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Comparing Finnish and Swedish educational culture and the impact on national mentoring approaches
University of Gävle, Faculty of Education and Business Studies, Department of Culture Studies, Religious Studies and Educational Sciences. (Forskargruppen Induction)ORCID iD: 0000-0002-5592-2964
2014 (English)Conference paper, Abstract (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Introduction

The purpose of this analytical paper is to examine how culturally embedded norms, values, relations and prerequisites operate in the development of a mentoring system. This is done by contrasting the case of Sweden with that of Finland. Although these neighbouring Nordic countries have a lot in common, their educational systems have taken different directions, especially with regard to the mentoring of new teachers (Aspfors, Fransson & Heikkinen, 2012). As is proposed and argued in this paper, these different approaches to mentoring are largely culturally embedded and the results of specific social, cultural, educational, philosophical and political conditions. I will analyse these culturally embedded preconditions for mentoring at an overall macro-level.

In Finland, the mentoring of (new) teachers came into focus in 2010 with the launching of the national programme Osaava Werme, funded by the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture. Mentoring is organised as peer-group mentoring with groups of 4-10 early career teachers, from different schools and with different subject skills, in their first to fifth year. In one year they participate in six to eight seminars which are facilitated by an experienced and specially trained teacher. This programme, which is voluntary, has evolved out of research and a series of pilot projects and action research programmes (e.g. Heikkinen, Jokinen & Tynjälä, 2012).

In Sweden, the mentoring of new teachers came about as a result of the Swedish Parliament’s decision in 2011 to implement a teacher registration reform and a mandatory probation year for new teachers. The reform requires new teachers to have a mentor, and to be evaluated by principals as to whether he/she is competent enough to be registered. One-to-one mentoring is emphasised in the policy documents and the reform is regarded as a top-down reform (Swedish National Agency for Education, 2011).

 

Theoretical framework - the dynamic of culture

The analysis of cultural aspects and the theoretical framework both focus on culture and cultural dynamics. According to McDaniel, Samovar and Porter (2012), definitions of culture often focus on “shared values, attitudes, beliefs, behaviours, norms, material objects, and symbolic resources” (p. 10-11). However, the aspects that construe what we call culture are not fixed and stable (Hall, 2007). On the contrary, they are construed and negotiated in human interactions and are thus always included in processes of transformation and change.   

By means of the Cultural Mentoring Framework, Kochan and Pascarelli (2012) offer an analytical framework for analysing these aspects of mentoring in terms of three cultural constructs: traditional, transitional and transformative. The rationale of the traditional construct is to transmit the existing culture to newcomers, thus recognising the norms, values, beliefs, behaviour and so on as timeless and general. The rationale of the transitional construct is change and adaptation to changing preconditions. Changing the preconditions, such as changing teachers’ tasks or emphasising certain organizational aspects or perspectives of teaching and learning, may lead to mentors facilitating the transformation process of these ‘messages’. The rationale of the transformative construct is, according to Kochan and Pascarelli, to move beyond the transitional construct by questioning norms, values, beliefs and behaviour more, and in that way, contribute to cultural change. In a transformative construct, mentoring may take the shape of networking and learning communities with evolving and transforming roles that challenge and change the concepts of mentoring. This framework offers insights into the different aspects of (possible) cultures and the dynamic of cultures, i.e. the mechanisms for how culture changes, evolves and may be challenged. Thus, the changing preconditions for educational systems and new aspects and ideas all become intertwined with the cultural conditions, and result in culturally-bound outcomes.

 

Methods and sources of data

The analysis data consists of oral and written information and a qualitative meta-analysis (Denzin & Lincoln, 2005) of policy documents from Sweden and Finland and of presented or published research (n=29) concerning Finnish and Swedish culture and the educational systems in Finland and Sweden, especially research into mentoring or induction systems.  The meta-analysis implies an aggregative approach of studies on micro- and meso-level to macro-level (cultural level), and in the analysis the (possible) interplay between micro- meso- and macro-level has been critically analysed. Thus the analyses have been performed in a deductive way. The analyses of the cases of Finland and Sweden are to be regarded as a qualitative cross-case comparison (Miles, Huberman & Saldaña, 2014) where especially the similarities, differences and patterns in the results are highlighted.

The findings and conclusions presented in this paper have emerged gradually and, since 2005, have developed in conjunction with a series of network projects and collaborative research projects run by researchers from Sweden, Finland and other Nordic and Baltic countries. The mentoring systems in these countries have also been analysed and discussed at a number of national and international conferences and symposia organised by the networks or in connection with other established annual conferences (e.g. Author, XXX & YYY, 2011: Jokinen et al, 2010) in which I have participated.  These kinds of experience have its pros and cons, and Pickering (2008) emphasise the centrality of experience in cultural studies, but warns also for the risk of ‘self-interpreting’. However, in this study the solid base of written information and research are the key-source for the analysis that was performed in 2013.

