The practicum in practice in Finnish teacher education

What is the narrative of school–university partnerships about? What are the needs, principles and approaches to practicum in the current era? These were some of the topics discussed in a workshop co-organized on-site by OLIVE and the Faculty of Education, Birzeit University in the West Bank on 20 May 2023.
Learning and-or work? And other questions in teacher education in the 21st century

On the occasion of renewing their curricula and practicum, the Faculty of Education in Birzeit Universirty, West Bank and OLIVE project co-organized a workshop for staff and teachers in Birzeit on the 27th May. The focus of the workshop was in alignment with one main target of OLIVE to introduce new approaches that respond to contemporary challenges and needs in teacher education, as these are posed by technological and socio-economic developments. The workshop instructor was Dr Marianna Vivitsou, the project coordinator for the Faculty of Educational Sciences, HY.

The more general discussion focused on epistemic questions that arise when building a practicum program, including:

  • Agency: for instance, is the student-teacher’s autonomy a goal during practicum and to what degree?
  • What web of relations do student-teachers develop during the practicum (e.g., with mentors, the leadership of the school, peer-relations, the school community etc.)?
  • What approaches and methods back theoretically the university-school collaboration? How does collaboration differ from partnership?
  • How does the practicum allow space to the student teacher to learn while working? Are both work and learn recognized during the practicum? Are they of equal importance?
  • How does the practicum planning take into consideration the need of the future teacher to reflect on their studies and integrate theoretical pedagogical principles when planning their teaching in schools?

The more focused discussion pointed out the need to integrate audio-visual and storytelling methods in teacher education curricula. An example case where video storytelling was used as teaching method has shown that narrative inquiry methods open up the opportunity for student-teachers to reflect, take a stance and act upon wicked environmental (e.g., climate crisis) and societal (e.g., harassment, bullying et.) problems. In the example video stories, a class of students in the educational sciences worked in small (3-5) groups. The analysis of group work shows the video storytelling experience not only led to a deeper understanding of complex social phenomena and injustices. It was also associated with the students' increased commitment to the task and an enhanced awareness of their roles and responsibilities in group storytelling.

This kind of technologically enhanced, theoretically grounded and evidence-based storytelling on complex social phenomena requires epistemic spaces where knowledge is built in collaboration with teachers and peers. In epistemic spaces that aim for education without walls, the students act as mentors and peers. For this purpose, a wider perspective on mentoring should be adopted (see Image 2 below), one that takes into account multiple arrangements so that mentoring can be the connecting tissue in the university-school collaboration-partnership.

In the final part of the workshop, the participants watched the video story ‘Obstructor of harmony’ and discussed ideas and suggestions of how to deal in practice with the phenomenon of bullying in teaching and learning environments from the point of view of school teachers, school principals, and student teachers (Image 3).