Page updated 10.9.2019

Dissertation: Students’ innovation competence can be supported during the studies

Higher education institutions play an important part in educating innovative professionals. The doctoral dissertation of M.A. (Education) Meiju Keinänen, who works as a Senior Lecturer at TUAS, emphasizes that learning environments and practices should support, for instance, students’ active role and motivation.

The studies should also be versatile, international and working life oriented. The doctoral thesis examined assessment tools, with which higher education institutions could develop their studies to better promote the innovation competence of students. 

According to Keinänen, students’ innovation competences, such as creativity, critical thinking or networking competence, can be defined as different skills and abilities, which demonstrate innovative activity and which are required at the different stages of the innovation process. Keinänen suggests that these skills can be identified, assessed and learned as a part of pedagogical practices with the right assessment tools. 

“With the help of the assessment tool, i.e. the self-assessment instrument distributed to the students, they were able to recognize several concrete examples and situations from a course where the skills related to innovation competence had been discussed. They were also able to reflect their own innovation competences and those of their team’s”, says Keinänen. 

The doctoral dissertation of Keinänen also shows that all students are capable of learning innovation competences. Especially motivation, the importance of learning and the atmosphere on a course seem to be connected to learning these skills. The study experiences during the degree studies also seem to be connected to students’ innovation competence.

“Students, who had more experience on innovation pedagogy oriented learning environments, assessed their innovation competences higher than those who had less experience. These kinds of learning environments include e.g. activating learning and teaching methods, working life orientation, entrepreneurship and internationalization. According to my study, all these elements were connected to students’ innovation competences.”

Keinänen’s case study was conducted at Turku University of Applied Sciences.

Innovation pedagogy or Innopeda® is a learning approach developed at Turku University of Applied Sciences. It aims at developing individuals’ and groups’ innovation competences, and defines in a new way how knowledge is assimilated, produced and used to create innovations. Based on experimenting, sharing knowledge and competence and on combining and trying out different perspectives, innovation pedagogy offers a way to develop the innovation competences required in working life. Innovation pedagogy is the pedagogic strategy of Turku University of Applied Sciences and a way of action, which emphasizes the active role of learners and constant cooperation with working life as a basis for learning.

According to innovation pedagogy, students should during their studies acquire both field-specific competences and innovation competence, to be able to participate in innovation processes or in their different stages after graduation. 

Innovation-oriented, changing working life poses new challenges for higher education

In the working life of today, as the importance of innovations is emphasized, organizations should find ways to recognize innovators and harness their competence to create innovations.  

“This also challenges educational organizations to contemplate how to train future professionals, who are able to participate in the innovation processes at the workplace. Even though education has a central role in the development of innovation skills, several studies have shown that higher education institutions have not been able to respond to this challenge adequately”, Keinänen says.  

She emphasizes that the assessment tools on innovation competence she has studied may help higher education institutions to respond to this challenge. 

“With the help of the assessment tools used in the study, higher education institutions might gain insight into how for example curricula, pedagogical practices or teaching and evaluation should be developed”, Keinänen states. 

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M.A. (Education) Meiju Keinänen defended her doctoral thesis “Educating innovative professionals: A case study on researching students’ innovation competences in one Finnish University of Applied Sciences” at the University of Turku on Saturday 31 August 2019. The field of the doctoral dissertation is educational science.  

The original piece of news on the website of the University of Turku (in Finnish) .