How to achieve the best learning outcomes?

“Being a teacher is more about enabling students to learn than disseminating information,” says Lotta Aunio, a researcher in Bantu languages and one of the recently selected founding members of the Teachers’ Academy.

University of Helsinki

A lecturer at the Department of World Cultures since 2004, Lotta Aunio is one of the first 30 fellows selected for the Teachers' Academy, a network of university teachers set up by the University of Helsinki aiming to enhance and share teaching competence.

Individual learning

As one of Aunio’s merits, the jury highlighted the consideration she gives to different learning styles. “The same learning method does not suit everyone,” says Aunio. “A global learner takes a holistic approach to topics, while a linear learner starts with details. Students also differ in the degree to which they rely on their auditive, visual or kinesthetic memory. It is useful to analyse and become more aware of your own learning.”

Aunio encourages her students to try out different learning styles: a seemingly strange approach may reveal unexpected personal strengths. She also urges students to focus on weaker areas, since the effectiveness of learning increases with the number of learning techniques used.

Motivation and meaning

Motivation is nevertheless the best guarantee of learning. Aunio nurtures it with an interactive and engaging approach, topical teaching material and constructively aligned teaching.

Constructive alignment is a strategy Aunio picked up from her studies in university pedagogy. The concept builds on the idea of planning instruction so that the final examination truly measures the topics taught and the learning goals set for students. In other words, the goal is to optimally align learning targets, content and outcomes – and make learning more meaningful in the process.

“Learning more about teaching, in turn, is what makes teaching meaningful,” Aunio asserts, “and this is true even when giving the same course year after year. Just imagine how much fun teaching can be if you don’t always do it the same way.”

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Text: Inka Kaakinen
Photo: Veikko Somerpuro
7.1.2012
Translation: Language Services/Language Centre (University of Helsinki)
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