In what direction is learning going? The coronavirus has accelerated digitalisation in the education sector, too. There are already a number of great learning systems on the market. The emergence of new services is accelerating, and distance learning and online courses will also increase in the post-corona world. What is the added value of technology? Currently, in terms of teaching and learning, technology is introducing new digitized learning practices. It is easy to understand the ease of maintaining grades, exam numbers and performance databases, as well as the automatic checking of simple tasks. However, the existence of diverse technologies that increase skills and learning and encourage them is still limited.
Phenomenal phenomenon-based learning?
Technology affects learning and teaching, but a few other learning phenomena have also recently swept away traditional learning and teaching practices. Phenomenon-based learning has recently been the prevailing method in teaching young school children. The calculation rules of mathematics are taught through various practical activities and activities. The sign “larger than” may be shown as the crocodile’s jaw. At the same time, it has been observed that in some subjects the level of competence has decreased. Would it be possible that phenomenon-based learning has reduced the achievement of routine and competence is therefore poorer? Several math teachers have reported how the routines of math calculation rules are less well managed today. Competence comperehends a sure routine and the ability to apply the competence in new situations (so-called new learning).
Hungarian mathematics teaching using phenomenal-based learning has recently attracted interest in the EU, and several member countries have used the method developed by Varga-Nemeny to create a solid foundation for understanding mathematical concepts using play, phenomena and experiences in the natural environment, for example. Numbers will only be included more widely when the basic concepts are well mastered. The tasks are solved in the mother tongue, in which case we also invest in the teaching and learning of the mother tongue. The method requires good familiarity with the teacher, which is one of the problems of the method. This type of teaching is more demanding than traditional teaching because the teacher must be able to verbally justify the use of different mathematical theories and eradicate misconceptions from the whole group. The teacher needs to be clear about everyone’s progress in class. Evaluation is also based on continuous, periodic testing. There may not be large tests.
Only when students have a good basic understanding do numbers become more widely used. In Hungarian mathematics, people with learning difficulties are given additional teaching and tasks in mathematics and their mother tongue, ie more repetitions. Hungarian teaching is gaining ground in the field also in Finland, and by supporting high-quality teachers and also by improving the level of competence, better results than before can be achieved. Now it seems that we are lagging behind in the teaching of mathematics, and mathematics is considered a difficult and laborious subject. A good understanding can only be gained by investing time and doing enough repetitions. Is there too much of an all-at-once mindset that doesn’t emphasize perseverance enough?
Alone or together?
The share of group work has increased in schooling. Very small primary school children are not yet directed to group work, but from there the group work gradually begins in comprehensive school, secondary school and especially in polytechnic. The aim of the group work is to use each competence optimally and to find out the different aspects of the given topic. When everyone makes their own contribution to group work, one could think that the result of group work is more than the sum of their parts. Or is it less? There is also some snorting: someone does more than another, and yet everyone gets the same number. Thus, the evaluation is not necessarily fair. Group work complicates scheduling, as a uniform time should be found in the calendar of each 3-5 members. This will certainly ruin the beginning of a professionally trained musician or athlete who is already potentially a good student anyway and copes independently with tasks and study.
Continuous assessment – does it really work?
Continuous assessment is a noble goal: it continuously assesses student performance. How can a teacher objectively implement an equal review that treats students individually? A motivated teacher creates their own functioning system, and others assess students without thinking very much. International customers have also wanted to introduce Finnish teaching methods. Once the implementation has begun, the subscribers have announced that it is quite good, but there must be traditional teaching and experiments involved. It is therefore quite clear that number evaluation based on tests is also needed.
Inclusion in the basic education curriculum is divided into the improvement of communication skills, the development of thinking and learning, cultural interaction, technology and communication skills, and working life skills and entrepreneurship. The goals are really broad. Forcibly, it remains to be seen how all this could be further promoted, as it seems that goals are, to some extent, rhetorical.
One way could be to have clearer entities and to concretise and critique the above-mentioned areas in some way. On the other hand, in the same spirit, one should ask whether the basic skills of key subjects should not be emphasized and invested in the development of thinking and learning.
School success and the resulting positive attitude towards society, nature and loved ones could be a clear goal, allowing the learning process and the development of thinking to be reviewed in a more concrete way, while taking into account individual differences. In this case, the subject of action would be a motivated student who concentrically and attentively monitors or independently studies and understands the vital role of repetition in learning and internalizing things. If a student has individual challenges, for example in the areas of attention or self-direction, various ready-made action models that have proven to be good can be offered to improve and develop the problem areas of that student.
How could Finland enter the education market?
The global learning market is changing as living standards in Asia rise. Today, about a billion students are looking for a quality and suitable postgraduate place. This tourism is the most sought after tourism globally, as young people look for postgraduate studies, live, use services and possibly stay after work to work in a new country. They pair up and commit more tightly to society. Finland has missed this train. It is only in recent years that colleges and universities have awakened to this massive annual migration.
However, the results are pretty meager. The reason is the prevailing way of thinking and the desire not to change old structures and operating models. As it is a wave of migration around the world, universities, housing services and various other necessary services are really big business. It is normal for education to be part of the business. This is not the case in Finland, as the public sector is not able to be a “greedy” student attractor on economic grounds, and it generally carries out the task of implementing the teaching given to it. Polytechnics are clearly ahead of universities in this regard. Globally, the winners of educational migration are, of course, the US, Australia and England. Brexit is unlikely to have a strong effect either, as the newcomers are largely from outside Europe.
Instead of moving people, they should also be able to provide learning systems and different learning technologies that effectively help students achieve their dreams. Such solutions will undoubtedly have a large market during and after the coronavirus. All global and regional training providers, large and major, want to be involved in the development of artificial intelligence solutions for education and gain their share of the scalable market.
In the end, even as technology evolves, and despite what the most amazing state-of-the-art features and smart things education software and platforms do, testing traditional learning, at least globally, is still an important part. After hearing from Peter Westerbacka in a presentation: “abroad, people were interested in Finland’s advanced teaching, then asked for advanced Finnish models and practices until they realized that there are no tests in teaching and that participatory methods are used in classroom teaching, so they asked to change it to a more traditional way”.
What number does the student then get? Traditional, perhaps the biggest draw has been hourly activity. Teachers have emphasized that activity can get the number up. Well, yes, that’s kind of true. Hourly activity is good, but competence matters. During the coronavirus period, student self-assessment has also become more widely used, and several teachers have reported that students are critical and strict about themselves. However, the teacher prefers to give a good rather than a bad number. And of course every teacher has their favourite students. After all, teachers are ordinary people just like the rest of us.
Check out our previous blog to find out how we at Eximia solve learning challenges in the future and now during the coronavirus – and not only in Finland, but also on an international scale.