Snowy Insights: Exploring Finland's Innovative Classrooms with TAMK

Snowy trees

Tampere University of Applied Sciences played a pivotal role in facilitating the recent visit by Australian and Greek educators, providing them with a comprehensive insight into the Finnish educational system.

The recent immersive journey exploring the Finnish educational system, undertaken by a group of professors and researchers from Australia and Greece, was a testament to the culmination of years of collaboration between Michael Lawrence, an esteemed Australian educational author renowned for the book “Testing 3, 2, 1: What Australian education can learn from Finland,” and TAMK’s senior lecturer Mikko Turunen. This educational excursion, made possible through their enduring partnership, provided the visiting group with a unique opportunity to delve deep into the intricacies of the Finnish educational landscape.

Seven people standing, winter and snow

Visit to TAMK provided basis for an insightful experience

On the first day, the group visited Tampere University of Applied Science’s campus, and interacted with a diverse range of educators and students at Tampere University of Applied Sciences. The visit was a true highlight, where they were first warmly welcomed by the STEM team leader Juho Tiili and senior lecturer Sami Suhonen. A presentation on the ‘Learning by Doing’ approach was followed by an introduction to Finland’s innovative teaching methods, emphasizing the ‘phenomena first’ approach. The core of their pedagogy revolved around continuous assessment, group work, and peer instruction. The group was impressed by TAMK’s STEM education center, which exemplified a shift from traditional teaching methods to a more engaging flipped learning model. The students’ satisfaction with the hands-on methods was evident, providing tangible evidence of the effectiveness of this approach.

Later that day, at TAMK’s Hybrid Pedagogical Lab, the Head of Competence Area “Pedagogical Innovations and Culture”,  Juha Lahtinen emphasized the intrinsic values of the Finnish education system, focusing on the pursuit of meaningful learning experiences over the pursuit of high rankings. The role of teachers as agents of change was underscored, highlighting their impact in fostering creativity and building trust within the community. The visit and engagement with the ProAkatemia students further exemplified the TAMK’s focus on empowering students to tackle real-world challenges and fostering adaptability. Their journey commenced with an insightful discussion led by Mikko Turunen, shedding light on other pedagogical approaches that form the Finnish education. Additionally, Turunen provided a historical context to Tampere, adding depth to the group’s understanding of Tampere.

Australians and Greek experts at awe of teacher training and visit targets

Tuesday, despite the surprisingly snowy conditions, the group continued their exploration of Finnish educational marvels. Their first stop was the International School FISTA, where they witnessed the distinctive Finnish educational approach emphasizing play-based learning and fostering creativity among students. The visit to the Business Village “Yrityskylä” provided the group with an immersive experience of a hands-on learning environment, allowing 6th graders to step into the shoes of professionals, gaining practical skills and financial literacy. The immersive and practical nature of the learning module was a testament to Finland’s commitment to real-world skills and teamwork. The group also visited the Wivi Lönn Comprehensive School, which reaffirmed Finland’s dedication to experiential education. The Tampere Classical School showcased a blend of academic excellence and a nurturing environment, where students exhibited a passion for learning. The absence of behavioral issues spoke volumes about the school’s structured and supportive environment. Throughout their visits, the group noted that education in Finland was not confined to traditional classroom walls but extended to dynamic and experiential learning experiences.

Group of people in the middle of class

The group’s educational journey in Finland continued on Wednesday, with a visit to the Center for Basic Education of Arts, emphasizing arts education as a means of fostering self-expression and teamwork. The program’s project-based approach aimed to nurture a lifelong love for the arts and prepare individuals for future careers. A delightful lunch at the Tampere Market Hall was followed by a visit to the Metso Library, highlighting Finland’s commitment to accessible education and community engagement. The day concluded with a thrilling ice hockey match, providing a glimpse into Finland’s passion for sports and community involvement. Throughout the day, the emphasis on ‘learning by doing’ was evident, from arts education to library experiences, underscoring the Finnish approach to active engagement and project-based learning. The group also noted symbolic gestures within Finnish educational spaces, such as leaving shoes outside classrooms, reflecting the principles of equality and unity embedded in the Finnish education system. As they eagerly anticipated the next day’s adventures, the group’s journey continued to unravel the wonders of Finland’s educational excellence.

The group’s first stop on Thursday was the South Hervanta School, a unified school for grades 0–9, which emphasized tolerance and responsibility. The Jopo program, tailored to individual student needs, focused on project-based learning, fostering independence and empowerment. The visit to the Hervanta Technical High School highlighted the school’s inclusive teaching methods and its commitment to excellence, as showcased through the Matek program, focusing on mathematics and technology. The group was impressed by the flexibility within the curriculum, allowing students to explore subjects beyond the school’s walls and engage with real-world industry demands. As the day unfolded, the group’s discussions echoed the earlier insights shared by Finnish educators, emphasizing the adaptive and diverse nature of the Finnish education system.

Reflection meeting provided background for future co-operation

The final day commenced with a meeting at the University of Applied Sciences, where plans were discussed for an educational initiative. The group engaged with key figures, including international coordinator Henri Annala, Key Account Manager of Education Business Operations Virpi Heinonen and Juha Lahtinen, together with senior lecturer Mikko Turunen. Their discussions centered on potential collaborations between Finland, Australia and Greece, reflecting the TAMK’s global outreach and commitment to fostering international partnerships. The day transitioned into the evening with a delightful gathering at the enchanting Moro Sky Bar, fostering a spirit of international collaboration and friendship. The group’s cultural experiences in Tampere, including a visit to the city’s oldest sauna and an exploration of the city’s commitment to sustainable practices, left them with a profound understanding of Tampere’s ethos, reflecting the essence of Finnish education – pragmatic, purposeful, and forward-looking.  As the group bid farewell to Tampere, they carried with them a wealth of transformative experiences and a deeper appreciation for Finnish education. The journey had not only broadened their perspectives but also laid the foundation for potential future collaborations and partnerships in the realm of education.

Group pf people smiling

Text: Mikko Turunen, senior lecturer, TAMK, Aron Tremul (Geelong College) and Michael Lawrence
Photos: Aron Tremul (main image Jonne Renvall)

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