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

The following figure illustrates these four interconnected competence areas.

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.

Facilitating Learning

Facilitating learning always constitutes a practical activity irrespective of whether it takes place in an educational institution, the student’s workplace or in virtual environments. High-quality teaching facilitation of learning and their development are based on a sufficient theoretical knowledge of learning, the building of competence and of human beings as learners and builders of their own competence.

Knowledge of the fundamental principles of learning and a theoretical understanding of human activity, which is based on a valid conception of learning, thus constitutes one of the core competences of a teacher. Teachers must also understand the diversity of people as learners. As student’s 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. By nature, teaching thus constitutes a deeply value-based and ethical activity.

New learning environments and their utilisation function to 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 the guidance of the learning process. The different solutions must be economically sustainable. This means that the teacher must have the ability to adapt the guidance activities to the resources available.

This requires the following skill set from the teacher:

  • knowledge and understanding about learning, which refers to the teacher’s awareness of learning from the theoretical and philosophical perspective,
  • knowledge and understanding about learners meaning the teacher’s awareness of the diversity of learners
  • teaching and facilitating learning and assessment skills, which means the teacher’s ability and willingness to account for the individual characteristics of the students in the planning and implementation of teaching and in the guidance and assessment of learning and his or her capacity to engage in positive interaction with different learners and skills to develop and renew teaching and learning environments in cooperation with other parties,
  • new technology skills, which means the skills and motivation of the teacher to utilise the opportunities provided by new technologies in the development of learning environments and the ability to develop its use in learning, teaching and facilitating learning in a pedagogically sound manner.

Developing the Educational Environment

In addition to facilitating learning, the work of a teacher involves developing different educational environments. First, a teacher is always a member of his or her immediate community. Developing the activities of an educational institution or unit requires that each teacher possess both individual and community-oriented capabilities for research, development and innovation activities. Being a teacher thus also involves a strong element of entrepreneurial thinking and a requirement of quality and financial awareness.

Both educational establishments’ and individual teachers’ work environments consists 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. Knowledge of the preconditions of 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 meaningful development of pedagogical solutions, teachers need to obtain a theoretical and practical command of the content to be taught. As cooperation with working life expands and workplaces become an increasingly significant location for vocational learning, new methodological solutions are also continuously developed.

The development of operating environments also requires skills related to the use of information and capabilities in the area of development. Issues related to the use of information are part of the ethical dimension of teaching work. In a similar way that issues are connected in planning learning processes and learning environments, which reflect teachers’ perceptions of the desired goals, information management is based on teachers’ values.. They are manifest in the teacher’s choice of research and development targets and in the teacher’s dedication to the promotion of issues they find important. They also become apparent in the teacher’s efforts to influence their communities and their working environments

The activities of teachers always take place in a specific socio-historical environment. Teachers have the opportunity to impact the nature of working life and society by engaging in public debate taking place in society. Teaching is thus ethical by nature: the activities of teachers have a central significance in the development of society and working life through the great 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 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 organisation and work community. Furthermore, perceiving the changes in the educational environment 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 having a wide awareness of the latest developments in and knowledge of one’s own field which can be combined with learning goals, in addition to an understanding of the significance of entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial thinking in the development of working life and the motivation and ability to develop cooperation between education and working life,  and
  • developmental skills, which means the ability of teachers to develop their own activities and the activities of their community in relation to changes in the educational environment and the motivation and ability to develop one’s own professional field on local, national and international levels.

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. Interactive competence is closely associated with the guidance of the learning process, for example.

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 polytechnics, such requirements are present in their daily activities through aspects such as on-the-job training and constantly expanding project activities. Cooperation reaches into international and global arenas, which has, for many teachers and institutes, become an everyday reality through international projects.

The competence of a teacher thus includes:

  • cooperation and networking skills, which is understood to mean the ability and motivation of the teacher to act in regional, national and international cooperation networks and
  • interaction skills, which 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.

Continuous Learning

The requirement of continuous learning is connected with other competence areas. The concept of reflection is what joins these areas of competences together. To act as a teacher is to share individual expertise jointly with a community. Defined in this manner, the professional competence of a teacher contains the element of a professional acting in a reflective manner: a teacher is a researcher and developer of his or her own work, who, in cooperation with others, is constantly building his or her own competence and the competence of the community.

The capacity for reflection or critical self-assessment is part of the competence of a teacher. 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 also be able to generate renewal in his or her environment, a teacher will need:

  • reflection skills, which means the capacity of the teacher to realistically and critically evaluate their own work and their work community’s principles and goals in relation to changes in the educational environment. 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 actors, 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.