Education allows the transfer of new information to society, says Eeva Säynäjoki
Who are you, and what do you do?
I am Eeva Säynäjoki and I work as a postdoctoral researcher in the real estate business research group at the Department of Built Environment. I graduated from the Tampere University of Technology in 2010 with an MSc in Environmental Technology. In 2015, I received a joint doctorate from Aalto University and the University of Iceland. In addition to teaching at Aalto, I also teach at Metropolia and Kiinko Real Estate Education. I have always liked teaching, and I am grateful that I have had the opportunity to teach so much at Aalto. Already as a doctoral candidate, I taught a couple of courses a year, and after receiving my doctorate I was given responsibility for teaching four courses as a teaching researcher. Additionally, I have instructed many master's and bachelor's theses. I was recently awarded the 2016 Award for Achievements in Teaching, which is a delightful acknowledgement.
What does good teaching entail in your opinion?
I believe that good teaching combines two things: substance of a high standard, in other words, teaching content, as well as a manner of teaching that supports learning in an optimal way. I feel it is important that the newest research results to be visible in teaching. For example, understanding of environmental issues is developing at a staggering pace. I use scientific articles a great deal as reading material for courses. In addition to substance, I teach workplace skills, academic writing and critical thinking. Teaching can support different ways of learning. During my courses, I offer various methods for learning to different types of learners. The same learning outcomes can be achieved in various ways, e.g. by reading and completing exams, or by attending lectures and completing weekly assignments. Some students value independence and taking on responsibility, while others appreciate support and encouragement.
How have you developed your own teaching at Aalto?
I have developed both the content of my courses as well as my teaching methods and my manner of teaching - often through trial and error. I have integrated the perspective of sustainable development, especially environmental issues, a great deal into content. By trying out different methods, I have found effective means of supporting different learning styles I have felt that listening to students and asking for their opinions is an important part of development work. Students have especially appreciated the interim feedback surveys I have halfway through my courses. After all, teachers are here for students. I have noticed that students are ready to work hard and take on challenges, if they can see the connection between their efforts and learning outcomes from the very beginning. I feel that learning objectives form the core of planning teaching. During my own courses, I list the learning objectives in the introductory lecture, and I explain systematically how each course component is designed to support the achievement of learning outcomes. I build the entire course around the learning objectives.
According to our vision, we are building a sustainable society driven by innovation and entrepreneurship. How is this evident in your work as a teacher?
Environmental sustainability is my key area of research, and it is often included as a topic in my teaching. The strong status of sustainable development in the university's strategy provides important support to my work. However, the strategy alone is not enough, but it must be implemented in practice and there is a great deal of work still to do to make this happen. I feel that we are further along in the area of environmental sustainability in our research activities than in teaching, and it would be important for this to be included effectively in teaching. Education will allow expertise in sustainable development to be transferred to the use of society. These days, many people already prioritise environmental values in their personal consumption, and I believe that education will help us influence businesses.
Where do you get strength and inspiration for your teaching work?
I get strength and inspiration from telling about our environmental sustainability -related research at seminars and other events, and from noting how enthusiastic people are about the topic. I feel motivated when the results of my research work are considered important at those places where they can be utilised. The value of my research is realised, in my opinion, when I am able to transfer new information to society and am able in this way to change the world. Nature, sports and especially horseback riding are important to me, as a counterpoint to my work.