Phenomenon Based Learning (PhenoBL)

So Finland is leading the way in approaching education in a different way in the digital age. Finland has become renowned for its innovative educational approach to education with shorter days, shorter terms, more play and no homework! Education moves out of the classroom to engage with the outside world in person or online. Use of innovative technology and sources outside the school are key to the success, engaging experts and museums to enhance the learning experience and create learning networks.

What is PhenoBL?

“Phenomenon based teaching and learning use the natural curiosity of children to learn in a holistic and authentic context. Holistic real-world phenomena provide the motivating starting point for learning, instead of traditional school subjects. The phenomena are studied as holistic 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 human, European Union, media and technology, water or energy. This enables students also to learn 21st century skills like critical thinking, creativity, innovation, team work and communication” (Phenomenal Education, 2017).

21st Century Skills

The freedom to discover, communication, remove traditional classroom barriers, become connected and be adaptable.


  • Digital citizens
  • Critical thinkers
  • Technical skills
  • Innovators
  • Team players
  • Global citizens


Does this approach favour the brightest, who understand what is expected of them while the lower end struggle with concepts and higher thinking. This approach can potentially widen the education gap.

What about the grounding of baseline knowledge, does this take a step too far in the taxonomy of learning and steps are missed out for true understanding?

The jury is still out until actual evidence this approach actually works on a wider scale in other environments, other than in Finland.

Heavy workload for the facilitator, again reproducibility is  the question. Finland has small class sizes, well funded schools and a very different education system compared to most countries.

Adult Learning

My personal thoughts are this is an amazing approach and challenges the testing and accreditation heavy educational philosophy that is standardising education into a restrictive manner for both student and teacher. But the classroom still has face to face time which is essential to set goals and expectations. I do think in online learning this can be achieved but it takes time, effort and highly motivated learners to truly engage. Also in vocational professions, such as in healthcare there has to be hands-on and experiential learning events.

Keywords: PhenoBL; Phenomenon-based Learning.


Iyer, H. (2015) EdTech Meets Phenomenon Based Learning.

Kekkonen, T. & Tallinn, A.L. (2015) Phenomenon Based Learning: Students on the Focus.

Phenomenal Education (2017) Phenomenon-based Learning: Re-thinking from Finland.


Phenomenography: Developing An Online Course

The science of andragogy is understanding and supporting lifelong learning in adult learners and developing the teaching of adult learners (Knowles, Holton & Swanson, 2011). This discussion on the main conditions around contemporary learning utilising a phenomenological theoretical framework environment is aimed to improve learning and the philosophy of knowledge.


A student centred educationally developed course, with the environment developed from the instructor having walked in the student’s shoes. “Instructors must then not only ask “What is learned?” and “What is transferred?”, but also “What should be learned?” and “What should be transferred?” (Marton, 2006).

Background on Phenomenographic & Variation Theory.

Phenomenography/Variation Online Course (E-Learning)

  • Variation would be the nature of the course to provide adaptability and agility of the course and the student (#interleaving)
  • Creating scenarios based on variances and differences to engage, investigate and change perspectives.
  • Advancing technology, use of an array of online resources to explore phenomena. Web based, gamification, point of view could all be included as part of this development.
  • Engage in scholarly discourse, to critique and discuss content to encourage a wide range of views and perspectives. Increases oral and listening skills also as an ongoing life skill.
  • Two way discussion for developing enquiry and negotiation skills.
  • As part of the exploration, look at both sides (pro’s and con’s, for and against, good and bad) to develop knowledge.
  • Encourage students to think outside the box.
  • Error free learning environment.
  • Facilitator must engage closely with students to ensure students understand the variations, diversity and phenomena.
  • E-portfolio for reflective practice and really understand their personal feelings, process and developmental journey.

Transformation Aims

Student skills development, especially focusing on experience, ability to critique and question and notice differences in the variations. A personal growth from the transfer of the learning and discern meaning out of the learning experience. Phenomenon based learning is to equip students with the skills to flourish in the 21st century technology driven era.

Keywords: transfer; phenomenology; Marton; agent of learning; e-learning; phenomenon based learning; PBL.


Knowles, M. S., Holton III, E. F., & Swanson, R. A. (2011). The adult learner: The definitive classic in adult education and human resource development.

Marton, F. (2006). Sameness and Difference in Transfer. Journal of the Learning Sciences, 15(4), 499-535. doi: 10.1207/s15327809jls1504_3