Essi Ryymin, Taru Lilja, Pirjo Tuominen, Nana Niskanen, Maura Corporán, & José Rafael Croussett Paredes
Transnational education programmes offer promise for expanding access to education throughout the world, with far fewer geographical barriers than traditional, face-to-face programmes. Properly designed and carefully implemented, transnational education programmes hold the potential to assist developing nations in expanding their intellectual infrastructure. (Bannier, 2016) However, previous research demonstrates that teaching in the transnational context is complex, multifaceted and challenging, involving diverse cultures and expectations (Bannier, 2016; Waterval, Frambach, Driessen, & Scherpbier, 2015).
Notably, collaborative relationships marked by ongoing dialogue, co-developed context-sensitive teaching and learning, curriculum adaption and intercultural learning, have been identified as critical factors in enhancing transnational education (Keevers, Price, Leask, Sultan, Dawood, Lim, & Loh, 2019; Keay, May & O’Mahoney, 2014; Smith, 2010).
HAMK Global Education (HAMK, n.d.) of Häme University of Applied Sciences (HAMK) has developed and implemented context-sensitive approaches for transnational education for several years now. According to the transnational education framework developed by Knight (2016, pp. 38–39), the educational programmes of HAMK Global Education run under the collaborative category, meaning that HAMK has a local partner with whom HAMK is co-operating in terms of delivery of the programme. However, the collaboration is far deeper than a local host providing admin support and student services; it includes the whole design and delivery process of curriculum and programme. The research approaches, within the HAMK Global Education programmes, vary according to research interests, settings and objectives of the global partners, but the aim is always to develop competences for novel solutions to the educational challenges in practice, and foster sustaining change in educational systems.
The programme “Programa de Desarrollo de Educación Vocacional” is one of the latest transnational education programmes between HAMK and its Dominican partner INFOTEP (Instituto Nacional de Formación Técnico Profesional) (n.d.). The goal of the two-year programme (2018–2020) was to enhance the educational managers’ and pedagogical developers’ competences in vocational education reform, management and pedagogy, and support the participants in co-designing, implementing and assessing solutions to the regional challenges of education.
The choice for a theoretical approach to the collaboration between INFOTEP and HAMK was “design-based implementation research as a framework for developing professional development programmes for global partners” (Ryymin, 2018). The approach (See Figure 1) is based on the design-based implementation research-model (DBIR), which was developed by Fishman, Penuel, Allen, Haugan and Cheng (2013) at the intersection of educational policy, research and practice, seeking 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). The model stipulates that educational practitioners, service producers and customers work together as partners to design, implement and assess new practices for learning.
The crucial design principles of “Programa de Desarrollo de Educación Vocacional” were following the framework: 1) context-sensitive and dialogical approach, 2) a focus on educational challenges of practice, 3) commitment to iterative, collaborative design, 4) a concern to develop new knowledge on systematic inquiry, 5) a concern to develop capacity to sustain change in systems and 6) development of a cross-setting perspective on teaching and learning.
Both partners have an active coordination team with an interest of research and development (R&D Team). The Dominican R&D Team defined professional development priorities and goals on the basis of which the HAMK R&D Team designed the development process, programme curriculum and practices. The Dominican Team contributed to local guiding and facilitation process, and observed localization practices, outcomes and research results. HAMK R&D Team oversaw the collection and analysis of the research data of the process and brought results into open dialogue with The Dominican Team. After debating the results, the partners further developed the programme practices, for example, guidance methods. For DBIR, it’s crucial that data gathered from the development process is conceptualised and dialogued, especially concerning the learning and teaching in the specific context.
Research-based evidence supports partners in educational development complex systems to refine the tools and practices, as well as re-design the necessary means to support for implementing these (Fishman et al., 2013, pp. 143–144).
The context of the study
The programme “Programa de Desarrollo de Educación Vocacional” was an initiative of INFOTEP, which is a non-profit educational organisation responsible for coordinating the provision of skills training for young adults through approximately 300 technical training centres across the Dominican Republic. The role of INFOTEP is to provide both initial and lifelong training designed to improve the productivity of enterprises (OECD, 2012).
