Teacher Education for Inclusion in Finland
What were the main aims of the initiative?
The objective of inclusive teacher education is to create a live connection between an unpredictable and continuously diversifying society and the need to reform the educational cultures prevalent in schools.
Inclusive in-service education aims at creating an educational model which links the following aspects together: the examination of a current phenomenon, the enhancement of the expertise and competence of the members of the school community, and the development of research-based teacher education. An educational model of this kind triggers off new research with a close connection between the teacher’s professional competence and the development of the school in focus. Research is conducted interactively on the basis of the needs that have arisen in the daily work at educational institutions to develop a comprehensive schooling system which progresses towards equality.
What were the main aims of the initiative?
The teacher’s key responsibilities, mastery of the teaching content, the teaching process itself and the group have been surpassed by an ability to understand the reality of society and school, and to have a conscious and purposeful impact on this reality. The development of education and schooling requires responsible multicultural expertise as regards the future. The educational obligations and pedagogical practices of school as well as the overall operations of the school community should also be critically examined. This is why the competence of the personnel of educational communities requires evaluation and a development-oriented approach along with continuous updating.
In-service education intends to meet the challenges presented by changes in the teachers’ work plans, circumstances and teaching practices. Moreover, educational institutions employ a great number of teaching and guidance personnel who have immigrated into Finland with no formal teaching qualifications. In-service training is also needed for immigrants who hold teaching qualifications from other countries. The central aim is to produce qualifications for the Finnish school system in line with the teachers’ renewed work plans and inclusive schooling practices.
Inclusiveness also implies recognition and acceptance of what has been learnt earlier. In-service education aims at a long-term process with distinct objectives for the purpose of providing professional equality and competence both in the labour market and in the teachers’ classrooms.
Location, setting, Scope, key events etc.
Inclusive teacher education is very much part of the extensive reform process currently under way in Europe which expressly enhance educational inclusion. In Finland, a nationwide educational reform is being carried out for the purpose of enhancing a new educational system that contributes to an increase in equality, i.e. an inclusive educational system, its pedagogical practices, and practical methods. The highest school authorities and decision-makers in Finland have strongly encouraged the development of an educational structure in which the growth, development and learning processes of every individual pupil are supported both individually and within the framework of the entire community in inclusive settings on all levels of the educational system. The Department of Teacher Education of the University of Tampere is involved in the cooperation aimed at carrying out this reform.
What issues/challenges does the example address?
Constant change and unpredictability present challenges which inclusive teacher education can meet precisely because in-service teacher education has been made an integral part of teacher education. It is vital to start purposeful long-term work simultaneously on several levels in the search for permanent changes in the systems, structures and actions, and an establishment of development work and new operational cultures in the practising communities.
How was the Initiative implemented?
Pedagogical practices have developed based on traditions which have been established against a certain view of differences, where the pupil is often designated or categorised through only one perspective. Accordingly, special attention is paid to the issues of defining and naming new differences on a continuous basis. An analysis of the diversity of these differences requires more than the variables that take into account the pupils’ different growth and learning conditions, or which have been introduced by multi-culturality. The starting point for understanding diversity is openness to unpredictability and incommensurability. One needs to ignore differences which are not relevant, and to be on the alert for and sensitive to differences which require attention.
In-service education intends to meet the challenges presented by changes in the teachers’ work plans, circumstances and teaching practices. In-service education also intends to serve the educational needs of the immigrant teachers who already work in the profession.
The teacher education focuses, on the one hand, on securing room for the prospective teachers’ own diversity-related experiences and, on the other hand, on supporting their professional growth and on including issues related to encountering diversity in the contents of the pedagogical studies. Special attention is paid to enhancing the prospective teachers’ competence in encountering heterogeneity in the modes of practice of teaching and education.
This initiative at the University of Tampere is still on-going.
What where the key Outcomes? What impact/added value did they prove? What were the biggest challenges?
In order to be able to respond to the societal, cultural and linguistic changes currently taking place, inclusive teacher education is required to show flexibility along with a vision of transcending the traditional structures of teacher education.
On a fresh note, the in-service teacher education project has drawn attention to the need to reform the structures and content of teacher education. These practices which have been followed for a long period of time have included e.g. separate education programmes for teachers in kindergartens, primary schools and secondary schools as well as for teachers in special needs education. Multidisciplinary issues in education and pedagogy have been at the core of kindergarten and class teacher education as well as in special needs teacher education. These study programmes have aimed at strengthening every teacher students’ identity as an educator, and emphasised the importance of applying pupil-centred pedagogy throughout the teaching process. This is very different from the study programme for secondary school teachers in which the focus has been on the didactic dimensions related to the subjects to be taught at school.
Inclusive teacher education deserves credit for having successfully integrated former separate study programmes into an integrative and extensive programme. This programme has allowed the students to gain qualifications for working as primary and/or secondary school teachers according to their personal choice. Simultaneously, they have acquired excellent competences related to their knowledge, skills and attitudes to be able to encounter diversity in all different contexts of education.
This reformed educational programme has been successful in meeting the demands presented by the teacher’s changing pedagogical practices. The central point in this programme is that – instead of the subjects to be taught – the needs arising from within the pupils and the changes in society at large have become the basis on which the teacher’s professional competence and identity are constructed.
Has the initiative been evaluated or are there plans for this in the future?
No information available
Have any plans been made for future direction of the initiative?
The following aspects are among those to which particular attention should be paid in the future:
Improvement of the teacher’s skills and competence in collaboration and interaction. The present-day teachers must possess the necessary qualifications for working in multi-professional working groups including e.g. subject teachers, special needs teachers, mother tongue teachers, F2 (Finnish as second language) teachers, school assistants, psychologists and other school welfare officers.
Development of study courses concerning ethical and moral dimensions of teaching and special education history with increased reviews of ethical approaches, attitudes, cultural traditions, various human communities’ historical processes along with their conceptions of the world, knowledge and being in general, plus reflection on various characteristics which either unite or separate them.
Development of the teaching of individual pupils’ mother tongue as well as education of competent teachers. As society is becoming a permanently multilingual and multicultural structure it is vital to provide support for every pupil’s linguistic and cultural identity.
Instruction in Finnish as well as in the pupil’s mother tongue is an efficient way of enhancing the adoption of learning contents and, simultaneously, of improving the pupil’s learning skills.
Are there further information about supporting materials?
No information available
Reference Link: www.inclusive-education-in-action.org/039EN