Essi Ryymin, Marja Laurikainen, Virve Kentta, Carolina Corrêa de Carvalho & Brian Joyce
The goal of the study was to find out Brazilian teacher students’ considerations related to their pedagogical development work implementation and their most meaningful learning experiences in The Vocational education and training (VET) Teachers for the Future professional development programme after the programme’s Finnish and Brazilian study periods. The study revealed that the teacher students’ most meaningful learning experiences in the Finnish study period were opening new perspective to own teaching profession, pedagogical change from teacher-centredness to student-centredness and collaboration in teams of teachers. Their considerations of development work implementation varied from enthusiasm to concerns how to motivate their students, colleagues and school communities to pedagogical change.
After the Brazilian study period, the considerations of development work included positive outcomes of pedagogical change, recognized need for national in-service training, challenges and change resistance and committed management. As the most meaningful learning experiences in this phase, the teacher students reported personal experiments of pedagogical change, collaboration and trust and developing by experimenting, change by doing. The study was also interested in what qualities the student teachers considered as their personal strengths in conducting pedagogical change. They were skills and competences to collaborate with students, networking skills with colleagues, capability to build supportive relationship with managers, motivation and enthusiasm to develop teaching and learning, perseverance and resilience and know-how of managing the educational change. The study results were implemented in design of context-sensitive Brazilian period facilitation, e.g. in online guidance, and in further development of the programme.
The goal of the School of Professional Teacher Education of Häme University of Applied Sciences is to offer evidence-based teacher education. Accordingly, the mission in the Global Education R&D team of the School is to design research-based training services for its global partners (Global Education Research and Development 2018) in transnational teacher education, 21st century leadership and digitalization in pedagogy.
In the development process of The VET Teachers for the Future professional certificate programme (Ryymin, Kunnari, Joyce & Laurikainen 2016), the frame of reference for its applied research has been Design-Based Implementation Research, DBIR (Fishman, Penuel, Allen & Haugan Cheng 2013). DBIR is a model at the intersection of educational policy, research and practice, which is concerned with building capacity to change educational systems. DBIR seeks to foster the creation of scalable and sustainable educational innovation through new combinations of research and practice partnerships (Fishman et al.2013; Penuel, Fishman, Cheng & Sabelli 2011). A lot of data was gathered during The VET Teachers for the Future programme development in 2014‒2018, for example pre- and feedback questionnaires, in-depth interviews, group and individual learning diaries, data bank on virtual learning environments, contents on social media and observations of development work implementation in the Brazilian learning environment.
However, the goal of this article is to present a case study of the twenty-two Brazilian teacher students of The VET Teachers for the Future programme in 2016 as an example of data gathering and analysis related to programme development. As the the change from teacher-centredness to student-centred pedagogy is the main interest of the programme, the focus of the research was on teacher students’ pedagogical development work considerations, their most meaningful learning experiences in the programme, and their personal strengths in the change process from teacher-centred approach to student-centred pedagogy. In line, the pedagogical change is the theoretical frame of reference in this study report. On the basis of the study results, Finnish teacher educators and researchers designed personalised and context-sensible facilitation for Brazilian study period, for instance in online guidance, and further developed the future programme.
The challenges of pedagogical change
According to previous studies (Breunig 2005; Felder & Brent 1996; Woods 1994), the change from teacher-centredness to student-centred pedagogy is not easy because change makers may face resistance and struggle. Even educators can be resistant to the learner-centred approach because they feel safe with traditional teacher-centred curricula. Furthermore, educational administrators may find it challenging to conduct a paradigm shift because of budget restrictions and students may resist the change to student-centred pedagogy because it requires them to take more personal responsibility for their learning (Hains & Smith 2012; Weimer 2002).
According to Triyoko (2012), conducting a successful change from student-centred pedagogy and avoiding change resistance, requires development of mutually respectful relationships between students and teachers. Teachers need to encourage students’ interests, adapt the curriculum to meet students’ needs and implement new learning technologies in classrooms in pedagogically meaningful ways.
The change process to a student-centred pedagogy is also a learning process for teachers. Therefore, teachers need to be comfortable with a reasonable amount of ambiguity and flexibility (Hains & Smith2012), be able to negotiate and dialogue the new roles expected from the teacher and learners (Zeki 2104) and establish networks of collegial support to catalyse pedagogical change (Ryymin et al. 2016).
