Doctoral dissertation: The significance of local perspectives in developing competence-based education


Competence-based education has been at the heart of international and national education policy. Various international organisations, such as the OECD and the EU, have promoted the approach. Lauri Palsa (M.A.) argues for taking a local perspective into account more comprehensively in different levels in competence-based education. Palsa’s research strengthens our understanding of competence-based education and offers insight into curriculum design and lesson planning.

Society is in a state of constant flux, and curriculum design reflects a changing world. This has led to the growing emphasis of competence-based education in education policy. A competence-based educational approach highlights the learning goals and competences pupils are expected to master rather than predefined curricular content.

The aims of competence-based education can be understood in a variety of ways. Palsa explores how competences are interpreted within the framework of Finnish curricula.

– Education is a highly contextual endeavour in that it takes place at a certain time in a certain setting. Broad conceptualisations made at the international level are not directly implemented in national contexts; rather, their meanings can change, Palsa explains.

Thus, Palsa notes the importance of understanding how central teaching objectives introduced in the steering documents are understood from a local perspective.

In Finnish basic education, transversal competence consists of seven areas. Palsa focuses specifically on one: multiliteracy. The national-level definition of the concept is broad, thus leaving room for local emphasis.

The Finnish definition of multiliteracy differs from its definition in international research discussions; it can have varied meanings in local settings and different disciplines. Palsa provides the examples that in social studies, multiliteracy is rationalised in relation to the surrounding society, and in mathematics, it is rationalised in relation to the disciplinary language.

In Finland, local curricula – curricula prepared by local education providers – can play an important role in educational development. Educational development, therefore, does not depend solely on the implementation of the national core curriculum. However, this opportunity is not widely utilised. According to the results of the study, the definition of multiliteracy was contextualised in only 28% of the analysed curricula.

New tools for curriculum design: Conceptual and disciplinary contextualisation

Palsa developed a theoretical model, which supports the conceptual contextualisation of competence-based education transversally across various subjects and within the disciplinary settings. It helps one understand and develop education from a local perspective.

– Language plays an important role in educational development. Textual documents, such as curricula, are used for steering, planning, and making teaching visible. Introduced theory offers tools for this conceptual work and allows for an increased local perspective, Palsa summarises.

Preparing, updating, and designing curricula is a demanding initiative that involves a wide range of professionals in the field of education and other sectors. Therefore, support is needed, particularly for large, significant reforms and changes.

Information on the public defence

The doctoral dissertation Developing a Theory of Conceptual Contextualisation of Competence-based Education: A Qualitative Study of Multiliteracy in the Finnish Curriculum Framework by Lauri Palsa (Master of Education) will be publicly defended with the permission of the Faculty of Education at the University of Lapland on 13 August 2021 at 12 noon in lecture hall LS3.

The opponent is professor Jari Lavonen, University of Helsinki. The custos is professor Heli Ruokamo, University of Lapland. The language of the public defence is Finnish.

You can also watch the defence online at:

Information on the candidate

Lauri Palsa graduated in 2014 from the University of Lapland, with a Master of Education. After his graduation, Palsa has worked in expert positions in the fields of education and culture focusing particularly in media literacy and media education. He has several years´ experience in researching, developing and promoting national media education in Finland. Currently Palsa works as a Senior advisor in the National Audiovisual Institute.

His research interests focus on the contextualized literacies in the digital mediated world, curriculum, competence-based education and media education.

Watch Palsa’s Youtube-video in which he introduces and discusses the topics of the doctoral dissertation:

Further information

Lauri Palsa
lauri.palsa (at)
+358 44 3815548

Information about the publication

Lauri Palsa: Developing a Theory of Conceptual Contextualisation of Competence-based Education: A Qualitative Study of Multiliteracy in the Finnish Curriculum Framework. Acta electronica Universitatis Lapponiensis 309ISBN 978-952-337-263-4ISSN 1796-6310

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