environments supporting open IT activities, and the university’s own internal work processes. Digital learning environments have been used in a new way in, for example, the open and free MOOC courses (Massive Open Online Course) organised jointly by Humak and Metropolia University of Applied Sciences as part of the digital youth work Distanssi project (Distanssi 2017). In addition, Humak is developing a digital mobile app for visual communication in the recently initiated KUVAKO project. As another example, the Lights on! project (Lights on! 2017) revives cultural sites using mobile games. These kinds of developments, where digitalisation is utilised in new ways and activities are purposefully transferred into digital environments, are most likely an unavoidable reality in other higher education institutes as well.

The most inspiring aspect of digitalisation – both for us at Humak and also elsewhere – is to look beyond one’s own institutional, administrative processes and into the future. What new opportunities, for example, will be opened up by digitalisation for community educators, cultural producers and sign-language interpreters? How will new communities be reached, encounters revitalised or communication barriers removed in virtual environments? What new skills and expertise will be needed to provide digital guidance for young people or to develop participation in digital service environments among the elderly?

The purpose of this themed issue is not only to gather together the development work that has already been carried out but also to stir up curiosity, interest and a critical response to the opportunities brought by digitalisation. The accelerating digitalisation process and its consequences – in work automation, for example – can be seen positively as something that will rescue society from its present ills or negatively as a force that promotes exclusion. Higher education institutes have been given a significant role as creators of the future in this area as well – let us use it wisely.

Communal learning supported by technology is meaningful and worthwhile

Merja Männistö, MHS, Lecturer, Oulu University of Applied Sciences

The technology supported collaborative learning can be used to improve information combining and sharing skills in multi-professional healthcare working environment. Collaborative learning refers to coordinated interaction of students with the goal that students acquire understanding of topic by combining information they have shared for themselves in web-based education platform. Technology supported collaborative learning was found to be very useful in healthcare education. By sharing information and experiences about the topic in web-based learning environment, the students will get more comprehensive and deep understanding of the issues since they can discuss collaboratively. That process will engage the students to target based actions and they learn how to reach goals of work together. Size of study group is important. Group members should be selected pedagogically so that each of the members can contribute to the work. Teacher’s role is important to design the topic that students have to share and combine their information. During web-based collaborative learning process, the students should get teacher’s guidance when needed.

Virtual reality provides new learning opportunities

Annikki Arola, Occupational therapist, M.Sc., doctoral student, Lecturer in occupational therapy, Arcada,
Jeglinsky-Kankainen, Physiotherapist, Ph.D., Senior Physician in rehabilitation, Arcada
Jonas Tana, R.N, M.A., Post-graduate student, researcher, Arcada

In recent years, virtual reality (VR) has experienced a significant growth in popularity, with new opportunities for the use of VR technology born almost daily. An area where virtual reality can be effectively utilized is the simulation of vision impairment. People living with visual impairments perceive the world in a different way, which for people without visual impairment can be difficult to fully understand. Virtual reality provides a unique opportunity for students to experience visual impairment and the problems it causes in daily life. This article presents Arcada VR Eyesight Simulator (AVES), a virtual reality application that gives students a visual representation of how the visually impaired perceive the surrounding environment around them. For students working with patients suffering from visual impairments, it is essential to understand the problems and obstacles that visually impaired people experience in everyday situations.

Challenges of digital information sources and flows

Hannu Hyyppä, Professor, D.Sc. (Eng), Head of the Institute, Aalto University, Humak University of Applied Sciences
Marika Ahlavuo, Science Producer, Coordinator, Cultural Pruducer, Aalto University, Humak University of Applied Sciences

The results of a burgeoning educational institution depend increasingly on how it utilizes and produces different types of digital information. By observing and guiding internal and external knowledge flows, we can improve our digital competencies and information transmission. Teachers and students need the latest best-practices and most recent research information to support their digital lifelong learning. Thanks to the internet, students are accustomed to up-to-date and visually high-quality information. The challenge we face is how educational organizations should respond to the students’ increased level of digital expertise. Almost every traditional sector requires digital technology, which leads to these fields becoming closer to one another. Cultural management and construction are prominent examples of this phenomenon. We present solutions we created that have been applied in engineering fields for collecting, refining, and coordinating digital outputs and knowledge flows. Our aim is to also apply these solutions in the cultural sector.

3D and photography studios as digital learning environments

Matti Kurkela, Studio Manager, Lic.Tech., M.A., Aalto University
Marika Ahlavuo, Science Producer, Coordinator, Cultural Pruducer, Aalto University, Humak University of Applied Sciences
Hannu Hyyppä, Professor of Measuring and Modeling, D.Sc., Head of the Institute, Aalto University, Humak University of Applied Sciences
Juho-Pekka Virtanen, Doctoral Student, M.A., Aalto University
Matti Vaaja, Postdoctoral Researcher, D.Sc., Aalto University
Petri Rönnholm, Senior University Lecturer, D.Sc., Aalto University
Antero Kukko, Research Manager, D.Sc., Finnish Geospatial Research Institute
Arttu Julin, Doctoral Student, M.Sc., Aalto University
Matias Hyyppä, Student of Technology, Aalto University
Henrik Haggrén, Professor of Photogrammetry, D.Sc., Aalto University

The 3D and photography studios of the Aalto University and Finnish Geospatial Research Institute operate as a digital learning environment, reaching many universities, universities of applied sciences, companies and communities. 3D studio was founded to demonstrate the achievements of multi-disciplinary co-operation, it functions as a virtual co-operation centre for new experiments and learning. For students, the studios are a great source of inspiration, workspace, and a centre for networking. The hardware and software of the learning environment are utilized in both exercises and theses. Numerous partners such as the Helsinki Metropolia University of Applied Sciences and the Humak University of Applied Sciences make use of the 3D studio in cultural and civil engineering studies.

Learning data: from administrative database to educational cornerstone

Anne Rautanen, M.A., Key Account Manager, Caleidon oy
Jari-Pekka Kaleva, M.A., Senior Policy Analyst, Neogames Finland ry

Society, where data is collected from everything, is getting closer day by day. Even today cellphones follow their owners’ steps, items bought from stores are registered into the databases of loyalty programs, and planning a holiday means that web advertisements are targeted according to travel plans. Universities of applied sciences or education in general are not insulated areas from this development. Institutions already have parts of the necessary raw data, what remains to be done is to find ethically sound ways of utilising that data into evolving the education system into a better one. Data can – and should – be used for supporting learning, for guiding the students, and for administration, so that Finnish higher education can be seen also in the future as an attractive answer. Especially when compared to the top global digital learning environments that are improving year by year. On the other hand, the risks of unlimited data collecting must be acknowledged, and common rules for how to utilise that said data must be established.

Digitalised reality invites us to develop new teaching methods

Jonna Kalermo-Poranen, M.Sc. (Econ.), Project Manager, Kajaani University of Applied Sciences
Milla Hirvaskari, Bachelor’s Degree in Hospitality Management, Tourism (YAMK), Project Manager, Lapland University of Applied Sciences

Kajaani University of Applied Sciences and Lapland University of Applied Sciences are collaboratively developing a virtual learning environment with the aim of bringing new teaching methods for mining education. Virtual reality and game technologies provide the technological platform to develop interactive educational content, which is expected to stimulate learning. Exercises for mining safety training have already been developed and tested with the students. Students can now study safety risks and defects by observing the mine site with virtual reality by using virtual reality headset. The project results will be integrated into the teaching of the Kajaani and Lapland universities of applied sciences, who also have a shared education for mining studies called RoKK Academy. This enables exploring the opportunities of the virtual learning environment for the development of educational activities.

The digital transformation of social work

Katariina Kohonen, Social worker YTM & student of specialist social work, HUH Psychiatry
Miina Arajärvi, Social worker YTM & social work post-graduate student, HUH Psychiatry

The Finnish public sector is undergoing major digitalization projects as part of the Health, Social Services and Regional Government Reform. The aim is to create better coordinated and custom-oriented services. However the biggest challenges in digitalization of social services is not in technology. The major challenges are modernizing working methods, cost-efficiency, leadership and courage to look to the future. It is crucial to focus on customer-oriented services and modernizing information and operations management systems. In digitalizing social services it is necessary to focus on management skills, using research as a tool in systematic development, give room for innovations and courage to challenge the current ways of doing.

4YAMK network’s experiences of organising online teaching

Katja Raitio, MHS, Lecturer, JAMK University of Applied Sciences
Heikki Ellilä, Dr.Sc. (Nutr.), Principal Lecturer, Turku University of Applied Sciences
Eija Tuliniemi, MHS, Lecturer, Satakunta University of Applied Sciences
Nina Kilkku, Dr.Sc. (Nutr.), Principal Lecturer, Tampere University of Applied Sciences

Expertise in the future demands new digital and network based methods of work within health and social sector. Four universities of Applied Sciences have organized together Master´s level mental health and substance abuse care studies. Studies highlight the importance of network and e-learning. Eliademy – learning platform was piloted with the students, who started their studies at 2015. Students´ and teachers´ experiences are positive and encourage to continue the use of Eliademy. Possibilities of interaction and co-operation within eLearning must be further developed.

Perspectives on e-leadership of pedagogical working teams

Iris Wiitakorpi, PhD (Education), Director of Virtual Learning, Laurea University of Applied Sciences

In the world of rapid and crucial technological changes, leaders are facing new challenges in leading teacher teams in Universities of Applied Sciences. More and more studies are put online. The work and role of a teacher is changing from classroom to virtual spaces: working geographically in various places and flexible hours. The physical contact in working teams is reduced or lacking which means that collaboration is enabled by computer based communication. This means new ways to organize work and lead the team members. What is the specific characters of e-leadership in teacher teams? This article aims to give some perspective to daily work in this new situation of leading pedagogical working teams.

No 4 (2016 Abstracts)

Our common future

Jyrki Laitinen, Vice President, Oulu University of Applied Sciences

This issue gives excellent insight into development activities by universities of applied sciences that promote sustainable development. Some of these are clearly based on local needs and others form the basis for more common solutions.   However, all of these reflect an enthusiasm for work in this topic area and, thus, creating sustainable conditions for our common future.

Although sustainable development  as a concept has a long history, it was first clearly defined in the Our Common Future World report published in 1987 by the Commission on Environment and Development headed by Norway’s former prime minister Gro Harlem Brundtland. According to the report, sustainable development guarantees present society’s needs in a manner than does not come at the expense of future generations. Sustainable development produces global or local changes, which guarantee future generations at least the same standard of operations as we have currently. More recently, numerous efforts have been made to redefine the concept of sustainable development. At present, sustainable development is often viewed with regard to how it affects the environment, society, the economy and culture. UN Member States have set up common objectives in an effort to make the themes of sustainable development more tangible. More recently, the Member States agreed in 2015 on a development programme comprising 17 objectives, which will span to 2030.  These extensively cover the different areas of human activities.

Universities of applied sciences are transforming from traditional educational institutions into societal actors, which produce solutions to the challenges faced by the surrounding world and especially by their own region. In order for them to be successful in this, they must shift their mind-set from that of traditional producers of education and implementers of project activities to that of actors, who solve common challenges. Solutions can even in the future be found by educating students and utilising project funding. However, it is essential that we together recognise and decide on which challenges are current at a given time. These can be related to, for example, the development of the urban environment, matters specifically impacting sparsely populated areas, the fight against climate change, energy efficiency or the circular economy. Many of these topic areas are also covered in this thematic issue’s articles, which is comes as no great surprise since the examples are quite generic. The real question is whether the presented solutions will be visible as individual results are part of a more extensive problem solution.

The change of perspective mentioned above will require strategic choices (and choices to exclude or eliminate) as well as extensive commitment to these.  The university of applied sciences must be led to a new mind-set, and they must tell the rest of the world of this. Achieving commitment to these choices will require written and spoken communication. This will not succeed without management and supervisory work of a high standard.

Education dictates that pedagogic solutions must also always be considered. Sustainable development as a subject area is often covered in its own courses and as a learning outcome in other courses.  Both of these are needed for teaching basic terminology, but a real solution in the area of sustainable development almost always requires multidisciplinary cooperation between different actors and stakeholders. Do we offer our students the opportunities for this type of learning?

It is natural for universities of applied sciences to be involved in finding solutions to society’s problems in developing sustainable development.  This is most certainly a motivating factor for problem solvers. In addition to their own activities, the university of applied sciences has a great impact through its graduates. Over the past ten years, approximately 230,000 students have graduated from universities of applied sciences. The same amount or slightly more will graduate over the coming decade. They are all working to create our common future.

Will we succeed in passing on the philosophy of sustainable development and the related problem solving skills?


  • Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development: Our Common Future. 1987. 8.12.2016.
  • Sustainable Development Goals. 8.12.2016

Getting better? From the ownership of vehicles to the use of services

Arto O. Salonen, Ph.D. (Education), Research Director, Metropolia University of Applied Sciences

Sustainability is imperative everywhere. This is a reason why culture of mobility is evolving globally. Young urban populations are not wedded to the car ownership. They prioritise services over ownership. A multi-modal concept of Mobility as a Service (MaaS) offers sustainable, flexible and effective mobility services. It helps customers to combine various public transportation services as buses, trains, metros and taxies. Less cars are needed which means that emissions and congestion decrease. Noise of traffic can also be reduced. In the near future shared, self-driving vehicles are added to travel chains. Power of pedestrians and cyclists increases because autonomous vehicles are sensitive. In the most attractive cities urban mobility is based on walking, cycling and a fluent public transport. The concept of mass transportation service could be enlarged by integrating for example various basic services in it.

Developing energy sector expertise in Kymenlaakso

Tomi Höök, M.Sc. (Tech.), Project Manager, Kouvola Region Vocational College
Sari Laurila, M.A., Development Manager, University of Helsinki Centre for Continuing Education
Melina Maunula, M.Sc. (Tech.), Doctoral Candidate, Lappeenranta University of Technology LUT
Ville Räty, Engineer, Project Manager, Kouvola Innovation (Kinno)
Arja Sinkko, M.Sc. (Tech.), Director of Department, South-Eastern Finland University of Applied Sciences (Xamk)
Kirsi Tallinen, M.Sc. (Tech.), Research Manager, Kymenlaakso University of Applied Sciences (Kyamk)

To develop energy-related education in Kymenlaakso region ensures the competitiveness of the region and of its operators in the rapidly changing energy sector. By getting to know the region’s business environment and its operators’ creates a strong foundation for co-development. With these closely operating networks and with the increased know-how of all partners it’s possible to improve Kymenlaakso region’s assets, and also to enhance educational resources. To aim for vital and sustainable future means that besides regional co-operation also national and international development are acknowledged. Well operating regional partnerships generate opportunities to offer services also in the international markets. The project Lifecycle path for energy studies has addressed the potentials of co-development and has reinforced energy-related educational skills in vocational training and in higher education in Kymenlaakso region by taking into account the development needs of the business life.

Boost for wool recycling with a development project

Leena Juntunen, DA, MEd, Principle Lecturer in fashion and clothing, Metropolia University of Applied Sciences
Marja Amgwerd, MA, Lecturer in fashion and clothing, Metropolia University of Applied Sciences
Veikko Koivumaa, M.Sc. (Tech.), Lecturer of technology, Metropolia University of Applied Sciences
Erja Parviainen, M.Sc. (Tech.), Lecturer in fashion and clothing, Metropolia University of Applied Sciences
Pentti Viluksela, TkT, Senior Lecturer in cleantech, Metropolia University of Applied Sciences
Inari Laveri, vestonomi (YAMK), Project Worker, Metropolia University of Applied Sciences

Wool fiber is valuable also when it is recycled and re-engineered. The project “Recycling wool for growing business”, conducted by Helsinki Metropolia University of Applied Sciences, is researching the possibilities of recycling wool in Finland, its availability, quality, usability and business, mainly to be used in fashion and textile area. The Finnish wool and knitwear companies are interested in recycling, and there is some know-how as well, but domestic recycled wool is not yet in use in the textile and fashion business. The project is identifying the needs and resources of the companies, and the new business and technology that is needed. The target is to build recycling model for domestic wool, also taking into account international markets and competition.

High-strength steel a frontrunner in sustainable development

Timo Kauppi, TkL, University of Oulu/Lapland University of Applied Sciences
Vili Kesti, M.Sc. (Tech.), Specialist, Forming technology, Knowledge Service Center, SSAB, Europe Oy

Utilization of the Ultra High Strength Steels (UHSS) is a justified and recommended practice from the sustainable development point of view. The progression in the strength of steels decreases the carbon dioxide emissions due to the lighter constructions. This results as decrease of the produced steel tonnage which reflects directly to the CO2 emissions produced by steel industry (ca. 1800 kg CO2 per ton of steel). Also multiple effects are achieved by the increase of payloads and/or decrease in fuel consumption. A lot of effort is however needed to apply and train the research results of the usability of these steels to the manufacturing enterprises before the strength potential of the steels is exploited in the most conceivable way.

Sustainable urban development plays key role in developing markets

Minna Keinänen-Toivola, PhD, Research Manager, Faculty of Technology, Satakunta University of Applied Sciences
Nina Savela, Bachelor of Political Sciences, Master’s thesis writer, University of Turku

During the last decades, urbanization process has increasingly been concentrating on the developing countries. The research project NAMURBAN, led by Satakunta University of Applied Sciences, aims at providing a research-based and resource effect concept for the urban development in Namibian context. The main themes of the project concentrate on technological solutions that Finnish companies can offer in the areas of water, renewable energy, housing, recycling and ICT. The goal of the project, along with the potential of environmental technologies, is also to provide a broader understanding of the Namibian society. The results of the research are used to model future scenarios of the urbanization process in Namibia and to understand better various forms of governance in the African context.

Sustainable development to work communities by promoting occupational health and welfare

Liisa Kiviniemi, Doctor of Medicine, Principle Lecturer, Oulu University of Applied Sciences
Pirkko Sandelin, Doctor of Medicine, Principle Lecturer, Oulu University of Applied Sciences

In the socially sustainable development an effortless life between people is emphasised. Work communities are significant to the life of an adult. Well-being at work consists of internal factors, such as confidence, rules, expertise and management. In addition, it is linked to external factors, such as technological developments and economic issues. According to the results of three separate master theses active participation of personnel and management are key-elements when promoting wellbeing at work. Successful promotion involves concretizing various well-being –related activities so that they can be assessed and developed. Also in order to promote well-being at work one needs to decide on objectives and criteria, whose achievement and fulfilment are evaluated regularly using reliable methods.

Responsible procurement in the aviation industry

Jasmiina Klemettinen, BBA, Lahti University of Applied Sciences
Anna Pajari, M.A, M.Sc.(Econ. and Bus.Adm.), Lecturer, Lahti University of Applied Sciences

Global megatrends can be considered as drivers for new opportunities in public and private sectors. All companies need to take into account these trends effecting their operating environment in order to maintain their profitability in the long run. Companies are generally seen as world citizens that have a higher moral obligation to address the issues of corporate responsibility than compared to individuals. The obligation encompasses the entire supply chain. The airline industry procurement has a far reaching impact due to global scope and the operational field of the industry. The purpose of this article is to reveal the main findings of a thesis that studied the aspects of corporate responsibility as a response to global megatrends impacting on the future competitiveness of the airline industry. Additionally, the purpose was to study the roles of procurement and supplier partnerships to successful implementation of corporate responsibility as well as to provide practical tools for implementing corporate responsibility into procurement processes and practices.