The starting point for the programme is the strategy of INFOTEP for 2019–2021 (INFOTEP, 2019), which aims to develop the provision and quality of vocational education in changing society and strengthen the collaboration between industries and education for qualified workforce. The most important strategic actions to reach the goals are to further develop the quality of management in vocational education, educate qualified vocational teachers, and implement the competence-based curriculum following the National Qualification Framework of the Dominican Republic (Echávarri, 2015). Furthermore, the strategy supports the development of financial sustainability and physical and technological infrastructure.
“Programa de Desarrollo de Educación Vocacional” was a co-designed two-year professional development programme for INFOTEP’s vocational education managers and pedagogical developers implemented in 2018–2020.
The process included contact-periods both in the Dominican Republic and in Finland, and online periods for large and small groups (“home groups”) of the participants. The programme’s competence-based curriculum aimed to support participants’ educational developers’ competences. The assessment criteria of the learning outcomes were designed in align with the competence goals. Within the programme, there were 58 participants, who implemented twelve (12) regional development projects.
The designing process of the programme started with iterative co-operation between INFOTEP and HAMK including several meetings, interviews and questionnaires. The goal was to combine the organisational and individual expectations and goals paying attention to prior knowledge of participants (see Figure 2). After analysing this initial phase of inquiry, the key themes of the programme were defined, for instance, student-centred approach, competence-based education and co-operation between educational institutions and the world of work. The programme focused on the regional development projects as contextualised educational interventions which covered the themes of
- competence-based curriculum,
- teacher education,
- digital and physical learning environments,
- student motivation and engagement,
- co-operation between educational institutions and the world of work, and
- educational supervising and management.
The 58 participants formed twelve (12) home groups in charge of their own, regional development process. All regions of The Dominican Republic were represented in the process: Cibao (North), Ozama (Southwest), and Seybo (Southeast).
The theoretical approach implemented in the educational developers’ curriculum design was the model of integrative pedagogy, which is based on the idea of professional expertise as an integrated entity of theoretical, practical, self-regulative and sociocultural knowledge (Tynjälä, Häkkinen & Hämäläinen, 2014). While theoretical, practical and self-regulative knowledge represent personal forms of knowing, sociocultural knowledge is embedded in social practices as well as artefacts used in these practices. Hence, the curriculum pays specific attention to the reflective practice and development of a learning community encountering this form on knowledge. Also, theories of collaborative construction of knowledge (Bereiter & Scardamalia, 1996) and learning as knowledge creation (Paavola, Lipponen, & Hakkarainen, 2004) have been carefully examined in curriculum design. All these approaches have earlier been successfully applied in other transnational development programmes of HAMK Global Education, for instance, in the VET Teachers for The Future programme for the Brazilian higher education and vocational teachers from The Federal Institutes of Brazil (Ryymin, Kunnari, Joyce, & Laurikainen, 2016; Ryymin, Laurikainen, Kentta, Carvalho, & Joyce, 2018), and in the Gira Mundo Finlândia professional development programme for Brazilian comprehensive school teachers from the State of Paraíba (Ryymin & D’Andrea, 2018).
The objectives of the study
This article presents a case of data gathering as an example of the co-design process. It is good to recognise that there is a vast amount of data gathered during the process, e.g. interviews, observations and questionnaires. However, this data is not reported in this article, as it is only for the internal use by the partners.
This article concentrates on the data gathering after the first two-week contact period of the programme in Santo Domingo in 2018. The objective was to find answers to the following research questions:
- What were the most meaningful learning experiences of the programme participants in the first contact period?
- What kind of guidance did the participants wish for during the online period of the programme?
- What were the Dominican programme managers’ expectations for the concrete outcomes of the programme?
