Understanding the quality of prospective teachers – the perspective from Finland

Year: 2019

Author: Mikkilä-Erdmann, Mirjamaija, Iiskala, Tuike, Warinowski, Anu

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This study focuses on the characteristics of Finnish teacher education that may contribute to the classroom teacher students’ readiness to start to work as qualified teachers. Finland has gained increasingly global interest among educationalists and politicians because of its excellent results on large-scale international student assessments like the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA).

The reasons for Finland’s successful and egalitarian school system can be investigated from many perspectives. There may be some characteristics of the Finnish teacher education system contributing to the quality of the whole school system. According to Finnish legislation, a special aim of teacher education is to equip students for autonomy as a teacher, instructor, and educator. The main organizational theme behind the current academic classroom teacher education in Finland is research-based studies and evidence-based training.

Teacher Education programs require five years of training at university. Pre-service teachers have educational sciences as their major and complete two empirical theses: a Bachelor and a Master’s thesis. After graduation they are given a certificate to teach as qualified teacher.

The Finnish comprehensive school is free from standardized tests and inspectors. The pedagogical autonomy of Finnish teachers is also high. Teachers can participate in developing school curricula, select and design own learning materials, and create student assessments based on their own rationale. Hence, classroom teachers study five years in academia. The general design principle in Finland’s teacher education curriculum is to socialize students into academia and give them a robust introduction to the educational sciences, empirical research methods, and basic skills and knowledge in teaching subject studies. The idea of evidence-based training is considered a twofold practice. Teacher students practise teaching and research. Furthermore, a two-phase selection of teacher candidates and progressive curriculum design that supports teachers’ learning of content knowledge, and the creation of teachers’ didactic skills, contributes to teacher quality. In addition, systematic teaching practices in special training schools of the university, are part of the Finnish teacher education. This assists in supporting students to integrate theoretical understanding and the practical skills needed for the teaching profession, especially those related to individual student learning in everyday classrooms. However, a challenge for the future is to develop systematic research-based in-service education.