The Finnish School in Cross-Pressures of Change

Helena Rajakaltio, Marita Mäkinen

Abstract


The paper presents a research project of the Finnish school in an educational inclusive reform process. The study focuses on asking how the comprehensive schools cope with the reform in a time of economic instability and contradictory goals. The first phase of the research program took place during a continuing education program about inclusive education and school development. The participants comprised 530 in-service teachers and 14 school principals in fourteen primary and secondary schools. The two and half year long continuing education program offered spaces for reflections in the school community and in tailored seminars for the schools involved. The participants were engaged in discussions of gaining understanding of inclusive education and of how to respond to students´ diversity.
In the study inclusion education is seen as a complex transitional process and a multifaceted question, which involves different levels from educational policy on a national level to the local school community level and the single teacher as an agency for change. According to the preliminary results the transformation process demands a cultural shift of the traditional teacher work culture; from tend to work alone to collaboration and cross sectional cooperation. The school leaders are in a key position in fostering requisites for a professional learning community with spaces for reflections, sharing experiences and knowledge in order to get enough unanimity in the school community for promoting inclusive learning settings. A single teacher´s attitude is affected by these collective meaning making processes. During the professional development program different kind of collaboration was encouraged and changes in a more collaborative direction could be recognized. In the article we discuss the results in terms of the raised contextual factors at different levels in the transformation processes.


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