The new research programme was aimed at steering and targeting working life-orientated applied research to be implemented jointly with all schools of professional teacher education to:
- supports and develops Finnish companies, industry, businesses and working life in general
- monitors, assesses and develops methods and models for vocational learning and education
- produces added value for the higher education network, vocational education and training and working life.
Professional teacher education institutions have long experience in exploratory competence development in working life and education and at their interface. They have carried out numerous national and international development projects, educated vocational teachers and collaborated closely with universities of applied sciences and vocational institutions. This has allowed them to see how changes in society, education policy or working life are reflected in the teacher's work and learning environments. The need to explore and develop new pedagogical solutions is great. As networked actors, the universities of applied sciences are envisioned to play an even stronger future role as partners in developing working life and competence, as facilitators of internationalisation and as promoters of continuous learning (Arene 2021).
Studying working life -orientation and collaborative learning
Universities of applied sciences anticipate how working life needs to be developed and respond to these needs in their teaching. The concept of working life-orientation is also used for the purpose of emphasising the role of vocational higher education in assessing, or even contesting, actively developing and renewing the prevailing operating models and practices (Salonen 2010, 16). In this research programme, working life-orientation also refers to learning ecosystems (Virolainen, Heikkinen, Siklander & Laitinen-Väänänen 2019). In working life-orientated learning ecosystems, a research-based approach would mean working together with working life , and learning and developing through research, while renewing working life and education. The waves of change in society, such as digitalisation, continuous learning, a sustainable future and the perspective of inclusion, are reflected in both education and teaching and guidance solutions. The targets of development also include the research-based nature of higher education pedagogy, pedagogical competence and its systematic development.
In the research programme currently under preparation, research is seen as co-development based on genuine partnership and interaction. The research is of applied nature as referred to in section 4 of the Universities of Applied Sciences Act (932/2014). In addition, the research programme is guided by a practical research approach (Satka et al. 2016), meaning that the research will reach the users and beneficiaries throughout the research process. Practical research stays somewhere between the academic world and the world of practice, studying phenomena arising from practice by using scientific methods. The choices of research methods made in the programme are used to build and support the working life-orientated development processes in a multi-method manner.
The research programme kicked off in January 2022 with all five Schools of Professional Teacher education by forming a research group and setting up long-term goals. It will further strengthen the already close collaboration between the higher education institutions for vocational teachers. Other stakeholders from different fields of working life , organisations and trade organisations have been involved in the preparation phase of the research programme. Later, all parties that share the objectives and themes of the research programme may participate in the research.