Innovation Centre ceases to operate – Finnish National Agency for Education continues to support experimental development

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The Innovation Centre, which served as the education sector’s experimentation and innovation unit, operated under the auspices of the Finnish National Agency for Education from 2017 to 2020. While the Innovation Centre has ceased to operate in its current form, the Finnish National Agency for Education continues to propagate competence related to experimentation with the support of its Innovation and Development function.
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Over its four years of operation, the most important task of the Innovation Centre was to support the development of ECEC and education providers’ operating culture and the creation of innovations. Its aim was to cultivate an operating culture of experimentation.

"We noticed early on that strengthening empathic interaction in the education system is a precondition for changing the operating culture. We wanted to test and develop operating models that would enable people with different backgrounds to come together, explore and engage with phenomena of learning and education, understand each other's perspectives, and thus promote learning and well-being in schools", counsellor of education Anneli Rautiainen and her team say as they reflect on the Centre’s basic task.

Experimental development and experimentation competence will obviously also be needed in the future to solve the challenges of Finnish education, as the Finnish Education Evaluation Centre (FINEEC) notes in its evaluation that covered the Innovation Centre’s operating period.

The evaluation found that the Innovation Centre boosted innovations in the field of education and local authorities’ activities and enabled new cooperation between administrative branches while also renewing operating methods within the Finnish National Agency for Education. This can be seen as having knock-on effects on development in the entire field of education and, more extensively, in society.

FINEEC's evaluation notes that "the experiments also produced a number of useful operating models and practices that could be shared with a wider public. This would enable the Innovation Centre’s work to have a broader societal impact."

The Future

It is still too early to extensively assess the impacts of the experimental activities, which is also identified as a challenge in FINEEC's evaluation report. It will be essential to continue supporting and monitoring the use of the Centre’s innovations while ensuring that they will remain a permanent part of the school culture and that the produced models will be made more widely available.

The Finnish National Agency for Education responds to FINEEC’s recommendations by integrating the Innovation Centre’s work into its general management through the Innovation and Development unit. Anneli Rautiainen, Paula Tyrväinen and Kaspian Herrala will continue the work in this new team.

The team’s task will be mainstreaming an operating culture of experimentation and building up the staff's competence related to experimentation. The lessons learned from experimental development will be used to develop education and internationalisation across a broad front. In the future, stronger links will be forged with futures work and anticipation in these activities.

Explore the outcomes of the Innovation Centre’s shared learning in 2017–2020

The Innovation Centre, which operated for four years in connection with the Finnish National Agency for Education, was run by a team of five people: Anneli Rautiainen, Paula Tyrväinen, Ulla Teräs, Valpuri Kurppa and Anna Häggman.

Platforms for learning and cooperation have been provided by the Experimentation programmes, the #Paraskoulu accelerator programme, and the multi-perspective evaluation model for experiments, which was developed together with the experimentation teams, Technical Research Centre of Finland (VTT) and the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health. The Experimentation programmes, whose duration varied from six months to a year, served as supported pathways of change for multi-professional teams. The programmes consisted of days on which the teams came together to work on local challenges, as well as practicing experimental development in the teams’ own operating environments, documentation of and reflection on the experiments, mentoring of the teams and peer learning, and evaluation of the experiments towards the end of the programmes.

With the support of the evaluation model, the inclusion and learning of the experimentation teams, participants in experiments and facilitators of experimentation were strengthened in the processes, and the lessons learned were implemented in the everyday life of schools. The models were developed and applied together with 25 multi-professional experimentation teams and development networks from different parts of Finland. The participants in the experiments were teachers, school staff, principals, education service representatives, policy-makers, researchers, NGOs, children, young people and families.

“Along the way, we encountered numerous glimpses into meaningful encounters, excitement, and the strengthening of the voices of children and young people in education development.“, says senior innovation adviser Paula Tyrväinen.

To support the people organising experiments, a model programme for the implementation and co-design of experiments was produced and the first five steps on the development path to get experiment organisers started were outlined. Read more about these materials on the Innovation Centre’s website.