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The exponential growth in knowledge is speeding up the expedition to the era beyond knowledge consumption to innovating with knowledge. The rise of the Innovation Age is redefining the key skills needed for an individual to be a productive contributor to the society and economy. Individuals in an innovation context need to have the aptitude and competence of building new skills and knowledge through a life span. Pedagogical transformation is critical to empower learners to be self-directed and life-long learners. One approach for this transformation is Phenomenon-based learning.

What is Phenomenon-Based Learning?

Finland will go through a new education reform that will take over in the academic year 2016-2017. Phenomenon-Based Learning will be complementing Finland’s traditional subjects. The Phenomenon or Topic Based Learning is being planned to be conducted over periods during the year and could be paced in projects – is the old new in Finland’s education. For more than three decades, Finnish schools have had a form of Phenomenon-Based Learning. What will change in 2016-2017 is that it will be obligatory in all basic schools for seven to 16-year-olds.

Phenomenon-Based Learning tackles real-world scenarios holistically from different subject areas’ perspectives. This method will entail a rich learning experience, which is relevant to learners’ lives. The interdisciplinary learning could be conducted in a simple way, by linking similar knowledge areas between different subjects and introducing them at the same slot of the academic year. This develops awareness of how curricula intersect to form the broader frame of knowledge. A more sophisticated interdisciplinary approach, such as Phenomenon-Based Learning occurs when we go beyond simply linking different subjects to applying, organising centers and essential questions to plan topic teaching. One example could be the questions students have about a topic such as the importance of the European Union. To answer these questions knowledge and skills from economics, history, geography and languages are to be integrated.

Why Phenomenon-Based Learning?

By working on finding answers to questions on specific real world scenarios learners will gain genuine skills. The latter will apply outside the walls of the school, in learners’ daily lives. Depth, authenticity and coherence of learning will provoke higher order thinking skills. The distinguished feature of Phenomenon- Based Learning is that students along with their teachers will identify the projects that they will work on and the gaps that they need to fill. They will also lead their own learning by conducting self-assessment and reflecting on it. Learners will be profoundly motivated and involved. The more in-depth learning the more able the students, will become in bridging the gap between the different subject areas. They will be able to answer the most persistent question which is “Why do we learn?” This will lead to a meaningful involvement putting exploration at the forefront of the learning process. As mentioned earlier, the school will plan Phenomenon Based Learning. This will give the teachers the flexibility they need to design this learning experience. Working with their students on plans and projects both teachers and students will have a voice and a choice.

While Finland is proceeding with its new reform, educationist around the world will have an eye on how the reform will evolve and whether it will turn into another lesson to learn from Finland’s education system. Regardless of how this reform will progress we – as educators- know that the world is transforming around us and that we need to transform our education systems accordingly. Learners cannot appreciate learning unless it is approached in a meaningful way that makes their learning experience purposeful.

By Bashaer Al Kilani

Bashaer holds M.Ed. in Leadership. She has a diverse experience in education as instructional supervisor, curriculum developer and currently holds an IT lecturer position in Fatima College of Health Sciences. She has designed and implemented E-learning based curriculum and has conducted research on E-learning.

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