Team Higher Education Unbounded is excited to be on their way towards the new trials that autumn brings. Back from a brainstorming camp of their own, the team is now preparing for Thinkfest. “We just spent two days at Lammi finalizing our innovation. The team is really devoted to our competition idea and we have great will to make it to the final,” says team leader Katalin Miklóssy.
Miklóssy says she has been involved in several research projects, but describes the Helsinki Challenge as something very special in its intensity. The project has truly been put to the test, when the team piloted their invention in May in Tbilisi, Georgia.
“Two Belarusian universities were also in this experiment with us in Georgia. It was so successful that we received an invitation to return to Georgia and to teach in the Faculty of Teachers’ Education and next up we’re heading to Turkey, where there is little pedagogical training of the university teachers. We have also been negotiating with a Chinese delegation, who is coming to Helsinki this fall”, Miklóssy says. The team intends to get their methods into use in Finnish high schools as well and is starting a pilot with five schools with Finnish National Board of Education.
Remember the team’s competition idea? The team Higher Education Unbounded argues that in our teaching and thinking may be restricted by institutions, ideologies, norms, taboos, simple fear — or limits of what we know. Current teaching methods are however designed staying in the comfort zone. Consequently, the team took up the challenge to go beyond the teachable and find ways to teach the unteachable.
The team invented a new approach to teaching and learning called WeQ Pedagogy. This is based on the idea that instead of IQ or the individual we should be concentrating on in education but WeQ, i.e., creating a collaborative learning culture, embracing constant dialogue and flexibility to different perspectives.
The uniqueness in this solution is that it is an interdisciplinary combination drawing on and developing further existing pedagogical and social scientific knowledge. It acknowledges that teaching and learning are inevitably context sensitive and pedagogy is always political in character. Books exams and lectures are not enough. WeQ Pedagogy emphasizes that knowledge in our world is multiplying and should involve information around us, outside of academia and be collectively and horizontally produced.
“Since this approach has the power to induce creativity and bring up innovative and active citizens who are able to understand differences and come to terms with them – this can make WeQ Pedagogy an excellent export product of Finnish expertise”, Miklòssy claims.
The design of the challenge and its solution are also a product of a collaborative process with experts in their fields, besides Miklóssy, an leading area studies specialist, political historian dealing with democratisation and founding member of the Teachers’ Academy at the University of Helsinki, the team boasts also of Senior Lecturer in University Pedagogy Anne Nevgi. Of the younger generation members, the postdoc political historian Suvi Kansikas brings knowledge on Russia and authoritarian systems, and Emilia Palonen, a UK-trained Lecturer in Political Science. Two members joined the team in February: a Vietnam specialist or Minna Hakkarainen from Aleksanteri Institute has expertise on educational policy and praxis, and the academy researcher Erika Löfström Centre for Research and Development in Higher Education, is a leading expert on research ethics. All this evolving knowledge generates the dynamic needed for developing WeQ pedagogy, and through Chris Holtslag and Jarmo Koponen and the team mentors, it is also negotiated with business and civil society.
Come hear Higher Education Unbounded pitch their competition idea on stage at PitchNight on Thursday, September 3rd. The announcement of the winner of Helsinki Challenge (and 375000€) is announced on Friday, November 13th.
TEAM: Team leader Docent Katalin Miklóssy (senior researcher, Dr., founding Member of the Teachers Academy, Aleksanteri Institute, UH), Suvi Kansikas (Dr., Network of European Studies, UH), Emilia Palonen (Dr., Dpt. of Political and Economic Studies, UH), Anne Nevgi (Docent, Centre for Research and Development in Higher Education, UH), Chris Holtslag (MA, CH Industries), Jarmo Koponen (MA, Vikes ry), Minna Hakkarainen (Dr., Aleksanteri Institute), Erika Löfström (Docent, Centre for Research and Development in Higher Education, UH).
Text: Joonas Aitomurto and the HEDU Team – a version of this text has been published on the HC webpage.