Views to Finnish Education system from Guided Inquiry point of view

In my first blog post I introduced myself and in the second I told you about the GI projects that I have had. In this blog post I want to reflect the educational change we have going on in Finland.

As you know, Finland has been on top performer in PISA for quite a while now. It feels here in Finland, that we were gloating in the sunshine a little too long and didn’t notice how other countries were actually running faster. I do not mean that this is a race, but there are definitely signs that are getting Finns worried.

The latest development has been that especially the growth in number of low-performing children in Finland has been dramatic (OECD, 2016). The change in reading skills started already in the PISA results in 2009, but then it was not yet statistically significant but merely indicating (PISA 2009 at a glance). The same source tells us, that another alarming thing is that the gap between boys and girls and top performers and low performers is betting bigger.

IMG_1861The issue of reading has been on the news just now. Every fifth fifteen-year-old boy is a poor reader. Less than half of ten-year-old-children reads a book at least once a week. We all know, that reading fiction is the key to reading itself. The same news article notes that a reading teenager has a word vocabulary of 70 000 words as a teenager that is not keen on reading has a vocabulary of only 15 000 words.

The new core curriculum is supposed to be the vitamin injection for Finnish education. The new core curriculum is strongly going ahead with learner first pedagogy, supporting and encouraging the student and also including coding to subjects. And it is emphasizing how to teach instead of what to teach (presentation in English) . The core curriculum presents seven cross-curricular themes that are as follows:

  1. Growth as a person (a strong reference to thinking skills)
  2. Cultural identity and internationalism
  3. Media skills and communication (including a strong reference to multiliteracies and information seeking)
  4. Participatory citizenship and entrepreneurship
  5. Responsibility for the environment, well-being, and a sustainable future.
  6. Safety and traffic
  7. Technology and the individual (a strong reference to information skills)

Some of the terms that are implemented are multiliteracy, integrated projects as of phenomenon based learning, and “the third space”, as it is known in Guided Inquiry. These issues are worth a closer look.

I am at the moment doing a discourse analysis of the new core curriculum. Preliminary results indicate that this is a more ‘information intensive’ curriculum. Phenomenon based learning is leaning to teaching strategies of problem based learning. Multiliteracy is requiring a change in thinking of literacies all together. More emphasis is set to individual work that students have to be doing. The requirements of information seeking skills are piercing through the core curriculum, but not with the same ‘weight’. I will be reporting more about the results later on during this year. What the Third Space will mean in the Finnish context will remain to be seen.

But the bottom line is, that we absolutely need to set more emphasis on teaching the students about information seeking and especially, working with information. This is where I consider Guided Inquiry Design would be meaningful in the Finnish curriculum. My earlier analysis of the 2004 core curriculum showed that the process thinking of information literacy is weak and it led me to think that do we understand what happens in schools between finding information and learning? IMG_1853

Guided Inquiry would bring thinking skills into information seeking. Personally, I claim that is what is actually missing. It is not the lack of information seeking skills as such, but lack in thinking skills. Information seeking is more considered as a means to an end, which is a finished homework or an assignment. Guided Inquiry and inquiry learning would change this and the information process would more be looked at as a learning process than merely seeking facts.

One thing in particular is important. Teachers are, at the moment, under a lot of pressure because of the new curriculum and are in a dire need of more tools to manage then new ways of thinking learning. Especially when the information skills are playing a more important role, could Guided Inquiry give tools considering for example the phenomenon based learning.

This is why I have been promoting Guided Inquiry during my presentations in Finland. Both teachers and librarians have been taking part to these occasions so Guided Inquiry is already known. Now Tampere University is starting a research project and it makes me so very happy that so we will have some actual research results about GID in Finland. I am for one an eager promoter!

I hope that through my blog post you have learned something new. I do also hope that this project could lead to a network for the people implementing Guided Inquiry. I want to extend my thanks to Leslie and also to Carol Kuhlthau and to all of you!!

Have a great spring!

Anu