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Interview with UIL research scholar Annica Isacsson from Finland

4 March 2020

Annica Isacsson, Research Manager/ Head of Research, Development and Innovation at the Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences/School of Vocational Teacher Education, Helsinki, Finland, stayed as a research scholar at the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning (UIL) in January and February 2020. In an interview, she explains more about her research and how she benefitted from her stay at UIL.

You are conducting a study on lifelong learning within the framework of organizational research with a systems theory approach. What is the main result of your work at the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning?

I am leading a research project funded by the Finnish Work Environment Fund. The study involves five organization from the social health care and IT sectors in Finland. The aim of the study is to find out which values are meaningful and of importance to young employees at work. The data and preliminary results reveal that, for young employees, values such as inclusivity, equity, learning and sustainability at work are far more significant than for older generations.

During my stay at UIL, I have written a blog on young employees’ values from a lifelong learning perspective. Two conference abstracts on the topic have been submitted and an article was published on Haaga-Helia eSignals’ blogsite on ‘The art of giving feedback’.

While here, I have also conducted research on transversal skills, emotional intelligence and competences in universities of applied sciences. The lifelong learning perspective has influenced my thinking and writing in two articles submitted to peer-reviewed journals. The main results reported in the articles were that neither students nor teachers always have the necessary tools or methods for solving emotionally disruptive situations or dealing with student emotions, or in making students feel safe, trusted, respected and engaged in their learning and assessment. A more systematic approach to dealing with transversal skills, including emotional competences, is called for.

How will you use the research results acquired at the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning after returning to Finland?

Annica Isaacsson

At Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences/School of Vocational Teacher Education, I work with project proposals, funding, research and development projects, in addition to pedagogical innovations and publications. Through my stay at UIL, I have become engaged, interested and committed to the concept of learning cities and Sustainable Development Goals 4 and 11. At Haaga-Helia, we are fully aware of the 2030 Agenda, but need to integrate lifelong learning and the SDGs more systematically in our research and project proposals. In fact, we recently received funding for an Interreg/Central Baltic project related to designing a pedagogically interesting open online module on sustainable finance for vocational education. We will most certainly adopt the learning objectives for achieving the SDGs framework suggested by UNESCO in Education for Sustainable Development Goals (2017) in the project.

Moreover, we are currently reviewing our impact practices and evaluation processes in relation to research and development at Haaga-Helia. One perspective is to measure impact from the point of view of lifelong learning and the SDG goals.

In how far did you benefit from staying at the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning?

I had the opportunity to engage in the learning city concept and studied progress reports submitted by 150 cities. I familiarized myself with the many reports and reported on some observation in relation to TVET. I collaborated with the city of Espoo. In fact, a blog was written jointly with Annika Forstén at Espoo on their many fine learning city achievement and activities, and published on UIL’s Only Connect blog site.

I also contacted a number of Finnish (and Swedish) cities (mayors) and universities, with the aim of engaging them in the global learning city network. Many cities showed interest. The cities of Vaasa and Mariehamn were the most responsive. I have become intrigued by the topic and would like to conduct research on learning cities and smart cities in the future.

Furthermore, I have been in touch with UNEVOC and learned more about TVET, vocational skills and competencies, in addition to entrepreneurial learning. I familiarized myself with their practices and submitted a ‘promising practice’ from Finland to UNEVOC for possible inclusion on their website.

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