Riikka Pyysalo is a Finnish PhD student in Education at the University of Cambridge, England. Her background is in educational studies, sociology and learning psychology and she completed her earlier studies at the University of Helsinki and the Ludwig-Maximilians-University of Munich. While she has mainly pursued the research path she has always been interested in the practice of teaching, learning and schooling. She taught Finnish to migrant children in Germany and worked as a substitute teacher in Finland. She has also worked with distance teachers learning to use educational technology. In educational research, a great deal of work is being conducted in the field of learning. However, the students’ voices have often remained unheard. It is these voices that are the focus of her research work. It was through a combination of contacts and findings in her earlier work and lucky coincidences that she came to know Rebecca Plaskitt, a teacher in the Lower School of the American Community School in Cobham over a year ago. She became very interested in the innovative Storyline work being practised there and had the opportunity to visit her classroom last Spring. The idea of collaboration started emerging and now Riikka is actually collecting data for her PhD in Rebecca’s classroom.
Riikka Pyysalo is a Finnish PhD student in Education at the University of Cambridge
Many researchers claim that much learning that takes place in school is alienative. My interest is in students’ agency and personal engagement in their own learning and their experiences of learning in school. Storyline provides one interesting context for such work as its explicit aim is to enable student ownership of their learning. Instead of the previous conceptions of learner motivation as some internal and relatively stable ‘state’ or ‘disposition’ of a learner, current theoretical models of learner engagement emphasise the learning environment and the opportunities for personal engagement and risk-taking it provides. In Mrs Plaskitt’s class in I aim to look at how these phenomena are shaped in actual classroom practises, how students experiences these activities and their own engagement in them.
My role in the ACS is thus a challenging one; I am not a teacher, nor am I a student – I want to learn from the pupils and from the teacher. My role is also a privileged and enjoyable one, being able to take this time for observing school activities and talking to pupils. In this role I have felt nearly like a new pupil in this school: Learning to find my way around, learning the ways of the school, learning about the thinking of the pupils in ‘my’ classroom. And as such, I have felt very welcomed. I have been welcomed in the classroom. Further I have been helped greatly by the staff of the lower school. I am very thankful for Rebecca Plaskitt and her class as well as the staff of ACS Cobham for this opportunity and their help in my work.