The study context and educational setting
There were 106 Brazilian teacher students in The VET Teachers for the Future programme, in 2014‒2016, at HAMK and Tampere University of Applied Sciences (TAMK). This study concerns the experiences of twenty-two Brazilian teacher students (“the third study cohort”), who studied in The VET Teachers for the Future professional certificate programme in 2016 at Häme University of Applied Sciences (HAMK), Finland. The participants were professional teachers from the Federal Institutes of Brazil, institutions offering basic, vocational and technological education nationwide, and representing diverse fields of education, for example biotechnology, agricultural engineering, agronomy, computer science, chemistry, mathematics, linguistic, educational sciences and business administration.
The goal of the programme is to empower the participants to collaboratively rethink and design education and learning environments to respond better to their on-going regional and national challenges in Brazil. The main contents include competence-based education, active and student-centred learning methods, models for educational change, learning community building, and digitalization of education. This is a 30-credit programme.
The third study cohort programme was divided into two parts: the Finnish study period ran from April 1st to June 30th 2016 (3 months) at HAMK, and the Brazilian study period from July 1st to December 9th 2016 (6 months) in the teacher students’ own institutions in Brazil. The goal of the Brazilian period was to implement and assess the students’ own pedagogical development work and facilitate context-appropriate educational solutions. This pedagogical development phase concerned the change from teacher-centred approaches to student-centred pedagogy and included, for example, the teacher students’ development projects of competence-based curriculum development, open and distance learning, gamification, applying activating teacher methods as problem- and project-based approaches, collaborative learning and enhancing collaboration between education and the world of work. During the Brazilian section, Finnish teacher educators supported development work implementation, for example by offering online guidance.
The objectives of the study
The goal of the study presented in this article was to answer the following questions:
1) What were the teacher students’ considerations of implementing their pedagogical development work?
2) What were the teacher students’ most meaningful learning experiences within The VET Teachers for the Future -professional development programme?
3) What qualities did the student teachers consider as their personal strengths in conducting pedagogical change?
Data gathering and analysis
The data was gathered using semi-structured in-depth interviews at the end of the Finnish study period and then at the end of the Brazilian study period. In the first data gathering phase, the twenty-two teacher students were in the stage of planning their development work, and in the second phase they had planned, implemented and assessed their development work in their own institutions. The interviews were video-recorded, then transcribed and analysed within the framework of the phenomenographic approach, which is a qualitative method emphasizing a subject’s experiences and conceptualization of phenomena (Marton 1988).
Conceptions of teachers’ expressions were identified and grouped according to categories based on similarities, differences and complementaries. The analysis is an iterative process by nature and the role of the researcher is significant in interpretation and creating the categories of descriptions. (Marton, Dall’ Alba & Beaty 1993.) Because this study is part of a wider DBIR process, assessing the effects of educational interventions, observation of the internal validity of the study process is relevant (Trochim 2006). This validity of the data analysis has been strengthened by the following inferences: 1) several researchers have contributed to research result interpretation, including a Brazilian researcher who offered deeper cultural knowledge and evaluation of the process in the contextual setting, 2) the data gathering and analysing process as the roles of researchers have been openly debated with the research participants and 3) special attention has been paid to theory-driven intervention implementation.
The deeper analysis was ended in six transcribed interviews out of 22, because it was noticed that these new interviews did not bring any fresh information. Additionally, Eisenhardt (1989) outlines that the number of cases in research cannot be defined in advance and the acquisition of the cases can be finished when theoretical saturation is reached. In order to track the inferences regarding cause-effect, the same six (6) teacher students’ interviews were analysed and compared in both data gathering phases, after the Finnish and Brazilian study periods. The interviewees presented both men and women, different regional areas of Brazil and a variety of teaching subjects.
The themes of the in-depth interviews after the Finnish study period focused on 1) the teacher students’ considerations related to development work implementation, 2) their most meaningful learning experiences in the programme and 3) personal strengths in conducting pedagogical change. The themes of the in-depth interview after the Brazilian study period focused on 1) the teacher students’ experiments related to development work implementation and 2) their most meaningful learning experiences after achieving The VET Teachers for the Future professional certificate. The categories of descriptions for the interviewed teacher students’ conceptions are introduced in the next period.
In this study report, the main interest of analysis is on the teacher students’ considerations of implementing their pedagogical development work and their most meaningful learning experiences. The research results related to personal strengths are reported, as well, however, the deeper reflection and discussion of personal strengths in pedagogical change is the task of the future research.
The teacher students’ considerations of pedagogical development and the most meaningful learning experiences after the Finnish study period
The categories of descriptions of the teacher students’ considerations related to their pedagogical development work and the most meaningful learning experiences after the Finnish study period are presented in Table 1. Some direct quotes from the interviews are presented, as well, to demonstrate teacher students’ expressions within the category.
