International Student seminar in December 14th-15th, 2020
The topics of the seminars were teachers’ professional ethics and subject-integrative/phenomenon-based teaching. These topics were discussed by student teacher from Uppsala University, Tallinn University, and the University of Helsinki. The students had the possibility to share experiences with students and teacher educators from the other universities.
Additional days were for preparation and consultation for student teachers and teacher educators were organized at each university.
Teachers’ professional ethics
We explored teachers’ professional ethics through dilemmas that the student teachers had encountered during teaching practicum. Topics evolved around, for instance, how to take language minorities into consideration in the classroom, how to address situations where students who break school rules, and how to include students with special needs.
We used a reflection tool which provided a structure for exploring and discussing ethical dilemmas. The model was collected from the professional ethics guideline for teachers in Sweden, and was adapted and translated for the student seminar. The model involves four areas of inquiry concerning the given dilemma. Together they form the abbreviation PARC:
- Exploring the ethical challenge (what is the Problem?)
- Analyzing the dilemma/challenge
- Scrutinizing Reactions to it, and
- Identifying Consequences for suggested actions.
Despite many differences, it became clear that many of the issues identified were common for participants from all the three countries, and the mutual insights could be synthesized into the following take home-message:
- Solving the ethical challenge may begin from posing the right question, e.g. why do we have challenging behavior, rather than who is at fault.
- Breaking up the ethical challenge may help to identify its constituent elements and facilitate analyzing it from different angles.
- Discussing ethical challenges in teachers’ work requires the existence of a safe space.
- Knowing one’s values is the very foundation of ethical decision-making.
- In addition to providing a structure for approaching ethical challenges, the reflection model can be used to make teachers’ professional knowledge visible and explicit.
In addition to ethical dilemmas/challenges, the theme of subject-integrative/phenomenon-based teaching was explored from the perspective of students’ experiences and examples from teaching practicum.
We discussed advantages and challenges of phenomenon-based learning, for instance, how to be impartial in assessing pupils, how to support student engagement, the importance of sensitivity to the pupils’ interests. It was also pointed out in the discussions how these approaches in teaching can increase pupils’ motivation and help them develop an inquiring mind-set and research skills alongside other transversal skills. It is also important to be able to identify when subject-integrative/phenomenon-based teaching is appropriate. A final issue that was discussed was how to work with colleagues who may not be familiar or interested in these approaches.
The core elements of teaching approaches that build on integrating different subjects or utilize the idea of building learning around a phenomenon is developed in the framework for phenomenon-based teaching.
The short version is as follows (see also Lonka 2018; Symeonidis Schwarz, 2016):
1) Problem-solving & exploring: Rather than answering isolated questions, the approach focuses on problem-solving. Part of the process may be to identify the problem in the first place, as this can be fuzzy and unclear.
2) Wider perspective: To understand social and natural phenomena, it is often necessary to have knowledge and understanding in many different fields, and to be able to combine these specific knowledges with each other.
3) Real world context: The problems or phenomena that pupils work with should be relevant and real, or realistic. The “real world-connection” makes the learning experience meaningful.
4) Collaborative learning: In order to bring in a broader spectrum of knowledge and competences, collaboration or team work is necessary. This requires but also creates a sense of community and interaction. Pupils construct understanding together, and everyone can bring something to the mutual learning process.
5) Cyclic process: Knowledge and skills are built on prior knowledge, which is enriched by increased understanding and new insights. Learning is not always a linear progression from start to goal. The process in itself is the purpose of subject-integrative teaching in school.
Lonka, K. (2018). Phenomenal learning from Finland. Edita.
Symeonidis, V., & Schwarz, J. F. (2016). Phenomenon-based teaching and learning through the pedagogical lenses of phenomenology: The recent curriculum reform in Finland. Forum Oświatowe, 28(2), 31–47.
Yrkesetik i vardagen – ett fördjupningsmaterial (in Swedish). (2006). Lärarförbundet och Lärarnas riksförbund. Sweden.