About ProWo

What are our reasons to develop and study teaching and learning of working life competencies in the ProWo-Project?

The changing goals of higher education are tightly integrated with the development of knowledge society, where knowledge work itself, collaboration and networking as well as rapid development of digital technologies are emphasised currently. Present-day university students need the abilities related to these in order to be employed. Despite these facts, the required competencies – also known as 21st century skills and digital competence – are not so well addressed in the educational practices at universities (Jenkins et al., 2006), although the university education should support students’ learning of them (cf. The European Union, 2010; NSSE, 2009; ATC21S; OECD/AHELO, 2010).

In a large extent, studying in university is so much individual and acquisition of some domain knowledge through lectures or exams (Bereiter, 2002; Mandl et al.,1996; Slotte & Tynjälä, 2003), e.g. the knowledge acquisition metaphor of learning (Sfard, 1998). This really is one part of university studies, but it is not sufficient from the viewpoint of the practices of modern knowledge work. Also modules including group discussions, teamwork or web-based discourse are used in university teaching, e.g. the participation metaphor of learning (Sfard, 1998). Still, in collaborative knowledge work, it is essential to develop working practices that focus on collaboratively creating new knowledge and products. Such pedagogy represents knowledge creation metaphor of learning (Paavola, Lipponen & Hakkarainen, 2004).

The pedagogy representing knowledge creation metaphor of learning is profoundly introduced in the model of trialogical approach on learning, which emphasizes the importance of organizing learning settings for promoting students’ modern knowledge work competences (Paavola & Hakkarainen, 2005; 2009). In the trialogical approach, deliberate engagement in advancing shared workable knowledge artefacts and practices is considered as essential element, in addition to individual efforts and the community participation. Knowledge work is conceptualized as work that focuses on advancing and articulating knowledge objects, such as drafted theories, intervention programs and reports, by a community’s collective efforts and resources (Bereiter, 2002; Hakkarainen, Palonen, Paavola, & Lehtinen, 2004).

In the practice of university teaching and learning, encounters with real-world complexity are one way of bringing learning communities closer to the requirements of the surrounding society. Various pedagogical mechanisms for creating encounters with real world complexity could be employed: The integration of theoretical and practical knowledge or by adopting work life practices, such as teamwork, customer assignments, project work, and multidisciplinary collaboration, in pedagogical practices (e.g., Denton & McDonagh 2005; Nance, 2000; Seitamaa-Hakkarainen et al. 2005; Stankovic, 2009).

What kind of pedagogical models, practices and tools do we suggest to support the learning of working life competencies?

University teaching should much often follow the logic of researching and investigation in its wholeness, rather than only (traditionally) deliver knowledge. Teaching should imitate the process of research and encourage students in active knowledge creation and processing.

In the ProWo-Project, the idea is to use pedagogical examples, models and principles based on the trialogical approach and supportive technologies as “vehicles for change” to inspire and guide university teachers in transforming their teaching and course designs towards addressing working life competencies. A central basis is the KP-Lab Project (www.kp-lab.org; 2006-2011) where the trialogical approach and a virtual environment, KPE (Knowledge Practices Environment), were developed. At this moment, even more agile and easily applicable methods to support students’ working life competences will be developed and applied together with university teachers through developing their existing courses and practices.

Particular emphasis will be put on issues that are not typical for university teaching: students’ direct contacts with working life representatives throughout their studies, multidisciplinary collaboration, and use of technologies for co-creational activities. The more concrete design principles (Paavola et al., 2012; Muukkonen & Bauters, 2012) explicate what kind of practices in educational settings will be promoted.

What are our interests and aims in the ProWo Project?

The aim of the research is to promote and investigate pedagogical and knowledge practices both from the viewpoint of students, teachers and working life representatives. Our specific research questions focus on students’ competence learning and on teachers’ pedagogical practices. We are interested in the core elements of effective practices, pedagogies and technologies for promoting collaborative knowledge creation in higher education.

How do we manage the project from the viewpoint of research methods?

The researchers are used to utilize varying research methods, e.g. qualitative case studies, written documents and video materials as well as quantitative surveys. The researchers aim to utilize this variation of expertise to bring about more elaborated multi-method designs in the field of research on trialogical approach, pedagogical technologies and university pedagogy. The long-term aim of the research group is to build an international research design around the topics mentioned.

What do we expect to gain in the ProWo Project?


  • Research results related to the trialogically organised university courses from the viewpoint of teachers and students;
  • Research-based knowledge for developing university teaching;
  • Conceptual models and design principles for promoting collaborative knowledge creation practices and working life connections in university teaching;


  • Pedagogical training for teachers, university administrators, pedagogical university lecturers and outside experts participating;
  • Pedagogical models and best practices to educate university teachers in the trialogical approach and to apply it in practice;
  • Functioning and continuous collaboration practices between the university departments and faculties and working life partners