We are using cookies to give a better service experience. By using our services you agree to use cookies. Read more

All articles

Collaboration between different aged learners

location_on Jyväskylä, Finland

A model for increasing collaborative, phenomenon based learning

This project takes advantage of a wide range of pedagogy to promote collaborative learning. Students are given opportunities to participate in planning and carrying out learning goals, topics, different ways of working and evaluation.

Finland 100


HundrED has selected this innovation to

Finland 100






March 2017
Inclusive, phenomenon based learning can provide great experiences when children at different stages of development team up to solve problems. Students share views and knowledge, and learn to how to work together.

About the innovation

What is it all about?

Classes are traditionally assigned according to age. However, at home siblings of different ages learn naturally from each other and later in life when we enter the workplace we collaborate with people of all ages. So why do we always teach children in groups divided by age?

By encouraging different aged students to work together, we can help our school communities be more cohesive. Older students feel like they are making a difference in the lives of younger students, while younger students gain positive role models, support, and friends from the older students.

Peer learning is when students teach and learn from each other, and can help students take ownership of their own learning, increasing motivation. The combined knowledge and skills of different aged students increases the potential for creative solutions to problems.

In this model students from different years take control of the learning process by planning their own lessons, creating their own presentations, and through teaching each other. The model can be used to teach several classes of students on topics included in the national curriculum which are phenomenon based.

These kinds of student-centered activities develop students’ collaborative skills such as brainstorming, decision-making, and planning and negotiating skills. Students learn how to collaborate on projects with others, as well as how to work independently on different areas and phases of the projects.

The criteria for choosing the topics for the project are that students are interested in them, and that they support collaboration and cooperation between teachers. Through this method co-teaching becomes natural and it can lead to new possibilities for education.

This innovation is a result of a two-year development project in Jyväskylä. The resulting best practices will be disseminated in the area’s schools.

One of the observations of the project is that while they are planning and implementing projects together, teachers will get new ideas from each other. A central focus of the projects has been the Finnish objectives of broad-based learning which include communication skills, digital skills, and everyday skills such as self-care and wellbeing.

Impact & scalability

Impact & Scalability


The innovation combines goal-oriented peer learning with self-assessment and multidisciplinary learning units in an interesting way.


Collaboration and project-based learning become natural to students.


This model can be implemented in all kinds of learning units and environments and can be carried out with resources that are usually readily available.

Implementation steps

A teacher and class to collaborate with
Everything begins with the desire to collaborate and diversify teaching.

Think about your goals. What kind of collaboration do you hope to do with other teachers to create lessons that cross over subject and class boundaries?


You will need at least two teachers in order to collaborate. We recommend trying to find subject teachers that have expertise different from your own or other staff in charge of departments such as computer technology to be a part of your team. This way your team will have a broad skillset.

Figure out if your team shares the same ideas and goals. Name roles and responsibilities: who will be responsible for resources, who will message parents and so on.

It is best if the team meets to evaluate the activities and progression towards the goals, for example, once a week at an agreed time.

Different aged learners

Consider which classes in your school are a natural fit for collaboration.

Many Finnish schools have a buddy class system, in which first and fourth years meet regularly for different kinds of activities. This offers a good opportunity for a phenomenon based learning unit for different aged students. The classes will already be familiar with each other and group dynamics will have developed so that it is easy to move onto project based learning.

A regular meeting time and a topic for the learning unit
It is best to reserve a specific time for the unit in the class timetables, during which students from different classes can collaborate on their phenomenon based projects.

Teachers should also meet regularly, so that everyone stays up to date on how the projects are progressing towards their goals.

Students should take part in choosing the topics and the chosen topic works best when it is relevant to the students’ lives. It should also be in line with other themes that the school is already actively educating students on, complementing the country’s national curriculum.

For example in Jyväskylä, the topic for the spring period was self-care and everyday skills, an objective of the Finnish curriculum.

On the other hand, topics can be phenomena that affect the growth and development of children and youth, and that interests students. For example media and identity is a current and developmentally interesting phenomenon that can be studied in several subjects. For example in:

  • History: the different forms of self-expression in the past and the present.

