In 2016 the the Ministry of Education announced plans to spend 50 million euros on a network of digital tutors in primary schools to help teachers adopt digital tools and methods in their work.
Saarinen says that this huge investment does not appear to have paid off. She said,
The more that digital tools were used in lessons, the worse learning outcomes were. This was found in all areas of the Pisa measurements.
Saarinen says that the problem appears to be the distractive element of using a device because students veer off piste and start using them for things other than schoolwork. This isn’t a particularly new finding or anything surprising – technology is a powerful tool but it is also hugely distracting.
Phenomenon-based learning looks like it is also serving some students better than others. This type of learning is one that involves a very high level of personal responsibility, something many children struggle with particularly males.
Saarinen says this works best for those children who do well in school and get god home support too. It requires plenty of self-discipline and initiative. Being independent, flexible and focused ins’t something many children are good at.
Proponents of this method have claimed it would even-out the differences between students with various [academic] backgrounds. But in light of the research it looks like exactly the opposite has happened,
Saarinen said the more risk factors students have, the worse they do in phenomenon-based classrooms. One risk factor, according to the researcher, is being male.
She found that phenomenon-based teaching wasn’t a good fit for mathematics and science.
So, it appears that Finland’s popular, older curriculum gave better results but does that mean we ditch the digital and forget about phenomenon-based learning? Only for some pupils it seems. What will the canny Finns do now?