Problem-based project learning a key to circular economy

Sara Malve-Ahlroth, Bachelor of Natural Resources, Project Worker, Turku University of Applied Sciences
Jenni Suominen, MBA, Project Specialist, Turku University of Applied Sciences
Piia Nurmi, M.Sc.(Econ. and Bus.Adm.), Leader of Education and Research, Turku University of Applied Sciences

From Turku University of Applied Sciences one can today find a learning environment for circular economy. It is founded on problem-based project learning, where the students are given assignments by representatives of the working life as well as from the research and development projects. In the learning environment the teacher works mainly as an instructor and as an enabler, who relies on the students’ own activity and knowledge. The development of the learning environment began in 2015, and the physical space was completed in May 2016. Various aspects of the learning environment have been designed according to the circular economy principles. The aim is to support the students on their journey to become experts in circular economy, which also generates special pedagogical challenges. The development work of the learning environment will continue in cooperation with the students and partners.

The circular economy as a service business – from resources to services

Mika Kylänen, Lic.Sc.(Admin.), Principle Lecturer of Service Business, Lahti University of Applied Sciences
Pia Haapea, Lic.Sc.(Admin.), Principle Lecturer of Energy and Environmental Technology, Lahti University of Applied Sciences

This article discusses circular economy as a phenomenon and as new business opportunities from the perspective of service management. The circular economy has been anticipated as one of the major vehicles of economic growth and well-being. In Finland alone, the estimated value is more than two billion euros. However, the development activities of the circular economy have to a great extent focused on the problematics of raw materials, manufacturing industries and technology. The article takes a service business approach to the debate by offering user-oriented service solutions as the key aspect in order to harness the full potential of the circular economy. It is clear that the resource perspective is important when discussing the new sustainable economy, but companies and the public sector should pay more attention to flowing processes and seamless logistical service chains through which customers and service providers can create more value and, hence, optimize and enhance the circular-economical in many ways unleashed business potential.

TAMK campus as an study environment for energy efficiency

Pirkko Pihlajamaa, M.Sc. (Tech.), Lecturer of HVAC, Tampere University of Applied Sciences

To do energy auditing in your everyday study environment is a useful and educational way to learn energy efficiency technologies of buildings, not only in theory but also in practice. The campus area of Tampere University of Applied Sciences consists of several buildings of different ages and with various technologies. Cooperation between real estate management and different education units has proved to be extremely beneficial for all parties.

During 2012–2013 more than 50 students audited the TAMK-campus. Even more potential energy savings were found than what was initially estimated: instead of 9% savings in energy consumption, 11% of savings were found.

The cooperation project has been successful, and after the auditing project also new possibilities to combine resources have been found. The extension and renovation of TAMK sports facilities during 2014–2016 was a good case to learn about energy efficiency brainstorming, planning and building with experts. Now it is time for testing.

Transformative learning brings hope for a sustainable future

Erkka Laininen, M.Sc. (Tech.), Planning Manager,  The OKKA Foundation
Arto O. Salonen, Ph.D. (Education), Research Director, Metropolia UAS 

Welfare societies put their best effort on promoting economic growth and technology although the target of good life seems not to become any closer by these means. It becomes impossible to enjoy the prosperity created by the growth if we ruin our own habitat. In the background of our sustainability problems lay the premises and beliefs of the modern worldview on which our society has been constructed. An important task for higher education is to act precautionary and promote transformative learning that can renew our collective beliefs. This enables liberating the potential of individuals, communities and society to aspiration of sustainable and responsible life and constructing of an alternative better future.

Developing nature-based tourism

Sanna-Mari Renfors, PhD, Head of the Research Group, Satakunta University of Applied Sciences

The development strategy of Finnish nature-based tourism states that the mission of nature-based tourism is to provide welfare in a sustainable way to all areas in Finland. However, in the Satakunta region productisation of nature has been incomplete, and especially development of competitive and comprehensive products and services is lacking. Today, the regional nature tourism strategy of Satakunta has now been compiled. Additionally, a number of nature trails have been productized by Satakunta University of Applied Sciences. Altogether 150 actors participated in the product development activities including students, entrepreneurs, municipalities, associations and local developers.

Forssa region a pioneer in circular economy

Kirsi Sippola, B.Soc.Sc., MBA, Development Manager, Häme University of Applied Sciences

The Forssa Region is a good example of circular economy in action. The City of Forssa is also one of the pilot cities of resource wisdom (Finnish Innovation Fund, SITRA) and part of the Finnish Sustainable Communities network (FISU). The strategy called Bright Green Forssa Region has been applied in the region already from the year 2010. The actors being part, and implementing the Bright Green Forssan region strategy, are both public and private operators. The operations towards circular economy and resource wisdom have been particularly developed by the companies located in the Forssa area as well as the Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke), the Häme University of Applied Sciences (HAMK) and the region’s municipalities and the City of Forssa.

The Bright Green Region strategy could be defined as actions following the principles of sustainable development where ecological, economic, social and cultural sustainability are taking into consideration. In the Autumn 2016, this Bright Green Region got its’ own space, when the Häme University of Applied Sciences opened a Resource Wisdom Center in the premises of HAMK Forssa unit. The center has a “Showroom” were the projects and other forms of cooperation are presented. The students of the Degree Programme in Sustainable Development have taken part of the visualizations.

Employed year-round in Lapland by combining seasonal work

Johanna Kinnunen, M.A.,  Bachelor of Natural Resources, Project Designer, Lapland University of Applied Sciences

Forestry and tourism in Lapland offer a lot of seasonal work. The tourism sector provides jobs often in the winter season and lumberjack work during snowless period. By combining work of these two industries it is possible to find employment throughout the year. Problems caused by seasonality of forestry and tourism sectors can possibly be overcome by a new kind of education that combines these two sectors. Lapland University of Applied Sciences develops this new education model in co-operation with Lapland Vocational College, Lapland Tourism College and Finnish Forestry Centre.


Bridging the Imaginary Research and Practice Gap by Responsive Learning

EAPRIL and UAS-journal

This special issue is initiated by EAPRIL (The European Association for Practitioner Research on Improving Learning). EAPRIL is a platform for practitioner and practice-based research. This year it will hold its 11th annual conference for practitioner research on improving learning in education and professional practice . EAPRIL was initiated 11 years ago by the well-known ‘European Association for Research on Learning and Instruction’ (EARLI). EARLI wanted to support practitioner research through establishing  a platform where practitioners and researchers conducting practice-based research can meet and exchange research results  in a highly interactive way.  Nowadays, EAPRIL and EARLI collaborate as independent research associations.

EAPRIL research conference presentations are reflected in the articles in this special international issue of the UAS journal and address practice-based research as a form of inquiry that can be used and implemented to support life long workplace learning for a variety of professionals and occupations (EAPRIL conference proceedings, 2014, 2015 ).

The broad interpretations of ‘practitioner research’, and practice-based research require a clear epistemological basis demonstrating the relationship between research and practice. According to Heikkinen, de Jong and Vanderlinde  (2016) such clarification goes back to Aristotelian  philosophy which explored the ways that knowledge is obtained, what purpose it serves, and how practitioner research differs from academic research. This yields  theoretical knowledge as well as  two kinds of practical knowledge. Although all three are relevant, the so called ‘practitioner knowledge’ (the phronesis and the techne), need more attention in judging the merit of practitioner research. Heikkinen, et al. (2016) stated that good practitioner research needs its own methodological principles. De Jong, Beus, Richardson and Ruijters (2013) emphasized that practitioner research is more than just the old way of doing research in its search for the truth. It also has to do with enhancing co-creation and wisdom of practitioners and their praxis. It might even have a total different epistemic underpinning.

After EAPRIL’s first special issue ‘Studies in Vocational and Professional Education’ (April 2016, Journal Vocations and Learning) EAPRIL and UAS journal were talking about a collaboration for the next special issue. This resulted in the current issue with eleven wonderful insights, from five different European countries.. Some contributions even cover many other European countries. You will find articles about activities in UAS by UAS teacher-researchers, inquiry-innovators writing about educational innovations which reflect their passion to improve the education offered in UAS; to support the development of their students; and to offer them learning experiences in enhancing the collaboration and interaction between education and practice. The focus is on improving the activity system of practice, as well as students’ development and research by trying to make UAS education more responsive to students, responsive to practice and responsive to society.

From the Finnish viewpoint this UAS Journal (est. 2011) special issue in collaboration with EAPRIL organization is important in many ways. Firstly, it includes interesting articles and shows that the problems and challenges in European higher education are rather similar. This issue, as itself, is bridging researchers and practitioners from different European countries.

Secondly, this issue is a reflection on the history of the UAS Journal. The roots of UAS eJournal are in KeVer network (2000-2009) and KeVer eJournal which was published as one part of networking activities. The purpose of Kever was to develop and strengthen pedagogical, methodological and RDI actions in UAS education, which began in Finland in 1991. The method of working in KeVer was to combine research and practice, researchers and practitioners. The backgrounds of the network members were  researchers working in the universities and research institutions and teachers, as well as researchers and developers working in universities of applied sciences. When KeVer network activities finished,  the ejournal transformed from a research-based journal  to a magazine format. So,this special issue  after some years, makes visible the research linked to UASs.

Finally, this issue is hopefully a beginning for a fruitful collaboration among Europeans who share an interest in combining research and practice as a method of developing teaching and learning. Complexity and uncertainty in the world demands strong networks and communities, feelings of shared interests and goals. EAPRIL and UAS-journal wants to support such networks as being places to exchange and build insights together in  the development of praxis.


Reading the articles in this issue, you will notice that the responsivity to students and practice is seen as a crucial element of the UAS education as a means for students’ development into competent professionals for their future working life and contribution to society. In some more conceptual oriented articles, for instance, from Meijer and Kuijpers (in this issue) this education-practice relationship is seen as a gap that has to be bridged. According to others like Van den Berg (in this issue) it is more a matter of crossing borders, which requires certain abilities. Kukokonen (in this issue) integrates this dilemma in five key elements of good student experiences, such as authenticity and collaboration.

The articles show that in general the core issue in being responsive to students’ learning on the one hand and professional practice on the other hand, seems to enhance interaction, collaborative learning, co-creation of knowledge in the efforts to support and improve the relationship between research, education and working life (practice) as a responsive educational activity system. An activity system in which students develop abilities, skills and knowledge that anticipate the (future) needs of working practice, society and personal life. Such activity systems and the diverse educational examples illustrated in this issue, should be considered regarding  the different perspectives and emphasis of the learning processes described: for example cooperative, collaborative and knowledge creation and  derivative pedogagical methods. This means that emphasis on transfer of knowledge is based on a totally different epistemic basis from the co-creation of knowledge. In addition, cooperation does not always mean that students are engaged in a mutual learning process, or that collaborative learning might be a collective group learning but that it differs from collective knowledge creation in order to contribute to the idea development of the community.

Moreover, it is sometimes important to reflect on generally accepted theories of learning from a different perspective. For example De Jong (2015) approaches learning not as matter of knowledge transfer or acquisition, but as a semiotic, meaning-constructing process to combine incoming information with already held personal and community cognitive concepts and ideas. Even the stimulus-response learning is a process of giving meaning to a stimulus in relation to an action.

Table 1: Different manifestations of learning as a semiotic, meaning building process and the impact on change, the thinking that is learned and relatedness to practice (world 1), school knowledge (world 2) and knowledge creating Popper’s world 3.

Table 1: Different manifestations of learning as a semiotic, meaning building process and the impact on change, the thinking that is learned and relatedness to practice (world 1), school knowledge (world 2) and knowledge creating Popper’s world 3.
Table 1: Different manifestations of learning as a semiotic, meaning building process and the impact on change, the thinking that is learned and relatedness to practice (world 1), school knowledge (world 2) and knowledge creating Popper’s world 3.

A process in which ‘the other’ might be at a very distant or might be very close to the interaction of the process of meaning construction. This semiotic process manifests itself in learning in three ways:

  • Zero learning and Learning 1) e.g. natural biological learning in daily practice;
    You can think of habituation, sentization, stimulus-response learning
  • Learning 2) cognitive learning in schools, courses, trainings; and
    You can think of Piagetian cognitive constructivism; accumulative and  accommodative learning.
  • Learning 3) social interactive learning in groups, teams, communities.
    You can think of cooperative, collaborative learning and knowledge building/creation.

These levels differ in what leads to change; what kind of thinking is learned and if the impact goes beyond current practice and habits, current knowledge and thinking or becoming familiar with and enculturate in the world of building knowledge and understanding (see table 1). In relation to the articles in this issue the level of social interactive learning is seems to be very relevant because it is mentioned almost in all of them. To provide you as reader a lens to reflect on the articles in this special issue we will elaborate more in depth about this level and its consequences in the next paragraphs[1].

Social interaction and Cooperative learning

Let’s take a look at cooperative learning settings such as: Learning Together & Alone; Teams-Games-Tournaments (TGT); Group Investigation; Constructive Controversy; Jigsaw Procedure; Student Teams Achievement Divisions (STAD); Complex Instruction; Team Accelerated Instruction (TAI); Cooperative Learning Structures; Cooperative Integrated Reading & Composition (CIRC) (Johnson, Johnson, & Stanne, 2000; Loeser, 2008).

Cooperative learning involves students working together to accomplish shared learning goals. (Johnson et al., 2000; Johnson & Johnson, 1999). Each student can achieve his or her learning goal if – and only if – the other group members achieve theirs (Deutsch 1962, as cited in Johnson et. al., 2000). Review studies show, that cooperative learning significantly increases students’ achievement in comparison with competitive, individual learning situations. It does not mean that all operationalizations are effective in the same way (Johnson & Johnson, 2009; Slavin, 1980). From the above mentioned studies ‘Learning together’ seems to be the most effective (David W Johnson et al., 2000). The five most basic pillars of cooperative learning are: individual accountability, positive interdependence, face-to-face promotive interaction, group processing, and interpersonal and small group skills. Students feel that they cannot work without the participation of one or more group members. The central principle of cooperative learning is that students learn through interaction and dialogue with others, mostly in small groups, around a topic of study to achieve a common goal according to David Johnson and Robert Slavin[2] .

Another view

‘Learning with others’ enables social interaction as a kind of ”cognitive apprenticeship to learn the school learning material and enhance the individual learning” (Hartmann, Angersbach, & Rummel, 2015). Social interdependence enables  individual motivation and cognitive learning (Slavin, 1980, 1996). What we see is that information, complex codes, models and scientific theory are interpreted and reconstructed by labour division in a group (Dillenbourg, 1999). It is the cumulative collection of interpretations of a group, not yet the group cognition (Stahl, 2006) of collective knowing. Or as Hartmann et al., (2015) interprets this, as an endogenous form of constructivism: the source of knowledge construction is the individual processes. No new artefacts are created collectively. You can regard it as a kind of individual cognitive learning. Cognitive learning on a group level where the social interaction scaffolds the individual interpretation of information. So reading a book with others gives you access to interpretations of information by others that helps you to reconstruct the knowledge represented in school textbook. This is because you see things you did not notice or others together contribute more foreknowledge than your own. Communication then becomes learning. It focuses on what is known already and the subjective learning in the mind of (Popper’s world 2 (refered by Bereiter, 2002) school books and standard tests. It is effective in an improved study achievement (David W Johnson et al., 2000).

What epistemologically develops is an awareness that people think differently and interpret differently and you can learn from each other. Social interactive process skills are learnt together with dialogue to understand content.

Collaborative learning

The difference between cooperative and collaborative learning is roughly described by Dillenbourg: “(…)in cooperation, partners split work, solve subtasks individually and then assemble the partial results in the final output. In collaboration, partners do the work “together” (Dillenbourg, 1999, p. 8). This doing together is according to Dillenbourg a process by which individuals negotiate and share meanings. The difference lies in the fact that, in collaborative learning, the knowledge construction is not an assembly of individual understandings, such as in cooperative learning, but collaborative, group interactions such as negotiations and sharing of meanings (Stahl, Koschmann, & Suthers, 2006, 2014).

According to Beers, Boshuizen, Kirschner, & Gijselaers, (2005; 2008) collaborative learning can be characterized as social interaction focusing on the development of a common ground and shared knowledge. The two are formed through negotiation and knowledge exchange. This may be in a dialectic conversation of agreeing and disagreeing with messages, making your position known to group members, posting rejections to messages that are unintelligible or objectively incorrect in the eyes of someone else. A process from unshared knowledge externalisation to knowledge construction integration takes place (Beers et al., 2005, see fig. 1). Despite this formalism of the process, their studies show different effects concerning, for instance, reaching a common ground (Beers et al., 2005).

However, the main point is that groups are seen as a major source of knowledge construction with a social and interactive dimension (Miyake & Kirschner, 2014). This social dimension involves aspects such as interdependence, social and task cohesion, group potency and psychological safety. Often these social aspects are underestimated in (Computer Supported) Collaborative learning (CSCL) in contrast to co-construction and constructive conflict in the sharing and meaning making group process (Kreijns & Kirschner, 2003). In this social process learning ability in the sense of (co-)regulating content and community processes is vital for people to become used to share knowledge, deepening their own and common understanding and creating further insights (De Laat, De Jong, & Ter Huurne, 2000).

Figure 1: Collaborative learning has divers phases starting form unshared knowledge to constructed knowledge (Beers et al., 2005).

Stahl (2006, 2010) emphasises much more  group cognition and collaborative knowledge building as the character of collaborative learning. One could call this kind of knowledge building  ‘co-creation’ of knowledge. Stahl describes that this happens in an ecology where teachers act as facilitators and less as instructors or in the case of CS computer environment act to “supports the interactions among the students themselves” (Stahl, 2006, p. 3). According to Stahl, collaborative knowledge building is effective when the group is engaged in high level cognitions of “thinking together about a problem or task and produce knowledge artefacts like verbal problem clarification, a textual solution proposal, or a more developed theoretical inscription that integrates their different perspectives on the topic and represents a shared group result that they have negotiated” (Stahl, 2006, p 3).

Another view

The eco-semiotic process in collaborative learning can be seen as a dialectical negotiating in small groups (Hartmann et al., 2015) about the difference in signs, information, consisting of the different individual opinions, perspectives formed from individual eco-semiotic process based on their own experience (world 1) and information of schoolbooks (world 2), perhaps also scientific information (world 3) and the perspectives of others in the collaborative group. The sharing of the perspectives and the negotiation, debate, discussion is the process of finding common ground for the co-construction of a group knowledge perspective.

 The interactions with others reveals the difference in individual perspectives, which form a source of knowledge. Hartmann et al., (2015) indicate this in the context of collaborative learning as a dialectical process. So a social interaction where the difference is synthesized in a process of thesis and anti-thesis becomes a group cognition. Others are important in (CS)CL in getting to know the difference between the various interpretations of individuals as a source to understand by negotiating them in group dialogue, debate, discussion and arriving at a consensus or perspectives of what a phenomenon, theory is about or what a creative solution is for a problem or question in the context of a learning or work task.

In the social interaction the personal practical experience (world 1) and the ideas of the personal subjective mind (world 2) become part of the collective conversation and knowledge construction process. This thinking the past may reveal different modes of thinking, old ways of looking at particular phenomena. In the first place this is in the ecology of ideas of the subjective mind (world 2). Students develop an epistemic awareness of the common ground and subjectivity, the man-made character of knowledge artefacts.

From a transition viewpoint, where multidisciplinary approaches are desirable, collaborative learning has, for example,  high potential because of the negotiability of knowledge and the interdependent process of finding a common ground and cohesion in something such as group cognition (whatever this epistemological means). Learning becomes knowledge construction and is no longer a solitary individual process, but also a group process.

