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School Culture of Team Learning

Prerequisites for Creating a Team Learning Culture in Schools

Team learning is a profound learning approach that also changes the school's operating culture; both the student and the teacher have their own independent role as a community player.

Finland 100


HundrED has selected this innovation to

Finland 100






November 2017
By studying in less formal ways you learn useful skills for the future.

About the innovation

What is it all about?

The innovation combines two interesting entities: team learning as a form of learning in elementary schools and transforming school culture in the long run.

Team learning is a fruitful platform for change in school culture. Opposite to authoritarian and hierarchical thinking, team learning leans towards low hierarchy where everyone plays an essential role. The reward-based performance culture is transformed by team learning into a meaningful and productive culture.

Team learning enables students to acquire knowledge that is relevant throughout life. This competence can be seen, for example, in the construction and maintenance of functioning communities, self-management and peer-to-peer management. If the predictions regarding the future of work are true, these skills will be even more valuable than ever.

The introduction of team learning and the creation of a new kind of operational culture take several years. This innovation describes the key preconditions for building a teamwork learning culture at the elementary school level.

Team learning is more common in secondary and higher education, but is yet to still be established in elementary education. There are a lot of requirements for teachers regarding their skills and know-how in building a team at the elementary school level, since responsibility can’t be given to students in the same way as in secondary and higher education.

In team learning, the student groups have both the responsibility and the freedom to guide and regulate their activities in line with the agreed goal. The whole team works towards a common goal. Everyone in the team can in turn practice peer management, for example.

The first phase of team learning, the so-called first wave, was implemented at Otalampi Comprehensive School during the school year 2015–2016. As a result, the students became more active and creative, and the ability to do things without the fear of making mistakes grew. Students do not expect detailed instructions and orders, but genuinely do their best to develop their own solutions to the given problems.

Impact & scalability

Impact & Scalability


The basis for transforming the school culture is a form of learning that supports change.


Students are better prepared for future challenges.


Team learning as a form of teaching suits a variety of environments.

Implementation steps

Training for the implementation of team learning
Changing the school culture requires willingness for change and training from the school staff.

Teachers need to be able to find the readiness for change within themselves. For instance, interest provoking trainings and good experiences from project learning help to see the benefits of change.

It is good to train about 2 to 4 motivated teachers for team learning and they can act as change agents to inspire other school staff. In Finland, team coaches are trained at Tiimiakatemia (part of Jyväskylä University of Applied Sciences). Training is subject to a fee.

At Otalampi willingness and readiness for change were first present in the staff, who acted as catalysts of change, inspiring the management and other teachers.

Commitment of school management
Commitment to change is also the foundation for change in school. Commitment from management requires good planning and positive signals from the staff.

An essential aspect of commitment is a common vision. School management must play an active role in creating this vision.

The Otalampi Comprehensive School management has had a positive attitude towards new projects and the personal development of staff as well as the school.

Piloting phase
Training and engagement leads to the piloting phase. At this point, special attention should be paid to close co-operation between the trained teachers.

At Otalampi Comprehensive School, the piloting phase lasted one year during which a team of eight teachers implemented project learning through guiding student teams. Teachers met weekly to discuss pedagogical issues. During the year, teachers were able to perceive development both in students' abilities and in their own practices.

Continual Dialogue
The change in school culture brought on by team learning requires constant dialogue to increase the tolerance of uncertainty. A community-based dialogue is also a key concept in staff development.

Discussions can be held in staff meetings and training sessions. It is important to have a dialogue with all the school staff.

The leadership's strong vision of the goal of change helps to face and channel the fear of change in the community. Implementing team learning requires strong and conversational change leadership.

Guiding students to take initiative
When the student teams begin to take initiative and action, it is essential to give them room to create and work. The students' activities are mostly for learning purposes and their projects must be seen above all as learning processes.

It is important to foster and guide with a "what can we learn from this" attitude. It is not particularly constructive to consider each function separately through whether it is continued or terminated.

At Otalampi Comprehensive School students' initiative and innovativeness increased as a result of the experiment. The school community also discovered that letting students make mistakes requires flexibility and guidance skills.

Reflecting on the piloting phase and recruiting for the next stage
After the first piloting period the community will have to carefully evaluate the actual process and view the sustainability of their vision. Positive experiences often encourage other teachers to train as teamwork specialists.

Teamwork experts already inside the community can work as mentors for new teachers. Also, students already familiar with team learning help their teachers understand the philosophy behind it.

Spread of the innovation

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