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Visiting Educators Will Share Secrets to Finnish School Success and Speak about Book Co-written with Baylor Professors [02/24/2017]

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Two educational experts from Finland will speak at Baylor on the active learning model that they credit as the basis of education success in the country. Eija Kimonen, Ph.D., and Raimo Nevalainen, Ph.Lic., are both university professors whose research focuses on active learning in Finnish schools. They are co-editors of the book Reforming Teaching and Teacher Education: Bright Prospects for Active Schools, from Sense Publishers. Kimonen teaches at the University of Eastern Finland, and Nevalainen teaches at the University of Jyväskylä.

In a lecture sponsored by the School of Education and the Department of Educational Psychology, Kimonen and Nevalainen will speak on Wednesday, March 1, at 4 p.m., in the Packard Auditorium (Room 101) of Marrs McLean Science Building. Both the Baylor and wider educational community are invited to the free lecture, which requires no reservations.

Dr. Susan Johnsen, professor of Educational Psychology and contributor to the book, said, “Dr. Kimonen and Dr. Nevalainen are internationally known researchers who are interested in searching for a better approach to educating students and teachers. They have written books related to transforming teachers’ work globally, outdoor-oriented education in the USA and India, and more recently about transforming school cultures and pedagogies.”

According to a 2011 article in Smithsonian Magazine, Finnish youth were first measured as the best young readers in the world in 2000, and by 2006 they were leading in math and science. Scores on international tests in 2009 put them second in science, third in reading, and sixth in math among almost 500,000 students worldwide.

Kimonen and Nevalainen say that the Finnish student-centered active learning model contributes to this success and that American schools can put these principles into practice — both in P-12 schools and in university-based teacher-education programs.

In fact, the first section in their book is penned by Baylor School of Education professors and graduate students, who describe the university’s shift in the early 2000s from classroom-based instruction, with student-teaching at the end, to a comprehensive program rich in faculty-guided fieldwork — which correlates to “active” learning —  beginning the first semester at Baylor.

“[These] chapters show that reforming teacher education needs a comprehensive re-conceptualization of a traditional university program,” the editors write. “The authors discuss how to develop new learner-centered and field-based models for teacher education.”

Chapter One, “Transforming Teacher Education in the United States,” chronicles the overhaul of the Baylor School of Education teacher-preparation program and is written by faculty members Dr. Susan Johnsen, Dr. Krys Goree, and Dr. Tracey Sulak. They describe the philosophy behind the change, the development of the conceptual framework, and the logistics of the changes. Collaboration was essential, they said, from university faculty as well as P-12 schools that would become close partners as Professional Development School campuses where future teachers train with experienced mentors. Also part of the new structure was a rigorous academic program incorporating assessment benchmarks and electronic portfolios for the university students.

Chapter Two delves into “The Seven Principles of Learner-Center Professional Educational Programs” on which the conceptual framework of the Baylor program is based. That chapter is written by Dr. Tracey Sulak, along with graduate students Becky Odajima, Rachel Renbarger,  and Robin Wilson.

The book also includes sections on reforming the pedagogics of schools and teacher-education institutions and on restructuring schools by the process of reculturing.

Johnsen said, “Dr. Kimonen and Nevalainen believe that, to respond to the challenges in the 21st century, schools need to develop a creative community where problem-based learning occurs both within and outside the school.”

At the event on March 1, the Finnish educators will be joined by a panel of local educators, who will describe ways they are creating opportunities for active learning in their schools.

(Read the 2011 Smithsonian Article on Finnish Education.)


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