Knowledge creation/building

Knowledge building (Bereiter, 2002; Bereiter & Scardamalia, 2006a)(Bereiter, 2002; Bereiter & Scardamalia, 2006a) or knowledge creation (Nonaka, 2006; Nonaka & Toyama, 2003; Nonaka, 1994) concerns the same processes, although knowledge building is more education related and encompasses a greater range of concerns (Scardamalia & Bereiter, 2014). Both certainly consist of the social and group dynamic processes as is the case in collaborative learning. However, the latter does not always include the systematic, methodological, empathic and hermeneutic process of knowledge creation (see also Kukkonen this issue). In knowledge building the social interactions are also an enculturation in world 3 of scientific knowledge, the world of conceptual artefacts.

Despite the formulated collaborative learning formalizations such as scripts (Dillenbourg & Hong, 2008), roles (Strijbos, 2004) or orchestrating graphs and workflows (Dillenbourg, 2015), they don’t support such an enculturation, but they do support the group process in CL. Tools in knowledge building environments support the development of ideas, theories, conceptual thinking and artefacts and enculturation in World 3. It refers to a set of social practices that advance the state of knowledge within a community over time (Paavola et al. 2004). The knowledge building principles are guidelines for idea improvement; they are not scripts, not linear steps to follow. The knowledge building principles “serve multiple purposes like pedagogical guides, technology design specifications, and evaluating ’existing’ practices” (Scardamalia & Bereiter, 2010, p. 9).

An example of this collaborative learning and knowledge building is described by Willemse, Boei and Pillen (2016) reporting on communities in which secondary teacher educators  with a variety of educational background (eg. History, fysics, geography) collaboratively conducted research into  shared problems identified from practice, thus supporting the process of collaborative learning and improving practice. This process contributed to shared languages, knowledge creation and improved practices.

According to Van Aalst, (2009, p. 260) knowledge creation involves more than the creation of a new idea; it requires discourse (talk, writing, and other actions) to determine the limits of knowledge in the community, set goals, investigate problems, promote the impact of new ideas, and evaluate whether the state of knowledge in the community is advancing. Van Aalst distinguishes three modes of discourse—knowledge sharing, knowledge construction, and knowledge creation.

Knowledge sharing refers to the transmission of information between people. According to Van Aalst, knowledge construction refers to the processes by which students solve problems and construct understanding of concepts, phenomena, and situations by making ideas meaningful in relating to prior knowledge and the problem situation mediated by social interactions within a group and technologies. Knowledge construction, with its emphasis on building on students’ prior ideas, concepts and explanations, and their metacognition, produces deeper knowledge in complex domains than does knowledge sharing (Bransford et al. 1999; Hmelo-Silver et al. 2007). Van Aalst connects knowledge creation to expertise of the situations, and the requirement of environments (companies, organizations, academic disciplines) where ideas are needed to sustain innovation in order to survive as an organization, being an organic system in a big relational world.

The big difference with cooperative and collaborative learning is that knowledge building takes you directly into the process of knowledge creation as the basis of education. It is “acquiring competence in knowledge creation by actually doing it” (Scardamalia & Bereiter, 2014, p. 399). It is enculturating students in their role as collaborative knowledge creators in the sense of improving ideas. Knowledge building is much more an idea improvement centred process by means of collaboration in advancement of a community.

According to Scardamlia and Bereiter (2014; Bereiter, 2002) knowledge building derives from a Popperian epistemology e.g. Popper’s ”three world” ontology. Here world 3 consists of an objective knowledge world created by the human mind. It is knowledge in the form of conceptual artefacts which can be acted on as an object. So you can work with knowledge because you can grasp it, build on it, modify it and develop it further. This is different from co-constructing knowledge as in Collaborative learning.

In relation to education, Scardamalia and Bereiter (2014) put forward 5 of the 12 principles as vital themes. 1) Community knowledge advancement. Knowledge is not a proposition of a person, but of a culture and community and it contributes to the wisdom of the community and its members. 2) Idea improvement. There is not such a thing as a final truth, perfect theory, technology or living together. It can always be improved. All ideas can be improved and in this sense all ideas are valuable. 3) knowledge building discourse as a creative role instead of a critical role and a collaborative process. 4) constructive use of authoritative information. This means all kinds of information, first-hand experience, secondary sources, etc, that has value in the knowledge building process in a constructive transliteracy practicing. 5) Understanding as collaborative explanation building: producing principled practical knowledge by connecting concrete experiences to more generalizable knowledge. Knowledge building is innovation, based on ‘principle practical knowledge’ and theoretical concepts in a coherent explanation for practical use (know-how combined with know-why).

The process of knowledge building and co-creating as responsive learning

The Popperian ontological world 3 underlies the semiotic process in knowledge building. This world makes understanding knowledge possible because we can grasp the knowledge in its form as a conceptual artefact. A concept that can be dealt with as an object, that you can work with, build on, modify and improve.

Indeed, the conceptual artefact as such form an independent entity, but not the codes, signs, language of the mind’s thinking embedded in it. That is why a student might not receive and understand the whole insight, understanding of Jeroen (Jheronimus)Bosch’s world, given by him to the community when looking at his painting Last Judgment triptych (fig. 2).

Figure 2: Hieronymus (Jheronimus) Bosch: The Garden of Earthly Delights

To arrive at a responsivity for the embedded codes, symbol, and signs, the artefact has to come into the mind again so that you can build on it. You have to stand in front of a Rothko painting, according to his instructions as closely as possible, to become immersed in the life, the thought, the understanding of his world embedded in the artefact to experience the change in time, space and experience resonations of a reality. In this way you can experience the redefinition of essence, and perception of scale and matter looking at Anish Kapoor creatures (fig. 3).  Going into the artefact and the artefact getting into our minds is a process of transformation of our frame of reference. This process is a starting point for opening up our mind to perceive signs, codes and information as they manifest themselves in our problem, question, complexity. It is the process of noticing difference and potentials that we never perceived and understood before.

Figure 3: Sculptures by Anish Kapoor. On the lef:t ‘Anish Kapoor in the Pont, Tilburg, The Netherlands, November 2012; on the right: “Cloud Gate’ Chicago, Ilinois, USA, April 2015. (photos private collection).
Figure 3: Sculptures by Anish Kapoor. On the lef:t ‘Anish Kapoor in the Pont, Tilburg, The Netherlands, November 2012; on the right: “Cloud Gate’ Chicago, Ilinois, USA, April 2015. (photos private collection).

Looking at a theory is like looking at any other conceptual artefact. One has to become engaged and has to explore the thinking of theory. It is these kinds of knowledge building conversations with the others in the artefact, and with others about the artefact in which relations, e.g. differences come into language in the conversation. Not as an individual property of the interlocutors. ‘What is’, is ‘laid down in the middle’ as a ‘rising above’ in collective, in community, as a common language of collective understanding (a hermeneutic ‘collective Verstehen’). The process is a rising above by a grounded language of understanding in which the ‘old thinking’ is revealed in its inclusive principles. Higher problem formulations and new syntheses are build. Partners, knowledge builders, in the conversation, ”transcend trivialities, oversimplifications and move beyond current (best) practice” (Scardamalia & Bereiter, 2010, p. 10; Scardamalia, 2002, p. 79).

The principle is the ‘knowledge building conversation’ which distinguishes itself from interpersonal dialectical dialogue, debate and discussion. The knowledge building conversation is not an adjusting to each other as partners in the conversation. Partners become engaged in the artefact, coming to the truth of the matter or praxis, under the resonation of understanding reality: a resonance of organic connectedness and dependency of our being as part of others and nature. Resonations that partners in the knowledge building conversation combine in a new common ground. In the ‘knowledge-building-conversation’ it is not merely against each other and putting your own positions forward, but a transformation into the common, into the collective. A transformation in which one does not remain who one was. (Gadamer, 1975, p. 360)[3].

The epistemic development being involved in such a process consists of the experience that language and knowledge building conversation are a medium for individuals to understand by collective understanding. It is the development of a language of understanding the difference that makes a difference for theorie and practice. To learn thinking in organic systemic connectedness in which ‘the’ difference is a source for the interdependency of what we are and what is. Understanding that nothing is an isolated, stand-alone object, a fact, a problem, a situation, a person as such, but all of this is what it is because of the organic ever changing connectedness. So not only the facts but the relationships are important to understand as well. A knowledge building conversation discourse is what Kegan indicates as an epistemic development in not only ‘what’ we know but also of ‘our way of knowing’ (Kegan, 2009). The restructuring of the frame of receiving an artefact of reality, making it possible to question facts, consider perspectives, biases and historical roots of thinking of who created the artefact. In the knowledge building conversation discourse you experience the cross boundary reconceptualization of object, motive and history of an activity of possible expansive transformations in an activity system by exploring the cognitive and emotional connectedness (Engeström, 2009; S. Paavola et al., 2004).

Conclusion and principles

The experience of a gap or boundaries like in many articles in this issue, is actually is the lack of responsive learning in education.  Bringing together research (e.g. an inquiry attitude and ability) practice and schools should be much stronger learning activities in supporting lstudents’ development. It is therefore important in developing learning environments in order to bridge imaginary gaps of crossing imaginary boundaries to be fully aware of what kind of learning is supported, and question yourself if responsive learning has space and is adequately covered and supported. Four guidelines can be taking in consideration in designing for responsive learning:

  1. Agency: more control for students of their mental activity (Bruner, 1996; De Jong, 1992) and improving students’ own ideas (epistemic agency; (Bereiter & Scardamalia, 2006a; De Jong, 2006; Scardamlia & Bereiter, 2014):
    Students have ownership of their learning and ideas
  1. Culture: ‘coming into language’ of how the way we live and think and construct thought are embedded in the knowledge we claim as ‘reality’ and how our mind set perceives and interprets signs in the ecology we are part of (Bateson, 1987; ’reflection; knowledge is justified belief’, Bruner, 1996; ’rethinking assumptions’, Sterling, 2009):
    Students question presumptions and ’realities’ of what they learn.
  1. Learning together: creating meaningful connections between individual and society by ‘coming into presence’ into an intersubjective space (Stroobants, & Wildemeersch, 2001; Wildemeersch & Stroobants, 2009). The sharing and negotiation of meanings to construct shared conceptions (Charmaz, 2014; Dillenbourg, 1999; Stahl et al., 2014); explanatory coherent practical knowledge, combining ‘know-how and know-why’ aiming at solving problems, guiding practice. Understanding through collaborative explanation (Bereiter, 2014; Scardamalia & Bereiter, 2014).
    Students build new meaning together for solutions. 
  1. Knowledge building: not simple ‘learning in the raw” (Bruner, 1996), ‘rote learning’, reproducing or solving a well-known problem, but a semiotic process of entering into a collective understanding, grounded in the consequences of the system of relations that makes a difference for life. (’community knowledge advancement’; conceptual understanding, enculturation in the world of creating knowledge; Scardamalia & Bereiter, 2014; Bereiter, 2002; De Jong, 2006; cultural artfacts, Stahl, 2006).
    Students learn together and go beyond what is known and done.

How do these crucial ideas enter language in teachers’ interests, their passion for teaching, their questions, their drive to improve their teaching and education? The research presented in this issue may give us some insight in the state of art and which steps are still needed.

Reading guide

The next three articles are more conceptually oriented studies based on practice based research. Meijer and Kuijpers approach the relationship of educational researchers and practitioners in mode 2 research as a gap to be bridged. They come up with design principles rooted in different learning and instructional paradigms. Van den Berg approached the collaboration between researchers and practitioners not as a gap to bridge but as a crossing boundaries activity that requires particular abilities from both professional sides to get into a mutual learning mode and developing a transdisciplinary ability as teacher-researcher, especially in in case the educational issue is of a complex and persisting nature. Kukkonen actually jumps into what kind of learning experience that could be especially from a perspective of students. He comes up with five specific elements of good student learning experience, which in our opinion are not limited to first year UAS students. These three articles are a good conceptual base to read and go into the other articles and make up your own ideas how UAS education and practice (and research) could become more of an effective activity system in which students develop their competence and abilities.

The next three articles actually concern practices in which gaps between education and practice within professional fields are experienced and activities are undertaken  to cross the boundaries. Heldal developed a process steering instrument to enhance systematic communication between stakeholders and students’ industrial doctoral research projects. Boehm et al. is an example in which the boundaries crossed between the disciplines of arts and social care with multi professional teamwork as a bridge. In the study of Cors and Robin a science education laboratory is the support to let students cross the boundaries of science in order to develop their ideas of the world of science. Like the other articles, also this study is interesting to read from the perspective of the collaboration and boundary crossing of researchers and educational practitioners.

The last five articles concern even more innovative UAS educational practices aiming  to bridge or to cross the boundaries with practice. Helminen takes a progressive position by stating models, the issue of mentoring and being credited for developing nursing competence by learning in and from daily (paid) work. Alvaikko brings students, teachers and institutional partners together in living lab in which real life problems, acting in a real ecosystem and active user-involvement contributes to the knowledge creation. An arena in which teachers mediate between wishes of partnering organizations and curriculum requirements. Karjalainen et al. also use the idea of LABs for bridging education and working life to develop students’ 21th century skills by providing students a learning experience of creating new solutions and innovations across disciplines for a more ecological and sustainable responsible economy. Laukkanen bridges the gap between education and practice by the approach of entrepreneurial coaching leading from ideas, intention to concrete business actions. Besides a good description of the educational model of entrepreneurial coaching the article also goes into the expectations and experiences of students. The last article from Koponen gives insight in the importance of good dialogical feedback, an educational instrument which is relevant for all educational settings.

This special issue by EAPRIL and UAS-journal gives voice toUAS-research practitioners who are engaged and passionate in their work to make UASs  an even better learning environment for students and professionals than they are already for developing relevant knowledge, skills, competence for their future work activities,  for their personal and societal lives. Our wish is that more international issues will follow to exchange and share the work that is done internationally and to enhance the responsivity of education to the developments and needs in working life and society.

We like to thank authors, reviewers, Editor-in-chief Ilkka Väänänen, and UAS Journal editorial staff.

[1] These paragraphs are based on De Jong 2015.

[2] (retrieved October 2015).

[3] “Die Verständigung über die Sache, die im Gespräch zustande kommen soll, bedeutet daher notwendigerweise, dab im Gespräch eine gemeinsame Sprache erst erarbeitet wird. Das ist nicht ein äuberer Vorgang der Adjustierung von Werkzeugen, ja es ist nicht einmal richtig zu sagen, Dab sich die Partner aneinander anpassen. Vielmehr geraten sie beide im gelingenden Gespräch unter die Wahrheit der Sache, die sich zu einer neuen Gemeinsamkeit verbindet. Verständigung im Gespräch ist nicht ein blobes Sich-ausspielen und Durchsetzen des eigenen Standpunktes, sondern eine Verwandlung ins Gemeinsame hin, in der man nicht bleibt, was man war. “

Photo (spiderweb): Minna Scheinin


Frank de Jong, Aeres UAS, Wageningen the Netherlands
Martijn Willemse, Windesheim UAS, Zwolle, the Netherlands
Mauri Kantola, Turku UAS, Finland
Mervi Friman, HÄME UAS, Finland
Margaux de Vos, EAPRIL, Leuven, Belgium

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Bridging the research-to-practice gap in education: the design principles of mode-2 research innovating teacher education


Current changes in society address new demands on professionals’ ability to respond to new and changing circumstances quickly and adequately (Coonen, 2006; Hargreaves & Fullan, 2012; 2002; OCW/EZ, 2009). This implies the necessity of continuous development to improve professional performance throughout the entire career. This general professional demand has consequences for teacher education (Darling-Hammond & Foundation, 2008; Scheerens, 2010). To support this lifelong professional learning, the development of an inquiry-based attitude (hereinafter: IA) is specifically recommended as a goal in teacher education (e.g. Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 2009). In Dutch teacher education at both initial and post-initial level, it is assumed that IA will allow teachers to create new knowledge of practice continuously with the aim to develop themselves as a professional and to improve their school context (Onderwijsraad, 2014). To be able to get more understanding about IA as a developable goal in teacher education, Meijer, Geijsel, Kuijpers, Boei and Vrieling (2016) conducted a multiannual empirical study and refined IA from an ill-defined global concept into a concept with reliable and valid characteristics. Their results indicated IA as a concept with two dimensions: an internal reflective dimension and an external knowledge-sourcing dimension. The internal dimension concerns intentional actions to acquire new professional modes of understanding and behaviour. The external dimension concerns intentional actions to gain new information and knowledge from relevant knowledge-sources. Our goal in this study was to create knowledge to support teacher educators’ in their pedagogical approaches to stimulate their students’ IA. However, the transfer of results from educational research into educational practice has proven to be complex (e.g.Broekkamp & van Hout-Wolters, 2007; OCW, 2011). To help bridge this gap, practice-based scientific mode-2 research design is presented as a research method that can help (Martens, Kessels, De Laat, & Ros, 2012). The assumption in this method is that partnership between researchers and practitioners will contribute to creating meaningful, generalisable knowledge and contribute to the transfer of this knowledge into practice. We therefore used this research design in our two-year follow-up study. In partnership with educators, we designed, tested and redesigned a professional development programme and we conducted a multiple case study. In this study (Meijer, Kuijpers, Boei, Vrieling, & Geijsel, in press) we gained insight into specific characteristics of professional development interventions that encourage teacher educators’ deep learning in stimulating IA-development of their students.

To our knowledge, there are few studies that provide specific insight into the design of practice-based scientific mode-2 research (hereinafter: mode-2 research) or into the actual impact of this methodology. To contribute to an understanding of how mode-2 research can help to bridge the gap between educational research and practice, this conceptual paper will reflect on how the partnership between the researcher and five educators resulted in creating practice-based scientific knowledge, professionalising teacher educators and simultaneously contributed to innovating teacher education practice. With this reflection, we aim to contribute to the development of mode-2 research as promoted in a research manifest on practice based scientific research (Martens et al., 2012). The study we are reflecting on is summarised in Table 1 and Table 2.

In what follows we first describe mode-2 research as a relatively new mode in social science and the general scientific requirements and usability criteria our research had to meet. Secondly, we report researchers role; recruiting practitioners and organising research meetings. Thirdly, we reflect from theoretical perspectives as to how and why our approach affected educators’ professional development and brought innovation to teaching practice. In conclusion, we present our working hypothesis on design principles in mode-2 research and discuss its complexity in design and the demands researchers must meet to monitor and facilitate simultaneously the quality of the research process and the learning of the practitioners.

Table 1. Process display of the mode-2 study we are reflecting on
Table 1. Process display of the mode-2 study we are reflecting on

1. Mode-2 research

Traditional methods of knowledge production and dissemination are the subject of debate in social science. Current scientific knowledge production does not transfer to practice adequately and opinions differ regarding the measures that should be taken to close the gap (Broekkamp & van Hout-Wolters, 2007). To bridge this gap, fundamental changes are suggested as a new research mode with regard to the interaction between science and society (Nowotny, Scott, & Gibbons, 2001). Social science production, in which socially robust knowledge is produced by social interventions in the context of application, was labelled by Gibbons et al. (1994) as Mode-2 research. Martens et al. (2012) promote this mode-2 research as an alternative to traditional educational research, in which randomised controlled trials still seem to be the golden standard. This, despite the fact that the complexity in educational research makes it impossible to control all variables (Cochran-Smith & Zeichner, 2010). Research based on randomised controlled trials aims to prove universal causal patterns in teaching and disparages the need for a stronger body of knowledge with practical, context-related relevance. The lack of knowledge with practical relevance is seen as one of the causes of the gap between science and practice. Hargreaves (1999) therefore even urged teachers to produce the knowledge they need by themselves. Martens et al. (2012) assume that research for which the questions are provided by practice – a partnership between researchers and practitioners – will contribute to creating meaningful, generalisable knowledge. From the perspective of learning, they argue that if practitioners participate in the knowledge creation process while participating in a practice-based scientific educational research in their own context, practical relevant knowledge will not only be created but it will also support the transfer of scientific knowledge into practice. Bronkhorst, Meijer, Koster, Akkerman and Vermunt (2013) found that collaboration with educators enabled the researcher to benefit from their expertise and that researchers’ position as a learner and researchers’ appreciation of the partnership impacts educators’ engagement ‘agency’ in the research . This means being an ‘agent’ and ‘owner’ instead being an ‘instrument’ or in other words ‘a tool for the researcher’ (p. 93). They found also that, compared to other research designs, collaboration supported the experience of research as an integrated part of everyday practice, which is also one of the goals in teacher education (Onderwijsraad, 2014). Researchers’ support of practitioner agency is thus seen as important because the more agency, the greater the chance that a solution will be found for the problem being researched (Bolhuis, Kools, Joosten-ten Brinke, Mathijsen, & Krol, 2012; Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 2009) and this will, as stated before, support the transfer of knowledge into practice.

