The philosophy of teaching at the University of Helsinki encapsulates the values and principles to which the University as a community is committed. It is part of a larger framework of teaching and studies that includes Ethical principles of teaching and studies at the University of Helsinki as well as the University’s teaching skills evaluation criteria used, for instance, at the Teachers’ Academy and in the evaluation of the teaching merits of those applying to teaching positions. Together these documents outline the basic values of strategic planning and practical teaching at the University.
Philosophy of teaching
Universities came into being out of a fervent interest in learning through research. The idea of the university has always been characterised by the wish to learn from and share knowledge with others as well as to collaborate with others to produce new knowledge. This idea has proved to be enduring: learning and teaching still constitute the lifeline of university education.
The University of Helsinki implements the idea of the university through its philosophy of teaching, which is based on research-based teaching, the appreciation and maintenance of a high-quality learning community and environment as well as a commitment to learning-focused teaching.
- All teachers research, and all researchers teach.
- All students adopt the research-based approach and participate in research activities throughout their studies.
In accordance with the law, the three duties of universities are research, teaching and community relations. Instead of existing independently of each other, these duties are linked by learning and research. Teaching and studying are based on research, which is the precondition of their quality. The participation of teachers in research and the utilisation of research knowledge in teaching characterise the high-quality teaching provided by the University of Helsinki.
In Finland, university studies are part of the study path supported by society with the objective of guaranteeing lifelong learning. University studies differ from other forms of learning in that their fundamental core consists of understanding, adopting and applying scientific thinking. Assimilating the principles of in-depth academic education requires that students integrate themselves into academia by participating in its research activities and by regarding lifelong education and learning as integral part of the life of an academically educated citizen.
Academic competence and education are not based on knowledge only. It is also essential to be familiar with the research-based mindset as well as scientific methods, to be able to utilise them in demanding expert duties in one’s own field, to possess the ability to critically evaluate information from different sources and its reliability, and to have the capacity for evidence-based argumentation. Adopting the research-based approach constitutes a way of learning to learn, which can be achieved first and foremost through university studies.
Research-based teaching is not just about establishing a close link to research. It also entails the utilisation of research-based multidisciplinary knowledge concerning university-level teaching and learning, the education of teachers in university pedagogy as well as the development of both one’s own and the community’s activities from the perspective of teaching. The University expresses its commitment to the quality of teaching in many ways: for instance, it values pedagogical merits in addition to academic ones when recruiting staff. The teaching skills evaluation criteria and their application are discussed at faculties as well as between the University’s different units.
University studies have a key role when disseminating research results and promoting their wide-scale implementation in society. The social impact of academic publications manifests itself especially through university-educated citizens: university studies cultivate individuals to recognise the practical potential of research results and to communicate their content and meaning in a form that the public can understand.
- Students are active and responsible members of the academic community who are taken into consideration as individuals and whose contribution is valued in all university operations.
- Teaching helps universities develop as healthy learning communities and environments.
The academic community consists of diverse members. Even though these members have different duties, they share the same aim: to promote highquality scientific research and research-based teaching as well as studying and learning. Awareness of this common aim helps develop and rectify practices so as to advance its achievement.
The wellbeing of the academic community is a key resource for learning, teaching and research. The wellbeing of different members serving in different duties is improved by advancing the development of universities towards an inspiring and rewarding learning, study and work environment. Each unit is responsible for making all those who participate in its activities feel that they are part of a community that takes care of and is responsible for its members.
In studies and teaching, justified pedagogical solutions continuously evaluated and developed by teachers and students alike constitute an important part of wellbeing. The development of teaching is based on valuing teaching, pedagogical competence and the willingness to improve both one’s own and the community’s activities.
Universities are the most essential social institutions conducting scientific research, but they also constitute socially important learning environments. In order to be able to serve this purpose, their operations must be transparent and developed continuously on the basis of internal and external feedback. Evaluations and the audits of the quality assurance system facilitate the critical examination of universities as learning environments.
An academic community does not encompass just one’s own discipline, faculty or university. Crossing both concrete and abstract boundaries is part of the operational idea of universities. The University of Helsinki belongs to an international research and teaching community without national, linguistic or disciplinary boundaries. Learning and teaching involve participation in the international, multicultural and multidisciplinary communities. Such interaction deepens the participants’ understanding of the questions studied by their own discipline, and develops their ability to communicate in different languages and to act in different kinds of situations. An international and culturally rich learning environment makes us more aware of the significance of languages and cultures as parts of academic education, and enhances the ability to serve in different multicultural and international duties.
- The aim of studying is to gain in-depth and fit-for-purpose knowledge and skills. The criteria for successful teaching are based on the quality and meaningfulness of learning as well as on high-quality learning results.
- The studied topics, teaching and assessment methods as well as instructional materials are designed and chosen so as to support the achievement of significant learning outcomes and the meaningfulness of studying.
Universities are research communities, but research is impossible without studying and learning, as research cannot be conducted in a vacuum. Instead, one has to familiarise oneself with what others have discovered: scientific results cannot be gained alone but by learning from shared efforts. The aims of scientific research are radical: to produce new knowledge and to find out about things and understand them. University studies are also radical: they stem from learning based on in-depth understanding and critical thinking that changes the learner’s way of perceiving reality and being in the world.
Constructively aligned, learning-focused teaching means that factors influencing teaching and studying are designed and implemented to support learning and competence, aiming at deep understanding. Learning and instruction are communal processes that entail setting meaningful learning outcomes, organising study and learning environments in a fit-for-purpose fashion as well as choosing innovative teaching methods, instructional materials and assessment methods to support learning and the meaningfulness of studying.
Assessment should be considered as feedback that supports learning whilst assessment criteria are formulated to correspond to the core objectivesof competence and learning. The set objectives, the content of studies as well as
the teaching and assessment methods promote the research-based approach, which creates preconditions for learning results based on new discoveries.
* * *
The philosophy of teaching at the University of Helsinki is used in the development of teaching. At the same time, it is collectively and constantly examined, evaluated and developed.