The study period in Finland had been very significant and holistic learning experience for the teacher students. They underlined the new perspective and motivation the programme has offered them to their teaching profession: teachers do not only have an impact on students’ learning outcomes, but also on students’ motivation and wellbeing. The teacher students also emphasized the role of teachers in advancing quality education in society and thus building wellbeing to a larger societal extent.
To believe in teachers’ profession again, as seen how important it is to society. (A teacher student)
Furthermore, the teacher students experienced the pedagogical change from teacher-centredness to student-centredness as one of the most meaningful learning experiences. The study period in Finland had offered them the possibility to experiment, and critically assess, a holistic student-centred approach including, for instance, a competence-based curriculum and personalized, active learning. They had also reflected, re-designed and further developed their own student-centred teaching practices is their development work plans in line with the Federal Institutes’ mission to support the social and economic development with local innovations.
I used to be teacher-centred and I used to deliver a huge and extensive lecture. Now I have been thinking about how to change it. I think differently, and I understood that I have to be close to the student and figure out how I can help him. (A teacher student)
Additionally, the collaborative learning process and the working in teams of professionals had been a meaningful learning experience for the teacher students in the Finnish study period.
I learned how to work, live and build things in a team without the need of control the results and people. (A teacher student)
In addition, the interviewees highlighted the learning environment design, including physical, virtual and social aspects, as very meaningful experience. They reflected a teacher’s leading role in the process of building a safe and encouraging learning environment and its impacts on learners. Further, the flexibility of physical classrooms, for instance the possibility to re-organize tables and chairs for group work, were speculated upon intensively.
The learning environment and the atmosphere could provide the students better conditions to learning to lifelong learning. (A teacher student)
After the Finnish study period, the teacher students’ considerations of development work implementation varied from enthusiasm to concerns. The teacher students became very enthusiastic, determinate and motivated to start their pedagogical development implementation in their own working and learning environments in Brazil.
We really do not know what is going to happen in the future, but we must go in this direction. (A teacher student)
However, they were very concerned about how their students, colleagues and school communities would react to their development work paradigm shift from teacher-centredness to student-centred approaches, for example:
I have some concern about my colleagues because on my campus we don’t have a good atmosphere for collaboration because of different issues. (A teacher student)
Table 1. Categories of description of the Brazilian teacher students’ considerations of pedagogical development and the most meaningful learning experiences after the Finnish study period.
|Categories of description
|Considerations related to development work implementation
|The most meaningful learning experiences
|Enthusiasm, determination and motivation
|New perspective and motivation to own teaching profession
|Concerns how to motivate students, colleagues and school communities
|Pedagogical change from teacher-centredness to student-centred pedagogy
|Collaboration in teams of teachers
|Inspiring and supportive learning environment design
The teacher students’ considerations of pedagogical development and the most meaningful learning experiences after the Brazilian study period
Table 2 below introduces the teacher students’ considerations relating to their development work implementation and their most meaningful learning experiences following the Brazilian study period.
The teacher students’ considerations of their development work implementation were generally positive. They had achieved many promising outcomes in their inferences of student-centred pedagogy, for instance, a favourable change in their relationship with students and affirming changes in their students’ motivation, attitudes and learning outcomes. They were very enthusiastic and content about their experiences and achievements.
But the core is this new way of be, this new way of thinking and it includes the student in the centre. (A teacher student)
They contextualized student-centred pedagogy and created many new educational solutions for their institutions. Their work had raised interest among colleagues and many of them were invited to demonstrate, share and educate their colleagues in student-centred approaches in other institutions, in some cases even at the state level. However, their joint observation was that new pedagogies cannot be studied in one-day seminars, but instead, intensive and collaborative learning implementing a doing process with colleagues is needed. They concluded that educational development requires a national teacher in-service training concept for the Federal Institute network in Brazil.
I think that most important is this: to guide, to help teachers to change their practices in class. (A teacher student)
These findings, together with an initiative of Federal Institute, was a catalyst to develop a new “Brasileiros Formando Formadores (Braff)” teacher education concept (Amado 2017) for Federal Institute network. The concept and the training model were co-designed and implemented by the Brazilian The VET Teachers for the Future programme graduates and Finnish teacher educators from HAMK and TAMK.
After the Finnish study period, the teacher students had expressed their concerns about how to motivate their students, colleagues and school communities to experiment with new pedagogical practices. These concerns were not pointless; despite the positive outcomes, the teacher students received doubts and change resistance from their students and fellow teachers.