  • Civics: media responsibility and individual responsibility.

  • Arts: Self image vs. the ideal me – what do pictures and texts tell us about ourselves and others?

  • Critical thinking and ‘learning to learn’ skills: who am I, what do pictures and texts communicate on a broader scale?

Activity goals and resources
The team of teachers will define goals for the activities and gather the necessary resources.


When defining the goals, you may want to use these questions as a starting point.

  • What kind of concrete objectives associated with the topic can be found in the curriculum?

  • What goals, that develop communication and collaboration skills between different aged students, can be defined?

  • What goals do you have for co-teaching and multidisciplinary teaching?

The goals have to made clear to students before starting the activities. In phenomenon based learning it is crucial that students are aware of the goals they are striving towards – this way they can actually start learning independently and exceed their own expectations.


The most crucial catalyst for collaboration is reserving the time to enable it, planning activities that are multidisciplinary, and providing support for the activities.

Depending on the theme and the goals, other resources might also be needed. In addition to time you might also need:

  • Different kinds of learning environments, either physical (such as art or design departments) or digital (such as computers, tablets or specific websites).

  • To provide adequate support for the students as they search for information, and in understanding the learning process.

The student-centered approach
Students will work in groups to achieve the goals defined for the topic.

Different aged students will work in small groups, which will choose a topic, goals, methods and an evaluation model related to the phenomenon.

Students will write down:

  • The goals of their project

  • The contents

  • The working methods

  • The assessment model (peer and self-evaluation)

These notes can be made on a digital platform (Google Docs, One Note), so that anyone can make additions if need be. This way teachers can easily follow the proceeding and write comments.


There are many ways to carry out the projects. Students must have a say in choosing the project, how much sway they have in the decision can be flexible according to a school’s and a curriculum’s requirements.

Ideas for project implementation include videos, dramatic productions, musical presentations, fine arts or volunteering. The teacher’s role is to encourage and support groups in choosing the methods and guide them to required information. It is best to remind the groups about time limits and other resources, so they don’t come as surprises to them in the middle of work.

At its best, phenomenon based learning is a great experience. Groups should choose a method that allows other groups to participate actively with the topic and can lead to group discussion.


At the Jyväskylä Normal School, student groups chose their own topics after a broader phenomenon was defined. The groups made presentations on their topics using Keynote. Afterwards everyone gathered together and the students voted on which topic and implementation was most interesting to them. The winning presentation was turned into a collaborative “phenomenon day” organised by the winning group. In this model, students receive constructive feedback on their work and they participate in a healthy discussion on different topics.

The chosen topic was self-care and everyday skills, from which every group could choose their own interpretation of the theme and create a presentation. The winning presentation was ‘A healthy and beneficial breakfast.’ To finish the project, all students were invited to a communal breakfast!

It is smart to introduce the evaluation to the classes beforehand, so that the different aged learners can understand the aims of the evaluation and what they need to consider while evaluating themselves and others.

Questions, such as these, can help start the ball rolling: How did I participate? What did I learn? What was my role in the group? What would I change? What did I like?

Groups can perform self-evaluation on their own work processes as well as on others in the positive peer evaluation. The evaluation process can be done continually throughout the project so that students can keep notes on the successes of their group and areas that need work during different phases (planning, carrying out, wrapping up). This way students can also get to discuss their evaluations with the teachers.

Constructive peer evaluation can be carried out during the wrapping up phase by studying the work of other groups, where they can learn from each other’s successes.

The projects can be wrapped up in different ways.

Example 1

The wrap-up can be a “phenomenon day”, during which groups circulate and get to know the work of other groups. A pair from each group can move around while the other pair stays at the group’s stand to teach and present their theme to pairs from other groups. Presentation stands can be spread out around the school. Peer and self-evaluation can be done during the day or at the end of it.

Example 2

A series of presentations can be held in class and at the end the students can vote for the winning theme/project. A theme day based on the winning theme will be organised which all students will be invited to.

Spread of the innovation

loading map...