Fulbright interview with Mikko Kainulainen

Fulbright interview with Mikko Kainulainen

My background is in educational sciences. I have had the privilege to study in great institutions, such as Universität Regensburg in Germany, Middle East Technical University in Turkey, and mainly University of Turku in Finland. I began my doctoral project a couple years ago, and it focuses in the expertise and knowledge practices of academic historians from an educational perspective. In a way, it could be considered to be research about research. The work is quite interdisciplinary, and therefore has allowed—and required—me to engage with scholars across many disciplines. Throughout this project, one of my closest collaborators has been Professor Clark Chinn from Rutgers University. This collaboration lead me to do a research visit to New Jersey, and the visit allowed us to focus more closely on our work.

Image: Mikko Kainulainen

My background is in educational sciences. I have had the privilege of studying in great institutions, such as Universität Regensburg in Germany, Middle East Technical University in Turkey, and mainly University of Turku in Finland. I began my doctoral project a couple years ago, and it focuses in the expertise and knowledge practices of academic historians from an educational perspective. In a way, it could be considered to be research about research. The work is quite interdisciplinary, and therefore has allowed—and required—me to engage with scholars across many disciplines. Throughout this project, one of my closest collaborators has been Professor Clark Chinn from Rutgers University. This collaboration lead me to make a research visit to New Jersey, and the visit allowed us to focus more closely on our work.

My Fulbright visit was at the Graduate School of Education at Rutgers University and it ended just recently. At the core of my visit was writing one research article and conducting analysis for another. We also developed some new research plans, and I participated in a couple local research projects as a visiting member. Being located between Philadelphia and New York allowed me to participate many really interesting academic talks and events at several universities. I also visited University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to give a talk there. I enjoyed spending time down at the Jersey Shore, especially Asbury Park during the winter. People at Rutgers welcomed me with all their hearts, and helped make my visit a meaningful one. If interested, you can read a bit more about my visit from here:

https://gse.rutgers.edu/content/fulbright-scholar-impacting-history-education-through-research-gse-faculty(Link to another website.)

My Fulbright visit was at the Graduate School of Education at Rutgers University and it ended just recently. At the core of my visit was writing one research article and conducting analysis for another. We also developed some new research plans, and I participated in a couple local research projects as a visiting member. Being located between Philadelphia and New York allowed me to participate many really interesting academic talks and events at several universities.

While getting to know a bit about the US Legal system, I was surprised to learn about the differences between different states. I was already aware of how different the laws can be in different states but the new thing for me to learn was that some of the legal systems of the states are based in considerably different kinds of ideas, and thus form individual legal systems. For example, Louisiana law—unlike most other states—is heavily influenced by Napoleonic code and Spanish law, and operates within legal principles that are derived from these influences. And talking about Louisiana, New Orleans was really a surprise en masse. I especially recommend Pal's Lounge, located in Bayou St John, at the corner of Rendon Street and St Philip Street; A place where the unexpected can be expected!

During the past decades, social studies of science and technology have shown us how important it is to recognize the situated everyday processes of science, instead of only focusing on the results of that work. New ideas and innovations in methods, concepts, organizations, and technologies emerge continuously. Some of these become part of scientific practice and—if they stand time—transform into common habits of scientists to the extent that we no longer even notice them. Yet we rely on them. This allows scientific work to be more fluent, efficient, and specialized but it also makes it prone to being shallow and detached. While most scientific communities share some core values and norms, luckily, not all of them develop in the same ways nor operate through shared internalized habits. This is one reason why in arts, sciences, and humanities it is important to engage and collaborate across communities, departments, disciplines, universities, nations etc. Working in this way allows us to better understand parts the knowledge forming processes that were previously invisible to both ourselves and the communities we work in.

For more than a century, the United States has been a home to many important philosophical and educational thinkers who have produced rich descriptions about how knowledge and learning are thoroughly social, embodied, and connected to various activities, situations, environments, and tools. This array of scholarship has significantly increased our understanding of the possibilities and limitations of learning and shaped many educational movements around the world, including Finland. One of the main implications of these ideas for educational policy is that large scale standardized tests are a difficult medium for evaluating this kind of learning. Yet, the United States is also known for the extensive amount of standardized tests administered to students of various age groups. American educational thinkers, such as John Dewey and Jerome Bruner, have fought against such a tendency already from the beginning of the 20th century, and in a recent presidential address of the 2019 annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Amy Stuart Wells linked high-stakes and standardized testing to problems in students mental health and inequality. So, for sure, Finnish educational policy makers and researchers didn't invent all the relevant ideas behind a seemingly simple decision not to let an educational system be guided by an extensive standardized testing machinery. Yet, Finland may serve as an example of how an educational system can operate successfully without many standardized tests.

 


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