Methods of the study
Data collection by a semi-structured questionnaire in paper form was conducted at the end of the first contact period in Santo Domingo. 54 participants answered the questionnaire and gave their consent to use the data for research purposes. The language of the questionnaire was Spanish. The questionnaire consisted of eleven statements asking the participants to evaluate the programme on a scale of 1 to 5, one being “I completely disagree” and five “I completely agree”. The statements, which measured the motivation and satisfaction of the participants, were related to the themes, such as purpose of the programme, content of the programme and implementation of the programme. The average of the answers was 4,84. In addition, there were five open-ended questions. The main open-ended questions of interest in this study are:
- What were your most meaningful learning experiences?
- What kind of guidance will you and your home group need during the online period?
According to Lavrakas (2008), asking open-ended questions gives an additional perspective to the survey with close-ended (scaled) questions. It also provides the participants with an opportunity to express their thoughts and wishes more freely. Answers in the open-ended questions usually include more information, such as feelings, attitudes, and understanding about the subject. In this survey, open-ended questions were used to identify the specific needs and wishes of the participants, so as to gain a shared understanding for the next section of the programme.
The answers to the open-ended questions were analysed by qualitative content analysis as a method. The goal of content analysis is a systematic examination of communicative material, in this case text. The systematic nature derives from its gradual procedure, breaking down the text into single units of analysis with orientation to a system of categories (Flick, 2002). In this study, the answers to the open-ended questions were first drawn together and grouped into units that expressed similar ideas. The units were then examined by two researches and grouped further into more abstract categories. The analysis had a data-driven approach: units and the categories were formed and named keeping loyal to the text itself. The idea approximates Bengtsson’s (2016) manifest analysis approach, where the researcher describes what the informants say. It stays very close to the text, uses the words themselves, and describes the visible and obvious in the text. The Atlas.ti software, a tool for supporting the process of qualitative data analysis, was applied in the analysis process. Computers are generally very good at finding things like strings of characters or coded data segments in a large variety of combinations. However, the researcher first needs to tell the computer by way of coding which data segment has what kind of meaning (Friese, 2019).
The third research question proposed was “What are the participants’ most important expectations of the programme?” The data for this interest was gathered in the focus-group interview (Morgan, 2002) at the end of the first contact period in Santo Domingo. There were seven (7) interviewees in the focus group, all of whom were in the management positions in INFOTEP representing the institutes from different regions of the Dominican Republic.
The seven interviewees were also active participants of the programme and shared responsibilities of programme facilitation and guidance with the Dominican R&D Team. The qualitative analysis was implemented in a team of interviewing researchers. The first interpretations were carried out immediately after the interview, combining and comparing the interviewers’ observations. The specific concern was paid to the so called “repeating ideas” appearing in the data (Auerbach & Silverstein, 2008, pp. 45–46), which were organised into coherent categories and grouped into more abstract themes and concepts.
Results of the study
The analysis revealed that five learning experiences were of the most importance to the participants in the first contact session: 1) student-centred approach, 2) activating pedagogical methods, 3) personalisation of learning, 4) collaboration with the world of work and 5) evaluation (see Figure 3). All these learning experiences were thematically linked to each other.
As a meaningful learning experience, a student-centred approach, was considered as the crucial holistic approach to employ a variety of educational methods to redesigning pedagogical practices. The approach affects also on the ways that teachers address the learning needs, backgrounds and aspirations of individual students and groups of students. Activating pedagogical methods offered concrete new ideas, tools and methods to implement the student-centred approach in practice. Approaches to project-based learning and problem-based learning as well as self-directed learning were especially mentioned. Personalisation of learning was linked to the themes of the student-centred approach and activating methods: the interest was how to support a student’s personal study path and learning process. A student’s personal study path may include studying while working in a company. Therefore, the novel forms of collaboration with the world of work were in the interests of the participants, who were eager to learn about work-based learning and tutoring, as well as evaluation of learning in authentic working environments, for instance, skills demonstrations.
