Project-centred university pedagogy courses

 

The Language Centre is known, both at home and abroad, as a working community that has a positive attitude towards research. Different ways are actively sought to support an exploratory approach towards work and research.

In the academic year 2014-2015 a university pedagogy course was organised for Language Centre teachers that was for the first time based on project work. This University Pedagogy V course, with its theme of Advising in Language Learning, attracted around twenty staff members who were ready to carry out exploratory learning through project work in small groups.

The project groups were set up on the basis of pre-course tasks, in which the participants had been asked to consider their own interests in research-based development. Each participant was able to study his or her own subject within the framework of a larger project, which was planned as a whole and fine-tuned by the group. In addition to the project work, face-to-face sessions included introductory talks by experts, discussion on advising-related questions, visits to colleagues’ classrooms to observe and give feedback, and reflection on the feedback received. However, most of the course work revolved around the projects, which were supervised and mentored by our university pedagogical lecturer, Johanna Vaattovaara, and Leena Karlsson, a member of the Teachers’ Academy since 2013.

“This form of course work is demanding for the supervisors, but inspiring. The groups’ enthusiastic attitude towards their projects was a joy to follow, even if the work processes, which called for considerable perseverance, did not always flow completely smoothly in all the groups. I was studying group dynamics at the same time as this course took place and it also helped me to observe advising close up from the perspective of group processes. As a course planner and supervisor, I definitely learned at least as much as the participants,” says Johanna.

Collaborative sharing and continual research spark

Carrying out the university pedagogy course in the form of projects was based on two ideas. Firstly, the objective of supporting the concept of research in an teaching organisation, and secondly, the idea that in a learning community each learns from each other and that it’s worth sharing outside the course itself what one has learnt. The course, which had started in October, culminated on 22 May at the Language Centre’s joint development day. The project groups presented their work and brought the participants in to the resulting discussion with the help of, for instance, Presemo and table discussions.

The project group “KOPOT” (Tiina Laulajainen, Heidi Mäkäläinen, Hanna Saloranta ja Saila Korvenranta) presented their theme of language students’ learning paths and study skills.

 

At the end of the course the participants were asked to evaluate their learning and project work, as well as how they had felt the course supported a research approach to their work. 80% said that it had inspired them to continue with research-based development in the future. This form of working did not suit everybody equally well, but many had done research now for the first time since their Master’s thesis and were keen to continue down the research road. So far, the current development projects have resulted in presentations at international conferences for example, and will be appearing as articles in publications such as the Language Centre’s own series.

In autumn 2014, the University Pedagogy 4 course on Language Learning Evaluation and Feedback got started and will also be project-based, this time jointly with the Faculty of Arts.