On May 2023 HAMK had the privilege to host eight enthusiastic forestry technical and vocational teachers and extension officers from Tanzania. The visitors arrived in Finland excited and full of expectations. They had been selected on a competitive basis to participate to a five-business day workshop in HAMK premises.
The workshop was of part of the HAMK-coordinated 21st Forestry TVET-TZ project that aims to strengthen Tanzanian forestry sector’s ecological, economic and social development through educational capacity building. The one-year project focuses on building the capacity of Tanzanian technical and vocational institutions (TVETs) and extension officers to provide quality forestry education and training. The project contains online training sessions on pedagogics, climate-smart forestry and entrepreneurship, individual or team development work to provide practical solutions and insights to educational issues, as well as in-person workshops in Finland and Tanzania.
The workshop participants got straight into the action. The workshop was structured to provide holistic and interactive learning experience to the participants. It contained total of 14 sessions, hosted by 11 HAMK experts and professionals, representing different schools and research units, and services, such as HAMK library and Design Factory. The session topics varied from information sourcing to entrepreneurship education, gender sensitive curricula, educational forest visit and to much more. In addition to the highly educational programme, the last workshop day was reserved to more leisure-like activities, to provide the participants the opportunity to experience Finnish nature.
Sharing HAMK’s 21st century teaching and learning approaches
The educational strategy in HAMK bases on socio-constructivist principles, and uses phenomenon– and design-based learning. HAMK values authentic learning, and cultivates collaborative and safe learning environments. Teaching is designed to foster creativity, initiative taking, entrepreneurial mindset, and other so-called transformative competences, needed in the 21st century world of work. Student-centered teaching and learning are at the core, with students being the owners of their learning, and teachers enablers and facilitators of learning.
In addition to the knowledge and competence development objective of the workshop, we also wanted to share these HAMK values, attitudes and approaches to the participants. We wanted to give first-hand experience on how teaching can be arranged and how the relationship between teacher and student can be formed to provide best possible setting, conducive for learning.
A new way of thinking
According to the feedback provided, we succeeded in this task. In the feedback discussion as well as in an anonymous feedback survey, the participants mentioned to gained “new way of thinking” and confidence. It was mentioned that the learning during the workshop partly happened just by observing how the HAMK trainers hold the sessions and interacted with the participants. The experience itself was educational.
The participants paid attention and were positively surprised by the learning environment at HAMK. The physical environment, with nice and comfortable places to sit, study and spend time, made them, and as they deduced will also make the students, feel good, and thus enhance their learning. They do “not feel like being in prison”, but school is an attractive place to come to.
Participants also praised the “mental” learning environment, saying that the interaction between the HAMK teachers and them was conducive for learning. The teachers were together and equal with the participants, and there “wasn’t fear towards the teachers”. This increased the interaction and cooperation between the teachers and the participants. From the teachers, the participants learned the importance of active learning, as well as practical tools on how to engage the students and encourage them to think, reflect and act on their own.
The practicality and hands-on approach in learning was highly appreciated by the participants. In the feedback they strongly emphasized the importance of learning by doing. “You cannot be competent without trying”. Many of the participants got excited on the presented examples of the collaboration with students and industry. Participants mentioned realizing that practical, authentic learning goes a long way on building students’ ability to think and solve work-life or societal wide problems.
Combined with the comfortable learning environment, the practical, hands-on approach of the workshop made the participants to manage through the whole comprehensive workshop programme without feeling tired.
The participants announced their motivation and will to bring this same type of physical and mental atmosphere with them to their own home institutions and teaching practices.
You can watch participants’ reflections of the workshop in the video produced during the workshop.
Satu Määttänen, Research assistant in HAMK Bio Research Unit. HAMK Africa Team member.