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style in sustainable education
1. Interpersonal competence
sustainability experts are change agents,
working in interdisciplinary teams, influencing
attitudes and knowledge: communication is
Laurea’s pedagogical approach emphasizes
working life skills. The ability to communicate,
act and influence in a working life environment
Developing interpersonal competence
Interpersonal competence arises from learning
It requires facilitation, guidance, and cocreation. The role of the teacher is critical in
creating a communication environment that
fosters the development of communicative
For some educators, there is a substantial shift
The traditional discourse of teaching
emphasizes proficiency, expertise, and
communication power. Knowledge, logic and
argumentation are the building blocks of this
However, it falls short from the point of view
of interpersonal competence development.
In the new culture of learning the educational
discourse of expertise transforms into a
discourse of tutoring and joint learning.
What initially interested us is the paradox of ”good
If the teacher’s job is to ensure students’
professional growth as interactive communicators,
is this goal best acheived through
The traditional discourse of an expert teacher,
powerful lecturer, and skilled speaker
Or the new discourse of the teacher-coach, who
stands back when needed, letting students fill the
In short, what is the example we show our
students in terms of communication style?
We have analyzed actual student feedback
data from a Finnish university of applied
sciences. Using qualitative coding, we looked
for themes relating to teacher communicative
styles; themes pertaining to the teacher’s
attitudes of lecture vs. interaction
The results revealed something we didn’t
anticipate, but which makes perfect sense
nonetheless: the discourse of lecture vs.
interaction is more complex.
There are two groups of student discourse
relating to interaction vs. fact-based lecturing
Early phases of learning
Students in the early phases of their studies
tend to emphasize ”correct data”, ”straight
facts”, and the grades they receive. This seems
to border the discussion on external motivators
in learning. Students have still to see the
purpose of their studies.
The ”good teacher” in this discourse is a person
who is clear in assignments, delivers facts
straight and ”true”, and leaves preferably no
space for interpretation.
Later phases of learning
Students with a longer history in studying start
to emphasize different issues in their discourse.
This is where the talk of interaction,
participation and co-creation starts to arise.
Students seem to approach the intrinsic
motivators in learning, where learning itself
becomes important, not the attached grades.
In this discourse, the ”good teacher” is one
asking questions and encouraging discussions.
A path of professional growth
The path of professional growth towards
interpersonal competence starts from fact-based
learning and progresses towards interaction
The role of the teacher is complex; it is not only
about supporting communicative skills and coaching
interaction, it is also a question of guiding the
student through the process of socialization
It seems the teacher needs to ”grow” on a path
parallel to the student’s path.
Interpersonal competence needs to be coaxed
carefully, building on small steps first and then
speeding up later.
Students’ professional growth consists of several
Students need to become socialized in the
university, learning how to act
They need to learn to manage their time and the
demands of school
They need to build their own expertise
They need to learn how to interact and present their
skills, capabilities and knowledge
While these can happen in parallel, there is also a
sequence involved. The teacher needs to adapt
into the needs of the student in the student’s
present stage in the growth process