Teacher education collaboration: Reflecting the journey as the final GINTL year begins

Teacher educators from the University of Oulu and the University of Namibia have collaborated on early childhood teacher education, environmental education, and school-based teaching practice as part of the Global Innovation Network for Teaching and Learning (GINTL) initiative funded by the Ministry of Education and Culture, Finland. 2024 is the final year of the project during which the activities include student and teacher exchanges, presentations of collective research and dissemination of findings in stakeholder meetings. Since the start of the project in 2021, developing a robust and equitable partnership has become both an important way of working together and a goal on its own. This blog post discusses what has made the partnership valuable and impactful. The blog post is written by Albina Marchenko who is currently a GINTL intern in the project and who interviewed some of the project participants from the two institutions about partnerships.

Collaborative projects need goals that are context-oriented and flexible

One of the primary goals of this partnership was to develop expertise in early childhood education. This thematic area had recently been included in the transformation of teacher education curriculum in the University of Namibia and hence, was considered important and timely.

However, based on the common topics between the two universities and the contextual needs, two focus areas were added. One of them was the teaching practicum which is called the School-Based Studies in the Namibian context:

“Because in our new curriculum students need to be mentored by school teachers in the third year and it's something that we have not done previously. So, we were saying that it's important if GINTL can support us to develop the mentoring program for us to guide and mentor these teachers so that they know what the expectations are from them, for our students.”

Namibian and Finnish participants agreed on two issues which have made this collaboration impactful and rewarding. Firstly, the activities have been oriented to meet the contextual needs of teacher education in both countries. Secondly, the project team has seen the need to be flexible rather than rigid in terms of implementation of activities. The plans have been adjusted as necessary to achieve the broader objectives of the project.

“But what allowed that to happen is because to some extent we had an open process, and we were open to new ideas. So, it means that a good collaboration, a good partnership, especially where research and capacity building is concerned, it must be open to some extent, so it allows for those emerging ideas and issues to be explored and to be addressed within the partnership “.

One of the on-going activities in Spring 2024, is the webinar series on Early Childhood Education which is implemented by the University of Namibia, but includes presenters from the University of Oulu and other institutions that belong to GINTL network.

The webinars are open for all. Visit the nearest webinar on the Play pedagogies on the 21st of February (14:30-16:30).

Developing genuine exchange is the foundation for collaboration

Participants highlighted that developing co-learning and genuine exchange is a vital component of a good partnership. This is especially important in the Global North-Global South partnerships which have been criticized for reproducing a giver/receiver dynamic. According to the participants of this project, it takes time to establish trust and develop a safe space where everyone feels welcome, valued, and can actively influence the collaboration. This aspect is hard to measure yet impossible to underestimate.

“Working together can open minds, make you have a different perspective on different things, make you understand things differently.” says Serena, the UNAM-GINTL intern.

Importantly, participants on both sides shared that the Oulu-Namibia partnership holds a special meaning to them: During this collaboration, the concept of co-designing, co-learning and co-developing has evolved as partners have learnt to take decisions together and learned from each other's educational contexts. In this way, GINTL collaboration has truly made a meaningful shift towards equitable partnership.

One of the most exciting activities in 2024 is a student visiting programme between the teacher education programmes in the two institutions. Preparing to guide students in this opportunity, a UNAM teacher educator and a scholar, Jacolynn, shares her inspiration:

“Giving somebody that experience, changing their perspective, empowering them in that manner, it goes far beyond the tangible deliverables of any project. I think that experience is invaluable”.

Resources, institutional support and developed capacity make a lasting partnership possible

Finally, participants agreed that relations that we build together are precious and should be further nurtured, because three years is hardly enough to connect the academic institutions deeply.

A good partnership does not only achieve tangible outcomes, but it is also an incredible experience to connect with colleagues from all over the world. Participants value the opportunities to expand their professional networks in research and beyond and establish lifelong connections through the GINTL initiative.

How to sustain the collaboration beyond 2024, is a question that must be considered at an institutional level. Dr. Sirkka, a senior lecturer at UNAM, shared her vision on how to make lasting partnerships possible.

“We have been very cognizant of each other's context as partners and collaborators. But one must be prepared that after the partnership have come to an end, you have the capacity or the resources to at least continue some of the work, otherwise it becomes just something that lasts for three years. But one can never say capacity have come to an end. We use those to be able to shape the partnership and the learnings on the partnership”

The institutional structures and systems should warmly welcome the idea of internationalization and encourage this type of collaborations. If academics have continuous funding for collaboration, they can continue activities and projects also in the future.

To read more about the project, visit our project site.

You can ask more about the project from Marika Matengu.

Last updated: 19.2.2024