In teachers they trust
In the ’70s, Finnish officials moved teacher training under the universities, subsequently implementing a five-year master’s degree programme for all who want to become teachers. A combination of theory, practice and research was key to teacher education, they decided.
Class teachers major in the educational sciences and teach most subjects including Mathematics and Science at the primary levels. Teacher educators say that teaching younger children requires strong pedagogical skills to motivate and excite learners, and not just the transfer of academic knowledge at this stage.
By contrast, subject teachers major in their teaching subjects, while also having to complete pedagogical modules and teaching practicums. In-depth knowledge in their teaching areas is crucial, to give them the confidence to explain complex theories and tackle difficult questions.
Ms Anneli Rautiainen, head of professional development of teachers at the Finnish National Board of Education, thinks that research-based teacher education accounts for the high quality of teaching in Finnish schools today.
“The fact that we have a Master’s degree for teacher initial education is very important. As research-based teachers, they can analyse learning situations and know how to support their students better,” she said.
Student teacher Ms Tuula Hurtig agrees that conducting research has honed her critical thinking abilities and improved her teaching methods. Graduating as a history and civics teacher this year, her thesis involved research into how historical pictures impacted her students’ learning.
GETTING FIELD EXPERIENCE
Head of teacher education at University of Helsinki, Professor Jari Lavonen, calls research-based teacher education vital — it combines with field practice to keep student-teachers in touch with classroom realities and “thinking about their teaching methods”, he said.