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«ACTA ACTA U N N IIVR SRS IIT AT IIS O L U E N NIS IIS U IN EVE RI S ATAT S U U L U E S S S U V E T T IS O OULUEN E E Katri Jokikokko Katri Jokikokko ...»

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3.5 Narrative research approach

3.6 Biographical i nterviews

3.7 Narrative analysis and the analysis of narratives

4 Overview of the articles 53

4.1 Article I :

4.2 Article II:

4.3 Article I II:

4.4 Article I V:

4.5 Article V:

–  –  –

1. Introduction:

the necessity of intercultural learning and competence in today’s societies and world At the time of writing the summary of this doctoral thesis, the so-called critical debate on Finland’s immigration and refugee policy is lively in the media.

Politicians, professionals and, most of all, the general Finnish public have diverse opinions of immigration policy, refugees and their status in our society. On the basis of this discussion, one would think that diversity is a new phenomenon in Finnish population and society. The idea of one nation, one language and one mind, which was an important slogan in nation building, still seems to be strong in the minds of many.

Compared to many other European countries, the number of immigrants in Finland is still relatively low – about 150,000 in 2009 (Tilastokeskus, 2010).

However, diversity is not a new phenomenon in our society. Finland has always had its own ethnic and linguistic minorities, such as the Sami, Roma and the Swedish speaking minority. If the concept of culture is expanded beyond ethnic dimensions (Gollnick & Chinn, 1998, pp. 13–15; Nieto, 2002, p. 53), there are many additional reasons to consider present day Finland to be multicultural. From the perspective of, for instance, social and regional differences, urban versus rural, social class, gender, sexual orientation and religion, it can be argued that Finland has been multicultural since its independence and long before it. Finland has also been an important crossroads between East and West, which has naturally affected its culture and cultural diversity (Liebkind, 2000, p. 171; Räsänen, 2002, p. 106).

When discussing immigrant issues and policies, it has often been forgotten that Finland has also been a sending partner: Finns themselves have travelled both near and far and immigrated to various countries to improve their living conditions or to build an ideal living community (Järvelä, 2010, p. 130).

The two main phenomena of this study, intercultural learning and its result, intercultural competence, are seen as both conditions and aims for increasing cultural awareness, understanding, dialogue, fruitful co-operation and learning from each other in multicultural societies and the world. As Salo-Lee writes (2007, p. 74), multicultural and intercultural interactions are, at best, opportunities for dialogue and creativity. However, in the absence of intercultural competence, they can also easily lead to misunderstandings and the breaking of relationships.

It can be argued that everyone needs intercultural competence in today’s diverse societies and world. Even if we have never travelled outside the borders of our native country, the media, other people and education bring the world and diversity to our consciousness.

When discussing intercultural learning and intercultural competence, it can be argued that education and teachers play a key role in this process, as they can affect the thinking and action of the next generations. It is not enough that teachers are interculturally competent themselves. They should also foster the development of intercultural competence in their students. Teachers have the opportunity to affect their students’ awareness, open the world for them, and provide them with tools to critically analyse global phenomena and to act for a more equal and sustainable world. Furthermore, intercultural competence is necessary for teachers because as ethical professionals, they are responsible for supporting the personal and academic growth of all their students, regardless of background, culture, language, religion, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation and so on (Nieto, 2000, p. 4). Teachers should not choose whose learning to support and whose not to.

If considering the broad definition of diversity, Finnish classrooms have always been diverse and multicultural. Still, teachers’ intercultural competence was not discussed until the new immigrant groups arrived in our country in the late 70s and 80s. In multicultural classrooms, teachers need many intercultural competences to work with children whose language, learning styles, behavior, thinking and academic skills may differ a lot from those of the so-called mainstream students.

Traditional pedagogical and didactical skills are important but are not enough.

When teaching multicultural classes, knowledge and awareness of stereotypes, power structures, global issues and one’s own values become significant. Asking questions such as whose knowledge, whose culture, whose traditions and whose language are we teaching, learning and transmitting to students should be part of a teacher’s everyday reflection (May, 1999; Räsänen, 2005b; Tomperi, Kiilakoski, & Vuorikoski, 2005).

How is it possible for a teacher, who works within so many different pressures and with limited resources, to learn all these demanding competences? This research is based on the idea that learning intercultural competence is essential for a teacher and is a process that lasts a whole lifetime. One cannot become interculturally competent within one in-service course, by travelling or even during a five-year academic teacher education. However, all of these activities may have a large influence and serve as the turning points in teachers’ intercultural learning processes.





Although this study argues that intercultural learning is a lifelong process and is often informal and incidental, education also plays a significant role in this process.

It has been more and more recognized, in Finland as well, that all teachers need intercultural competence and that multicultural issues need to be an essential part of both pre- and in-service teacher education (Jokisalo & Simola, 2009; Luukkainen, 2004). It is also important to realize that multicultural education does not only mean organizing education for immigrants, but that it is essential for all (see also Nieto, 2000, p. 4). Finnish teacher education is responding to growing multiculturalism and globalization in different ways. Typically, there are a few separate courses on multiculturalism in teacher education curricula. Teachers of this study, however, have graduated from the Intercultural Teacher Education Programme1 at the University of Oulu, Finland. This is a five-year programme that emphasizes global and intercultural perspectives in education and aims at providing prospective teachers with the competences that they will need whether they are working as teachers or other educational professionals in an increasingly multicultural society and world. In this specific programme, global issues, critical pedagogy and intercultural competences are integrated into all the courses of educational sciences as well as many other subject areas. The philosophical premise is that one or two courses on intercultural education are not enough to affect teachers’ thinking and action, but that a holistic approach is needed to support teachers’ intercultural learning.