1.1. Scientific requirements

Creating socially robust and practice-based educational scientific knowledge, under mode-2 conditions, has to meet the same generally accepted scientific standards as any other scientific research (Martens et al., 2012; Ros et al., 2012). However in mode-2 research, the relevance of the knowledge created is rooted in the (educational) context, in which the ‘problem’ occurred (Martens et al., 2012; Nowotny et al., 2001). A characteristic in this process of ‘local’ knowledge creation is to strive for external validity (i.e. generalisable insights) beyond the locus of knowledge production. Because practice-based research often works with small populations, it means that an attempt must be made, fitting within this type of search, to maximise generalisability without affecting the usability of the knowledge for the context in which the research took place (Ros et al., 2012; Verschuren, 2009). Furthermore, mode-2 research must be carried out in the wording of the scientific criteria that relate to the internal validity; controllability; cumulativeness and ethical aspects. The research must also meet the usability criteria with a view to the practice (Martens et al., 2012; Ros et al., 2012). The usability criteria define that the results must be accessible and understandable for the field of education; the results must be perceived as relevant and legitimate and the research must provide handles to improve educational practice.

1.2. Meeting scientific requirements in our study

In our two-year mode-2 research, we have secured internal validity by conducting it in the educational context in which the issue occurred. The study was executed in collaboration with an expert group of five teacher educators as co-researchers (Meijer et al., in press). The research process was characterised by iterative cycles of design, evaluation and redesign (McKenney & Reeves, 2013) and consisted of two phases: (1) a preparatory phase of designing, testing, evaluating and improving a theory-based professional development programme and (2) a main study phase in which the designed development programme was carried out. To build a strong partnership between the researcher and the participating practitioners, we followed Eri’s (2013) advice and involved them in constructing the design, and not only in testing the design, with the aim of supporting practitioners’ agency and ownership in the subject of the study.

To create generalisable knowledge we conducted the research as a parallel multiple case study (Swanborn, 2010) in four different teacher training courses. Four fairly homogeneous groups of teacher educators on four different teacher training courses at Bachelor and Master level at a professional university in the Netherlands were followed. The study resulted in clarification of the active ingredients of the designed interventions that supported the targeted development. We found that aligned ‘self-study’ interventions at personal, peer, and group level, guided by a trained facilitator, supported the aimed learning (Meijer et al., in press). To be able to reflect on this research from the perspective of partnership between researchers and teacher educators as co-researchers (hereinafter: expert group), we recorded and transcribed the research meetings (see table 2) with the expert group.

To meet the usability criteria we described our process of scientific knowledge construction and associated ethical aspects in a scientific publication and shared the results in the locus of the research. The way in which we further comply with the usability requirements is in fact seen in the focus of this reflective paper. In it, we look at how our collaboration with practitioners in the role of co-researcher resulted in socially robust scientific knowledge which contributed to professional development and is being implemented in practice. It should be noted that this implementation took place outside the scope of this research. This is because of the time that this implementation process took. In fact, the implementation process is still underway two years after the completion of this research.

2. Partnership between researcher and teacher educators in our study

The collaboration between practitioners and researchers is argued as a thriving force in developing new practices and educational change. To reflect on this assumption from our own research experience we will first successively report researchers role; recruiting practitioners and the research meetings between researcher and practitioners. Subsequently, in section 3, we will reflect on how our partnership between researcher and practitioners contributed to bridging the gap between science and practice. We reflect from theoretical perspectives on transfer of learning and development; practitioners’ knowledge creation and innovation and organisational learning.

2.1. Researcher

For mode-2 research it is important that the researcher(s) has coaching and consultancy skills in addition to research expertise and is able find balance between the relevance for the participating practitioners and the precision required by in scientific research (Martens et al., 2012). The researcher in this study (i.e. the first author) conducted research in her own professional context. She has an extensive experience as a teacher educator, trained supervisor/coach and is also responsible for the design of the professional Masters’ curriculum in the faculty where this research was conducted. This dialectic and simultaneous relationship between being a scholar and practitioner is an increasing phenomenon in educational research (Cochran-Smith, 2005). Before starting, and while conducting our research, the interwoven roles of the researcher were an explicit object of attention and reflection.

2.2. Recruiting the Practitioners

As pointed out above, besides creating practice-based scientific knowledge, the professional development of the collaborating practitioners is also one of the goals of mode-2 research. For this reason, we firstly based our research design on two preconditions in teacher-professionalisation, as reported by Van Veen, Zwart, Meirink and Verloop (2010): the subject of our study was in line with school policy and the participants were facilitated adequately by the management. Secondly, we decided to use the model of a professional learning community because this supports professional development (Lunenberg, Dengerink, & Korthagen, 2014; Van Veen et al., 2010), it supports innovation processes (Hargreaves & Fullan, 2012; Mourshed, Chijioke, & Barber, 2010) and it supports collaboration in designing, experimenting and re-designing (McKenney & Reeves, 2013; Van den Akker, Gravemeijer, McKenney, & Nieveen, 2006).

To recruit practitioners as co-designers and co-researchers in our research project, we organised a meeting with five experienced educators who were proposed by the management for practical reasons such as availability. We presented our research goal, basic design principles and the requirements that the participants had to meet. By being clear about our expectations of the participants’ qualities and commitment, we aimed to avoid drop-out on account of disappointment (e.g. Walk, Greenspan, Crossley, & Handy, 2015). First we presented our research goal as designing and redesigning a professional development programme based on theory and on practitioners’ knowledge and exploring which specific intervention characteristics support teacher educators’ professional development in stimulating students’ IA (Meijer et al., in press). We explained the importance of commitment in participating in a professional learning community during a two- year educational design-research within their own context. We also explained the importance of being an experienced teacher educator since we needed expert knowledge in designing a professional development programme. Experience was also important considering the plan that in the second phase of the study, the participants themselves would offer the designed programme to colleagues, and therefore we assumed that their credibility as a teacher educator should be beyond doubt. Furthermore, we highlighted the importance of being motivated to contribute to generalisable and reliable practice-based scientific knowledge by systematically, inimitably and accurately questioning their own practice. They also had to enjoy designing and redesigning interventions with the aim of improving them. Finally, we explained that they had to demonstrate commitment to participating in all the research meetings planned over the two years. Collaborating on this planning was presented as the first step in our partnership.

This meeting resulted in the voluntary participation of all five experienced (8-18 years) educators (hereinafter: expert group) aged between 43-58 and all female. They were facilitated with 90 hours of extra ‘professional development’ time over the two years, in addition to the standard annual time.

2.3. Research meetings

Before reflecting on ‘our’ partnership, we will give a short chronological overview of the research meetings between the researcher and the expert group (See Table 2, Overview of research meetings). All meetings can be characterised as ‘reflective dialogues’ (Mezirow & Taylor, 2009) between the researcher and the practitioners. Based on the practitioners’ wishes, we aligned our planning with the rhythm of our educational year. This meant no meetings during the busiest periods and not at the start and end of the year. The period between the meetings varied between two or three weeks.

Table 2. Overview of research meetings
Table 2. Overview of research meetings

3. Transfer of scientific knowledge into practice

To understand how collaboration with practitioners supported the transfer of scientific knowledge into practice, we firstly need to understand the underlying theories on the transfer of learning and professional development. Secondly, we need to comprehend the theories of practitioners’ knowledge creation and thirdly, we need to understand the theories of innovation and organisational learning. In these next sections, we will reflect – through the lenses of these theories – on our research journey, and illustrate our experiences with some vignettes.

3.1. Transfer of learning

The “changed and more experienced person is the major outcome of learning” (Jarvis, 2006, p. 132) is an important goal in mode-2 practice-based scientific educational research. In our research design, this learning concerned the development of teacher educators who participated as co-researchers. Since researchers in mode-2 research have to guide the participants’ learning and the transfer of this learning into educational practice, we built our research design on knowledge of learning theories in which the transfer of learning is a key concept.

Transfer of learning, and its underlying mechanisms, is still one of the most important educational research themes of the 21st century (e.g. Lobato, 2006). Thorndike (1906) introduced the concept of transfer and stated that the transfer of what is learned is dependent on the extent to which the new situations are the same as the original learning context. Thorndike conducted various empirical experiments and found that if an individual learns something in task A, it can be of benefit in task B if there are similarities between the two tasks. Although Thorndike’s view about transfer appeared to have been around for a century, later follow-up research showed that people can abstract things they have learned previously and subsequently apply this knowledge in contexts that are not obvious (e.g. Tomic & Kingma, 1988). However the transfer is stronger the more the contexts are alike. According to Piaget (1974), transfer occurs only if a measurement comes to the fore to show that what was learned had a demonstrable effect on the cognitive structure (knowing more) and that this knowledge can be operationalised in new situations. Piaget refers to this form of transfer as accomodating, by which he meant the capacity to adjust or transform familar strategies when a problem cannot (or can no longer) be resolved using the available tools and familiar methods. If this succeeds, previously acquired knowledge and insight is demonstrably transformed to a higher level.

The theory of the transfer of knowledge to other contexts was further illuminated by Branson and Schwarz (1999) in their AERA award winning review of research into transfer. They described Thorndike’s original view on transfer as the ‘Direct application theory of transfer’ which means that a person can apply previous learning directly to a new setting or problem. Based on their review, Branson and Schwarz proposed an alternative view of transfer that broadens this traditional concept by “including an emphasis on people’s ‘preparation for future learning’” (p. 68). They explicated the implications of this view for educational practices and elaborated Broudy’s (1977) instructional procedures with the aim of supporting the ability to adapt existing knowledge, assumptions and beliefs to new situations. Bransford and Schwartz highlight that people “actively interact” with their environment to adapt to new situations “if things don’t work, effective learners revise” (Bransford & Schwartz, p. 83) (See for example vignette 1). This so-called active transfer involves openness to others’ ideas and perspectives and seeking multiple viewpoints that are also important as a characteristic of critical reflection.

Vignette 1: Effective learners revise if things don’t work
Vignette 1: Effective learners revise if things don’t work

From the perspective of transfer, Illeris (2003, 2004, 2007; 2009) analyses leading theories of learning and differentiates four different learning types and looks at them in relation to their transfer capabilities. It is about mechanical learning, assimilating, accommodating and transforming. Each learning type is activated in different contexts, aims for different learning outcomes and varies according to the amount of energy learning requires. His learning theory rests on three different dimensions and two inseparable processes. He differentiates the cognitive (content), emotional (motivation) and social (interaction) dimension as well as the internal acquisition process in which new impulses are linked to earlier learning outcomes and the external interaction process that plays out between the learner, the teaching material and the social environment. According to Illeris (2014), professional learning already includes a change in practitioners’ work identity, the level of transformative learning. This happens only when the learner experiences a change in their own mental models with a perceivable impact on bringing about a change in attitude or behaviour. The individual then looks at the reality differently and also acts differently than previously (see for example vignette 2).

Vignette 2: Transformative learning
Vignette 2: Transformative learning
3.1.1. Supporting Practitioners’ Transformative Learning

To facilitate transformative learning Greeno (2006) calls for a learning environment in which stimulating and organising broad meaningful domain knowledge and automously founded actions are applied as two pro-transfer and inseparable factors. In this context, Kessels (2001) and Kessels and Keursten (2002) call for a knowledge-productive learning environment in which no educational material is prescribed, and instead research and reflection are the prime tools used to stimulate and facilitate meaningful learning. This is in line with the meta review by Taylor (2007) which indicates that accumulating personal learning experiences in a unique context about which there is critical reflection from various perspectives is one of the most powerful tools is promoting transformative learning. This is a process of communicative learning in which identifying and problematising ideas, convictions, values and feelings are critically analysed and given consideration. This requires a setting in which the participants dare to give themselves over to uncertainty and a certain degree of ‘discomfort’ so that they can learn personally. It is about daring mutual questioning of personal ‘truths’ and being prepared to modify existing paradigms on the basis of new insights. The shape transformative learning takes in education is in part dependent on the lecturer’s personal ideas about learning theories combined with the understanding of the reciprocal relationship between: (life) experience; critical reflection; dialogue; holistic orientation; context understanding and authentic relationships (Mezirow & Taylor, 2009). “Transformative learning is always a combination of unlearning and learning” (Bolhuis, 2009, p. 62). It is a radical process of falling down and getting back up again. According to Bolhuis, the unlearning element receives too little attention in research into and the forming of theories about learning. The helping hands that are offered with regard to ‘unlearning’ are implicit and are focused on reconstructing mental models and experimenting with new behaviour that can respond to behaviour and context through repetition and reflection.

In summary, this means that if mode-2 practice-based scientific educational research wants to contribute to the professionalisation of teachers, the research design must be based on ideas about learning theories with respect to the level of learning that is intended. In research into the professional beliefs and behaviour of the educator, a research setting in which transformative learning by the practitioners is facilitated is one of the design principles. This means that a research setting that is productive to knowledge is created, one which encourages and facilitates shared interactive research and the (re-)development of practical knowledge, beliefs and behaviour from different perspectives, with the aim of contributing to creating a ‘changed and more experienced person’ (see for example vignette 2).

Looking back over our research, we can typify our design of the learning environment in which the researcher and educators design and research together as a learning environment in which various levels can be learned. The accent in this was (1) having reflective dialogue which was dominated by: obtaining conceptual clarity about key concepts and the significance of this for practical actions and research into personal beliefs and the impact of these on actions; (2) the design of a theory-based analysis tool that, over a number of cycles, we ‘tested, reflected on, modified and again tested until we could work satisfactorily with it and were confident that the participants in the follow-up study could deal with effectively; (3) the design of interventions at ‘individual, peer and group level’ (Meijer et al., in press) via cycles of testing, reflecting on what worked, why it worked and how it could be improved; and (4) the design of a coherent professional development programme based on the interventions with the associated supporting materials and the basic premises of supporting learning from the participants. Because the practitioners researched with the researcher what interventions had an impact on their own development as well as how and when, they created new knowledge about professional development. They also integrated conceptual scientific knowledge about the subject of the research, ‘stimulating the inquiry-based attitude’, into their own educational repertoire.

3.2. Supporting Practitioners’ knowledge productivity

Following on from European and Americans examples (e.g. Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 2009; Loughran, 2007; Pickering et al., 2007), in the Dutch educational context and teacher training, we are increasingly seeing practitioner research used as a professional learning strategy to support individual and organisational learning. The teachers do their own research in their own context and the research itself as seen as an intervention (Bolhuis et al., 2012). According to Bolhuis et. al, practically-focused research by professionals contributes to more conscious consideration about the aims and effects of the work and promotes this approach where professionals create practical knowledge and use other people’s knowledge more in their work. The concept of practitioners’ knowledge productivity as a process in which new knowledge is created to contribute to innovation in the workplace was introduced by Kessels (1995; 2001). It refers to using relevant information to develop and improve products, processes and services. Supporting processes of practitioners’ knowledge creation requires expertise, such as “making tacit knowledge explicit, facilitating work and teambuilding, and supplying mentors and coaches with appropriate guidance abilities” (Kessels, 1998, p. 2). Knowledge productivity refers to ‘breakthrough’ learning’ which means that learners develop new approaches and are able to break with the past (Verdonschot, 2009). Both Kessels and Verdonschot believe that innovation processes are denoted as social communicative processes in which participants work in collaboration, whereby the quality of the interaction is important and should provide access to each other’s knowledge and connect these (see for example vignette 3). Paavola, Lipponen and Hakkarainen (2004) introduced the knowledge creation metaphor as a learning metaphor that concentrates on mediated processes of knowledge creation. A learning model based on knowledge-creation conceptualises “learning and knowledge advancement as collaborative processes for developing shared objects of activity […] toward developing […] knowledge” (p. 569)

Vignette 3: Social communicative knowledge creation.
Vignette 3: Social communicative knowledge creation.
3.2.1. Collaborative learning

In collaborative learning, the literature makes frequent reference to professional learning communities, group learning or learning from peers, and is seem as the most powerful driver for educational innovations (Hargreaves & Fullan, 2012; Mourshed et al., 2010). The concept of a professional community is multidimensional in nature and can be unpacked as practitioners’ peer learning with the goal of developing a shared vision that provides a framework for shared decision making on meaningful practice questions (see for example vignette 4). The aim is to improve practice from the perspective of collective responsibility, in which both group and individual learning are promoted. (Hord, 1997; Stoll, Bolam, McMahon, Wallace, & Thomas, 2006).

The positive impact of collaborative learning methods is convincingly present in research literature. The meta analysis by Pai, Sears and Maeda (2015) showed that compared to individualistic learning methods, learning in small groups ( 2-5 participants) promotes students’ acquisition of knowledge and has also positive effects on increasing the transfer of students’ learning experiences and outcomes into practice. From the perspective of cognitive load theory, that considers a collaborative learning group as an information processing system (Janssen, Kirschner, Erkens, Kirschner, & Paas, 2010), students working in a group outperform students working individually, because a group has more processing capacity than individual learners. Sharing the cognitive load increases the cognitive capacity to understand the learning objectives at a deeper level (Kirschner, Paas, & Kirschner, 2009).

Pai, Sears and Maeda (2015) found that the positive interdependence between the group members, interpersonal skills and carefully structured interaction contributed effectively to collaborative learning achievements. There is also general agreement that the reflective dialogue plays a key role in the interaction in collaborative learning (e.g. Fielding et al., 2005; Lomos, Hofman, & Bosker, 2011) and that critical friendship, with the emphasis on ‘friendship’, in the sense of equality, trust, openness and vulnerability (Schuck, Aubusson, & Buchanan, 2008) is a prerequisite for collaborative learning. Personal commitment, as in the sense of learner engagement (see for example vignette 5), is indicated as another precondition to resolve complex practice-based problems and find acceptable solutions. (Bolhuis et al., 2012; Fielding et al., 2005)

In their exploration of the relation between teacher learning and collaboration in innovative teams, Meirink, Imants, Meijer and Verloop (2010) found that collaboration in teams that focused on both “sharing of ideas and experiences” and “sharing identifying and solving problems” contributed to a higher level of interdependence. Collegial interaction that can be typified as ‘joint work’ is indicated as interaction with the highest level of interdependence. This is in line with other findings from research into factors that influence the transfer of good practice (e.g. Fielding et al., 2005). In this study, the transfer of good practise is seen as ‘joint practice development’ which depends on relationships, institutional and teacher identity, having time, and most important learner engagement. The importance of “the quality of relationships between those involved in the process” (p. 3) is highlighted because the transfer of practice is relatively intrusive and hard to achieve.