The research results validated the first-phase data inquiry of the co-design process of the programme. The R&D Teams of INFOTEP and HAMK concluded that they had succeeded in recognising the topical learning needs of INFOTEP educational managers and pedagogical developers. The key themes of the programme were among the most important learning experiences of the respondents after the first contact period. Furthermore, the research results were utilised in co-designing the next contact period of the programme, a study visit to Finland. The study visit offered several examples of concretising and conceptualising student-centred approach, activating methods, personalization of learning, collaboration between education and the world of work, and evaluation (see Ryymin, 2019).
The guidance needed during the online period
When it comes to the second question, what kind of guidance is wished for during the online period, the answers were:
- how to implement the development project,
- follow-up and accompanying,
- support for the group-based project themes,
- evaluation and
- reaching the outcomes of the development project.
The results were thematically connected: they all expressed concern about successful implementation of regional development projects. The participants wished active follow-up and accompanying during their development projects, and support for their specific group-based project themes. In addition, guidance on evaluation of the development projects was aspirated. The R&D Teams of INFOTEP and HAMK utilised the research results in refining the methods and practices of online guidance. For instance, for the 12 theme-specific home groups (see Figure 4), they organised online guidance on the project specific themes; for the large group of participants (see Figure 5), the online guidance focused on sharing knowledge among the home groups. They also facilitated the home groups in clarifying their phase-to-phase implementation plans paying attention to the realistic timetables and project resources. The R&D teams also planned a systematic route map for guiding and accompanying the groups.
Importantly, they also encouraged the autonomy and agency of the groups and encouraged them to gradually take full responsibility for co-design, implementation and evaluation of the development projects.
The most important expectations of the concrete outcome of the programme
The focus-group interview analysis revealed that the most important expectation of the programme was to gather together the experimentations, conclusions and outcomes of the regional development projects, and co-design on their basis the novel pedagogical approach of INFOTEP. The pedagogical approach could be conceptualised as a practice-based model, which includes the themes of the regional development projects:
- competence-based curriculum,
- teacher education,
- digital and physical learning environments,
- student motivation and engagement,
- co-operation between educational institutions and the world of work, and
- educational supervising and management.
The R&D Teams of HAMK and INFOTEP took the idea of the pedagogical model for further elaboration and the model was published in the national educational conference of INFOTEP in Santo Domingo on the 5th of February 2020 (see Figures 4 and 5). The seminar is described more in detail in HAMK Global Education blog post (see Ryymin, 2020).
This article opened some views on a co-design process of a professional development programme, implementing a framework of DBIR between the Dominican Republic and Finland. According to the reflective assessment of the R&D Teams, there were several benefits for both the organisations in the co-design process. They, for instance,
- improved their focus on the participants’ needs,
- built better co-operation and communication between people and organisations,
- generated more successful educational innovations,
- reduced the failure risk, and
- improved the quality of educational services produced within the programme.
In align with the findings of (Manschot & De Koning, 2011, pp. 53–60), they also anticipate the long-term impacts from the programme outcomes with improved educational practices, processes and capabilities. However, the next critical phase is to research the impact of the programme, organise development project follow-up, and accelerate the best practices scaling in the Dominican Republic. The partners in education are already on their first steps to action.
Essi Ryymin, Ph.D. in Ed., Principal Research Scientist, leads the Future Work Research & Development theme in the HAMK Edu research unit and development of transnational education programmes addressed to LAC countries in HAMK Global Education unit. Her current interests are digital disruption and transformation of the world of work, multidisciplinary collaboration and educational innovations.
Taru Lilja, M.A., works as a Project Researcher in Lifelong career guidance research area in HAMK Edu research unit. She works in research and development projects that aim to promote transdisciplinary collaboration in guidance, clients’ participation and agency and culturally sensitive guidance. Her area of expertise is linguistics, particularly qualitative research methods related to language.
Pirjo Tuominen, M.Ed., Professional teacher, works as a Senior Lecturer at HAMK School of Professional Teacher Education. She is an experienced and practicing teacher trainer in vocational education and training and specialises in developing teachers’ and students’ top expertise through Vocational Skills Competition process at national and international level.
