Katin_juttu_paakuvaColorful dialogue without words.

Expressive-creative, colorful co-teaching between Austrian and Finnish teachers

The teachers of higher education can benefit from the Erasmus exchange programs, and engage in teaching exchange abroad. This possibility may be extended to continuous cooperation. That happened to us.

Marianne Forstner is an art therapist and a teacher at Upper Austria University of Applied Sciences for social pedagogy. She uses artistic and creative methods in working with groups and individuals.

Kati Vapalahti uses expressive methods with groups and in teaching at Mik-keli University of Applied Sciences in the degree program of social work. We both also stud-ied these methods in our PhD dissertations.

A lot in common

We started our cooperation 2013, when Marianne enrolled in the International week of Mikkeli University of Applied Sciences as a visiting lecturer. When she informed us about her topic, we observed that we have a lot in common.

However, we also have an interesting way to look at the artistic and expressive methods from different angles: from the therapeutic viewpoint and from the viewpoint of social change. Both the viewpoints support empowering human beings.

After realizing this, we decided to work together as workshop teachers and started to plan co-teaching via emails.

Empowering group processes through colors, painting and image theatre

The aims of the workshops were to introduce the additional values of creative methods in working with groups. A grounded hypothesis implies that an artistic creative design can obtain an educational function and offer possibilities to experience and broaden creative power and creativity especially in group processes.

Furthermore, getting to know each other in a ‘colorful and creative way’ helps in establishing contacts, because of the assumption that we all are symbolic thinking creatures. The core contents of the workshops is working with colors and painting as well as with image theatre.


Creative work in an art museum: This makes me think.


Image theatre is one technique of Augusto Boal’s Thea-tre of Oppressed. It is a dialogue game for investigating human life situations for achieving multidimensional understanding and social change. It is a language – often without words, but through making images by using bodies in human sculpture.

In our workshop, the participants created human sculpture based on the given themes, for example, in the first workshop on the theme of “Rich living or poor living? What is poverty today?”

Continuous cooperation

So far we have cooperated as workshop teachers for five times, three times in Finland and two times in Austria. We have worked with wonderful students and developed our working meth-ods. Lately, the workshops have also been transferred to an art museum, and last summer to Working World Museum where we used creative methods when dealing with the topic of work-life-balance.

In addition to the development of the teaching methods, we also plan to implement cultural social work and educational projects. At the moment one topic under dis-cussion is creative and artistic methods in the human rights work with refugees. Artistic meth-ods can be used for supporting human dignity and to increase consciousness of oppressive structures and of the need for social change.

One of our professional expectations is, that if refugees are empowered to be creative and artistic, to have a forum to show their expressions and pieces of art, to be able to consume artistic and cultural events and activities, it can help to establish a consciousness of solidarity and humanity in our society, which at the moment seems to be full of fears and reservations.


Image theatre in Workin World Museum: unbalanced working life – What to do?


Kirjoittanut / Written by Marianne Forstner and Kati Vapalahti

Marianne Forstner is an art therapist and a lecturer at Upper Austria University of Applied Sciences for social pedagogy. Kati Vapalahti is a lecturer in the degree program of social work at Mikkeli University of Applied Sciences.