Vignette 4: Developing a shared vision


Vignette 5: Personal commitment and agency

In summary, this means that supporting practitioners’ knowledge productivity during mode-2 research requires a research design incorporates the theoretical ideas regarding collaborative workplace learning. Here, the practitioners use practice-focused as a professional learning strategy and not just as a tool to create knowledge.

Looking back on the knowledge productivity of the educators in our research design, we see strong correlations with, for example, the practitioner research self-study method (Loughran, 2007; Lunenberg, Zwart, & Korthagen, 2010). The aim of our research is very close to the central goal of the self-study methodology. This goal is to uncover deeper understandings of the relationship between teaching and learning about teaching, with the aim of improving the alignment between intentions and actions in the practitioners’ teaching practice. Like the self-study approach, our research design strongly appeals to individuals’ scholarly notions and qualities, where the systematic collation and analysis of personal data in a personal context supports a personal deeper professional understanding that can be shared with other colleagues. However, where we differ explicitly from the self-study approach is that our research design centred around ‘collective’ learning in multiple settings with the aim of creating a collective deeper understanding and generalizable scientific knowledge, and implementing this new knowledge into the practice of teacher educators. The importance of well-guided collaborative knowledge creation in small-peer groups is thereby emphasised by the expert group. The expert group highlighted the importance of flexible research guidance that is aligned with the ‘reality of the daily working context’ as a precondition to staying motivated to participate in this research project (see for example vignette 6).

Vignette 6: Flexible guidance
Vignette 6: Flexible guidance

3.3. Innovation in education

As well as professional teaching, mode-2 research also aims for innovation in the professional context. Therefore it is relevant to understand the relationship between individual and collective organisational learning (Argyris, 2002; Senge, Cambron-McCabe, Lucas, Smith, & Dutton, 2012). Innovation in education programmes is a complex, broad concept and concerns multiple relations and dimensions within multiple programme components. For a definition of what we can understand innovation in education, we use Waslander’s (2007) description in her review of scientific research on sustained innovation in secondary education. To her, an innovation is a set of activities which together comprise a concept or an idea which if implemented improves practice. An innovation is something ‘new’ that has added value for the future. Further, there is only an innovation of this ‘news’ manifests itself in people’s behaviour and is embedded in their day-to-day routine.

Innovations at the organisation level always relate to relationship between individual and collective learning and successfully triggering collective learning is a first step towards innovating. The research by Peck, Gallucci, Sloan and Lippincott (2009) into teacher education practices shows that the problems related to individual practice (raised by new policies) are often the trigger for faculty (collective) learning. Even though collective learning still delivers such well designed interventions and knowledge, it is no guarantee of successful implementation at the level of the organisation (Verdonschot, 2009). Based on her meta analysis of innovation practices, Verdonschot established that the skills and ambition of the individual implementing the intervention influence its success. In addition, the new knowledge that is to be integrated must be well-timed, relevant and appropriate (Eraut, 2004, 2007; Peck et al., 2009). If the knowledge was not acquired in a personal context, but through formal learning such as, for example, schooling, it often has to be transformed to the personal situation because the new knowledge doesn’t fit the actual situation in which it is required. To integrate the new knowledge requires practitioners’ meta cognitive skills in transforming knowledge and skills to the personal situation.

3.3.1. Supporting innovation in education

In supporting professional learning that is focused on innovating, it is essential to facilitate the generation of new reality constructions (Homan, 2005). Generating new reality constructs is central to the theory on organisational learning in the familiar work by Argyris and Schön (1978) and is aligned with the previously discussed theory on transfer of learning. Argyris (1992; 2002) differentiates between single-loop learning and double-loop learning. With single-loop learning, a lot is learned but nothing is learned about how to learn better. It is generally about solutions that are more of the same. Single-loop learning will therefore not contribute to innovations because it concerns only correcting errors without altering underlying governing values. To resolve complex problems for which new solutions are needed, double-loop learning is needed. This means calling on the ability to fundamentally think the problem through and learn from this through critical reflection. Argyris stated that to change organisational routines with success, organisational and individual double-loop learning processes should both be encouraged. In his opinion, it is impossible to change organisational routines without changing individual routines, and vice versa. Senge, Cambron-McCabe, Lucas, Smith and Dutton (2012) talk in this context about fundamental changes in mental models, systems and interactions which are a prerequisite to redesigning and changing the current situation. To support double loop-learning, Argyris calls for an increase in people’s capacity “to confront their ideas, to create a window into their minds, and to face their hidden assumptions, biases, and fears by acting in these ways toward other people” (2002, p. 217). He highlights the importance of encouraging self-reflection and advocating personal principles, values, and beliefs in a way that invites inquiry into them. This is in line with Eraut’s research (2004, 2007) in which he emphasises the critical importance of support and feedback in enhancing organisational learning, especially within a working context of good relationships and supporting managers. In addition, opportunities for working alongside others or in groups, where it is possible to learn from one another, are important.

In summary, this means that if mode-2 practice-based scientific educational research wants to help in innovating educational context, more is needed than stimulating double-loop learning by practitioners during joint design and research. Encouraging transfer between individual and collective learning and securing its implementation in the professional context requires a research design that is based on innovation theories that are leading in the monitoring of this complex form of learning.

Looking back over our research, we have experienced that the transfer of personal learning into organisational learning and innovation is highly complex and time-consuming. In our opinion, a well-designed implementation plan that is guided by principles from theories on organisational learning and innovation is needed prior to the start of the research. In our view, this plan must include management support and implementation facilities to ensure that the implementation doesn’t come to a halt when the researcher leaves.
In the study we are reflecting on, the researcher had a management position in two of the four participating educational settings and was able to influence the organisational policy concerning educating teachers and the demands the educators have to meet. In these two settings, our mode-2 research resulted in a successful transfer of scientific knowledge into our practice policy (see for example vignette 7).

Vignette 7: Transfer of scientific knowledge into organisational policy

In the other two settings, our research design was only successful from the perspectives of knowledge creation and professional development. Once the (co-) researcher had left, further implementation came to a halt. Our explanation is that having an implementation plan that is supported by the management (e.g. Eraut, 2004, 2007; Van Veen et al., 2010) is a prerequisite to implementing the innovation at the organisational level. We recommend that that if the researcher is not to execute the implementation plan personally, this should be done by an engaged practitioner who, in line with Verdonschot’s research (2009), has the courage, ambition and mandate to make the implementation a success. Looking back on our innovation we can see that, like many other innovations, it was triggered by new policy (Peck et al., 2009). This policy concerns the ambition of the Dutch Educational Council (2014) to promote the development of an inquiry-based attitude on the part of teachers.

4. Working hypothesis concerning design principles in mode-2 research

This conceptual paper is a reflection of our previous two-year mode-2 research journey (Meijer et al., in press) in which our partnership between researcher and practitioners successfully contributed to bridging the research-to practice-gap in education. That research concerned a multiple case study as part of which we worked with five experienced educators to design, test and explore a professional development programme. Our reflection shows that the partnership in our research helped to create socially robust scientific knowledge and that this collaboration contributed to the transfer of the knowledge created into the practice in which the research was conducted. The new knowledge was not just integrated into the practitioners’ actions, in two of the four settings where the research was conducted, it was also translated into internal policy documents. These policy documents are definitive in ensuring curriculum innovation and thus the required educational behaviour in the setting in which the researcher works.
Our contribution in shaping the theory regarding the design of mode-2 research comprises firstly the finding that partnership between the researcher and practitioners in creating practice-based scientific knowledge succeeds in closing the gap between theory and practice if the research design includes the objectives and a theoretically-based approach to both practitioners’ knowledge creation, practitioners’ development and the proposed organisational learning and innovation. Secondly our reflection resulted, from various theoretical perspectives of the partnership with practitioners, in concrete design principles, preconditions and recommendations for supporting and guiding practitioners during mode-2 research. We have set these out in the table below (see Table 3) and these can be seen as a working hypothesis for designing and guiding this kind of research. Allocation to the categories used is not a distinction because some of the recommendations apply within multiple categories.

Table 3: Design principles of mode-2 research
Table 3: Design principles of mode-2 research

To summarise: in this conceptual paper, we have reflected on the theoretical aspects of transfer of learning; professional development; practitioners’ knowledge creation; innovation and organisational learning on how partnership with practitioners can help in bridging the gap between theory and practice.

Our reflections have highlighted the importance of having three interwoven research designs in mode-2 research: (1) one design concerning the scientific knowledge creation process based on practitioners’ knowledge creation; (2) one design concerning the practitioners’ learning support in knowledge creation, professional learning and knowledge transfer and (3) and one design that guarantees implementation into practitioners’ practice at the organisational level. To gain a deeper scientific understanding in critical design variables in mode-2 research which at the same time help to create scientific practice-based knowledge, professionalise practitioners and ensure innovation, we recommend that mode-2 researchers write conceptual papers from the perspective of three interwoven designs to allow further meta analysis to be carried out in the future. We also advise further investigation into the qualities a mode-2 researcher must demonstrate as a facilitator of professional development and innovation. The researchers can use the design principles we have proposed as a working hypothesis for designing and guiding their own mode-2 research. Follow-up research into these design principles can support deeper understanding of how mode-2 research in education can bridge the gap between theory and practice.

Corresponding Author

Marie-Jeanne Meijer, PHD-student, Curriculum director at Windesheim University of Applied Sciences, Movement & Education, The Netherlands, mj.meijer(at)


Marinka Kuijpers, PHD, Professor at Welten Institute, Open University, The Netherlands, marinka.kuijpers(at)

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Boundary-crossing competences of educators and researchers in working on educational issues


About 25 years ago, I was conducting my doctoral research (Van den Berg 1992) with the aim of learning how basic education for adults had taken shape – after all of the relatively diverse precursors had merged – and how the environment, the organisation, and the supply of education were related. I spent a week each in 17 different institutions, during which time I conducted archival research, class observations and interviews. During the course of one academic year, I experienced the ins and outs of basic education, including the work pressure and commotion of the weeks preceding the summer holidays. One team that I observed called me a week after my visit because my interviews had created quite a stir. The underlying tensions between the precursors had suddenly become clearly visible, and the team did not want to leave for the summer holidays on that note. They had organised an extra team day in order to re-open a discussion, and they asked me to attend. In this way, they would have an independent observer and rapporteur, and I would gather supplemental material for my research. I had never before witnessed how the act of conducting research could have such a direct impact on practice, and how educators could immediately make use of this impact in a constructive manner.

Over the following years, the relationships between research, educational innovation, and teacher professionalisation remained of exceptional interest to me. How are knowledge from research and knowledge from practice interrelated? When and how do research inquiry and practitioner inquiry help educators achieve further professional development? How can research contribute to the improvement of the teaching profession with regard to learning and development? For example, Van den Berg and De Bruijn (2009) conducted a traditional literature review on competence-based education and reviewed documented practitioner knowledge on the subject. There appeared to be striking similaries between the two types of knowledge, the scienctific literature being more rigourous and the practitioner knowledge being more current. Van den Berg and De Bruyn (2009) suggested a research agenda that combined the two.

Another example is the reflection made by Van den Berg and Streumer (2011) on a Workplace Learning Breakthrough Project. They proposed that the relationship between research and practice has yet to be precisely determined in practice-based research. Both the willingness and competence of researchers and teaching professionals to collaborate on urgent issues appear to be particularly important factors for success. In retrospect on the Breakthrough Project, Van den Berg and Streumer (2011) determined that the process of conducting the study has rested primarily with the researchers, that the scientific quality of the research could nevertheless be questioned, and that the study had contributed less than had been hoped to changes in practice. Perhaps more patience is required, because the reality of workplaces is just too complex to grasp within the space of a three-year project (Van den Berg & Streumer 2011).

I am constantly searching for ways to collaborate with others to arrive at answers to the types of questions indicated above, as well as for ways to make these answers productive in research and educational practice. I am interested in educators and researchers ‘jumping in’ to apply these questions to real cases and working on them collaboratively. This article elaborates on this theme of ‘jumping in’. The discussion presented is based on a theoretical framework that is currently being developed (Van den Berg, 2016) for a research programme in the Netherlands, at Aeres Wageningen University of Applied Sciences. This programme aims at enhancing our understanding of the course of collaboration between educators and researchers on issues related to learning and development, as well as our understanding of how participants can improve their collaboration. The conceptual framework presented forms the basis for the empirical research agenda of the initiated programme.

This article will begin by introducing the theoretical background of this study. Second, the central question and methodology will be presented. Third, the resulting framework will be described in three parts, namely: a) the nature of problems, b) the concept of research competence and c) the concept of transdisciplinary competence. The article will end off by drawing conclusions and offering a sketch of the research programme initiated.

Theoretical background: Complex educator-researcher relationships

Knowledge and innovative competence are becoming increasingly important in society (OECD 2002; Onderwijsraad 2014; Rijksoverheid 2015). This is consequently changing the demands that are imposed on professionals. Routine skills are becoming less important, while non-routine skills and cross-disciplinary competences are playing an increasingly important role (OECD 2013). Analytical, investigative and reflective competences may serve as examples of this. For professionals, such qualities are important for optimal performance. For organisations, they are essential to improving responsiveness, innovation, and productivity (Volberda, Jansen, Tempelaar & Heij 2011; Onderwijsraad 2014, 9).

These changes call for increasing interaction of organisations on the one hand (enterprises, firms, non-commercial institutes), and research institutes on the other hand, and thereby of both practitioners and researchers. In narrowing the bandwidth of organisations to the domain of education and teacher education, the need for inquiry and research in educational institutes becomes explicit. And, addressing questions about learning and development by working in a systematic, inquiry-based manner (if possible in collaboration with external partners such as related organisations and researchers) appears to offer exceptional opportunities for realising sustainable improvements in our teaching practices (see, for example, Schenke 2015). At the same time, experience shows that persistence is also at play. Boundary crossing by practitioners and researchers has proven to be quite complicated, even when conditions appear favourable. Partners in innovation projects fail to complete their learning cycles, and research often fails to make the desired contribution to practice (Den Boer & Teurlings 2015; Schenke 2015; Van den Berg 2013).

The development of inquiry- and research-based education is subject to several inevitable challenges. For example, researchers still argue that their findings are not used to the extent that they should be, while educators argue that research is too often engaged in stating the obvious (‘bashing in open doors’), in addition to being reported in an inaccessible manner and containing no concrete guidelines for application (Broekkamp & Van Hout-Wolters 2006; Onderwijsraad 2006; Onderwijsraad 2011; Teurlings et al. 2011). Strengthening the usability and application of research requires more intervention than merely adding usability requirements to studies, imposing research duties on educators, expanding the research capacity in schools, and enhancing the findability and accessibility of research. Even if everyone endorses the importance of research and works to bridge ‘the gap’ between research and teaching practice, the practices of researchers and educators will not come together automatically.

The linear Research-Development-Diffusion (RDD) model of knowledge development followed by development work, diffusion, and application is being increasingly supplemented by alternative models, such as practice-based research in professional learning communities, knowledge-based workplaces, and academic workplaces. As advocated by Gibbons et al. (1994), this involves supplementing knowledge development by researchers in the traditional scientific method (Mode 1) with interactive researcher-practitioner knowledge development (Mode 2). Approaches like the Ecologically and Transdisciplinarily Inspired (ETI) research approach (De Jong, De Beus, Richardson & Ruijters 2013) further elaborate on this thinking. In this approach, researchers and practitioners engage in transdisciplinary collaboration in order to understand and resolve professional issues. Both practical and scientific knowledge have a voice in knowledge development, and all partners involved in the conversation learn from this (cf. De Jong 2015, 43-57). It is therefore a way of contributing to the general knowledge base (theory), as well as to practice.

Although interactive approaches such as Mode 2 and ETI are clearly on the rise, RDD thinking continues to hold a prominent place in our systems, including the associated processes of agenda-setting, funding, and accountability. This is not only the case in education, but also in other domains. Wehrens (2013) studied academic workplaces in healthcare. He proposes that we open a discussion concerning the practice of speaking in terms of ‘bridging the gap’. The image of a gap can reinforce the perception of research and practice as two separate worlds with completely different logics, motivations, and routines, thereby needlessly complicating the process of building bridges. The boundary traffic is actually more intense and fertile than could be expected, based on the image of two separate worlds. The perspective of mutual knowledge development entails looking at what does exist – the boundary practice, the bridge and, particularly, the traffic (active dialogue and negotiation on issues that belong on the agenda) – instead of looking at what does not exist (the void of the gap).

Crossing one’s ‘own’ boundaries and searching for cooperation is expected to result in more suitable and applicable answers to professional questions such as those in educational or healthcare practice (Akkerman & Bakker 2011; Akkerman & Bakker 2012). In particular, the interactive models of practice-based research (Mode 2, ETI) call for specific boundary-crossing competences of both researchers and practitioners. Exchanging information and using and reinforcing each other’s insights, instruments or other qualities requires attention to differences in culture and pace, mutual interests, and trust, as well as the relationship between factors at play both within and beyond the research-practice partnership. This attention should ensure the proper conditions for exchanging information and for using and reinforcing one another’s insights, instruments, or other qualities (Coburn, Penuel & Geil 2013; Ruijters 2016). Interactive research also calls for balancing the research role and the practice role, which demands both role stability and role development (De Bruijn & Westerhuis 2013). Andriessen (2014) introduced the concept of research competence as a specific quality needed for highly-educated professionals (in general, not only in the educational field). These individuals need to think and work from an inquiring stance, utilise existing research, and must be able to conduct small-scale research themselves. For practice-based researchers, Andriessen (2014) points to the scientific rigour and practical relevance of their work as necessary qualities. Further elaboration on these insights is required to more precisely define boundary-crossing competences.

Central question and methodology

As should be clear from this discussion, much work remains for practitioners and researchers in their joint efforts to clarify professional issues and contribute to solutions. To this end, we should also ask ourselves several questions and determine our position. For example, as educators, what views do we have on teacher-research and practice-based research? Do we ever discuss these views with researchers? How willing are we to acknowledge our prejudices and compare them with the opinions of others? Are we sufficiently open to findings from research? What do we need in order to convert information from research into guidelines for action in our own practice? As researchers, we should be asking ourselves questions too, for example, about our views on the contribution of research to educational practice. Would we be willing and able to make our research primarily dependent upon the issues with which schools are struggling?

In the interest of enhancing our understanding of the course of collaboration between educators and researchers on issues related to learning and development, as well as our understanding of how such collaboration can be improved, Aeres Wageningen University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands initiated a research programme focused on the following central question: How can boundary practices between educators and researchers be reinforced? In this research programme, educators can be both teachers and teacher educators. Researchers in this field can be both (internal) teacher-researchers and (external) practice-based researchers.

The first step in the research programme is a conceptual study. During 2015, three intertwining processes took place: a) reading snowball-sampled literature, b) a (narrative) examination of, and reflection on, earlier publications by the author and c) a discussion of preliminary results of the study with both educators and researchers. These processes led to the gradual emergence of the conceptual framework as presented in the results. The conceptual study started from the key concept of research competence as formulated by Andriessen (2014). As Andriessen states, higher-educated professionals should be able to work with an inquiring stance, utilise existing research, and conduct research themselves. What concepts form the basis for this set of three subconcepts? What research on it is available? What specific features belong to research competence in the educational domain? Next, shifting the perspective: if practitioners need research competence, what do (practice-based) researchers need? They, too, need research competence, of course, but what more? Under this line of thinking, the concept of transdisciplinary competence emerged and was developed. Finally, now that we have these two competences, what kinds of professional issues will benefit from this? This third concept of professional issues is the first to be addressed in the next paragraph.

