University of Jyväskylä

Dissertation: 10.11.2017 Learning, teaching and integration of adult migrants in Finland (Kärkkäinen)

Start date: Nov 10, 2017 12:00 PM

End date: Nov 10, 2017 03:00 PM

Location: Seminaarinmäki, Liikunta building. L303

Katarzyna Kärkkäinen Picture: Magdalena Weckström
Katarzyna Kärkkäinen defends her doctoral dissertation in Education Learning, teaching and integration of adult migrants in Finland. Opponent Adjunct Professor KT Marianne Teräs (University of Stockholm) and custos Professor Jussi Välimaa (University of Jyväskylä). 


Learning a new vocation or re-learning one that was previously mastered is considered one of the essential pathways for migrant integration into the Finnish labour market. Thus, vocational educators should have competencies that support teaching adults with diverse educational, vocational, cultural, and linguistic backgrounds, and enhance their participation in the learning community. This research examines learning, teaching, and integration of adult migrants in Finland. The study analyses what educators and adult migrant students focus on when talking about learning and teaching. First, the aim was to gain an understanding of the core aspects that trainers and migrant students refer to when talking about learning and teaching, and second, the research examined how these core aspects were related to learning in a new context and teaching adult migrant students. In addition, the study aimed to deepen the understanding of relationships between learning, teaching, and integration. The data was gathered at one of the adult institutes in Finland (aikuisopisto) providing vocational education to adults, located outside of the capital region of Finland. The study is based on individual, semi-structured interviews with 11 adult migrant students, 12 trainers, and the institute Rector. In addition, the data set includes a focus group interview with 6 migrant students participating in the same vocational training. Theory-guided qualitative content analysis was used as the method of analysis. A deepened understanding of the data-driven study results was gained through the lenses of existing theoretical perspectives on language and culture, teaching in diverse settings as well as on integration and learning. The main result of the study is that both trainers and migrant students themselves associate difficulties in learning, teaching, and integration with the existence of cultural differences and poor Finnish language skills. However, study informants also reflect on personal differences and life situations as an important aspect in learning, teaching, and integration of adult migrants. Learning in a new context and teaching migrant students stirs contradictory feelings and are recognised as difficult activities accompanied by feelings of uncertainty and unpredictability, but also the joy of learning something new too. The interviewed trainers and migrants point out the existence of negative beliefs and misconceptions about migrants, their backgrounds, and competencies as the main barriers to making the most out of some modes of working (like group work or workplace learning) and the possibility of supporting migrants integration through participation in formal education. The results of the study indicate a need for all parties to work towards collective participation in the learning process and a need to look at differences as offering a positive contribution. Successfully approaching migrant students requires taking into account the particularities of adult migrant as learners while being able to concentrate on existing similarities. The study proposes seeing integration as a collaborative lifelong learning process, which requires involvement and effort by both migrants and Finns.

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Katarzyna Kärkkäinen
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