When I came back and I tried to organize my students working in a collaborative way, work together, it was so difficult. (A teacher student)
But the cultural shock is huge and most of them (colleagues) say that it’s (active methods) just a new fashion, next year you will be back as a Brazilian teacher. (A teacher student)
Little by little, through pedagogical experiments, they however developed context-sensitive pedagogical practices and their students rehearsed new ways of studying. In this complex process, the shared knowledge and support of the network of the teacher students from The VET Teachers for the Future -programme, as well as support from the management of the Federal Institute, were experienced very important.
(Before) I did my best but alone. Now we work together. It’s more. We are creating bigger results. (A teacher student)
My principal was my partner – he gave me all freedom, autonomy that I need to perform anything that I want. (A teacher student)
Now, after the implementation phase, the personal experiences of pedagogical change had become one of the most meaningful learning experiences for the teacher students. They also emphasized the importance of collaboration and trust in change making, as well as learning by doing, developing by experimenting.
Table 2. Categories of description of the Brazilian teacher students’ considerations of pedagogical development and the most meaningful learning experiences after the Brazilian study period.
|Categories of description
|Experiments related to development work implementation
|The most meaningful learning experiences
|Positive outcomes of pedagogical change from teacher-centredness to student-centred pedagogy
|Personal experiments of pedagogical change
|Recognized need for national teacher in-service training
|Collaboration and trust
|Challenges and change resistance
|Change by doing, development by experimenting
|Collegial support and knowledge sharing in networks of teachers
The teacher students’ personal strengths in pedagogical change
In this study, the teacher students were also required to reflect on their personal strengths in pedagogical change in their interview after the Finnish study period. The results are introduced in Figure 1.
The Brazilian teacher students underlined their interpersonal skills in pedagogical change. They highlighted their capability to build good relationships with students, colleagues and managers as their most significant strengths. They also mentioned their deep personal motivation and enthusiasm to develop teaching and learning as well as perseverance and resilience, being not afraid of making mistakes, as their positive resources. Further, the know-how of change management was mentioned as a supportive personal quality.
I do believe that my personal strength as a teacher is that I’m not afraid of being wrong I allow myself to make mistakes. I like to try new things. (A teacher student)
Conclusions and discussion
This article introduced a case study of pedagogical deveopment work considerations, learning experiences and pedagogical strengths of Brazilian teacher students within The VET Teachers for the Future programme.
The study revealed that although student-centred pedagogy may offer many positive experiences, the development work is a complex and intensive learning process for teachers; despite the promising outcomes, they may meet doubts and resistence in their learning context. The colleagial sharing in networks of professionals as well as support of managers is significant for the successful pedagogical change and in contextualizing new pedagogical practices. The personal strengths of pedagogical developers, such as intrapersonal skills, motivation, perseverance and know-how on change management, can advance dialoguing about the change with students, colleagues and managers in a positive way.
A transnational teacher education programme aiming to support pedagogical change can become a very holistic and significant learning experience for the participants. It can offer new perspectives and motivation to a teacher’s profession and enthusiasm and determination to pedagogical development. It is critical that the learning methods are aligned with the learning goals, for instance, activating pedagogy is studied with activating methods.
Developing by experimenting, change by doing, is an efficient way towards pedagogical change; the development work must be adapted and contextualised to the local needs and goals. It is important to develop the transnational facilitation to be personalised and context-sensible enough to support the programme participants’ autonomy in change making.
How constant, scalable and effective the developed student-centred pedagogical practices are, is the important duty and critical question of future research. It will be also interesting to study the regional educational innovations and scaling in Brazil in more detail.
Essi Ryymin works as a R&D Manager and Principal Lecturer at School of Professional Teacher Education, HAMK. She analysed the data, wrote the manuscript and contributed to data gathering by video-recording and interviewing Brazilian teacher students after the Finnish study period.
Marja Laurikainen works as an Education Development Specialist at HAMK. She video-recorded and interviewed teacher students after the Brazilian study period.
Virve Kentta works as a Planning Officer in Research and Industrial Services at HAMK . She transcribed the recordings and contributed to research result interpretation.
Carolina Corrêa de Carvalho works as a University Teacher at the Federal University of ABC – UFABC in Brazil. She transcribed the recordings and contributed to research result interpretation.
Brian Joyce, Senior Lecturer, Global Education, School of Professional Teacher Education, HAMK, contributed to educational setting and research result interpretation.
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