Three types of educational issues; three possible roles of research

The nature of professional issues concerning learning and development is important for the contribution that research can make to the resolution of such issues. The manner in which these issues can best be addressed depends primarily upon their relative simplicity or complexity, as well as upon the clarity of the solution. Three types of issues can be distinguished as follows:

Simple educational issues
Simple issues, in which both the actual issue and its solution are clear, demand substantive expertise in order to improve existing rules and support behavioural change. Schein (2005) refers to this as the ‘expert model’. These types of issues generally lend themselves well to informative learning (Kegan, 2009), as is the case with learning from a book and applying the knowledge gained.

In such cases, the role of research could consist of evaluating whether the solution is actually sufficient, or whether unexpected circumstances complicate the situation. In most cases, however, conscious reflection, discussion with colleagues and students, and possibly engaging in a mutual search for potential improvements should suffice (compare the concepts of ‘reflection-in-action’ and ‘reflection-on-action’ as defined by Schön 1987). How do I proceed in supervising my students today? What has the team meeting achieved?

Complicated educational issues
In general, when referring to complicated issues, the issue is clear, but the solution is not. Such situations require diagnoses and remedies, as outlined in Schein’s (2005) doctor-patient model. In educational contexts, this concerns issues such as: Does our curriculum offer students sufficient flexibility? How can we improve the correspondence between interim formative assessments and final assessments? In these situations, ‘the right solution’ is developed through behavioural prescriptions and tools. The learning is assimilative (Illeris 2010).

Research can help create an overview of existing solutions, as well as test these solutions. In many cases, however, it is enough for educators to adopt an inquiry-based approach. Commonly-used tools in this regard include the Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) cycle (Deming 1996), Contexts-Interventions-Mechanisms-Outcomes (CIMO) logic (Denyer, Tranfield & Van Aken 2008), and Lesson Study (De Weert & Logtenberg 2011). Attention to teacher inquiry is also reflected in concepts centring on the use of available data, including result-oriented working methods, evidence-informed education, and Positive Behaviour Support (see for example Bruggink & Harinck 2012; Schildkamp 2012).

Complex and persistent educational issues
Complexity and persistency apply to situations in which the core of the problem is not particularly clear and/or in which no solution is immediately evident. For example, how can we optimise teaching and learning in hybrid configurations of school, the workplace, and virtual environments? Such contexts call for a path in which the issue can be dissected and possible solutions explored. It is conceivable that such situations demand fundamentally different ways of looking, thinking, and acting (so: transitions). Issues that require ‘only’ the replacement of old routines entail accommodative learning (Illeris 2010). If more extensive changes are necessary, transformative learning is needed: instead of calling for expanding our knowledge and competences, such situations require us to change the nature of our knowledge and competences across the entire scale (Kegan 2009; Illeris 2010).

Research can support the learning needed in a variety of ways: it can be used to describe and clarify the issue, to offer perspectives, to identify possible explanations, to mention and compare possible solutions, to conduct experiments and to monitor processes. In this way, research could fit well with efforts to build sustainable development in education and schools. Both processes proceed in an iterative manner, and both are characterised by a relatively slow pace. The interaction could be described as a continuous process in which research helps to improve our understanding of practice and to support school development, which in turn serves as a source of theory development (Schenke 2015, 80-81).

Research as careful ‘slow’ thinking on educational issues
So, in broad terms, different types of research are suited to educators’ professional problems of different levels of complexity. Particularly for complex and persistent issues, it may be helpful for educators and researchers to start working together. Nevertheless, people have a natural tendency to simplify issues to such an extent that existing routines will suffice to address them (Kahneman 2011). The urge to think from within existing patterns can cause us to opt for quick solutions. For example, to counteract student absence, we might be tempted to either introduce a mandatory attendance policy, create registration systems, or report to parents instead of adopting an inquiry approach that would require more time and transformation. One consequence of our preference for existing patterns could also be that we would opt for a traditional, linear research approach, whereas interactive research would presumably yield more sustainable benefits. However, if an issue concerning learning and development does call for the type of slow thinking that is known as research, the educators and researchers involved should be equipped to collaborate successfully. The following text addresses the next two primary concepts in this regard: the boundary-crossing qualities of research competence and transdisciplinary competence.

The research competence of educators

Research competence is the overarching term for various elements that serve as characteristics of professionals such as educators, i.e. a) possessing an inquiring stance and the competence to think and work from within this attitude, b) being able to apply knowledge from available research to one’s own professional practice and c) being able to independently design and conduct small-scale, practice-based research (Andriessen 2014). In addition to these three elements of research competence, there is another overarching element that applies specifically to educators. This special characteristic is that educators- even more than other professionals – support others in the process of learning, including in the development of research competence (Nijenhuis et al. 2015; OOB 2015).

Figure 1: Elements of educators’ research competence
Figure 1: Elements of educators’ research competence

Research competence is an integral part of our professionalism, and it should thus always be seen in relation to other qualities that make us who we are and what we do: our professional identity. The four elements of research competence represented in Figure 1 can be described as follows.

Inquiring stance
First, an inquiring stance can be defined as having an open attitude, being curious, being critical, and wanting to understand, support, justify, build, concede and innovate (Bruggink & Harinck 2012; Losse & Nahuis 2015; Van der Rijst 2009). Although competences in research and reflection do not necessarily constitute a component of an inquiring stance, these are important ‘tools’ for its application and thus its contribution to the assignment of meaning and the competence to improve action (Bruggink & Harinck 2012, 50-52). On the other hand, an inquiring stance can be seen as a prerequisite for conducting research (Van der Rijst 2009). We could argue that, without an inquiring stance, research would remain limited to a trick, a mechanical procedure that is not fuelled by any curiosity about answers to the issues being investigated.

For relatively simple issues, an inquiring stance is manifest in asking reflective questions, engaging in discussion with colleagues and students and possibly in collaborating to identify opportunities for improvement. In this case, the inquiring stance is thus the attitude of reflective practitioners, who build delays into their actions. For more complex issues, behaviour based on an inquiring stance is not merely reflective, but also more inquisitive. In studies by Bruggink and Harinck (2012) and by Greve, Munneke and Andriessen (2015), this is summarised through the terms ‘inquiry-based learning’ and ‘proper examination’. Finally, for issues that are complicated and persistent, an inquiring stance is evident in the methodical application of research competences. In this regard, we refer to practitioner research (by educators), practice-based research (by researchers), and everything in between.

Applying research
The second element of research competence, applying research in one’s own professional practice, contributes to keeping the vocational field up to date. It entails modernisation and innovation based on existing research rather than according to intuition and experience. Some research knowledge has been included in manuals, and some remains for current and aspiring educators to read on their own in scientific publications and to use in their actions.

As argued by the Netherlands Educational Council (Onderwijsraad 2006, 9), research can ‘yield a reliable judgement concerning the suitability of methods and approaches, thus preventing the protracted ideological discussions and “trial and error” in practice.’ The Council does not advocate the wholesale adoption of evidence-based education, but a phased and differentiated approach. Depending upon the state of knowledge in a given field, this is expected to generate a systematic process of exploratory research, development work, and practical experience that will ultimately produce an overview of what works, as well as why and how it works. Only then can hard experiments with control groups be justified (Onderwijsraad 2006). This approach could be compared to the model elaborated on by Van Yperen, Veerman and Bijl (2013), who distinguish four levels of evidential value (applied to the context of youth services): 1) descriptive evidential value, which demonstrates the potential of interventions; 2) theoretical support for promising interventions; 3) indicative evidential value, based on well-defined interventions that have proven effective and 4) causal evidential value, which demonstrates the efficacy of interventions. This model does justice to the notions of practice-based evidence and evidence-based practice, two movements in which the four-level model of evidentiary value can help realise the interaction between practice and evidence (Van Yperen et al. 2013).

The consideration of the possibilities of ‘applying research’ can be of relevance to any type of professional issue as described above. Nevertheless, building on available research as a foundation for individual actions is not commonplace. Negative connotations sometimes stick to evidence-based working methods. The concept is associated with hard evidence and a linear approach to research that would lead to prescriptions for action set in stone for educators, without allowing room for their own practical wisdom. This negative connotation threatens to allow ‘fast thinking’ to take precedence over the desire for innovation. One effect could be the absence of motivation on the part of educators to start working with research outcomes. It could potentially be beneficial to encourage them to develop an inquiring stance, thus making them curious about the outcomes of research. At the same time, they would also become more critical and less likely to accept research outcomes as irrefutable truths. Instead, they would be more likely to see such results as a supplement to their practical knowledge and as a potential foundation upon which to base their own actions (Enthoven & Oostdam 2014; Verbeek & Wassink 2014).

Conducting research
Conducting (small-scale, practice-based) research – the third element of research competence – refers to targeted, reproducible, and systematic data collection (Cochran-Smit & Lytle 2009; Ponte 2012; Zwart, Smit & Admiraal 2014). It entails a research cycle in which methodological rules are followed in order to clarify an issue; to map literature; to design a research approach; to collect, process, and analyse data; to describe results; to derive conclusions; to make recommendations, and to report on all of these actions. Conducting research can contribute to insight into their own actions, the process of building on insights from others, the development of knowledge of their own changing profession, the professional development of educators, and to the quality and development of their work practice (Admiraal, Smit & Zwart 2013; Bruggink & Harinck 2012; Ros et al. 2013; Van den Bergh & Ros 2015; Van Veen, Zwart, Meirink & Verloop 2010; Vanassche & Kelchterman 2014). Conducting research also lends itself to the reinforcement of an inquiring stance and to the acquisition of knowledge and skills with regard to conducting research (Van der Linden 2012). Conducting research is furthermore an effective learning strategy that contributes to self-directed learning. Research skills and study skills overlap to a large extent (Geerdink 2010).

In their international literature survey of peer-reviewed research published by teachers, Admiraal, Smit and Zwart (2013) distinguish four types of teacher research: action research, lesson study, self-study, and design-based research. The results of the studied teacher research appear to be increased teacher knowledge, greater use of research in practice, an increased capacity for critical thinking, and increased self-confidence as teachers. ‘Most importantly, however, participation in research appears to be a meaningful form of professional development for teachers’ (Admiraal, Smit & Zwart 2013, 25, translated). The authors observe that few of the studies they examined contributed to the generation of scientific knowledge concerning education, even though such results could be expected, given their selection criteria (that is: peer-reviewed and published research). The scope of teacher research thus apparently remains limited to the knowledge base within the field of educational practice. It could be discussed whether this ‘limitation’ really is a pity or if it is more than worth the trouble, in light of the often-painstaking effects of research conducted by outsiders in practice.

Supporting the development of research competence
Fourth and finally, the element of supporting others in the development of their research competence applies to both teacher educators and educators elsewhere in the domain of education. The most efficient manner of reinforcing the research competence of students is not yet clear (Bruggink & Harinck 2012). For several years, teacher-training programmes in the Netherlands have been active to gain insight into this matter and to build attention to research competence into the curriculum. In addition to this curriculum development, supporting the development of research competence implies demands on teacher trainers. They must possess research competence and serve as inspiring examples (Geerdink 2010, 73) and must be able to transfer research competence. This is more easily accomplished when the learning environment has a culture of research (Van der Linden 2012). An increasing number of teacher trainers have been developing themselves in this field. Many personnel advertisements currently call for teachers with research experience, and researchers are regularly invited to give guest lectures or to assess research. The greatest challenge is to assign teachers, teacher-researchers, research teachers, and researchers in such a way as to ensure balance at both the individual and team level in terms of subject content, teaching competences, and research competence. At the same time, integral attention to research competence is needed in both the curriculum and in vocational preparation.

Professional issues and research competence
Reflecting on the conceptual framework presented thus far, differences in the complexity of issues as described earlier can be related to the various elements of research competence. Consideration of the possibilities of ‘applying research’ can be relevant to any type of issue. The dimensions ‘working from within an inquiring stance’ and ‘conducting research’ nevertheless form a sliding scale that corresponds to the growing complexity of issues, in which explicit research knowledge and competences play an increasingly important role (see also Enthoven & Oostdam 2014).

Transdisciplinary competence

The second type of boundary-crossing qualities in working (together) as educators and researchers on professional issues is the competence to collaborate and engage in mutual learning across theoretical and practical boundaries. This transdisciplinary competence consists primarily of the three elements shown in Figure 2 and summarised in the following:

Figure 2: Elements of transdisciplinary competence
Figure 2: Elements of transdisciplinary competence

Good research?
With regard to educational research (and social sciences in general), a vast amount of methodological textbooks consider the different parts of research processes, such as problem definition, theorising, research planning, data collection, et cetera. All parts should contribute to rigorous research expressed in terms of validity and reliability. However, that which is considered as valid and reliable differs between methodological approaches and is related to epistemological beliefs. Anderson and Herr (1999) have formulated several alternatives for practitioner research and practice-based research in addition to, or in replacement of, existing interpretations of the concept of validity. They distinguish between result validity (the research contributes to the solution of the problem), process validity (the research approach corresponds to the manner of development within the organisation), democratic validity (the stakeholders are involved in the research), catalytic validity (the stakeholders feel that the research provides additional insight for improving practice) and dialogical validity (the research includes sufficient exchange between stakeholders) (Anderson & Herr 1999). These alternatives concern the mutual efforts of researchers and practitioners, as well as research conducted by practitioners. Directly related to this is the usability of the research in the development of professional practices.

In teacher research and practice-based research, both scientific rigour (see above) and interaction are significant and critical dimensions. So, the quality of teacher research and practice-based research is determined by 1) the degree of ‘simply good research‘ (valid and reliable) and 2) the degree of mutual knowledge development in interactive research (Akkerman, Bronkhorst & Zitter 2013; Andriessen 2014; Butter & Verhagen 2014; De Bruijn & Westerhuis 2013; De Jong et al. 2013; Den Boer et al. 2011; Ros & Vermeulen 2011; Ruijters 2016; Teurlings et al. 2011; Van de Ven 2007; Vanassche & Kelchterman 2014). The first aspect is addressed in the above; the second aspect is elaborated on in the following. The consideration and combination of both dimensions is involved in any research, and requires researchers and educators to explain the choices that they have made.

Interactive research
The engagement of researchers and educators in interactive collaboration on research (the second element of transdisciplinary competence) extends from addressing the professional issue up to and including valorisation, all with input in the form of both practical and theoretical knowledge (De Jong et al. 2013; De Jong 2015; Ellström 2008; Gibbons et al. 1994). Practical relevance thus takes on an integral form within this process of mutual knowledge development. This entails a specific responsibility for researchers. They must do more than ‘simply conducting good research’ for scientific relevance. They must also address the issue through dialogue with practitioners, with the goal of developing the practice. This is engaged research, which takes into account its potential effects on the surroundings. It is research whose positive influence on practice is regarded as being of equal importance to its implications for science. Involving educators and other stakeholders in all phases of the research process poses a challenge to the usual standards and criteria for success in scientific research (Edwards 2002; Rickinson, Sebba & Edwards 2011; Van de Ven 2007; Verbeek & Wassink 2014). Besides, as we have seen in the above, these standards are also discussed in such scientific research.

In order to allow interactive research to be useful and contribute to the actual development of practice, teacher-researchers and practice-based researchers should possess the following six qualities. First, they should possess a development-based stance. In other words, they should work from within the ambition and willingness to understand the complex field of practice and to contribute to the development of this practice. Contributing to change calls for researchers to broaden their perspectives beyond issues that are considered important in the field of science to include issues that are important to practice (Schenke 2015). It also implies that they must go beyond collecting information, making diagnoses and proposing remedies, adopting instead a primary focus on increasing the learning capacity of the parties who are raising the issue to be investigated. Schein (2005) refers to this as ‘the role of process consultant’, as distinguished from that of the substantive consultant (expert model or doctor-patient model).

A second quality regarding interactive researchers is that they should be able to clarify issues or topics systematically in collaboration with practitioners, in addition to sharpening them to reveal the core. In this iterative form of issue articulation, they should actively value practical knowledge, a third quality. This calls for researchers to do justice to the complexity of practice and to observe it in a holistic manner, taking various perspectives into account, as well as insights from the various disciplines (Fortuin 2015; Spelt 2015). Researchers should be able to guide practitioners in their efforts to consider the past, present, and future of an issue, as well as its context. They should also help practitioners recognise any ‘problems behind the problem’. For example, what is at hand if a new educational tool does not bring about the expected outcomes? Is the design of the tool inadequate? Is the tool only suited for specific types of students? Is the tool adequate but not being implemented because teachers do not know how to use it or do not actually support the tool? The path of clarification and sharpening to reveal the core (the definition of the professional issue) is an art unto itself. It has characteristics of short-term and long-term research, based on explorations in and with the field of practice, with a short-cyclical character and a continuously-shifting perspective (Butter 2015; Butter & Verhagen 2014; Heikkinen 2014; Schein 2005). As researchers, we possess certain substantive expertise (which is often the reason we are asked), and this acts as a filter on our lens (the theoretical framework). Discoveries in the documentation concerning the issue and in conversations with stakeholders concerning their practical knowledge help us arrive at ideas for delving into certain research literature, probing more deeply into these aspects in subsequent conversations. Such issue-articulating conversations should also include discussion about the extent to which the resolution of the issue that has been defined will actually require research (or follow-up research), or whether other activities might be preferable. In other words, the analyses in the initial phase could lead to the conclusion that something other than research is needed in order to continue the process, thus possibly concluding the collaboration. If it becomes clear that research would be desirable in order to support the development of educational practice, however, the professional issue should be developed into a research question, based on insights from previous research.

Interactive research also imposes demands on the design of the study (De Jong et al. 2013; Gibbons et al. 1994; Rickinson, Sebba & Edwards 2011). For this reason, researchers should have a fourth interactive quality: the quality of designing and conducting studies with practitioners, with an appropriate role for these practitioners that ranges from respondent to sounding board to co-researcher, and from outsider to active participant. Views concerning the distribution of roles between researchers and practitioners will need to be discussed and adjusted repeatedly, against the background of the interaction demanded by the professional issue. Based on the results of his study on collaboration between school managers, teachers, and researchers in research and development projects in secondary schools, Schenke (2015) advocates collaboration from the start (the original professional issue) up to and including the consideration of the implications of the research results for the field of educational practice. Schenke concludes that, in a collaborative project, the boundary practice that emerges and the learning mechanisms that occur are determined by the mutual reasons for collaborating, the division of tasks amongst those involved and the manner of communication. More boundary traffic (e.g. an active data-collection role for educators or the involvement of researchers in considering school development) increases the presence of transformative learning mechanisms. It also increases the likelihood that new routines will emerge in the school (e.g. more teacher inquiry with regard to school development) and amongst the researchers (e.g. more transdisciplinary working methods).

The fifth quality researchers need in interactive research is the ability to provide explicit clarification of research activities, outcomes and returns, both during and after the study. This entails 1) statements concerning the usability of the research for the educational field. Usable research is perceived as relevant, understandable, acceptable, ethical, plausible, legitimate, inspiring, insightful, and applicable. 2) Resolutions for professional issues in the form of guidelines for action and instruments.

Sixth and finally, interactive research involves implementation, innovation and valorisation competence. This concerns the competence of researchers in providing proper guidance to the educational field throughout and following the research, in addition to inspiring educators in the development of new behaviour and the use of new instruments in their professional practices.

