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Delegation visits Scandinavia

Teachers, where do you stand?

The Vice-rectorate for International Affairs has organized a trip to Scandinavia between the 19th and 21st of June 2017. Representatives of the rectorate, the faculties, the International Office and the Center for Teacher Education participated. The goal of the trip was to exchange experiences in the area of teacher education and to drive forth cooperation with reputable universities and institutions in Finland, Sweden, and Denmark. This will further internationalize teacher education and research in the future.

With his drastic comment about the way of working of German teachers (“lazy sods”), the former German chancellor has set loose controversial debates a few years ago. With this opinion, he would be isolated in Finland where teaching staff is held in very high esteem. Only one in ten applications for a place to study to become a teacher is successful. One reason for the low percentage of acceptance is the two-stage aptitude test that high-school graduates have to pass before they start studying. The course of study itself at the University of Helsinki is similarly progressive: students learn in “Open Learning Spaces”, there is few teacher-centered teaching and a lot of social interaction in seminar-like lectures. Instruction at university in the area of teacher education is extremely research-oriented, and also teachers at school are actively involved in research projects. This explains the high number of teachers with a PhD: at the University Practice School 10% of teachers have been conferred a doctorate.

The 14 participants of the trip learned all of this at their meeting with the Head of Department of Teacher Education at the University of Helsinki. The Vice-Rector for Teaching and Studies, Prof. Dr. Stefan Herzig introduced the concept of teacher education at Cologne. Especially the Inclusive University School found a great echo: it is the first practice school in Germany. It is inclusive, follows Finnish standards and was founded by a student initiative. The headmaster of the Finnish University Practice School accepted the invitation to visit the Cologne counterpart in the fall. The intensive talks also revealed mutual fields of research for the future: the areas heterogeneity, social inequality, special education, and learning and instruction will be dealt with by researchers from Helsinki and Cologne together.

The rector of the University of Cologne, Prof. Dr. Axel Freimuth, signs the visitors’ book of the university of Helsinki.

After the visit to the University of Helsinki, the group split so that the delegates could visit six more universities. A three hours drive north from Helsinki led one subgroup to the University Jyväskylä – the university that started the tradition of practice schools in Finland. The primary school was opened in 1866, the secondary school followed in 1905. Until today, the Teacher Training School enables students to gain teaching experience, enables teachers to do research and researchers to teach. At the meeting with the school representatives, the attendants exchanged information about the respective training of teachers both at university and at schools. Furthermore, an Erasmus cooperation between the Cologne Faculty of Human Sciences and the Finnish was contracted.

Cologne representatives at lunch with the rector and the vice-rector of the University of Jyväskylä. From left to right: Prof.‘ Dr.‘ Lisa Rosen, Rector Prof. Dr. Matti Manninen, Prof. Dr. Stefan Neubert, Vice-rector Prof.‘ Dr.‘ Helena Rasku-Puttonen, Prof.‘ Dr.‘ Argyro Panagiotopoulou. Photo: Jenna Strzykala

West from Helsinki lies the historic, bilingual city of Turku, which celebrates its 50-year anniversary town twinning with Cologne this year. As in Jyväskylä, the group visited the university practice school. During the visit, the basis for a cooperation between Turku and the Inclusive University School was created.

Music room at the University of Turku Teacher Training School. Photo: Prof. Dr. Stefan Herzig

Northward along the coast of the Gulf of Bothnia, the second biggest university of Finland is located: the University of Oulu. Here, the participants of the trip had a successful meeting as well. In the future, prospective teachers from Cologne will have the possibility to do internships in English at schools in Oulu. Moreover, preparations for an Erasmus treaty were commenced, which will also enable researchers to stay at the University of Oulu.

Another subgroup of the delegation kept an appointment at Lund University in the south of Sweden. The Swedish representatives were interested in an aligned research program and doctoral student exchanges. The two parties have also agreed upon concrete collaboration: Cologne students will be able to intern at schools in the province Skåne län.

Lund University Photo: Astrid Krämer

In Gothenburg, the second biggest city of Sweden, both the delegates from Cologne (Prof. Dr. Becker-Mrotzek, Dr.‘ Berger, Prof.‘ Dr.‘ Gersmann and Prof. Dr. Schröder) and their Swedish colleagues have evinced interest in mutual activities. Among the ideas are joint summer or winter schools on teacher education or a shared PhD program for graduated teachers. In order to pursue these objectives, the Cologne delegates invited their colleagues from Gothenburg to a visit in Cologne – and look forward to welcoming them in November.

Prof. Dr. Schröder (mid right) und Dr.‘ Susanne Berger (right) at dinner with the dean of the Faculty of Education at the University of Gothenburg, Prof. Dr. Åke Ingerman (left), and the International coordinator at the Faculty of Education, Ilse Hakvoort (mid left). Photo: Prof. Dr. Michael Becker-Mrotzek

Denmark was represented by Aarhus University on the trip. In the area of teacher education, the university is closely associated with the University of Copenhagen. After deep discussions, the representatives from Aarhus (Dean Prof. Dr. Johnny Laursen, Prof. Dr. David Reimer, Elsebeth Jensen and Lotte Holm) announced their interest in applications from Cologne PostDocs at the Institute for Advanced Studies Aarhus. The trans- and interdisciplinary institute provides scholars with a facility to pursue their research project in an international and a high-level environment. Prospective teachers were addressed by the Aarhus representatives as well. In the future, they will have the possibility to intern at schools in English and German. In order to discuss and concretize further fields of cooperation, such as research collaboration on the professionalization of teacher education, the representatives of Aarhus University and the University of Copenhagen are cordially invited to Cologne.