Everything stems from learning

According to University Lecturer Iryna Herzon, good teaching has great societal significance. Herzon’s field at the Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry is agroecology. She continuously develops her teaching, dedicating a lot of time to it. Iryna Herzon is one of the new fellows of the Teachers’ Academy.

In addition to teaching others, Iryna Herzon is also an avid student herself, having always been interested in learning and psychology. Through this has emerged her interest in exploring teaching in a more in-depth manner. According to Herzon, learning and teaching are mutually dependent on each other.

“It’s like commerce: you can’t sell something without someone buying it. Sometimes it feels like teaching is carried out just for the sake of teaching, not for the sake of having an effect. The outcomes are valuable too.”

Herzon points out that teaching is a good way to learn something yourself. To be able to describe something clearly to others, you first have to familiarise yourself with the topic. This is why Herzon urges students to teach each another.

Finnish culture of learning encourages independent thought

Having arrived in Finland some 20 years ago, the Ukrainian-born Herzon was pleased: in her home country, teaching had been authoritarian, while in Finland students were encouraged to think for themselves.

“Finland’s different learning culture was quite a positive shock to me. This culture teachers you to assume responsibility, take initiative and think critically yourself. That’s important to society, since everything stems from learning. With my background, I understand the importance of the matter, and that’s why I also invest a lot in it,” Herzon says.

Rewarding interaction with students

Iryna Herzon collects feedback from her colleagues and students, continuously developing her teaching on the basis of it. She has designed learning materials independently and together with her colleagues, sharing them and good practices with others.

Herzon acknowledges that good teaching and its preparation take up a lot of time and resources. Taking lessons outside the classroom, which she considers important, requires a lot of planning in particular. However, support from enthusiastic colleagues helps with coping:

“I often ask my colleagues how something should be approached. I also try out my ideas related to the development of new courses among my colleagues and students. And when successes occur, it’s nice to share them too.”

Interaction with students is also an important resource for Herzon:

“That’s the most rewarding thing about teaching. It’s great to be together with students. Giving them the freedom to genuinely work together along a well-designed path makes them thrive.”

In pursuit of teaching based on phenomena and genuine challenges

Iryna Herzon considers it important to maintain universities as independent and autonomous institutions in the future. This makes it possible to ensure that there is room for critical thinking.

“Regardless of the direction students take after university, critical thinking is important. In addition, openness and the courage to make mistakes and acknowledge them in your actions are skills needed by everyone, and their value will only grow in the future,” Herzon emphasises.

In the future, she would also like to increasingly use phenomenon-based teaching in the academic context. She considers the division between disciplines artificial. According to Herzon, master’s programmes based on genuine challenges are in fact needed.

Moreover, she finds it important to retain the enthusiasm for learning and perceive the process of learning itself as valuable.

“Learning is fun and valuable, not a chore,” Herzon points out.

What is the Teachers’ Academy?

The Teachers' Academy is a network of teachers who have invested their time in the development of teaching, teaching skills and students' learning processes. The establishment of the Academy indicates the value the university community places on teaching quality.  By investing in teachers, the University also invests in students and the quality of learning.  An appointment as a fellow to the Teachers’ Academy is a sign of recognition for teaching merits and expertise in the field of teaching. 

The members of the Teachers' Academy form a multidisciplinary network that shares its expertise and is active in the development of learning and teaching at the university. The members of the Teachers' Academy meet regularly during the academic year to share their pedagogical innovations, learn about ideas for improving teaching and learning in different departments, and work together to promote issues they consider important.