Finland’s first professor of continuous learning Anu Kajamaa: “Development of work practices must take place in a multivoiced manner with those on different ladders of the hierarchy.”
The demands of working life are changing at an increasingly rapid pace through, for example, technological transformations and globalisation, and continuous learning is required to update education and competence at different stages of careers and working communities. New educational models that utilise modern technology are also needed. Universities in Finland are focusing on reinforcing their offering and expertise in continuous learning and, last year, the University of Oulu opened a range of services for continuous learning, including the online platform JOY for continuous learning (in Finnish).
The objective of Finland’s first professorship in continuous learning, which has now been established in the Faculty of Education at the University of Oulu, is to generate new research knowledge on new models of education, competence development and continuous learning as part of the daily work of organisations. In addition, the new professor in continuous learning Anu Kajamaa’s multidisciplinary work in collaboration with Oulu Business School and several Finnish and international universities enriches research in education.
The professorship in the Learning and Learning Processes Research Unit contributes to the research concerning innovative learning environments and learning and education in working life, in particular. “In addition to national impact, this new professorship strengthens the competence development and competitiveness of Northern Finland by producing education and training based on the latest scientific research. It also creates novel opportunities for establishing dialogue and long-term partnerships between organisations and academics,” says the head of the Learning and Educational Technology Research Unit, Professor Sanna Järvelä from the University of Oulu.
Professor Kajamaa: “An important task of a researcher is to ask organisational members questions which stimulate their innovation creation in different fields.”
According to Kajamaa, the actors in continuous learning are society, organisations and individuals, which are in a complex relationship. “Courses and learning environments outside of organisations are an important part of competence development of the individual actors. Continuous learning, however, should not be viewed as a separate part of work activity but as an essential part of work itself.”
“The idea for a development project may come from an organisation’s management, but new insights and innovations need to be created in the authentic working life context, by making multiple actors and perspectives heard and seen,” explains Professor Kajamaa.
With a background in adult education, Doctor of Philosophy Anu Kajamaa’s research topics include collective and continuous learning, collaboration and organisational change. She holds the title of docent (adjunct professor) from the Faculty of Educational Sciences, University of Helsinki. Her latest studies have been carried out in schools, early childhood education, social welfare and healthcare services and business incubators using participatory methods. She is a member in several international research projects and is the principal investigator in an EU Marie Skłodowska-Curie-funded research project that studies collaborative working between correctional and mental health services. Kajamaa is also a visiting professor at Aalto University and an Honorary Professor at the University of Exeter (UK).
The University of Oulu’s continuous learning services build collaboration with companies, organisations and the third sector. The objective is to prepare for the future transformations of working life, and to respond to Finland’s national continuous learning reform. In this reform, higher education institutions are encouraged to form a platform for continuous learning. The vision is based, among other things, on the recommendations of the Ministry of Education and Culture and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), read more about the reform.
Image Maarit Holteri