The Researchers’ blog brings you stories from the researchers located at the Aalto Design Factory. In the blog researchers of the Factory community will share thoughts about what is currently on their mind and what has been going on with their research lately. The blog will help you to keep track of what kind of things are happening with research at ADF and bring you some of the most interesting and relevant insights from the field of research.

20 years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the one’s you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” –Mark Twain

The above quote from Mark Twain encourages us to continuously explore new possibilities in life. At Aalto University Design Factory, the exploration is done in relation to teaching, learning, research, and application of product development. Having the privilege of working with forward-looking teachers in such an inspiring environment, I was very excited to share my experiences and present my PhD study plan at Earli SIG Higher Education Conference on creativity and innovation in the mid of August in Tallinn, Estonia. The aim of the conference was to share research results and ideas on educational creativity and innovation between researchers, teachers, and developers of teaching and learning.

Why do we need innovation and creativity in teaching? The world is changing. Knowledge societies demand flexibility and quick adaptability of the labor force to constant changes in an increasingly interconnected reality. The demands of work life skills are very different from what they used to be at the beginning of the European university activities in 1100. Research from Institute for the Future (IFTF) proposes ten new work skills that will be critical for the next decade, namely transdisciplinarity, virtual collaboration, sense-making, social intelligence, cross-cultural competency, cognitive load management, novel and adaptive thinking, computational thinking, new media literacy, and design mindset (see the Future Work Skills 2020 report).

As the working life demands are in continuous change, the definition of learning is becoming more obscure than ever. The European framework for key competences for lifelong learning, released at the end of 2006, identifies and defines the key abilities and knowledge that everyone needs in order to achieve employment, personal fulfillment, social inclusion and active citizenship in today’s rapidly-changing world. The framework includes competences in ‘traditional’ subjects, such as mother tongue literacy, numeracy, knowledge of foreign languages, science and ICT skills. But it also covers other skills, such as learning to learn, social and civic competence, initiative-taking, entrepreneurship, cultural awareness and self-expression. (See more here)

In order to provide the students with relevant work life skills in Aalto University, we need to critically reflect on our current assumptions on good teaching and learning. Should a teacher be the only source of information? Should the role of a learner be just a passive listener? Are the future working life skills best learnt in traditional lecture theatres, isolated from the real-life activities? Innovativeness is required in designing more creative teaching methods that combine theoretical and practical knowledge with the self-regulative and socio-cultural components of professional expertise (Tynjälä & Gijbels 2012). As the previous studies have shown that grades do not reflect the quality of the learning outcomes (e.g. Tuononen, Räisänen & Postareff 2012), innovativeness in creating new methods of evaluating the quality of teaching and learning are required. Further, we need to design student activating learning environments suitable for student-oriented learning activities and create ways of spreading the best practices across academic communities.

My PhD study on pedagogical development explores ways of spreading pedagogical innovations across the academic communities of practice. Instead of focusing on the traditional way of spreading change by educating individual teachers in pedagogical training programs, the study explores change agency on a communal level as brokering between pedagogical and academic communities of practice (Wenger 1998). The findings suggest that pedagogical change agency is realized through practices, negotiation of meaning, modes of belonging to a community of practice, and identity formation. When promoting pedagogical transformations in higher education, recognizing brokering between various communities of practice as a valuable source of development and providing support for the ways of acting as a change agent become critical. By conducting the study, I wish to enable alternative, more effective forms of supporting pedagogical development towards promoting future work skills and lifelong learning in Aalto University.