Flipped in Finland
During the first week of May the Flipped Learning Team travelled to Finland to learn all about the philosophy, implementation and results of Flipped Classroom methods from educators who have successfully used this approach as an alternative to traditional teacher-centered lecturing.
Meeting researchers and students at the University of Helsinki
On day one our team was greeted by researchers and lecturers from the Motivation, Learning, and Well-being research group at the Faculty of Educational Sciences at the University of Helsinki.
We were invited to take part in a mini-conference that was arranged for master students in the course 'Oppiminen ja yksilö' [Learning and the individual]. The conference replaced the last session of the course and was held to give students a taste of what it is like to attend an international research conference.
Short presentations of completed and ongoing studies were given by both PhD candidates and senior researchers, followed by a keynote presentation. The students came prepared with questions for the presenters, resulting in an active and engaging session.
The activity with the master students fueled a nice discussion about teaching practices with the team of educators at the department who were joining us in the next stage of our journey on the following day.
With some time to explore the city in the afternoon, the two Norwegians in our group got to learn about the historical and architectural landmarks of the Finnish capital.
As the visit coincided with the national May 1st holiday of “Vappu”, which largely celebrates workforce and education, we could indulge in cultural fun-facts – even picking up some Finnish phrases!
The Philosophy of Flipped Learning at the University of Eastern Finland
On the second day of our stay, we boarded the train in the early hours of the morning, headed for the city of Joensuu close to the Russian boarder. We caught a glimpse of Russia on our journey.
While the city of Joensuu is fairly small, it is well known for its educational institutions, among these the University of Eastern Finland. Upon arriving at the university our team and our colleagues from the University of Helsinki were welcomed by Erkko Sointu, a tenure track researcher at the School of Educational Sciences and Psychology. Erkko is the academic leader of the Flipped Learning project at the university and has been a driving force in the implementation of the method over the past years. The Flipped Learning project is evidence-based and has the aim of improving the digital and pedagogical skills of teaching staff. Furthermore, the project aims to provide teachers with skills to use more student-centered methods to enhance students’ learning and skills for working. Both flipped classroom and flipped learning are used in the project.
After showing us the facilities, Erkko went on to give an in-depth presentation of what Flipped Learning means in practice and how the project has changed teaching at the University of Eastern Finland.
Take-aways from Erkko’s presentation:
- Teaching and learning 21st century skills
Flipped teacher training (1-year course) is now part of university pedagogy. Teachers are provided with tools and practices about what to actually do in the contact sessions.
Includes continuous evaluation (both student and teacher)
Flipped classroom as a connector between traditional teaching and complete flipped learning
Important to explain to the students in the beginning: goals, methods, schedule, platform and materials
Three phases: 1) preparation before class (incl. video lectures), 2) contact sessions with practical work, questions and discussions, 3) processing and finishing after the contact session
Flipped learning can work in a variety of ways
After Erkko's presentation, university lecturer Aino Äikäs provided an example from her course in Special Needs Education.
Take-aways from Aino’s presentation:
Students post questions online before the contact session, after going through material. The preparation material may include some videos, articles etc. related to the topic with some questions/tasks to be answered.
It has been preferred to give video lectures with voice and slides, not including the ‘talking head’.
In Aino’s course, the students have a group exam. The students are divided into small groups (3-4) in the beginning of the course, so that they can study and prepare themselves for the exam together along the course. In the exam, the group provides one answer together for the exam question(s). In some courses all the course materials are also available for the students to use during the exam.
Group exam has received excellent student evaluations - the students prefer this type of exam over the traditional one, and feel that the exam situation is also a very good learning situation.
In summary the trip to Finland was inspiring and educational. The Flipped Learning Team returned to Norway with a lot more knowledge on Flipped Classroom, and quite a few ideas on how to start to implement this in their teaching next autumn.