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NTNU Team Explores Innovative Teaching Methods During Uppsala Visit

A delegation from NTNU recently returned from a two-week visit to Almunge Skola in Uppsala, Sweden, to observe and learn from their educational practices. Funded by a grant from the Ministry of Education, this visit was part of the Interdisciplinary and Integration: Swedish Education Observation Program. The program, led by Assistant Professor Hsin-Heng Chen and Assistant Professor Dr. Emily Yip from the School of Teacher Education, focused on international pedagogical exchange.

From May 11 to May 26, 2024, six NTNU educators and students participated in the visit to Almunge Skola. The team included Ming-Hsien Lin from the Graduate Institute of Science Education; Ting-Yun Chen and Sheng-Mao Cheng from the Department of English; Pin-Chieh Yang and Hsi-Ling Tsao from the Department of Child and Family Science; and Yi-Hsuan Shih from the Department of Music. The program aimed to integrate Swedish educational methodologies with NTNU's teaching practices, providing a rich, immersive experience for all participants.

During the visit, the NTNU delegation observed subject-specific courses, engaged in cross-curricular activities, and participated in after-school tutoring sessions. Facilitated by Uppsala University International Coordinator Katarina Gahne, the visit also included a meeting with Carl Lindberg, First Vice President of the Uppsala City Council, who provided insights into Sweden's student-centered educational framework.

The NTNU team experienced the emphasis on student-centered teaching in Swedish education, which builds on a foundation of understanding and respect for the student. This approach aims to develop real-world skills through differentiated teaching strategies that ensure learning activities are meaningful and tailored to each child's needs.

The NTNU team also observed how Swedish teachers handle potentially controversial situations, such as inappropriate racial or gender-related remarks among students. Teachers guided discussions on the origins and consequences of such incidents, emphasizing respectful interaction. This approach addressed immediate issues and encouraged students to reflect on their behavior and understand broader social implications.

Swedish pedagogy's use of real-life questions to stimulate learning, guided discussions to provoke critical thinking, and practical tasks to deepen understanding were noted as effective strategies. The NTNU team observed that although Swedish students are given a high degree of autonomy, teachers promote cooperative learning and self-assessment through careful consideration to heterogeneous grouping, varied task difficulty levels, and adaptive learning choices.

With support from their supervising professors, the NTNU's teacher candidates attempted to incorporate these concepts into their curriculum design. Each evening they practiced, reviewed, and refined their lesson plans when they returned to their hotels. Their Swedish counterparts were impressed by the efficiency with which the NTNU teacher candidates were able to adapt lesson plans based on the learning characteristics of Swedish students.

For the exchange, participating NTNU teacher candidates prepared lessons on themes such as 'Fortune Sticks and Moon Blocks Divination,' 'Dragon Boat Festival Sachets,' 'Taiwanese Specialty Dishes,' 'Sky Lantern Blessings,' 'Pineapple Cakes,' 'Oolong Tea,' and 'Taiwanese Outdoor Activities,' which captivated the Swedish teachers and students.

Reflecting on their visit, NTNU participants said they were most impressed by the harmonious teacher-student interactions in Sweden. Despite the close relationships, clear boundaries were maintained, prioritizing students' needs while fostering open communication and mutual respect.

Swedish teachers, like Nadia Wågnert, emphasized the distinction between disliking a student's behavior and the student as a person, ensuring that students felt valued and understood. Wågnert's approach resonated with Ellen Key's educational philosophy of being “determined to create a beautiful world externally and internally in which the child can grow.”

Inspired by this intercultural experience, NTNU educators and teacher candidates plan to adapt and integrate some of the innovative teaching methods into their future practices.