Nana Niskanen, Magistère de Sciences de Gestion, Education Development Specialist, develops transnational education development programs for key actors in education worldwide within the HAMK Global Education service. Her current interests are increasing the relevance of education and empowering educational developers, especially in the Latin American countries, and in multidisciplinary collaboration.
Maura Corporán. M. Public Administration and Ed. Sciences, Director of Standards and Teacher Development, INFOTEP. Maura Corporan’s responsibilities include initiating and promoting technological and didactic development projects applied to vocational training. It is in her capacity as the Director the Department of Standards and Teacher Development of INFOTEP, that she was responsible for coordinating the process of collective construction of the Pedagogical Model of vocational training.
José Rafael Croussett Paredes, M.Ed., Manager of Teacher Development and Supervision, INFOTEP. José Rafael Croussett Paredes oversees the Department of Teaching Development and Supervision of INFOTEP, Dominican Republic, promoting the implementation of teaching methodology and updating teachers’ competences at a national level. His current motivator is the paradigm shift of teachers, towards a more active and participant-centred process.
Auerbach, C., & Silverstein, L. B. (2003). Qualitative Data: An Introduction to Coding and Analysis. New York University Press: ProQuest Ebook Central.
Bannier, B. (2016). Global Trends in Transnational Education. International Journal of Information and Education Technology, 6(1), 80–84.
Bengtsson, M. (2016). How to plan and perform a qualitative study using content analysis. NursingPlus Open, 2, 8–14. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.npls.2016.01.001
Bereiter, C., & Scardamalia, M. (1996). Rethinking learning. In D. R. Olson & N. Torrance (Eds.), The handbook of education and human development. New models of learning, teaching and schooling (pp. 48–513). London: Blackwell.
Echávarri, F. M. A. (2015). Marco Nacional de Cualificaciones la República Dominicana 2015 [National Qualification Framework of the Dominican Republic 2015]. Ministerio de Educación de la República Dominicana (MINERD). Retrieved October 23, 2020 from https://www.oitcinterfor.org/en/node/6641
Fishman, B. J., Penuel, W. R., Allen, A.-R., & Haugan Cheng, B. (Eds.) (2013). Design-Based Implementation Research: Theories, Methods, and Exemplars. National Society for the Study of Education, 2. Teachers College: Columbia University.
Flick, U. (2002). An introduction to qualitative research. Sage Publications: London.
Friese, S. (2019). Qualitative data analysis with Atlas.ti (The Third edition). SAGE Publications: London.
HAMK. (n.d.). HAMK Global Education Research and Development. Retrieved March 22, 2020 from https://www.hamk.fi/research/hamk-edu/global-education-research-development/?lang=en
INFOTEP. (n.d.). Instituto Nacional de Formación Técnico Professional [National Institute of Technical Vocational Training]. Retrieved March 22, 2020 from http://www.infotep.gob.do
INFOTEP. (2019). INFOTEP Plan Estratégico Institucional 2019–2021 [INFOTEP Institutional Strategic Plan 2019–2021]. Retrieved March 21, 2020 from http://www.infotep.gob.do/transparencia/index.php/compras-y-contrataciones/compras-menores/category/1478-infotep-daf-cm-2018-0027
Keay, J., May, H., & O’Mahony, J. (2014). Improving learning and teaching in transnational education: can communities of practice help? Journal of Education for Teaching, 40(3), 251–266.
Keevers, L. M., Price, O., Leask, B., Sultan, F. K. P, Dawood Sultan, F., Lim, J. S. Y, & Loh, V. C. (2019). Practices to Improve Collaboration by Reconfiguring Boundaries in Transnational Education. Journal of University Teaching and Learning Practice, 16(2). Retrieved September 24, 2020 from https://ro.uow.edu.au/jutlp/vol16/iss2/11
Lavrakas, P. J. (Ed.) (2008). Encyclopedia of Survey Research Methods. London: Sage. https://dx.doi.org/10.4135/9781412963947
Manschot, S. M., & De Koning, N. (2011). Benefits of co-design in service design projects. International Journal of Design, 5(2), 53–60.