Teaching about research
Returning to the three elements of transdisciplinary competence, the third element teaching about research will now be addressed. This element of integrating research and development into education includes supervising the development of research competence, transdisciplinary competence, and the role development of both practitioners and researchers. Teaching can help researchers level with the field of educational practice. It can make them more likely to be accepted, and it can be seen as enhancing the legitimacy of their roles as practitioner-researchers and practice-based researchers. At the same time, researchers who teach could contribute to the development of practice through the process of their teaching. Conducting research with students, giving lectures (or guest lectures), supervising or assessing student research – all of these activities are examples of boundary practices in which research can enhance teaching. According to Visser-Wijnveen (2013), this can occur through 1) the reinforcement of the inquiring stance of students, 2) imparting knowledge to students with regard to a subject area or discipline, 3) helping students become familiar with the phenomenon of research and 4) contributing to the recruitment of research competences in students. Conversely, teaching can enhance research: through input from students, through reflection by researchers on their teaching roles, and through the broadening of the research focus as a result of the specific approach demanded by teaching (Visser-Wijnveen 2013).

Research competence of both researchers and and educators
Reflecting on the concept of research competence in collaborative work on educational issues, everything that applies to researchers in this regard also applies to educators. Learning how to cope with professional issues (including the issue of developing research and transdisciplinary competence) in current practice within the system of higher professional education is one type of ‘jumping in’ for researchers, educators, and students. It is accompanied by a certain amount of interdisciplinary role development for all parties involved, not in a temporary boundary practice between professionals, but as a new interpretation of the role of professionals. Schenke (2015) observes that the development of transdisciplinary competence emerges through active participation in an inquiry-based, transdisciplinary project. The deliberate design of the intensive interaction between researchers and educators can support both the role and process of professional development. In the same vein, the deliberate design of limited boundary traffic can support professional role stability. Fortuin (2015) reaches a similar conclusion in the context of teaching and learning boundary-crossing skills in environmental science education.


This article has presented a developing conceptual framework for a research programme aimed at enhancing our understanding of the course of collaboration between educators and researchers on issues related to learning and development, as well as our understanding of how participants can improve their collaboration. This framework builds on a) snowball-sampled literature, b) the author’s earlier publications and c) discussions with both educators and researchers. The resulting conceptual framework for studying the boundary crossing of educators and researchers working on educational issues forms the basis for the empirical research agenda of the programme initiated.

Three concepts have been discussed. First, the nature of educational issues is relevant to determine the role research can have in clarifying and solving the issue. Relatively simple issues primarily call for professional reflection. Complicated issues mainly need more thorough practitioner inquiry. In complex and persistent issues, explicit research knowledge and competences play an increasingly important role. Collaboration between educators and researchers can help clarify the issue and find solutions. This collaboration calls for specific competences of partipants. In that regard, the second concept of research competence has been further discussed. Educators (and researchers) with research competence 1) think and work from an inquiring stance, 2) utilise existing research 3) conduct research themselves and 4) supervise the development of the research competence of students. The third and final concept is transdisciplinary competence. Researchers (and educators) with this competence 1) conduct good research, 2) engage in interactive collaboration on research, and 3) teach about research.

Discussion and topics for further research

It is argued that both researchers and educators need research competence and transdisciplinary competence for crossing their ‘own’ boundaries in a new culture of collaboration on educational issues. These two concepts enhance our understanding of the course of collaboration between practitioners and researchers on professional issues. They also enhance our understanding of balancing the roles of both practitioner and researcher, for example as a teacher-researcher. The framework suggests that collaboration and high boundary-crossing competences result in better understanding and solving educational issues. However, empirical research is required to validate these concepts, their interplay and revenues. It may be argued that preferred contexts to proceed in investigating boundary-crossing collaboration on educational issues should be the ones in which research, educational degree programmes and the vocational field converge, as well as those in which Mode 2 and the ETI perspective are (or can be) addressed. How do participants interact? What roles do they take? What do they learn? However, other contexts are equally important to address when testing the framework. For example, if research competence and transdisciplinary competence are low, it could be stated that sufficient ground for interactive research is lacking and that it would be more appropriate to choose a more traditional RDD-configuration. Different kinds of dialogical activities in boundary crossing (e.g. Akkerman & Bakker 2011, 2012 bring up identification, coordination, reflection, and transformation as learning mechanisms) could demand different types of competences. Thinking about this, one could say that developing research and transdisciplinary competence enlarges the range of dialogical activities and learning mechanisms that are possible in interaction.

In constructing an empirical research agenda, several other options can also be mentioned. Building on the elaboration of the concept of research competence with the aim of envisioning challenges in working on educational issues, questions for empirical research include the following: How do practitioners, researchers, and students view the components of research competence? How are these components interrelated? How does research competence relate to other qualities of practitioners? What does working in the field of education (student learning, team functioning) demand with regard to the research competence of teachers? What does their research competence contribute, and to whom or to what (for example, students, themselves, their teams, further education, the vocational field, society), and what exactly does this contribution entail? What are the conditions for developing and using research competence?

Building on the elaboration of transdisciplinary competence, questions for empirical research include the following: What views do researchers have concerning practitioner research and practice-based research? What do practitioners think of this? How do practitioner-researchers and practice-based researchers realise their roles; what conditions are addressed, and what benefits do they realise? To what extent, on what points, and in what way do researchers want to develop themselves in their roles? What do practitioners perceive that researchers need with regard to role development?

Another research topic is the role of teacher leaders (educators who supervise teams in the inquiry-based and systematic improvement of educational quality) and what is needed to equip them for this role. Studies on innovation projects in the field of education have indicated that inquiry-based learning and practitioner inquiry are currently not being addressed to any great extent (Den Boer & Teurlings 2014; Van den Berg 2013). There is evidence of a positive relationship between the research competence of educators and the quality of education, although the available research on this point remains relatively sketchy and fragmented (for example, see Imants 2010; Ros et al. 2013; Snoek 2014; Van den Berg et al. 2011). Teachers who are involved in practitioner inquiry could serve as inquiring, transdisciplinary educator-leaders in their teams, largely by contributing to the process of mutual working and learning for the purpose of quality improvement (see, for example, Castelijns, Koster & Vermeulen 2009; Verbiest 2012; Verbiest 2014). Results from a study by Van den Bergh and Ros (2015) in Dutch training schools for the university for teacher education reveal that not every school manager is aware that research constitutes an important part of any Master’s programme. The positioning of Master’s-level teachers (and teachers-in-training) at both the school and supra-school levels could be improved through actions such as having them lead research groups (with supervision by an experienced researcher or teacher-researcher). In addition to research competence, teacher leaders should possess team and leadership qualities, including a belief in their own competences, as well as those of the team. Formal and informal recognition for teacher leaders, the willingness to engage in mutual practitioner inquiry within teams, a clear vision on the management of practitioner inquiry, and a culture of inquiry within schools are indispensable to the successful introduction of practitioner inquiry, as directed towards the quality of education (Krüger 2010; Snoek 2014; Van den Bergh & Ros 2015; Van der Zwaard 2014).

Whatever the choices made in further research on research and transdisciplinary competence, it would be counterproductive to make these without addressing professional issues and taking the ownership of practitioners and other stakeholders into account.

This article is adapted from Van den Berg (2016).


Dr Niek van den Berg, Professor of Applied Sciences, Aeres Wageningen University of Applied Sciences (Netherlands), n.van.den.berg(at)

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Imagined future – elements of a good first-year student experience


Perceptions of the goals, objectives and tools of work have changed. It has been estimated that the transformation of working life which is going on today will equal in magnitude the changes brought about by the industrial revolution. This means that we should assume a completely new approach to work and education on all levels. The efficiency of work and work performance used to be largely dependent on the traditional structures of industrial work; the workplace, colleagues, supervisors, clients and their needs, working hours, organizations, products and services were all stable and predictable. These days, however, the transformation of work and the pressures for organizational change mean it is no longer possible to rely on these structures. Increasing unpredictability and complexity in the operating environment have become the norm. (Järvensivu, Kokkinen, Kasvio & Viluksela 2014.)

This trend is also having an impact on higher education.  Our traditional views of efficient operating models, good practices and guidelines for the delivery of higher education are all being challenged. There have been calls for closer linkages between higher education and the world of work, in order to increase the relevance of the curriculum to working life (Singh & Little 2011, 38). So, the resources of higher education institutions have come under intense pressure; they should provide quality learning and teaching, making effective use of technology, while being responsive to the increased expectations and conflicting demands of a student body with ever more diverse needs (Morgan 2012, 10).

The increasing costs of delivering higher education, reductions in state funding and constraints on resources mean that delivering high quality student experience is challenging. Staff at all levels and across all areas within an institution affect the student experience. In order to be effective, services, advice, guidance and support for students must be organized holistically rather than provided only by dedicated central services (e.g. student services departments, students’ unions).  Providing guidance and support only to specific groups (e.g. dyslexic, mature, or disabled students, or those with weak entry qualifications) should be avoided.  It is also unrealistic to expect students to seek out support themselves. (Morgan 2012, 11.)

Student experience has been studied extensively mainly from the point of view of the students. This is natural, of course, but it is important to find out the viewpoints of other groups, too, such as teachers and other staff members. Teachers are key figures regarding student experience as they create the framework for action in the context of the curriculum. Williams (2011, 46.) points out that other categories of staff, such as those responsible for delivering student support services, are often the invisible support function within higher education institutions. Yet they are of vital importance to the student experience. They are also important to the teaching function.

This research examines the premises for a good student experience for people in their first year of studies. The research was conducted in one university of applied sciences and the key aim was to provide insight into and understanding of the factors affecting student experience. The research question is: What elements are important for a good first year experience in a university of applied sciences, according to students, teachers and other staff members?

The concept of student experience

Higher education is at a crossroads. The development of competencies required both for studying and in working life has become the personal project of each individual student. (Stelter 2014.) Students expect and demand support, advice and guidance which meet their individual needs. This cannot be provided with a “one size fits all” approach to education. (Morgan 2012).

The idea of student experience as an issue to be managed institutionally is a relatively recent one and the term has multiple meanings.  First, it is important to emphasise that each student’s set of experiences will be unique to him or herself. Thus any uniform “student experience” does not exist in practice. (Temple, Callender, Grove, Kersh 2014; Morgan 2012.)  As Forbes (2009) explains, student experience can be defined narrowly or broadly.  In a narrow definition the focus is on students’ formal learning experiences and their overall experience of university life. A wider definition covers their entire engagement with the university from initial contact, through recruitment, arrival, learning and university experience, graduation, employment, and their experiences as alumni. In addition, there are matters that the institutions are not directly responsible for, but generally have some involvement in. These include students’ living arrangements, accommodation, safety and security, part-time work, and social inclusion.

According to Benckendorff, Ruhanen & Scott (2009), the factors identified in the literature as influencing the student experience can be grouped broadly into four dimensions: Institutional dimensions (how universities and staff can better manage the learning experience), student dimensions (individual student characteristics), sector-wide dimensions (broader systems of institutions and trends that emerge as a result of competition or collaboration) and external dimensions (factors such as government policies, technological innovations, and economic pressures).

Harvey, Burrows and Green (1992, 1) argue that student experience is the most important factor in assessing quality in higher education. They use the expression “total student experience”, indicating that significant experiences are not restricted to the classroom. Internationally, the term “student experience” is used to refer not only to the teaching, learning and curriculum aspects of student life, but also encompasses extracurricular activities, academic advice, support and mentoring, as well as work experiences and student lifestyle (Purdue University 2004).

The recent interest in students’ experiences may also be associated with changing conceptions of learning and curricula. Emphasizing students’ agency, activity and participation means that experiences have to be taken into account when designing the curriculum (Barnett & Coate 2010). Thomas (2012) argues that students’ experience of the curriculum has a profound influence on their persistence and success in studies. Curricula can be designed and delivered in a way that promotes students’ engagement and sense of belonging, and reduces drop-out rates.

The term “student experience” has come to be used so widely that it is important to consider critical viewpoints, too.  Student experience is sometimes treated as analogous to customer experience – as a marketing term.  As students are seen as ”customers” or “clients”, their ”experience” becomes a factor that must be managed and optimized, as for any other “target group”.  However, Staddon and Standish (2012) have challenged the idea of “student-as-customer”. In their view, seeing students’ choices as determinants of quality is an abrogation of responsibility on the part of higher education providers. Furthermore, Gibbs (2012,14) argues that evidence is lacking as to whether there is any causal relationship between good student satisfaction scores – suggesting satisfied ‘customers’– and educational quality as assessed by measures such as student performance and learning gain.

The student experience arises not only from the engagement of students with learning and teaching, but also include other aspects that impinge on learning and studying. Since students’ experiences are shaped through interaction with the whole institution, it is important to know what elements are significant in creating a good experience. Therefore, in this study an interaction- and institution-based definition of student experience is used. Student experience can be defined as the totality of a student’s interaction with the institution (Temple, Callender, Grove & Kersh 2014).

Students’ engagement and expectations

Students’ engagement has become the focus of a great deal of research. Students’ expectations and their experience during their first year of studies have a tangible influence on student engagement and persistence – that is, the probability that they will complete their studies (Longden 2006). Singh and Little (2011, 36) argue that within discourses concerning pressures on higher education, the economic point of view tends to dominate; less emphasis is placed on the implications that various changes have for teaching and learning and for non-economic dimensions of social engagement. Instead of assessing students’ engagement in their studies from an economic point of view, the benefits of engagement should be seen in terms of better learning outcomes (Millard, Bartholomew, Brand & Nygaard 2013).

Definitions of student engagement vary somewhat depending on the theoretical framework used. An individual-constructive perspective focuses on the time and quality of effort that students devote to educationally purposeful activities (e.g. Astin 1993; Pascarella & Terenzini 1991). For instance, their level of motivation and willingness (Ainley 2006; Purnell, McCarthy & McLeod 2010). The interactional perspective emphasizes that personal investment, by both students and university staff, is the key to engagement (Kuh 2009). In this view, it is important for institutions to adapt their organizational structures and cultures to enable students to be part of learning communities (Zhao & Kuh 2004). Sociocultural engagement theory (Haworth & Conrad 1997) underlines that students and staff ought to engage in a mutually-supportive academic community, building a participatory and dialogical educational environment. Engagement is enhanced by a participatory culture, interactive teaching and learning, connected programme requirements, and adequate resources. (Annala, Mäkinen, Svärd, Silius & Miilumäki 2012.)

Coates (2007) has described four different engagement styles: intense, passive, collaborative and independent.   Intense and passive come at opposite ends of a continuum covering engagement styles from engaged to disengaged.  The collaborative style favors social aspects of university work, while the independent style is characterized by a more academically and less socially oriented approach. These two latter styles point out the multidimensionality of engagement: a student may emphasize social aspects and turn the focus from studies to social life or vice versa, he or she may be very engaged in studies but neither socially active nor interested in communality with peers. (Annala & al. 2012.)

Turning to the question of student expectations, research suggests that the standard practices of higher education institutions do not necessarily align with what students want and expect.  Teachers and providers of student services may make erroneous assumptions about students’ needs and expectations because higher education institutions tend to provide information to students based on the institutions’ expectations, not those of the student (Pithers & Holland 2006). Thus, there may be a significant gap between the students’ expectations and their actual experiences during the first year of their studies. According to Telford and Masson (2005), the perceived quality of the educational service depends on students’ expectations and values. If teachers and other staff know what their students expect, they may be able to adapt their behavior and services accordingly, which should have a positive impact on students’ levels of satisfaction. (Voss, Gruber & Szmigin 2007.)

Today’s student body is highly diverse, comprising members of the “Baby-boomer” generation (born mid-1940s to mid-1960s), “Generation X” (born mid-1960s to early 1980s) and the “Millennial” generation (born early 1980s to 2000). These generations tend to have different expectations and life experiences, and different skills in using and understanding technology.  This diversity creates challenges for higher education institutions. Morgan (2012, 9) gives examples of how tensions can arise between students and also between students and lecturers and other staff members. A Generation X student may feel that Millennial students are not as engaged in group project work or as committed to their studies as they should be.  A Baby Boomer student who has worked in business for many years may feel that he or she is much more qualified to teach than a lecturer who has little – if any – experience in running a company.

With the increase in student diversity, the probability of drop-out, i.e. failure to complete the study programme, rises.  When a student drops out, there are usually a number of causal factors behind it.  Each student’s personality, life experience, study experience and future plans will all affect his or her level of engagement. (Morgan 2012, 9-10.) Thomas and May (2011) argue that if students are able to engage with their peers, teaching staff, other staff at the institution, and with the institution per se, then they are more likely to experience a sense of belonging to and identity with the institution.

Identity work – the process of becoming

New interpretations of student engagement in studies emphasize the importance of identity construction and communities of practice (Krause & Coates 2008; Millard, Bartholomew, Brand & Nygaard 2013; Wenger 1998). Thus learning to become a professional involves not only what we know and do, but also who we are, and who we are becoming (Dall’Alba, 2009). Cognitive elements and acquiring of new skills are only part of the process of becoming a professional – albeit an important part. Emotive issues are of crucial importance in identity construction. Learning is both affective and cognitive, and involves identity shifts which can entail troublesome, unsafe journeys (Cousin 2006).

Beijaard, Verloop and Vermunt (2000, 750) define identity as who or what someone is, the various meanings people attach to themselves, or the meanings attributed to them by others. An essential point is that each individual has not just one identity but many; these multiple identities are changing over time and are revealed in interaction.  Identity is formed and constructed by narratives (Rodgers & Scott 2008). Thus, professional identity is not a fixed state which can be achieved during one’s studies, but is rather a continuing dynamic process of intersubjective discourses, experiences, and emotions. Beijaard, Meijer and Verloop (2004, 108) consider identity to be an ongoing process of interpreting one’s self as a certain kind of person and being recognized as such in a given context. Identity can be seen as an answer to the recurrent question, “Who am I at this moment?”

Identity construction requires a conception of where one is coming from and going to (Taylor 1989). It is thus essential that students have some vision of their future in order to engage in their studies. Having a clear image of what might lie ahead is important for decreasing uncertainty. Markus and Nurius (1986) use the expression “possible selves” to describe individuals’ ideas of what they believe they can become. These possible selves form the basis for evaluating one’s current selves and motivating action. “Possible future” is a term used in socio-dynamic counselling. It suggests that the future is not a predetermined state, just lying in wait around the corner, but is created and constructed through human action. What we think about our future affects what we do today. (Peavy 2006.) Thus students who can imagine their future as professionals in a particular field are likely to be more highly motivated and to have a clearer idea of what they still need to learn.

Gadamer’s (1979) conception of two kinds of experiences can be used to illustrate the connections between students’ experience, engagement and identity work. There are experiences which strengthen personal conceptions, and there are new, hermeneutic experiences. People need experiences that strengthen their conceptions but they do not learn anything new from experiences of this kind.  Hermeneutic experiences, on the other hand, include something new and unexpected, something we have not thought about before. Hermeneutic experiences are uncomfortable, as they disrupt our typical way of seeing and understanding matters. These experiences feel unpleasant and painful, as they challenge our conception of ourselves and of our personal competence and knowledge. These negative experiences, however, make identity work productive by enabling us to see and understand matters in a different way. It is therefore crucial to present students with hermeneutic experiences, as through these experiences they gain new insight into the demands of working life, and start to see themselves in a new light – as “becoming professionals”.

 Two important pedagogical concepts are particularly relevant to this discussion of promoting identity work, namely, the zone of proximal development, and scaffolding. The zone of proximal development is defined as the range of tasks that a person can perform with the help and guidance of others, but cannot yet perform independently. It is the area where the most sensitive instruction or guidance should occur. (Vygotsky 1986.) Scaffolding is directly related to the zone of proximal development in that it is the support mechanism that helps a learner successfully perform a task within his or her zone of proximal development. Typically, this process is completed by a more competent individual as a way of supporting the learning of a less competent individual. Scaffolding is a key strategy in cognitive apprenticeship, in which students can learn by taking increasing responsibility and ownership for their role in complex problem solving. (Collins, Brown, & Newman 1989). So, for example, there could be a teacher assisting a student, or a higher-level or more competent student assisting a peer. By using scaffolding, the teacher becomes more of a facilitator of knowledge acquisition on the part of the learner rather than the dominant source of knowledge and expertise.

