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Taina Juurakko-Paavola wins an award for developing the teaching of Swedish

Published on 10.4.2019
Tampere Universities
Kielikeskuksen johtaja Taina Juurakko-Paavola
Taina Juurakko-Paavola, Director of the Language Centre at Tampere University, has received an award in recognition of her contributions to the development of Swedish language teaching in upper secondary schools, higher education institutions and universities in Finland. The Christoffer Grönholm Award presented by Svenska folkskolans vänner (SFV) is worth €10,000.

Juurakko-Paavola received the award at SFV’s spring ceremony in Helsinki on Wednesday, 10 April.

The Christoffer Grönholm award was established in 2012 to recognise teachers who teach Swedish in Finnish educational institutions. Juurakko-Paavola won the award in recognition of her achievements in developing Swedish language teaching in Finnish upper secondary schools, higher education institutions and universities. 

Based on the award criteria, Juurakko-Paavola and her colleagues have developed alternative and up-to-date ways for learning and teaching Swedish. As member of the Finnish Matriculation Examination Board and Chair of its Swedish section, she has also worked in close collaboration with Swedish language teachers in areas relating to their professional development. She has served on numerous expert committees and conducted several research and development projects that have delivered significant practical benefits for teachers of Swedish. She has co-authored several articles analysing the overall results of matriculation examinations as well as delivered numerous presentations in scientific conferences, for example, about digital writing as a tool to inspire more boys to learn Swedish. She has also participated in writing textbooks.

Taina Juurakko-Paavola is the Director of the Language Centre at Tampere University. She headed the language services project during the Tampere3 process. Before joining Tampere University, she worked at Häme University of Applied Sciences for 20 years as principal lecturer, researcher and director of the Language Centre and as senior assistant at the University of Jyväskylä. Besides language learning, her special area of expertise is the assessment of language proficiency. Juurakko-Paavola served on the Finnish Matriculation Examination Board for 15 years and was most recently involved in the development of digital language tests.

“It feels incredible to receive such a prestigious recognition at a time when I am transitioning to a new stage of my career. I received the award for the work I have been doing for the past 15 years by taking part in around 15 nationwide development projects and serving on the Finnish Matriculation Examination Board,” Juurakko-Paavola explains.

Juurakko-Paavola’s research and development projects have explored, among other things, gender differences in foreign language learning and the digitalisation of learning and teaching. 

“Boys are more likely to outperform girls in English but in Swedish the situation is reversed. Only about one third of boys take the matriculation examination in the Swedish language in upper secondary school. It comes as a surprise to many of them that university students are expected to demonstrate a level of proficiency in Swedish that equals the grade 8 at upper secondary school. The decline in Swedish skills among young people is a major challenge for higher education institutions,” Juurakko-Paavola points out. 

“Digitalisation in all its forms is a great way to encourage and inspire young people to learn Swedish. For example, our teachers have experimented with cartoon software to help students practice their writing skills. The DIGIJOUJOU project funded by the Ministry of Education and Culture is currently carried out to develop not only multiform learning that takes place through multiple media but also the digital pedagogy skills of language teachers. The project brings together four universities and eight universities of applied sciences (UAS). I will be coordinating the UAS contribution to the project until the end of this year.”  

The scale of the new Tampere university community will enable the holistic and multidisciplinary development of all language courses across the different levels of higher education.  

“This is a wonderful opportunity to develop our new Language Centre together with our fantastic staff!   Our large university community will enable us to lengthen and diversify the language learning path of our students and hopefully allow us to continue expanding our range of language courses. Digital resources have an important role in providing our students with more flexibility. I am sure we will be able to identify more opportunities for language and content integrated learning. Language learning in Swedish is already being integrated, among others, into the physics curriculum. The only limit is out imagination!” says Juurakko-Paavola.

Photograph: SFV/Pia Pettersson