Towards sustainable pedagogical development

Society has undergone many changes in recent years, but according to Jacobs1 education has not been able to keep up. She posits that students feel like time travelling when entering schools, as schools have become distant from the world outside them. One of the reasons for this is probably that not many educational institutions have built a sustainable infrastructure for pedagogical development.

Another problematic issue is that new tools can be taken into use without any reconsideration of pedagogical practices. In this case, the potential of the tools may not be realized, and in the worst scenario there is a mismatch between the task and the tool. Thus, introducing new tools often entails rethinking of contemporary pedagogical practices.

These two aspects have been addressed in the SpeakApps local teacher training program at the University of Jyväskylä. The aim of the training program was to engage teachers in the development work so that it becomes an everyday part of their work, thus creating sustainability and coherence.

To put these ideas into practice, the local researchers in Jyväskylä organized a set of pedagogical workshops around the theme of the project. In addition to the workshops, individual support in terms of pedagogy and technology was provided. In the workshops the focus was on negotiating a shared meaning of the concepts used when discussing pedagogies for interaction in digitally mediated environments.

It soon became apparent in discussion with teachers that, in a higher education context, such concepts as oral skills or spoken skills do not cover the tapestry of skills and competences that are a core component of students’ expertise. Therefore, interpersonal communication competence was chosen as a key concept when discussing pedagogical development. Thus, by working in groups students communicate their expertise to and with others, solve problems and engage in knowledge-creation activities. These activities are multifaceted situations where various languages are used.

The program culminated in teaching experiments with university students. It was encouraging to notice how enthusiastically the students engaged in the activities despite some technical difficulties. These pilots provided the local team with many ideas for future development, including multimodal and portfolio-based courses, where new tools can be incorporated into different phases of the course work.

A self-evaluation report of the development program will be published later this year. The development program model will also serve as a basis for a local teacher training syllabus that will be made available for the members of the SpeakApps community.

1 Jacobs, H. H. (2010). Curriculum 21: Essential Education for a Changing World. Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development.