Morgan, D. L. (2002). Focus group interviewing. In J. Gubrium & J. Holstein (Eds.), Handbook of interview research (pp. 141–160). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
OECD. (2012). Reviews of National Policies for Education: Higher Education in the Dominican Republic, 2012. OECD Publishing. https://doi.org/10.1787/9789264177055-en
Paavola, S., Lipponen, L., & Hakkarainen, K. (2004). Models of innovative knowledge communities and three metaphors of learning. Review of Educational Research, 74(4), 557–576.
Penuel, W. R., Fishman, B. J, Cheng, B. H., & Sabelli, N. (2011). Organizing research and development at the intersection of learning, implementation, and design. Educational Researcher, 40(7), 331‒337.
Roschelle, J., Penuel, W., & Shechtman, N. (2006). Co-design of Innovations with Teachers: Definition and Dynamics. In S. A. Barab, K. E. Hay, & D. T. Hickey (Eds.), The International Conference of the Learning Sciences: Indiana University 2006. Proceedings of ICLS 2006, Volume 2 (pp. 606–612). Bloomington, Indiana, USA: International Society of the Learning Sciences.
Ryymin, E. (2020, February 17). Celebration of Successful Collaboration in Santo Domingo. [Blog post]. Retrieved March 22, 2020 from
Ryymin, E. (2019, August 1). Collaboration with The Dominican Republic Continues – Photo Gallery of the Study Visit in Finland. [Blog post]. Retrieved March 22, 2020 from https://blog.hamk.fi/global-education/collaboration-with-dominican-republic-continues-photo-gallery-from-finnish-study-week
Ryymin, E. (2018). Dialogue, Data, Design – How Global Education Research and Development Drives Educational Innovations. HAMK Unlimited Journal 19.11.2018. Retrieved March 22, 2020 from https://unlimited.hamk.fi/ammatillinen-osaaminen-ja-opetus/dialogue-data-design
Ryymin, E., & D’Andrea, A. F. (2018). Pedagogical Goals and Practical Implementations within the Finnish-Brazilian Gira Mundo Finlândia Pilot Programme. HAMK Unlimited Scientific 14.12.2018. Retrieved March 18, 2020 from https://unlimited.hamk.fi/ammatillinen-osaaminen-ja-opetus/gira-mundo-finlandia-pilot-programme
Ryymin, E., Kunnari, I., Joyce, B., & Laurikainen, M. (2016). Networked Expertise Empowering Brazilian Teachers’ Professional Development and Pedagogical Change. International Journal for Cross-Disciplinary subjects in Education, 7(2), 2755–2760. http://doi.org/10.20533/ijcdse.2042.6364.2016.0375
Ryymin, E., Laurikainen, M., Kentta, V., Carvalho, C., & Joyce, B. (2018). Brazilian teacher students’ motivation, challenges and change by doing. HAMK Unlimited Journal 8.11.2018. Retrieved March 18, 2020 from https://unlimited.hamk.fi/ammatillinen-osaaminen-ja-opetus/brazilian-teacher-students-motivation-challenges-and-change-by-doing
Smith, K. (2010). Assuring quality in transnational higher education: a matter of collaboration or control? Studies in Higher Education, 35(7), 793–806.
Steen, M., Manschot, M., & De Koning, N. (2011). Benefits of co-design in service design projects. International Journal of Design, 5(2), 53–60.
Tynjälä, P., Häkkinen, P., & Hämäläinen, R. (2014). TEL@work – towards integration of theory and practice. British Journal of Educational Technology, 45(6), 990–1000.
Waterval, D., Frambach, J., Driessen, E., & Scherpbier, A. (2015). Copy but not paste: A literature review of cross-border curriculum partnerships. Journal of Studies in International Education, 19(1), 65–85.