 

Results

 

The culture of education that determines the mentoring approaches is highly influenced by a country’s history, especially in the Finnish case with its history of wars and Cold War living under threat, making the issue of building a nation and a national identity very important. Thus, Finnish educational researchers having the culturally embedded position, trust and task to realise research-based pilot projects (Sahlberg, 2011); the outcomes of which outcomes are able to influence national policy and become more widespread. This culturally embedded trust in educational researchers and Finnish teachers influences the development of peer-group mentoring. However, these highly regarded teachers have great autonomy, and claims have been raised that this not optimises the opportunities to cooperate and learn from each other (Jokinen & Välijärvi, 2006) which makes the idea of peer-group mentoring and collaborative learning more interesting – and perhaps also necessary – ­than one-to-one-mentoring. This innovative aspect of peer-group mentoring has been developed through pilot projects.

Compared to Finland, Swedish teachers do not have the same degree of social standing. While Finnish teachers are highly respected, Swedish teachers and the Swedish educational system, teacher and educational researchers have been under systematic attack over the last two decades, mainly from neo-liberal positions. This ideological shift, its bureaucratic consequences and its steering model, named as new public management (NPM), has been implemented in Sweden to a very high degree an increased focus on control, inspection, regimes of accountability and the evaluation of teachers, (Dyrdal Solbrekke & Englund, 2011; Lundahl et al., 2010) which has meant that the top-down state initiative and implementation of a mandatory one-to-one mentoring system with elements of teacher assessment has been a logical step.

Thus, Finnish teachers seem to be living in a culture of trust, while Swedish teachers have to face an ideology and culture of distrust.

 

 

 

 

References:

Author, [details removed for peer review] (2011). [details removed for peer review]  Paper presented in the, at the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER) in **** ** September **.

Aspfors, J., Fransson, G. & Heikkinen, H.L.T. (2012). Mentoring as dialogue, collaboration and/or assessment? In P. Tynjälä, M.-L. Stenström & M. Saarnivaara (Eds.) Transitions and Transformations in Learning and Education. (pp. 271–290). Berlin: Springer.

Denzin, N.K. & Lincoln, Y.S. (eds.) (2005). The Sage handbook of qualitative research. (3. ed.) Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage.

Dyrdal Solbrekke, T. & Englund, T. (2011). Bringing professional responsibility back in. Studies in Higher Education 36(7), 847–861.

Hall, S. (Ed.) (1997). Representation: cultural representations and signifying practices. London: Sage.

Heikkinen, H. L. T., Jokinen, H. & Tynjälä, P. (Eds.) (2012). Peer-Group Mentoring for Teachers Professional Development, London/New York: Taylor and Francis.

Jokinen, H., [details removed for peer review] (201*). [details removed for peer review]   Paper presented at the European Conference of Educational Research (ECER) in [details removed for peer review], **-** August 201*.

Jokinen, H. & Välijärvi, J. (2006). Making Mentoring a Tool for Supporting Teachers’ Professional Development. In: R. Jakku-Sihvonen & H. Niemi (Eds.) (2006): Research-based Teacher Education in Finland. Reflections by Finnish Teacher Educators. Research in Educational Sciences 25. Turku: Finnish Educational. Research Association.

Kochan, F. & Pascarelli, J.T. (2012). Culture and Mentoring in the Global Age. In Fletcher, S. and Mullen, C.A. Handbook of Mentoring and Coaching in Education (pp.184-198), Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Press.

Lundahl, L., Erixon Arreman, I., Lundström, U. & Rönnberg, L. (2010). Setting Things Right? Swedish Upper Secondary School Reform in a 40-Year Perspective, European Journal of Education 45(1), 46–59.

McDaniel, E. R., Samovar, L. A. & Porter, R. E. (2012). Using Intercultural Communication: The Building Block, In: L. A. Samovar, R. E. Porter & E. R. McDaniel (Eds.) (2012). Intercultural Communication. A Reader, (13th edition), (pp. 4–18), Boston, Mass.: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

Miles, M., Huberman, M. & Saldaña, J. (2014) Qualitative data analysis: a methods sourcebook, 3. ed., Sage Publication.

Pickerig, M (2008). Experience and the Social World. In M. Pickering (Ed.). Research Methods for Cultural Studies, (p. 17-31). Edinburgh: Edinburgh University.

Sahlberg, P. (2011). Finnish lessons: what can the world learn from educational change in Finland? Teachers College Press: New York.

 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2014.
Keyword [en]
Culture, mentoring, policy, professional development.
National Category
Educational Sciences Pedagogy Didactics
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:hig:diva-16517OAI: oai:DiVA.org:hig-16517DiVA: diva2:710688
Conference
Paper presented at The European Conference on Educational Research (ECER), 2-5 september 2014, Porto, Portugal.
Funder
AFA Insurance, 120292
Available from: 2014-04-08 Created: 2014-04-08 Last updated: 2016-08-16Bibliographically approved

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