Unesco Chair Hannele Niemi

Hannele Niemi, Ph.D, is Professor, Research Director at the Faculty of Educational Sciences, University of Helsinki.
Biography of Professor Niemi and CV

Hannele Niemi is Professor, Research Director at the University of Helsinki and been she has nominated as UNESCO Chair on Educational Ecosystems for Equity and Quality of Learning 2018–2021 and 2022–2026.

Hannele Niemi was the Professor of Education (1998–2016) at the University of Helsinki. She started as the Research Director 2017. She is the Chair of the Sino-Finnish Joint Learning Institute (JoLii) that includes 10 Finnish universities, working in cooperation with Beijing Normal University and many Chinese Universities. Her experience at the University of Helsinki also includes her roles as the Vice Rector for Academic Affairs (2003–2009), the Dean of the Faculty of Education (2001–2003), the Head of the Department of Education (1998–2000), and the Vice Dean (1998–2000) of the Faculty of Education. Prior to working at the University of Helsinki, Niemi served as a Professor of Education in the Teacher Education Departments of Oulu, Turku, and Tampere Universities in Finland (1987–1998). She also served as a Visiting Professor at Michigan State University (1989) and as a Visiting Scholar at Stanford University (2010, 2013, and 2015, 7 months in total). She is also the Chair of The University Board at the University of Lapland (2018–2020, 2021–2023).

Niemi has been given the honor of Doctor or Professor Honoris Causa at the University of Bucharest in Romania (2010), the J.C. Koh Professorship at Nayang Technological University in Singapore (2010), the honor of Doctor at the University of Lapland (2012) and the National Defense University in Finland (2013). She was selected as the most influential person in education in 2013 by the Finnish Teacher's Union and was invited to become a member of the Finnish Academy of Science and Letters in Academia (Scientiarum Fennica) in 2004. 

Niemi has been a scientific leader for several large national research projects in Finland, including AI (Artificial Intelligence ) in Learning (2019–2021) and  the Finnable 2020  research program for advancing educational technology and 21st century skills in schools (2012–2015). She also served as Director of the national research program "Life as Learning", which was supported by the Academy of Finland (2002–2006). She has been a member of a Steering Committee of the British National Research Programme (the Teaching and Learning Research Programme [TLRP]), 2003–2008. She currently serves as an advisor and reviewer for several scientific journals. She was an establishing member of CICERO Learning Network of several Finnish universities for promoting multidisciplinary research on learning, brain  research and technology, chaired it 2005-2010, and has been a Board member until 2020. She was a establishing board member the international network of Teacher Education Policy in Europe [TEPE] 2005–2020 and Chair of the board 2014–2015.She is a member of the advisory board (2018–) in educational sciences at the University of People that is totally on-line university offering BA and MA programs without tuition fees for HE students in vulnerable living contexts.  

Niemi has worked as a reviewer for research councils in many countries, including Norway, Portugal, Estonia, and Singapore. She has served as a member of several scientific councils, including the European Science Foundation, the Academy of Finland, and the University of Helsinki. She has been invited to act as a panel member and Chair of the Research Evaluation of Educational Sciences at the University of Gothenburg (2010–2011) and the University of Jyväskylä (2006). She has been a member of the Finnish Higher Education Evaluation Council (2004–2009), and has served as Chair of the Finnish Education Evaluation Council (2012–2014). She has been invited to serve as an expert and steering committee member of the Institutional Evaluation Programme held by the European University Association. She has also been invited to act as a panel member for the evaluations of the quality and effectiveness over ten universities in Europe (2005–2015) and reviewer of 4 Higher Education Evaluation Councils in Europe.

Niemi has contributed to many European Union [EU] and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development [OECD] projects as an expert or researcher and served as a keynote lecturer at several international forums, e.g., in Singapore, Thailand, China, Malaysia, USA, Saudi Arabia, Oman,  Hungary, Slovenia, Spain, Portugal, German, Norway, Sweden, Scotland, England, France, and Estonia. Her main research interest areas are teachers’ professional development, quality of teacher education, moral education, and technology-based learning environments. She has published several articles and books on education in Finland on Finnish teacher education (The Miracle of Education: The Principles and Practices of Teaching and Learning in Finnish Schools, 2016 (Revised ed.); Finnish Innovations and Technologies in Schools: Towards New Ecosystems of Learning; 2014; Research-Based Teacher Education in Finland, 2006; and Education as a Societal Contributor, 2007). Niemi has contributed to many international education research publications and has published books in more than ten languages. She has published over 400  peer-reviewed international journal articles or book chapters.

Professor Niemi graduated as a Master of Philosophy 1974, a Master of Theology in 1977, and finally as a Doctor of Philosophy in 1978 at the University of Helsinki. Her main research interest areas are teachers' professional development, quality of teaching and learning, and teacher education, moral education, and technology-based learning environments.

Hannele Niemi's publications, projects, prizes and activities in the University of Helsinki Research Portal

Educational Ecosystems

Professor Niemi’s UNESCO Chair is promoting Educational Ecosystems for Equity and Quality of Learning 

The most important features of ecosystems are

  1. the interconnectedness of their constituents
  2. the information flows throughout the system
  3. Diversity

We have learned from earlier studies that the system functions well when its different parts work together.

However, in reality, ecosystems can have serious dysfunctions and imbalances, and this is a reality in educational ecosystems as well. For example, partners and actors may not be connected, or they may not share information, resources, or aims. Furthermore, hierarchy and a lack of communication can cause ineffectiveness in education, resulting in subsystems that are separated into segmented territories, each of which has its own aims, social practices, and power structures.

 While the ecosystem metaphor is a useful tool for understanding and predicting the conditions that shape and influence systems, it is important to consider that biological ecosystems are not communal, and they are therefore not supported by conscious commitments to serve a greater common good. In contrast, to be effective, human organizations and systems are based on human actions, strategic aims, and commitments.

Especially in education, human actors must anticipate the future and create conditions that have an impact beyond the present setting.

To this end, educational actors must work together to design and re-design and create systems that lead to lifelong learning and high-quality education for all. This is a key mission of education.

System Wide

The project aims to promote Macro system-wide frameworks that support equity and quality learning in different contexts. For example, educational processes, such as curriculum development, education quality assurance, strategies for lifelong learning, and teacher education systems, should be interconnected and work jointly toward common goals.

As an important aspect of societies’ welfare, education must also be connected to other sectors of society, particularly health care systems and labor market, to ensure sustainable paths for different learners.

Educational ecosystems also have meso- or mid-level units that consist of institutional- or community-level structures and social practices (e.g., at schools, universities, and other higher education institutions). At this level, a cooperative sharing culture is a basic condition for inclusive and quality education. In education, micro-level ecosystem units also exist. For example, as individuals learn and create knowledge, they are influenced by their personal characteristics and cultural backgrounds. However, their learning is also dependent on system-level factors and the institutional teaching and learning culture.

By promoting the concept of a multilevel educational ecosystem, this project demonstrates its commitment to supporting the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its effort to universally eliminate poverty. The Education 2030 Framework for Action provides a concrete tool for achieving these aims.