Country Focus: Hellerup School in Denmark

KARINA VILLUMSEN, teacher at Hellerup School answers our questions about working with industry
Hellerup School is a unique teaching environment, where classrooms do not have walls, students plan their own lessons and technology is part of everyday life at school.

How has Hellerup partnered with industry in the teaching of STEM subjects?

My department participated in a project called "1:1 Computer" for children aged 6 to 10 years. This was a two year project developed in collaboration with researchers, Microsoft and the Hellerup school management. One of the purposes of the project was to investigate whether 1:1 computers have an influence on learning processes.

Working with computers in primary school has been a very positive experience, as it allowed us to better meet the individual conditions and needs of the students, and to involve them in an innovative approach to teaching. For instance, one of the most important outcomes has been the students enthusiasm in presenting their projects to each other. They have learned that the result of computer work is a dynamic product, that can be changed and improved. Very often they were inspired by each other and stimulated to return to their work and make it better.

Can you describe the most effective projects you’ve done?

I did a great project with Powerpoint, “Pupils as each other’s math teachers”, that aimed to help students solve mathematics problems. The process lasted for 30 lessons spread over a month. Students were handed a work plan and a list of skills that would be part of the project. In the first part of the project the students had to construct and then solve their own tasks. After that the students solved each other's tasks. They had to solve tasks in writing and eventually give assignments points. Finally, students evaluated their own projects and work efforts.

Maths assignments were usually related to trade and had to involve all 4 arithmetic pillars (addition, subtraction, multiplication and division). Beside these requirements, pupils were free to express their imagination, both on contents and layout.  The purpose is to have pupils writing maths assignments for each other, so as to enhance their learning potential and skills, and to further stimulate more involvement and responsibility than with a standardized lesson.

What did success look like?

There were many positive outcomes with this project. The most important was that students could work at different skills levels, while the class worked on the same goal. In traditional education where each student works with the same book, there is a risk that students either get bored because the tasks are too easy, or can not perform the tasks because they are too difficult. The students were very motivated during the process, which they expressed in the evaluation.

Did you encounter challenges and, if so, how did you overcome them?

Lack of guidance and coaching on how to start and apply new practices has been a challenge. More guidance on practices would surely develop teacher education much more.
What advice would you offer other schools interested in partnering with industry on STEM?

I think it's important to work with industry as it helps teachers to help students' express their potential.

Collaboration with industry, for instance support on equipment, gives teachers a better chance to organize education activities which are up to date and connected to reality. This makes students in turn much more motivated, for they find learning meaningful when the contents they study at school are relevant to their lives and experience also outside the classroom. Traditionally student books have been used for many years, and may sometimes be rather outdated.


Hellerup School hits the news: see Hellerup School on The Guardian