Savonlinna Vocational College - Finland GENERAL DESCRIPTION AND AIMS OF BEST PRACTICE

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1 Savonlinna Vocational College - Finland GENERAL DESCRIPTION AND AIMS OF BEST PRACTICE The Work Oriented School of East Finland 2000-project The model was created and implemented during three years through an ESFfinanced project coordinated by the Minna Canth Institute of Kuopio University. The actual implementation was carried out by 6 network schools each working for the benefit of a target group from their own institution. Savonlinnan ammattiopisto was one of these network schools. The work oriented school and its achievements are here mainly dealt with from the perspective and practices of Savonlinnan ammattiopisto, upper secondary vocational education and training. The objectives of the total project: - to prevent the exclusion of 96 young people from society - to improve cooperation skills in working life through mentor training - to develop the professional abilities of teachers to be able to deal with challenging youth - to create such sound practices, i.e. pedagogical innovations and practices within the education policy which will promote a culture of activities in vocational education that will prevent and alleviate the problem of exclusion of the youth The objectives of the network school: - vocational competence of the student - improvement of skills related to life management and social interaction, strengthening of social identity - taking responsibility for one s own learning - attachment to work and society Target groups In Savonlinnan ammattiopisto the work oriented school model was targeted to two vocational qualifications, the study programmes of vehicle mechanics and of metalwork and machinery.

2 The students for the Savonlinna work-oriented school have been selected from a group of drop-outs, together with the town employment office and the town social welfare office. Normally students are admitted via national application system. During the whole project 30 students have been registered in Savonlinna as attending the programme. The most seriously disturbed students have not been able to go on through the whole study programme. In spite of all the difficulties, 8 of the students have graduated so far (three years), others will be given the possibility to continue their studies also after the end of the project ( ). Every student case, also those who have dropped out, is documented carefully. Support network for the students The group has had its own half time counsellor all the time, three full time teachers and two special teachers, and at the same time all the normal means of counselling have been available. The counsellor and the teachers have been during the schooldays all the time at school for the students, and available by telephone also on weekends. The teachers have built special personal contacts to the students and their families or background from the very beginning to gain the students trust. In addition, the local network has been used for support at least weekly, with some students more often. PROMOTING OF LEARNER-CENTRED APPROACH Student centred approach The work oriented school approach is student centred, aiming at individuality and flexibility. An individually planned study schedule, a personal study programme, is the pedagogical tool and the basis for building up an individual path for the student. The teaching is individualised by special teaching arrangements and versatile learning environments. If necessary, even the goals and content of the study programme can be changed. Personal study programme A personal study programme is made for each student with aims and methods matching his/her level of capabilities. The goal of the personal study programme is a completed vocational qualification according to an individually planned time schedule. 60 % - 80 % of

3 the studying is done in work environment. Theory studies are integrated into professional studies, the level of each student s knowledge and skills is tested prior to starting actual studies. To gain best results for each student, more than one teacher is working at the same time in one class aiming at individual guidance and instruction when needed. Once the student s learning problems are identified, the study material is planned accordingly, using IT as much as possible. The principles in teaching theory/general subjects: - the teaching content is closely connected to the learner s own life circle, work practice place, hobbies etc. - concrete demonstration examples - days built on special themes - study trips - study assignments done at work place or at school - teaching of entities - use of everyday situation STRENGTHENING OF LEARNER'S LIFE MANAGEMET SKILLS AND MOTIVATION The teacher role as improving the students life management skills The teacher s / counsellor s role is not only vital in rebuilding the student s learner identity. They are also the persons to improve the students overall life management skills. They must be aware of and work according to the requirements set by the student s living environment, family background, social environment. The students studying within the work oriented school model often have low self-esteem, lack of self-confidence, they have learning problems and limited basic knowledge and skills. Their life management skills are low, they have problems with motivation and commitment to work or studies. Vocational studies as a part of the student s daily life In the work oriented school model the vocational studies are built in to be a part of the student s daily life. The study counselling staff together with a functioning multi-professional

4 network are the most essential actors in the process. This network has been built from the relevant local organisations and institutions including the town social welfare office, the local police, the town youth authority, the congregation, the town employment office, the local AAclub, the town student dormitory. (Savonlinna) Attachment to studies Student counselling Multi-professional network Life management support Learning by doing teachers student counsellor special teaching Attachment to work life head teacher student counsellor work life network studying professional skills 1st school year 2nd school year 3rd school year Table 1: Counselling and study processes in work oriented school and the staff involved in counselling SUPPORT IN IDENTIFYING OF POSSIBLE LEARNING DIFFICULTIES Making the study plan together with the support network The starting point for building up a personal study programme is knowing the student and his needs well. The person nearest to the student s everyday activities is the head teacher of the group who with the assistance of other teachers, student counsellor, school psychologist and the student s own support network can draw up the best study plan. Drawing up the study plan is a joint problem solving process for the teachers and the student, it is a secure base for individual guidance, teaching and evaluation. The personal study plan does not separate the student from others; it gives him the possibility to work in a group proceeding with his own pace. In the work oriented school model the individual study plan is updated at least twice during each school term. This is a way to guarantee the setting of new goals as soon as the studies proceed. All achievements in the student s development are documented. The aim of the

5 process is that during the studies the study plan will develop into an employment plan for the student. ENHANCEMENT OF LEARNER'S LABOUR MARKET INTEGRATION Work practice places The work oriented school project has helped the students find work practice places and also given them special assistance and guidance towards commitment to work. The places of employment have been carefully chosen from among the employers that are most able to provide best instruction for the student. The employers have been given sufficient information about the student before the student has arrived to his place of employment. The school has organized relevant education and meetings for these employers or the instructors at the working place. The student has been given the possibility to return to the school for one day in a week or more, if needed, and then start to work again. One of the teachers has visited every student s working place at least once a week. Finding suitable work placements for the students is based on the good and long-term relations between the teachers and the employers. The students have also been encouraged to seek for work practice placements independently and to look for employment, they have been taught the general requirements in today s work life. Some of the students have been able to find a placement through families or acquaintances. Some students had no family support to motivate them for regular work, in which cases the experience of getting a work placement may have been unique for the entire family. Guiding these challenging young people has increased the work life knowledge and experience of both the teachers and the counsellors. Cooperation with employers has emphasized the necessity for educational staff to keep up with development as to the skills and knowledge required by work life at the moment.

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