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.