Intercultural aspects in teacher education or higher education in general should not be something marginal. In Strategy for the Internationalisation of Higher Education Institutions in Finland 2009–2015 (Ministry of Education 2009, p. 44), the Ministry of Education expects higher education institutions to actively take part in supporting the multicultural higher education community and civil society.

It also demands that the activities of higher education institutions be ethically sustainable and support students’ prerequisites to function in a global environment as well as understand the global effects of their activities. Moreover, in the Teacher Education 2020 memo by Ministry of Education, it is suggested that all teachers’ competences as regards working in multicultural contexts need to be strengthened by providing teachers with academic studies on and practical experiences with multicultural issues. This also needs to appear clearly in the curriculums of teacher education programmes (i.e. Opettajankoulutus... 2007, p. 45.) The aim of this study is to provide more theoretical and practical knowledge and understanding on the process of intercultural learning and the nature of intercultural The programme was called International Master of Education Programme in the years 1994–2010.

In 2010 its name was changed to Intercultural Teacher Education (ITE), which I use in this summary.

However, in all the articles of this thesis, the former name has been used.

competence in teachers’ work. It is a qualitative study based on various types of questionnaires and interviews collected from former ITE students who are now working as teachers in various contexts. Intercultural learning in general has not been researched a lot, although it is necessary to understand the process if we want to develop education that supports diverse intercultural learning processes as fully as possible. However, it is important to highlight that the focus of this study is not to evaluate the ITE programme and its strengths and weaknesses, although the programme is playing an important role in teachers’ learning, but to concentrate on intercultural learning and competence as theoretical phenomena.

This summary is structured so that research questions and the researcher’s position are first discussed in the introduction part of the study. In the theoretical part that follows, the main contexts and concepts of the research are elaborated.

Critical pedagogy is discussed next as one theoretical and methodological lens of the study. The theoretical section also includes a presentation of the two main concepts of this study: intercultural competence and intercultural learning. Chapter 3, the methodological part, discusses two methodologies: phenomenography and narrative biographical research, which were applied in conducting the empirical part of the study. Chapter 4 gives an overview of the articles. The fifth part of the research discusses the main findings of this doctoral thesis. The discussion part that follows draws final conclusions on the basis of the results, takes a critical look at teachers’ intercultural competence and learning and also examines how teachers’ professionalism for intercultural contexts could best be supported. In part seven, before the final remarks, the ethics and reliability of the study are discussed.

1.1 Aims and research questions

Intercultural learning and intercultural competence as part of teachers’ professionalism have not been researched a great deal in the Finnish context. This research aims at providing additional knowledge and understanding to existing ideas and theories on the process of intercultural learning and the nature of intercultural competence in teachers’ work. The study further aims at drawing some conclusions on how teachers’ professional development for intercultural contexts could be supported.

The research questions of this study are the following:

1. How do teachers define their intercultural competence?

2. How do teachers describe their intercultural learning?

These research questions are discussed in five substudies from different perspectives (see Chapter 4). In the result parts of this summary (Chapters 5 and 6), findings related to these research questions are summarized, combined and discussed.

1.2 Researcher’s position

As this is a qualitative research study, it is acknowledged that the researcher is a central tool or research instrument of the study (e.g., Cresswell, 2007, p. 38; Punch, 2007, p. 158). In this chapter, I briefly describe my own relationship to this research topic and my research subjects. I began my own university studies as a member of the first ITE group in 1994. My own experiences of being a student and, later on, a teacher in the ITE programme naturally play a role in this study. I have both academic and personal motives for doing this research: I feel that I have experienced a certain kind of intercultural transformation process during my studies and would like to know more and understand better this complex process. The second motive, which is also academic and personal, comes from my work experience as a primary school teacher, and later on as a university teacher, when I had become fully aware of the urgent need for intercultural competence and intercultural learning in the area of education.

Although to a certain extent being an ‘insider’ in this research process, taking the role of an ‘outsider’ has also been surprisingly easy in some situations. If I look back at my experiences in teacher education, I think that being a member of a diverse academic student group caused a kind of culture shock for me. Some of the students in our group had multicultural backgrounds, some had lived in other continents and some had other significant experiences of cultural diversity. I was a student who came straight from upper secondary school and had lived all her life in a rather small and relatively ‘monocultural’ Finnish village.

Additionally, in the interview situations, assuming an outsider’s perspective was often relatively easy because I am not, for instance, a third culture child myself (as some of my research subjects are). I do not have a similar background or the same type of career experiences as my research subjects. However, during the interviews, I sometimes felt that I could really understand my interviewees and their narratives and ‘read’ the meaning of certain types of facial expressions or gestures because we shared the same experience of being students in intercultural teacher education and being a novice teacher after graduation.

Still, I often wondered how there could be so many things that I did not know about my research subjects (even those who I had known beforehand), and sometimes I would struggle, have to ask many further questions or need to have a long conversation before I was able to understand my research subjects’ ideas and experiences.



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