Grants & Awards

Finland's Phenomenon-Based Learning Subject of Motivis Learning Award Recipient

The average school day in Finland lasts five hours, and the average school year lasts 640 hours compared to 900 to 1,000 hours in the United States. Yet the country's students consistently outperform many other countries in PISA rankings, including the United States. Perhaps that's why a recipient of a new $10,000 teacher scholarship will head to Finland to learn more about Finnish education.

Kimberley Pfeifer, a first-year doctoral student at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, in the Teacher Education and Curriculum Studies department, won the award from Motivis Learning. The company produces a "learning relationship management" application for competency-based education programs that integrates functionality for the learning management system, student information system, campus communications and eportfolio in a single platform.

This is the first year for the "aspiring educator scholarship initiative," which Motivis created to "help ease the financial burden of future teachers." The company said that 146 students participating in undergraduate, graduate and Ph.D. programs at 91 universities and colleges competed for the scholarship. Candidates submitted essays sharing how their teaching career would make a difference in the lives of their students, how they would change the world through education and how they would promote student success in the classroom.

Pfeiffer, who has already spent five years in the classroom as a teacher, envisions "radical change" in how students learn and teachers teach in U.S. schools. She said she intends to use her scholarship to travel to Finland, where schools have implemented "phenomenon-based learning" on a large scale. In this instructional approach "real-world phenomena" are taught as whole entities rather than by individual discipline.

Because the company received so many applications, it also announced second- and third-place recipients. Northeastern University master's student and fifth-grade teacher Asaad Fulton, who won $2,000, said he expects to take a "leadership position" to raise awareness about the lack of diversity in the education field; eventually, he'd like to open a school of his own with a theme of diversity. Rebecca Tamayo, at Colorado Christian University, won $1,000; she hopes to use and promote technology in the classroom for children on the autism spectrum to enhance their learning and communication skills.

"It was extremely hard to narrow it down to three finalists from the impressive list of submissions and then choose a winner," said Brian Peddle, Motivis CEO, in a press release. "We were moved and inspired — not just by Kimberley, Asaad and Rebecca — but by all of the outstanding submissions. As Motivis continues to grow we hope to do more to help educators succeed."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.