Doctoral dissertation

Dissertation: Collaboration between universities of applied sciences and working life develops participants’ professional competences

The collaboration between education and working life is currently closer and more diverse than ever before. The dissertation to be presented for public defence at Tampere University tested one work-based pedagogical model in a wide regional network. M.A. Eeva Kuoppala’s dissertation focuses on developing collaboration between a university of applied sciences and working life.

The qualitative data for the research was collected from the development and production process of a new cultural event that emerged from the strategic partnership of a university of applied sciences and a theatre. A network of regional organisations also participated in the process.

The study showed that the development and production process of a cultural event offered an interesting test bench for the work-based pedagogical model even though the object of collaboration and the division of labour were unclear to begin with. The most critical question concerns the ability of the work-based pedagogical model to promote the equal learning possibilities of students, teachers and working life partners.

Vocational higher education still bears the main responsibility for learning. Taking the leading role in regional working life networks requires new competences from teachers. Overcoming the dichotomy between theory and practice requires the ability to manage work-based pedagogical models.

“In these models, students, teachers and working life partners construct the object of activity through learning,” Kuoppala says.
Representatives from eleven public and private sector organisations in Mikkeli participated in the planning process of the event. The process functioned as a learning environment for the university of applied sciences students.

The learning process was constructed based on the work-based pedagogical model of the cultural production education. The model consisted of contact lessons, developmental assignments related to working life, and student guidance clinics whose purpose was to bring theoretical knowledge and practice closer together.

“My research indicated that the strategic partnership between the university of applied sciences and the theatre developed through four phases of the planning process. The phases could be characterised by critical events, the object of collaboration, and developmental contradictions,” Kuoppala explains.

The results also showed that a strategic partnership is an efficient tool for long-term development but that it might also compromise the other participants’ commitment to the collaboration.

The actors’ commitment is the essential element behind successful collaboration. The study showed that weak commitment prevented participants from throwing themselves into the process where the subject and object of collaboration would have transformed each other and created learning.

“The initial attitude where a participant said that he or she is here “only to observe” seemed to prevent the participants’ eventual commitment to the process,” Kuoppala notes.

Kuoppala underlines that in order to promote commitment the leaders of collaboration processes should have the competences to take into account every participants’ motives and orientation to collaboration.

The doctoral dissertation of  M.A. Eeva Kuoppala in the field of education The cultural event as a test bench of work-based pedagogy in vocational higher education - A study of strategic partnership, commitment, and expansive learning in a regional network will be publicly examined in the Faculty of Education and Culture at Tampere University on Saturday 11th May 2019 at 12 o'clock in Linna building auditorium K103, address: Kalevantie 5. The opponent is Professor May-Britt Postholm, Norwegian University of Science and Technology. The Custos will be Associate Professor Hanna Toiviainen.

The dissertation is available at http://urn.fi/URN:ISBN:978-952-03-1061-5

Photograph: Anna-Katri Hänninen