In phenomenon-based learning, holistic real-world phenomena provide the starting point for learning. The phenomena are studied as complete entities, in their real context, and the information and skills related to them are studied by crossing the boundaries between subjects. Phenomena are holistic topics like European Union, media and technology, water or energy.
Phenomenon-based structure in a curriculum also actively creates better opportunities for integrating different subjects and themes as well as the systematic use of pedagogically meaningful methods, such as inquiry learning, problem-based learning, project-based learning and portfolios.
Phenomenon-based learning starts from the shared observation of holistic, genuine real-world phenomena in the learning community. The observation is not limited to one single point of view; the phenomena are instead studied holistically from different points of view, crossing the boundaries between subjects naturally and integrating different subjects & themes.
In phenomenon-based teaching, understanding and studying the phenomenon together starts from asking questions or posing problems (e.g. Why does an aeroplane fly and stay up in the air?). At its best, phenomenon-based learning is problem-based learning, where the learners build answers together to questions or problems posed concerning a phenomenon that interests them. The phenomenon-based approach is anchored learning, where the questions asked and issues to be learned are naturally anchored in real-world phenomena, and the information and skills to be learned can be directly applied across borders between subjects.
The phenomenon-based approach can significantly increase the authenticity of learning. In this context, the authenticity culminates in the learner’s cognitive processes (thinking processes) being authentic – in a learning situation, the learner’s cognitive processes, therefore, correspond to the cognitive processes required in the actual situation where the information/skills are used. Authenticity is a key requirement for the transfer and practical application of information.
Phenomenon-Based Learning tackles real-world scenarios holistically from different subject areas’ perspectives. This method will entail a rich learning experience, which is relevant to learners’ lives. Interdisciplinary learning could be conducted in a simple way, by linking similar knowledge areas between different subjects and introducing them at the same slot of the academic year. This develops awareness of how curricula intersect to form the broader frame of knowledge. A more sophisticated interdisciplinary approach, such as Phenomenon-Based Learning occurs when we go beyond simply linking different subjects to applying, organising centres and essential questions to plan topic teaching. One example could be the questions students have about a topic such as the importance of the European Union. To answer these questions, knowledge and skills from economics, history, geography and languages are to be integrated.
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University Herald: "Finland Education Reform Introduces Phenomenon-Based Teaching"
Phenomenon-based learning provides a specific basis for an understanding of wider topics or phenomena. If we took an understanding of World War 2 as an example, an approach that looked at events or battles in isolation, it would not provide insight into the impact that war might have had on different societies or the role of women in the war both at home, within employment or within the military operations. (This is just an example). A phenomenon-based approach creates the opportunity for integrating a diverse range of related themes, topics and events, into a more holistic understanding. Phenomenon-based curriculum design blends well with approaches such as inquiry learning, problem-based learning, project learning and portfolios.
Phenomenon-based learning is one of the 25 learning methodologies in the Learnlife learning paradigm toolkit. Learn more about the different ways to engage learners through the different learning methodologies.