Cooperative teaching for inclusion in Finland
What were the main aims of the initiative?
The Pirtti school, situated in the city of Kuopio, has 500 primary school pupils, age 6 to 13. There are 30 teachers and 6 assistants. The main issues faced by the school is ensuring teamwork in planning, teaching and evaluation, and developing co-operative learning methods. For example, two teachers combined their third grade pupils (age 9) – one mainstream class and one special class. The class was taught together and the teachers were jointly responsible for this group for four years. Later, a similar partnership was started between classes from the first and third grades and this group was taught together for six years. The evidence was that, as a result, the teachers’ motivation increased significantly. They also found that working together gave them further strength to cope and develop their work. Of course, this approach requires time for planning together and seamless collaboration among adults. However, the students and their parents, when surveyed, were very pleased with the impact (Bruun et al, (n. d) ).
What were the main aims of the initiative?
Location, setting, Scope, key events etc.
Our school is situated in the city of Kuopio, Finland. The city has 90,000 people and our school has 500 primary school pupils (age 6 to 13). There are about 30 teachers and 6 assistants in our school. Our way of teaching is still quite rare in Kuopio and in Finland as well. We have been tutoring and encouraging teachers to start similar activities in their schools.
What issues/challenges does the example address?
The main reason that led to this initiative was that teachers were tired of working alone with the class. There were a lot of problems because the pupils had special needs and the teacher was alone. Also the pupils in special classes had a lot of difficulties in social skills, finding friends and school achievements.
The biggest challenge has been to convince the other teachers in our school and in the area about the positive outcomes. This way of teaching is new to the Finnish school tradition and that is why some teachers are suspicious.
The main issues are:
How was the Initiative implemented?
The two teachers combined their third grade pupils (age 9) – one mainstream class and one special class - in autumn 2000. The class was taught together and the teachers were jointly responsible for this group for four years. A new similar group was started in autumn 2004 from the first grade (age 7) and this group was taught for six years. In Autumn 2010 there will be another new group of third grade students that will be taught together.
This work has been done mainly by ourselves. We have been in contact with different universities. A dissertation is going to be written based on this work by Anna Rytivaara in the University of Jyväskylä. We have been in close contact also with the University of Lapland and the Finnish National Board of Education.
The work started in autumn 2000 and is still going on.
What where the key Outcomes? What impact/added value did they prove? What were the biggest challenges?
Experience of this activity has been very positive. Pupils with special needs have been adapting to this class very well. Their school achievements and social skills have improved a lot. All pupils learn to accept differences and find their own and others strengths. Pupils’ individuality has been taken into account more. The motivation to study has been excellent.
Teachers’ motivation to work has increased significantly. To be able to share the work at all levels gives the teacher strength to cope and develop their work. This approach requires, of course, time for planning together and seamless collaboration among adults. Both the students and their parents, when surveyed, were very pleased with the pilot activities.
Has the initiative been evaluated or are there plans for this in the future?
A dissertation is going to be published by Anna Rytivaara (University of Jyväskylä) in the near future.
Have any plans been made for future direction of the initiative?
The work is still going on and we are sharing our experiences with other teachers. We give lectures in different schools and universities in Finland.
Are there further information about supporting materials?
This web link is about our work (in Finnish): http://www.peda.net/veraja/kuopio/pirtti/luotsi
Reference Link: www.inclusive-education-in-action.org/020EN