Identity is not a fixed state which can be attained during one’s studies. Constantly changing environments and new competence criteria in working life require flexibility to construct one’s own identity over and over again. Enabling contacts with working life during the studies is vital, because it allows students to adopt role models and to participate in professional discussions; it exposes them to influences from professionals in their own field of practice, and provides them with material for reflection on their own professional identity (Adams, Hean, Sturgis & Macleod Clark 2006; Kärnä 2015, 84). Identity functions as a basis for the interpretations the student makes of him- or herself – as a learner, as a member of different groups, and as a prospective professional. Thus identity is the basis for all one’s possible selves (Markus & Nurius 1986) and images of the possible future (Peavy 2006), too. According to Tsang (2010), having the opportunity to conduct identity work during the studies enhances learning experiences and leads to a positive and more clearly defined professional identity.

Method – imagining the future

Organizations evolve in whatever direction their members ask questions about. The basic assumptions for the methodology of this study arise from Cooperrider’s (1995) argument that we need forms of inquiry that are generative: which help us to discover what could be, rather than try to fix what is. Human systems project ahead of themselves a “horizon of expectation” that brings the future into the present. What we believe to be true determines what we do, and what we do today is guided by our image of the future. (Cooperrider & Whitney 2005; Peavy 2006.) Organizational life is expressed in the stories people tell each other every day, so the story of the organization is constantly being co-authored. The purpose of inquiry is to stimulate new ideas, stories and images that generate new possibilities for action. By inquiring into human systems we can change them. (Cooperrider & Whitney 2005; Kessler 2013.)

In this research, instead of only asking students about their experiences retrospectively, a more comprehensive and future-oriented perspective on first-year experience was used. It can be called imagining or envisioning the future. It can be loosely connected to one stage in the so-called “cycle of appreciative inquiry”. In the “dreaming” or “envisioning” stage of appreciative inquiry, the participants are asked to imagine their group, organization or community at its best in relation to the affirmative topic. The purpose is to identify the common aspirations of system members. (Kessler 2013.) Taking this for a starting point, a group of second-year students (n = 121) and a group of personnel (teachers and other staff, n = 523) were asked to imagine the desirable future by reflecting on the question: What would the students tell about their first-year experience if everything had been ideal in our university of applied sciences? The data was produced in small group discussions in order to share existing stories and create new ones about matters associated with good first-year experience. The discussions were documented by each group, either in a discussion area in the intranet of the university of applied sciences, or on flip charts. In total the data comprised 25 pages (font Times New Roman 12).

The data was analyzed in a three-stage process based on content analytical approach. The methods of qualitative content analysis should not simply be techniques to be employed anywhere but the methods must be adapted to suit the individual study (Mayring 2014, 40). Therefore, a three stage process was created for the analysis. Firstly, the data was read many times, in order to identify different expressions, sentences and key words relating to a desirable future state i.e. what the students would tell if everything had been ideal. Figuratively speaking, the data was asked what kind of things belong to an ideal university of applied sciences. Gradually, three categories were identified: the psycho-social point of view, the material point of view, and the pedagogical point of view into a good university of applied sciences. Secondly, the expressions belonging to these three categories were moulded into the form of short narratives in order to create a meaningful, explicit and coherent whole from partly short and fragmental utterances.

During these two stages of analysis the student data and the personnel data were analyzed separately. Therefore, after the second stage, there were two collections of narratives: those constructed from the students’ descriptions and those constructed from the descriptions provided by the teachers and other staff. However, the purpose of the study was not to search for differences in students’ and personnel’s conceptions, but to find common prospects.  Therefore, the analysis was proceeded and in the last stage of the analysis common elements for a good first-year experience were identified from both sets of narratives. This was done by identifying similarities in the three categories – psycho-social point of view, material point of view, and pedagogical point of view – relating to students’ identity construction, professional growth, participation, sense of belonging and engagement. On the grounds of this comparison five elements for a good first-year experience was identified.

Findings – Basic elements for a good first-year experience

In a university of applied sciences, a good student experience is associated with practices, situations and events which affect students’ learning and well-being. In the data-production discussions, the students, teachers and other staff brought out themes related to the psycho-social environment, the material environment and the pedagogical environment. On the basis of the research material, five elements for a good first-year experience were identified: personalization, mentoring-guidance, authenticity, collaboration and adaptability. These elements can be understood as a basis for promoting students’ agency, participation, sense of belonging, and engagement in their studies, and thus for supporting students’ identity construction and professional growth. It is important to point out that the five elements of a good first-year experience are not distinct from each other but overlap; changes in one element resonate throughout the others. However, this kind of theoretical separation helps when it comes to applying them for the purposes of assessing and developing the prevailing practices and systems.  In the following description of each element there is a short example from the narratives to illustrate the features of the element concerned. The question the participants were asked to reflect on was: What would the students tell about their first-year experience if everything had been ideal in our university of applied sciences?

a) Personalization

Studying has changed my life – my aims are more ambitious than before. I have grown as a human being and have got new perspectives. I have found my own strengths and possibilities and I know what I want from the future. I already have enough professional pride to take responsibility for my own choices and also for the choices we make in team-work. In our school, students can follow their own interests and develop their ideas further. You can choose what you study, make your own timetable and even choose the teachers you want to work with. There are lots of study modules to select from, and each student’s timetable is tailored on the basis of individual choices and plans.

Personalization included many kinds of action which allows individual decisions. Studying was seen as a personal project and during the process the student start to recognize his or her own capacity. Learning to become a professional involves not only new knowledge and new skills, but also personal growth and new perspectives to oneself. Students can make choices and influence their own study paths Learning is tailored to the individual needs of each learner. This kind of personalization of studies can take many forms, including accreditation of prior learning and “studification of work”. Studification of work is a new, alternative way to study at universities of applied sciences.  It is a model of studying where learning is brought from the classroom to the workplace and formal studies are combined with work.

Prahalad & Ramaswamy (2000) make a distinction between personalization and customization. Customization assumes that the manufacturer will design a product to suit a customer’s needs. Personalization, on the other hand, is about customers, i.e. students in this case, becoming co-creators of the content of their experiences. Personalization includes tailoring of content and action to the individual student’s frame of reference, and enables students to have personal learning paths that encourage them to set and manage their individual goals. This does not mean that individual students are separated from each other (see the fourth element: collaboration).

The main thing in personalization is that it strengthens the student’s engagement by increasing psychological ownership (Pierce, Kostova, & Dirks, 2003, 86) Psychological ownership is a cognitive-affective state in which students feel a sense of ownership in the process of studying. They have a positive attitude towards studying, a realistic self-concept, and a sense of responsibility for the results and outcomes. This sense of possession (the feeling that the learning objectives or assignments are ‘mine’ or ‘ours’) promotes engagement in the processes of studying and learning, and facilitates identity work. The emergence and development of ownership is supported by letting students have a greater say in their own learning activities, and in how they deal with assignments which require complex action, thinking and planning.

In working life, work is supervised to an increasing extent by employees themselves, involving negotiations in various communities. Supervisory and managerial responsibilities are also in motion, and are not permanently associated with specific people. (Järvensivu & al. 2014.) In complicated assignments, employees have to exercise autonomy and use their own discretion; the choices they make are heavily influenced by their work-identity or professional identity (Pierce, Jussila & Cummings 2009.) Similarly, learning assignments which are too carefully preplanned by the teacher do not necessarily support the development and maintenance of ownership. Putting the onus on students to formulate their own goals and assignments is the basis for the use of scaffolding.

b) Mentoring-guidance

I have the feeling that studying here is meaningful for my life. My own field of study seems worthwhile and my perspectives and goals have become more explicit and clear. Even my professional identity has strengthened. I feel that the staff are really there for you. The teachers and other staff are kind, human and approachable – not like robots. Individual guidance is much more available than ever before; I have never felt lonely or abandoned at any time during my studies.

The atmosphere is really good, democratic and tolerant. The students are treated as adults and the teachers appreciate the students. I feel secure, knowing that I can get help whenever I need it.

Successful mentoring-guidance requires mutual respect, listening, encouragement, dialogue and emotional sensitivity. Teachers, other staff members and representatives of working life can encourage students’ engagement in their own learning and performance improvement by guiding students in planning their own learning and studying. Personal meaning-making will be emphasized in constructing positive future scenarios. The goal in mentoring-guidance is that, within a dialogical environment and participatory culture, students become aware of themselves and their own potential.

What does it mean to you to become a professional in your own field? That is a question every student should have time and opportunity to consider and discuss. The role transition from student to employee in working life may happen quickly, but identity work needs time and support. Identity construction, i.e. the person’s conception of who he or she is and where he or she belongs, requires a conception of where he or she is coming from and going to (Taylor 1989). Students must have a future vision in order to engage in their studies and form their own professional identity.

Meaning-making is at the core of mentoring-guidance. Meaning is formed on the basis of experience, reflection, speech and action.  It is based on previous experiences and expectations of the future, and is a holistic way of integrating past and present experiences, together with ideas about what the future holds (Stelter 2014). Mentoring-guidance helps to regulate the development of competencies and supports the learner’s ability to apply skills, knowledge and experience to new situations and processes (Michael 2008). It is a form of dialogue where participants focus on creating space for reflection through collaborative practices. The target is to encourage students’ goal-orientation, and engagement in their own learning and performance improvement. Parsloe (1992) argues that the function of mentoring is to help and support people to manage their own learning in order to maximize their potential, develop their skills, improve their performance, and become the person they want to be. This applies to mentoring-guidance too.

c) Authenticity

Individuality and diversity as well as differences between students are respected. I have been treated with respect – as myself. People here are truly interested in your learning and your future.  The goals of every study module are directed towards working life. Already during the first year you can participate in development projects together with students from other fields of study and representatives of working life. We carry out activities in which you can learn and practice work-life skills in real situations with real customers and professionals.

Authenticity was connected both to learning environments and to the quality of interaction.  Working in real projects with representatives of working life was seen as essential part of learning.  One important aspect in authenticity was that students are not only defined by their institutional role as students, but their personal and individual needs, situations and goals are also taken into account.

Authenticity is a complex and multidimensional phenomenon.  No single unanimous definition of authenticity exists, but core elements of its meaning are being “real” or “genuine”.  For the purposes of this study, three definitions by Kreber are worth mentioning.  First, authenticity as being true to oneself means not being defined by others but using self-knowledge to establish one’s own identity. Another view of authenticity – acting in the interests of learners – means that teachers and other members of staff care about their students and want them to succeed. The third definition refers to transformation, or the process of becoming. In this view, authenticity develops via a process that involves ongoing critical reflection. Transformative learning goes beyond changing what students know – it can change who they are. (Kreber 2010.)

In higher education, the terms “authenticity” and “authentic” are usually associated with real-life situations, environments and tasks which are exploited in some way for learning purposes.  However, authenticity occurs not in the learner, the task, or the environment, but in the dynamic interactions among all of these. It is cognitive authenticity rather than physical authenticity that is of prime importance in the design of authentic learning environments. (Barab, Squire & Dueber 2000; Herrington, Oliver & Reeves 2003). Authenticity enables learners to engage in activities which present the same type of cognitive challenges as those in the real world (Honebein, Duffy & Fishman, 1993). Working with tasks and problems which replicate the particular activity structures of a context enhances transferability and application of theoretical knowledge to the “real world”. Along with technical procedures, students should be learning the schema through which professionals recognize and solve problems. Expert thinking involves the ability to identify and solve problems for which there is no routine solution. According to employers, the most important skills in new hires include teamwork, critical thinking/reasoning, assembling/organizing information, and innovative thinking/creativity. (Hart 2006.)

Authenticity can also simply mean that something is personally relevant or interesting to the learner (Jonassen 1999). Authentic problems engage learners because they represent a meaningful challenge to them. Thus authenticity goes hand in hand with the drive for student engagement and partnership. Authenticity can be enhanced by helping the students to recognize their own starting points, thinking, action and prior knowledge, supporting them to formulate their own learning objectives, and encouraging them to reflect on issues concerning theory and practice.

d) Collaboration

The students work in small groups or teams (not too big) – both within the institution and together with representatives of work life. There is a lot of project-based learning in co-operation with work life. Student counselling functions very well.  The students’ union is active and constantly develops new kinds of ways to influence the practices within the organization. Students, teachers and other staff know each other, which is a good basis for co-operation. ICT is widely used in teaching and teamwork and communication with regional, national and international partners.

The principle of collaboration includes any kind of action that is done with the student or for the student. Thus, one-on-one encounters, group or team discussions, co-operation between different fields of study, services and departments are all encompassed within this concept. In addition, collaboration included networking with representatives of working life and regional policy-makers, and web-based participation in nationwide and global discussions.  Digitalization, social media and mobile technology was seen as essential tools of communication which are opening up new opportunities for agile interaction. Furthermore, these tools enable technical scaffolding, such as web links, online tutorials, or help pages, for the guidance of students (Yelland & Masters, 2007).

Collaboration entails working together toward a common goal. Students invest in their own learning and take responsibility as team members (see also psychological ownership). Learners use a variety of research tools (digital and mobile) as they actively participate in different projects, working not only with internal partners but also with representatives of working life.

Collaboration is a process in which individuals negotiate and share meanings relevant to the problem-solving task at hand. (Roschelle & Teasley 1995). In working life, employees are increasingly organizing their work flexibly among themselves. Work is flexibly reorganized, rescheduled and replanned in response to changing situations and needs. (Järvensivu & al. 2014.) These flexible working skills can be practiced during the studies. Collaboration is a coordinated activity that is the result of a sustained attempt to construct and maintain a shared conception of a problem. This enables, for example, role-switching, where teachers/practitioners become learners at times, and learners sometimes teach. Collaboration can be seen both as a way of studying together and a way of creating knowledge.

The use of new devices for communication are an essential element in collaboration. However, students’ ability to exploit mobile devices and other emergent technologies as effective study tools cannot be assumed; this issue requires deliberate attention. Furthermore, personal factors such as students’ prior knowledge and their metacognitive and collaborative skills, as well as contextual cues such as cultural compatibility and instructional methods, influence student engagement. (Laru 2012.)

e) Adaptability

Accreditation of prior learning and work experience enable students to make individual study plans and study paths. I didn’t have to study the same things I had already studied before. It is possible to study and learn new, interesting and useful skills or shorten the studying time and move earlier into work life. This kind of possibility increases motivation. It is possible to affect your learning environment, teaching, the spaces you work in and the equipment you use. Bureaucracy is very low and even administrative matters work well. Unexpected changes in a student’s life situation are understood and accepted. Plans are flexible and they can be reorganized.

 Adaptability was understood as a multilevel phenomenon. On a personal level and group level, adaptability refers to the ability to take on new challenges at short notice, and to deal with changing priorities and workloads. On an organizational level – both in educational and work-life settings – adaptability means the capacity to modify plans, curricula and organizational structures to meet changing demands in different situations.  An essential feature of adaptability is the creation of learning spaces that are flexible and plastic while supporting the teaching and learning processes. Adaptability – like personalization – includes tailoring of content and study processes to the individual student’s frame of reference.

Adaptability can be defined as the capacity to deal with new, changing, and/or uncertain situations (Martin 2010). Thus, adaptability can be understood as a mindset, a way of thinking or a habitual attitude. This kind of flexibility is one of the key competencies in working life. Järvensivu & al. (2014) argue that when today’s students enter the workforce, they will need to cope with complex environments, production networks and online work communities.  They will face chaotic situations, demanding high-level management – and self-management – skills.  This will require a capacity for continuous shared learning in response to the changes in the work environment.   From the educational and vocational viewpoint, the changes in working life present enormous challenges, particularly for the improvement and up-dating of competencies.

Discussion and conclusions

The focus of this study was on inquiring into first-year student experience; the research question was: What elements are important for a good first year experience in a university of applied sciences, according to students, teachers and other staff members?  Higher education ought to equip students to enhance their capacity to adapt and manage an unknown future. The five elements of a good first-year experience identified from the data – personalization, mentoring-guidance, authenticity, collaboration and adaptability – can be seen as guidelines for supporting students’ identity work and professional growth, and for promoting their acquisition of the competencies needed in working life. These guidelines could serve as an example of how curricula can be linked to world of work (c.f. Singh & Little 2011, 38). Beijaard & al (2004) emphasize that identity is an ongoing process. Thus identity work continues even if the student has finished his/her studies.

The results of this study are significant in that they give voice both to the students and to the personnel by allowing them to specify the elements of good student experience. The results highlight the importance of student agency, responsibility, and participation in decision-making. Students, teachers and other staff should have opportunities to engage in mutually-supportive communities, and contribute to building a participatory and dialogical learning, teaching and working environment. The five basic elements help us to understand how to enhance engagement in the processes of studying, what is important in interaction, and what should be taken into account in executing plans and processes. These elements can be applied in any discipline or field of study, at any stage of the student journey, and in the whole range of student services.  By providing opportunities for every party – students, teachers and other categories of staff – to articulate their opinions, constructive dialogue becomes possible, enabling progress towards a more positive alignment between student expectations and their actual experience (c.f. Morgan 2012, 10).  This in turn will raise levels of student satisfaction.   According to Williams (2011, 46) for example the experience and knowledge of people working in student support services is usually not utilized enough. A future-oriented and positive approach is needed in order to identify, acknowledge and reflect on daily practices, and ultimately determine what action should be taken if some of the basic elements are being neglected.

The findings of this study provide strong justification for practices which enable students’ agency and participation, and give students responsibility. Further research is needed in order to work out how these five basic elements can be implemented in practice, and to analyze what impact they have on students’ experiences. Answers to these questions should be sought in collaboration with students, teachers, other categories of staff, and representatives of working life.  As times, places and tools for work are all in flux, so the times, places and tools for learning, teaching and education have also been reconsidered. It is important to consult the people working with the students during their practical training periods and in projects, and to involve them in investigating what the broader conditions are that maintain particular ways of thinking, acting and relating, in the context of supporting professional growth. Collaboration between employees in universities of applied sciences and workplaces should be enhanced in order to create a common understanding of the ways to support students in their identity work, and to facilitate their acquisition of the competencies needed to meet the demands of working life in its current state of change. The implementation of these elements could help students to endure uncertainty and hermeneutic experiences (c.f. Gadamer 1979) and their orientation to their own zones of proximal development (c.f. Vygotsky 1986).

This study was carried out in a university of applied sciences. As the five basic elements of a good first-year experience are not related to any particular subject or field of study, they can be applied in many kinds of institutions and in all manner of situations where learning, professional development and identity construction are a high priority. They can be applied even in work-life organizations for assessing current practices and organizational culture. In educational institutions, teachers and other categories of staff can use them in planning, assessing and developing their work.  Work communities can use them for assessing learning environments and making the working culture more collaborative in nature.  Students can use them when planning their studies, and representatives of working life can use them for developing new ways of supporting students’ learning in project work and in practical training settings.

It is important that the five basic elements identified in this study should be applied not only during the time spent in the institution, but also during the practical training periods in work-places, and in other situations involving cooperation with companies and representatives of working life.  The five elements give a good basis for building a participatory culture where students, teachers, other staff members and representatives of working life engage mutually in creating dialogical learning environments (c.f. Haworth & Conrad 1997; Annala & al. 2012). This would provide a good basis for enabling students to become competent partners for research and development projects, and valued employees who are capable of developing their organizations and work communities.


Harri Kukkonen, PhD, MSocSc, Principal lecturer, Tampere University of Applied Sciences, harri.kukkonen(at)

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