MUSCATINE, Iowa—Central Middle School teacher Pamela Joslyn had the experience of a lifetime this winter when she studied in Finland as a Fulbright Distinguished Teacher. Her experience has given her new inspirations for her teaching and new insights into international cooperation.
During her stay in Finland, which lasted from January 7 through March 23, Joslyn had opportunities to visit several schools, allowing her to see how the Finnish educational model differs from the American model. Specifically, Joslyn studied how science teachers teach students about engineering and the design process.
Joslyn found that Finnish classes have a unique structure. Students rotate through different classes in six to eight-week sessions, giving teachers a short amount of time to work with students on their subject.
However, teachers go into depth on their subjects, sometimes partnering with university researchers to try cutting edge methods for teaching content. In some cases, Joslyn saw classes touching on concepts she herself did not encounter until college. She also learned that teachers placed a lot of value on making models of concepts rather than engaging in project-based learning. “It was very impressive to see the level they would take them to,” Joslyn reflected.
In addition to visiting Finnish schools, Joslyn also participated in several classes at the University of Helsinki. In particular, she enjoyed attending STEP classes for international students interested in becoming teachers. “The greatest way to get a quick overview of the Finnish education system was through the international students,” explained Joslyn. Through her conversations with them, Joslyn gained a deeper understanding of Finland’s educational philosophy, methods for including students with special needs, and assessment strategies and how they compared to the practices of other countries around the world.
Joslyn’s studies at the University of Helsinki also gave her opportunities to share her experiences with Finnish educators. Two weeks into her stay, she received and accepted an invitation to a Finnish educator summit on their national curriculum held in Estonia. She also featured as a guest speaker for a university class.
During her stay in Finland, Joslyn developed a deep respect for educators around the world who strive to take learning to the highest level and who value the possibilities international collaboration unlock: “What we need to do as educators across the globe is to say where are we? Where do we want to go? How can we get there? And, we need to bring in the stakeholders and have open conversations.”