The VET Teachers for the Future® – Professional Development Certificate is a pilot teacher development programme for vocational and higher education teachers (VET) designed to meet the strategic goals of the Ministry of Education in Brazil and the needs of Brazilian Federal Institutes. The tacit targets of the programme are ambitious – the participants are expected to learn a considerable personal lesson, build professional networks, transfer pedagogical strategies and implement them in Brazil in their learning and working environments. On the other hand, HAMK has set the strategic targets to enlarge educational cooperation with Brazil already in the year 2000 and has advanced this with several measures, step-by-step. One of the steps is the teacher education and combined research process described in this article.
The programme is research-based and this article is part of its development process. For the coordinator, Häme University of Applied Sciences (HAMK), it is important to conduct research on the programme. Based on that, we can carefully meet the learning needs of the participants as well as the strategic aims of the Brazilian partners and stakeholders. The data is based on interviews carried out with the two study groups in HAMK. In this article, the researchers´ interest is on developing the programmme´s ability to facilitate the intended educational and strategic development in the students´ home institutions in Brazil.
According to Sahlberg (2011), the Finnish educational success depends on several factors, one of them being a high level of teacher competences and strong teacher professionalism. There are also several other reasons and success rationales based on the level of Finnish society and culture. However, we lack the scientific knowledge of how to transfer the successful models and learning communities into other contexts (Kurtti, 2012). This is the careful analysis of the context and means of transfer are suggested as future research challenges.
Successful educational change includes a strategy process. According to Mantere (2003), people position themselves as either champions, citizens or cynics in the strategy process and the balanced share of different position holders defines the success of strategy in a community. A certain amount of champions is definitely needed with citizens to implement and cynics to give the necessary criticism for the strategy process.
Context and methodology
The program is coordinated by HAMK and contributed to by its partners Tampere University of Applied Sciences (TAMK) and HAAGA-HELIA. The pilot programme was conducted over nine months, five months in Finland and four months in the Federal Institutes in Brazil using digital learning environments and giving regular support and guidance from Finland. The scope of the programme is 30 ECTS.
The first pilot group consisted of 27 participants in 2014–2015, and 30 in the second and still ongoing cohort in 2015–2016. The contents of the programme were formulated to train and prepare the teachers to design a competence-based curriculum with the emphasis on active learning, and skills to collaborate with the region, business and industries. The participants were divided into two study groups, in HAMK and TAMK Universities of Applied Sciences.
The feedback has been actively collected from the students to acquire better customer insight and understanding, and to further design the program for future needs. For example, several other individual and group interviews were made and videoed and both qualitative and quantitative surveys were presented to the participants.
In this article, we concentrate on the participants´ strategies and intentions to spread their learning experiences in their learning and working environments, just at that critical moment when the Finnish section of the programme had ended. There were 14 students in the first pilot group and 16 in the second, ongoing course. Altogether, 29 interviews (one declined) were videotaped, transcribed and analysed with a qualitative approach using qualitative data analysis software N-Vivo8 (Richards & Richards, 1995). The interviews were narrative-based (Polkinghorne, 1995; Czarniawska, 1998) and the interviewer took advantage of his well documented in-depth knowledge and available material based on teaching and following the interviewed participants along the programme. Thus he could grasp the moment.
The primary way to enhance strategic development was said to be collaboration with peers, both the participants of the programme as well as the other active peers in their home Federal institutions.
”..so we are kind of dynamic team so I really believe that after I start to spread this experience with our colleagues we are do a kind of revolution, we are start to implement a lot of new ways to teach and get better results then we have done until now. So. I really believe that they are, they will be my, on my side when I start to run this kind of new ways.”
Their own managers were regarded as an important audience to hear about newly learned lessons in Finland. Their attitude and support were regarded as critical.
The participants positioned themselves on two levels. Most of the participants positioned themselves as strategic actors, champions using the definition of Mantere (2003). The champions were planning to use concrete techniques like workshops, developing learning environments and engaging learning projects, using communication tools like media and storytelling. Some saw themselves at their best in the classroom using their new competences, even allowing the students to spread the good word of mouth and acting as citizens (Mantere, 2003) in the strategy process of pedagogical change. All intended to use the pedagogical competences learned although some of the participants had originally been expecting more emphasis on research in the own area of expertise than pedagogical content.
The participants were aware of the slow pace of pedagogical change and realized that the basic requirement was putting trust in its possibility; having faith:
” I think I would like to let them know that it’s possible to do new things, meaningful and not so difficult things in education…”
What was new to our research team was the importance of understanding emotions and their importance in enhancing strategic, pedagogical change. Both tears and joy were present in the interviews. Just as the Finnish have a proverb – ”If you learn without joy, you will forget without sorrow”. The Brazilians say:
”…it’s not because we only like parties, it’s because our behaviour and our feelings are linked with…”
The VET teachers for the Future -programme® can be described as a growth environment of new teacher identities and roles. During the five months in Finland, the narratives of participants can be described simply by the development from an individual teacher participant in the initial cultural shock in Finland towards a group of networked, collaborative strategic champions returning enthusiastically to Brazil. The participants positioned themselves as actors at the level of peers, in their own department and institution and even the Federal Institutions network, not only in their own classroom.
The practical conclusion for the programme development can also be drawn – both the participant selection as well as the programme have succeeded well in reaching the strategic targets. To reach its full potential, the process needs to continue with support both during the on-the-job learning period back in the Brazilian reality and after the programme ends. Understanding the different strategic roles adopted by participants can help their return.
Seija Mahlamäki-Kultanen, Director, Ph.D., Häme University of Applied Sciences, email@example.com
Brian Joyce, Senior Lecturer, M.A., Häme University of Applied Sciences, firstname.lastname@example.org
Essi Ryymin, Principal Lecturer, Ph.D., Häme University of Applied Sciences, email@example.com
Maaret Viskari, Manager, Global Education, M.A., Häme University of Applied Sciences, firstname.lastname@example.org
Lasse Heikkilä, Research Assistant, Häme University of Applied Sciences, email@example.com
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Sahlberg, P. 2011. The professsional educator. Lessons from Finland. American Educator. Summer 2011, 34–38.