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The Teacher’s role in Finland, what is phenomenon-based learning?

Look to Finland.

For a long time, look to Finland has been the popular thing to do, at least in Norway, (Finland is not that far away) and at least for those of us working in schools. Finland has long been renowned for the quality of its education and always scores highly in international league tables. Last week I interviewed a teacher from Finland who wanted a job as a substitute teacher here at our school. She told me about how students work with projects for certain periods at a time in high school in Finland, and how the workload would vary for the teachers in these time periods. When she told me about this way of organizing the school day, I  thought it was the perfect model for schools today. Especially since we now have a new school reform in Norway. That is why the article in MindShift caught my attention today. Below you will find highlights from that article,  I also included highlights from a similar article written by the BBC. If you want to read the articles you will find the links below. I have highlighted what I think is important and what aligns with my beliefs of what a classroom should look like. Where students are given voice and choice, where they decide on the projects they work on, and work with projects that are related to the real world. Where they set out to discover new things on their own and have the freedom to explore topics. Where the students decide on the curriculum goals they want to work on, when, how and where. And where emphasizing student mastery of transferrable skills is the norm and where phenomenon-based learning is nonnegotiable interdisciplinary!

At the Hiidenkivi Comprehensive School near Helsinki, Finland, students don’t spend all their time learning what other people have discovered. They set out to discover new things on their own. The students do this through nine-week long, interdisciplinary projects that the Finnish call “phenomenon-based learning,” a term coined by the country’s National Agency for Education.

Phenomenon-based learning is a lot like project-based learning, a more familiar term in the United States. Both prioritize hands-on activities that give students control over the direction of the project and both emphasize assignments that relate to the real world. They also emphasize student mastery of transferrable skills rather than a narrow set of facts identified by teachers. This gives kids more freedom to explore topics they find most interesting within a broad project theme. But in Finland, phenomenon-based learning is nonnegotiably interdisciplinary, something that can get left out of projects in the U.S. And it must be driven by students’ own questions about the world, something central to another “PBL,” problem-based learning.

Mindshift The Teacher’s role in Finland.


Finland’s ability to produce high academic results in children who do not start formal schooling until the age of seven, have short school days, long holidays, relatively little homework and no exams, has long fascinated education experts around the world.

Despite this, Finland is shaking up the way it is doing things – a move that it says is vital in a digital age where children are no longer reliant on books and the classroom to gain knowledge.

In August 2016 it became compulsory for every Finnish school to teach in a more collaborative way; to allow students to choose a topic relevant to them and base subjects around it. Making innovative use of technology and sources outside the school, such as experts and museums, is a key part of it. BBC news 29 May 2017.


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