The new primary school programme, implemented by Sipilä’s Government, defined three goals for comprehensive school: student-orientation, the world’s most competent teachers and a community-based working culture.

In the effort to train the most skilful teachers in the world, tutor teacher activity has been one of the most central actions in developing the school community. Between 2015 and 2019, the Finnish government allocated 23 million euros to support the activity.

The Finnish National Agency for Education and the Ministry of Education and Culture have been able to establish tutor teacher activity in schools. By 2017, there were as many as 2,300 tutor teachers in basic education, which corresponds to about half of the primary schools in Finland.

A research group of the University of Jyväskylä has been selected to determine the impact of the tutor teacher activity. The two-year research project is funded by the Finnish National Agency for Education and focuses on the effects of the tutor teacher activity in basic education and grants from the state for the activity as well as the focus areas of the activity’s future development.

The nation-wide research project enables tutor teacher activity to be assessed on the national, regional and local levels of the education system.

– The impacts of the state funding are identified using existing data and documents, such as tutor teacher surveys of the Finnish National Agency for Education, and data collected through the state grant system. In addition, data on the effects of the grants is collected with surveys to tutor teachers and teachers, and by interviewing experts as well, says Matti Taajamo, the project manager of the research team.

Purpose of tutor teacher activity

The purpose of the tutor teacher activity is to support the renewal of pedagogy and promote the digitalisation of teaching, the development of expertise and co-teaching in work communities, the renewal of the working culture in schools and the implementation of curriculum fundamentals. The activity has been implemented in many forms depending on the school and municipality, always keeping tutor teachers at the core of the activity.

What does a tutor teacher do?

Tutor teachers support and train their peers, develop their community comprehensively as part of local, regional, national and thematic networks. Based on a survey of the Finnish National Agency for Education, the work of tutor teachers focuses on tutoring based on digital competence. Their duties may also relate to co-teaching, motivating, and the implementation and support of the basics of the new curriculum.

Source: Finnish National Agency for Education: Facts Express 3C – Tutor teachers activities in basic education in Finland. Graphics: Liisa Valtonen.

Many tutor teachers are responsible for cooperating with data management staff, mapping the ICT skills of tutored teachers, organising training and participating in procurement. Their positions are either part-time or full-time.

Assessing tutor teacher activity

The nation-wide research project enables tutor teacher activity to be assessed on the national, regional and local levels of the education system. The national assessment emphasises the guiding role of education policy. The regional assessment focuses on the role of the providers of teaching and the management of educational institutions in the implementation of tutor activity. The local-level assessment focuses on practical tutor teacher activities and the education and expertise of tutor teachers. When the project ends in spring 2021, we will have research-based knowledge on whether tutor teachers have made Finnish teachers the most skilful in the world.

The tutor teacher research team of the University of Jyväskylä includes Senior Researcher and Project Manager Matti Taajamo, Professor Päivi Häkkinen, Project Researcher Matti Pennanen, Associate Professor Juhani Rautopuro from the Finnish Institute for Educational Research and University Teacher Mika Risku from the Institute of Educational Leadership.

 

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