What’s in that water in Finland? First they abolish standardized, summative, high stakes testing —and come out in the top 5 in all numeracy and literacy categories on the PISA OECD tests.
Now, they are getting rid of subjects in schools: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/finland-schools-subjects-are-out-and-topics-are-in-as-country-reforms-its-education-system-10123911.html
The subjects we now use to organize the disciplines, fields, professional schools, methods, tools, and all the other silos of higher education were almost all designed in the same period, 1865-1925, where the American research university was developed from the Puritan college. Now, most of the interesting scholarship occurs across and between disciplines, either by one person mastering the knowledge-assumptions and methods and contents of multiple fields or by collaborations across fields.
The redundant administrative structures we build in our university are often ways of making spans across areas where some members of each department talk to some members of other departments in a coherent, consistent, and productive way. I think that is a good thing.
But there is a problem when graduate student training happens according to the content, rules, methods, tools, practices and prejudices of one of those departments, even when ideas, rules, methods, tools, practices, and prejudices flow–in their intellectual centers and motivations–across multiple realms.
Finland is our role model here for K-12. We’re hoping the Futures Initiative is a different kind of role model for a new way of graduate training, within and across, around and about the silos.
Let’s think about what it would mean if we were designing higher ed from scratch and didn’t need such workarounds!
Here's a summary of our Futures Initiative student-centered "Finnish" lab model:
Click image to enlarge
President Emeritus Bill Kelly and I teach a graduate course to twelve students who are teaching courses in a range of fields. "Teach" is actually a strange word here since it is a student-centered class where the students created the syllabus and formed their own groups. We provide the conditions for co-learning. That is what makes us Finnish in our approach!
The graduate students are teaching the introductory courses in the fields in which they are doing doctoral work—so it is good for their own research. (Nothing helps you understand the deep structure of your own profession and your own thinking better than explaining it to undergraduates.)
The interdisciplinary part comes in the pedagogy—nine fields, across such radically diverse institutions.
Whether these graduate students end up teaching at the finest research universities or the finest community colleges in the next part of their careers, they will know more about institutions, equity, access, innovation, pedagogy, and, indeed, about one another’s fields than most of us learn in a lifetime. I predict several will go on to be leaders.
And next year we will field five courses on this model: five team-teach graduate courses, each with up to 15 students who are teaching undergraduates in the CUNY campuses.
Deputy Director Katina Rogers built our C-Box tool so that the students in the undergraduate classes can communicate with one another and with students in other classes---and the graduate students communicate with one another constantly. One may be teaching data mining and one may be teaching narrative and another audiology but they face similar challenges and use this tool to discuss them together.