Service-Learning in Finland
Service-learning and other approaches that foster civic engagement in higher education are at their infancy in Finland. Service-learning as a pedagogical approach is scarcely adopted, and usually not even recognized especially within the university context. There are several initiatives and courses in different universities where students collaborate with different stakeholders including civil society partners, but the courses are framed as problem based learning or project courses instead of service-learning. The dimension of civic responsibility is usually not included. The Finnish polytechnic sector has played a pioneering role in integrating experiential learning and volunteering in their curricula, but service-learning as a pedagogical approach is rare also in that context.
Service-learning as a concept and a distinct pedagogical approach was introduced at the University of Helsinki during the Europe Engage Erasmus+ project (2014-2017), in which the Faculty of Theology participated. Service-learning was piloted by Henrietta Grönlund and Aura Nortomaa at the Faculty of Theology in 2017, and courses applying service-learning have been carried out also after that.
As a result of the Europe Engage -project and the seminars and network meetings organized for teachers and stakeholders during the project, there is an informal, Facebook-based network of people interested in service-learning (Service-learning Suomessa, meaning Service-Learning in Finland). The network is administered by Henrietta Grönlund (University of Helsinki) and Mai Salmenkangas (Metropolia University of Applied Sciences), who have both developed field based, civil society integrated teaching and projects. Grönlund, Salmenkangas, and Nortomaa have also occasionally organized meetings for people interested in service-learning in higher education.
Service-learning does not have support from the Public Administration, but is developed bottom-up by interested teachers.