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The secrets of Finnish teaching (philosophy)

We believe in student-centric teaching, in which the students’ collaborative mind is in the main role rather than the teacher’s mind.


Maria Haukka

lehtori, HR ja johtaminen
Haaga-Helia ammattikorkeakoulu

Published : 03.04.2020

The Finnish education system is highly appreciated worldwide. Many foreign universities and educational institutions are interested in learning the secrets of the Finnish teaching methodology. Often though, our highly respected foreign contacts look at the world from a very different angle than we do. Therefore, their expectations may vary much from what they actually experience in the end. Of course, this is always an enriching experience for us to learn about our partners and contacts.

One common example of different expectations relates to how people learn. Learning by reading theory gives a lot of conceptual information, but the understanding usually remains on an abstract level. Instead, applying theoretical knowledge into practice, gives the learner a completely new level of understanding. This example shows just one side of our different pedagogical approach. Let us try to explain the Finnish philosophy in a simple and practical way.

We believe the main task as a teacher is to dig out the potential of the students and help them grow smarter and expand the way they think. The idea is not to give information, but rather to help the students create new understanding themselves. Sometimes minds are stuck and it takes a bit longer than usual to help the student to think outside the familiar box.

According to the Finnish teaching philosophy, students should set their own learning objectives. As teachers, we do not always have the ultimate knowledge of the students’ needs. We believe that in most cases the students know the answers themselves. Teaching in class is not teacher-centric but student-centric. This leaves us the opportunity to guide them on their paths. Hence, our task is to lecture and to offer new and different perspectives, to encourage continuous reflection and to support the students’ learning paths. Reflection is one of the most effective ways to produce new insights and therefore emphasized continuously. As research has shown, learning is more permanent, when the students find connections to their own experiences and lives.

In our experience, the best teaching methods to support the student-centric learning approach are coaching and facilitating. We tend to keep our presentations and briefings short and instead ask thought-triggering questions to keep the dialogue active and the learning process ongoing. In this setting, the good atmosphere plays an important role to ensure effective learning –it is actually a necessity to enable effective learning. A social environment built to support the sharing of thoughts and ideas in a group, enhances creative thinking and stepping outside the familiar thought box.

To sum-up, we believe in student-centric teaching, in which the students’ collaborative mind is in the main role rather than the teacher’s mind. Today’s world needs active and self-directed employees with good self-confidence and the ability to reflect and think creatively. The world needs innovative thinkers and bold thoughts.

Where can you learn this magical way of teaching? At any of our five vocational teacher education institutions that collaborate strongly both within and outside Finland. Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences is one of them.