2. Creating Teacher’s Competences

The Teacher Education programme described in this handbook is based upon the definitions of teachers’ areas of competences.

The Teacher Education College of the JAMK University of Applied Sciences defines four competence areas:

  • Facilitating Learning
  • Developing the Educational Environment
  • Cooperation and Interaction
  • Continuous Learning

Figure 1: Competence Areas

Facilitating Learning and Developing the Educational Environment are the core competence areas required from vocational teachers. These areas are not separate from one another, rather, they are closely interconnected. The same holds true for the Continuous Learning and Cooperation and Interaction areas, which are interlinked to the Facilitating Learning and Developing the Educational Environment areas. Assessment and evaluation of learning and competences are based on these competence areas. Furthermore identification and assessment of prior learning are based on competence descriptions of the courses.

2.1 Facilitating Learning

Facilitating learning always constitutes a practical activity irrespective of whether it takes place in an educational institution, in the student’s workplace or in virtual environments. High-quality facilitation of learning and its development is based on (1) sufficient theoretical knowledge of learning, (2) and developing one’s own skills and competencies, and (3) understanding human beings as learners.

Knowing the principles of learning and understanding the theoretical backgrounds of teaching implementation are the core competences of a teacher. Teachers must also understand the diversity of learning. As students’ cultural backgrounds become increasingly diverse, teachers must have the capacity to act in accordance with the capabilities of the learners and to respond to the individual learning needs of different learners.

The planning of learning processes and learning environments always involves value choices that reflect the conceptions of teacher communities and individual teachers regarding the desired outcomes. Teaching thus constitutes a deeply value-based and ethical activity.

New learning environments and their utilization expand the traditional conception of teaching work. A central development target in the near future will be the development of pedagogical solutions enabled by new technologies for guidance of learning.  Different solutions must be economically sustainable requiring teachers to have the ability  to utilise resources available efficiently.

This requires the following skill set from the teacher:

  • knowledge and understanding about learning, referring to the teacher’s awareness of learning from the theoretical and philosophical perspective,
  • knowledge and understanding about learners signifying the teacher’s awareness of the diversity of learners,
  • teaching and facilitating learning and assessment skills, meaning the teacher’s ability to take into consideration the individuality of learners in planning, implementation, facilitation and assessment of learning.  The teacher must have the capacity to engage in positive interaction with different learners and skills to develop teaching and learning environments in cooperation with other stakeholders,
  • new technology skills, which means the skills and motivation of the teacher to utilize new technology in the development of learning environments and to develop its use in teaching and facilitating learning in a pedagogically sound manner.

2.2 Developing the Educational Environment

Teachers’ work also involves developing different educational environments. Teachers are always members of their immediate community. Developing the activities of an educational institution or a department requires each teacher to possess both individual and community-oriented capabilities for research, development and innovation. Working as a teacher thus involves a strong element of entrepreneurial thinking and a requirement of quality and financial awareness.

Teachers’ educational environments consist of various cooperative relationships with local and regional professional fields. At its broadest, the operating environment of a teacher consists of different national and international networks. Knowing the sustainable development on both global and local levels and identifying the directions of change in society and working life constitute essential competence requirements for teaching work.

To meet the requirements of developing meaningful pedagogical solutions, teachers need to obtain a theoretical and practical command of the content. As cooperation with working life expands and workplaces become increasingly significant places for vocational learning, new methodological solutions need to be continuously developed.

The development of working environments requires skills related to critical information management, in which ethical dimensions should always be considered. In a similar way, teachers’ values are connected to both information management and to the planning of learning processes and learning environments. These dimensions can be seen, for example, in the choices teachers make regarding research and development targets. They also become apparent in the teacher’s efforts and dedication to influence both their communities and their working environments.

Teachers’ work always takes place in a specific socio-historical environment. Teachers have the opportunity to impact the nature of working life and society by engaging in public debates. Teaching is thus ethical by nature: the activities of teachers have a central significance in the development of society and working life through a variety of choices made by all teachers in their daily work.

To be able to work in a meaningful way in a changing, multifaceted environment and to develop it , teachers must have:

  • contextual skills, which means having the skills to recognise and apply one’s own actions in relation to the changing values and principles of one’s own organization and work community. Furthermore, perceiving the changes in educational environments and being able to react to those changes and challenges accordingly taking into account sustainable development ,
  • knowledge and understanding about working life and entrepreneurship, which means (1) having a wide awareness of the latest developments in and knowledge of one’s own field, and (2) an understanding of the significance of entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial thinking in the development of working life, and (3) the motivation to develop cooperation between education and working life,
  • developmental skills, meaning the teachers’ ability to develop their own work and practices of their communities in relation to changes in educational environments. Furthermore, the teachers’ motivation to develop their own professional field on local, national and international levels.

2.3 Cooperation and Interaction

Teaching work has always been social in nature and based on interaction between people. The social nature of the work has been defined in different ways in different times, but teaching/learning situations have always been based on human interaction. The capacity for positive, ethically sustainable interaction with learners is the corner stone of high-quality learning.

Cooperation and interaction are closely linked to facilitating learning and developing the educational environment. Cooperation is often related to aspects such as national or regional planning and implementation of teaching or different development projects carried out in cooperation with working life.

Cooperation on the level of educational institutions covers the ability to form functional guidance and peer relationships, work groups, etc. From a broader perspective, it also contains the ability to act in networks made up of the representatives of different educational institutions and working life. For teachers of vocational institutions and universities of applied sciences, such requirements are present in their daily activities like on-the-job training and constantly increasing project work. At its broadest, interactive competence reaches to international and global arenas.

The competence of a teacher thus includes:

  • cooperation and networking skills, is understood to mean the ability and motivation of the teacher to act in regional, national and international cooperation networks and
  • interaction skills, means the ability of the teacher to act in different interactive relationships in a way that is meaningful and conducive to the goal of the activity in question.

2.4 Continuous Learning

The requirement of continuous learning is connected with other competence areas. The concept of reflection joins these areas of competences together. Teachers’ work includes sharing individual expertise jointly with a community. Defined in this manner, the professional competence of a teacher contains the element of reflectiveness: teachers are  researchers and developers of their own work, building constantly in cooperation with others their own competencies and competencies of the community.

Reflection, in other words, critical self-assessment is a part of teachers’ competences. Personal reflection and the ability to make independent choices and decisions are essential in the midst of constant pressures for change. Critical self-reflection is not only essential at the individual level, but also at the organisational level. In this way, communication becomes an essential tool, which enables a common understanding to be formed among the work community.

In order to be capable of personal renewal and to work innovatively, a teacher will need:

  • reflection skills, meaning the capacity of teachers to realistically and critically evaluate their own work and their work community’s principles and goals in relation to changes in educational environments. They will also have the skills to set new goals to further develop themselves and their work community, and
  • knowledge management skills, which means the skills of a teacher to seek and critically select information and, in cooperation with other stakeholders, construct practical and theoretical knowledge that serves the development of both their own competence and the competence of the community, as well as the motivation and ability to use this knowledge to promote learning.