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PhD Projects

Tracing the interplay between interest, competence perceptions and achievement during tasks and over time

This PhD project focuses on the dynamics between elementary school students’ interest, competence perceptions, and performance in specific tasks and over time. Also, the role of individual differences (i.e., motivational tendencies, prior achievement, gender) in these dynamics is investigated. The PhD project includes three studies:

Nuutila, K., Tuominen, H., Tapola, A., Vainikainen, M.-P., & Niemivirta, M. (2018). Consistency, longitudinal stability, and predictions of elementary school students' task interest, success expectancy, and performance in mathematics. Learning and Instruction, 56, 73–83.


Nuutila, K., Tapola, A., Tuominen, H., Kupiainen, S., Pásztor, A., & Niemivirta, M. (2020). Reciprocal predictions between interest, self-efficacy, and performance during a task. Frontiers in Education, 5:36.


Nuutila, K., Tapola, A., Tuominen, H., Molnár, G., & Niemivirta, M. (2021). Mutual relationships between the levels of and changes in interest, self-efficacy, and perceived difficulty during task engagement. Learning and Individual Differences, 92, 102090.

University students’ motivational trajectories and well-being

This PhD project focuses on the i) the patterns and development of students’ motivation from a person-oriented perspective, ii) how the different patterns contribute to well-being over time, and iii) the role students’ study-related experiences play in these relationships, while also considering students’ experiences of the Covid-19 pandemic. 


Juntunen, H., Tuominen, H., Viljaranta, J., Hirvonen, R., Toom, A. & Niemivirta, M. (2022). Feeling exhausted and isolated? The connections between university students’ remote teaching and learning experiences, motivation, and psychological well-being during the COVID-19 pandemic. Educational Psychology, 42(10), 1241-1262.


Study II examines what kind of situational motivation and academic emotions students experience during a demanding course, and how they vary as a function of different motivational profiles.  


Study III explores what kind of developmental trajectories of motivation and well-being can be identified over time, and how do they relate to each other. 

Mathematics achievement and motivation in co-taught vs. solo taught classrooms – A quasi-experimental study

This PhD project investigates 6th grade students’ mathematics achievement and motivation in co-taught and solo taught classes during one school year. The project comprises three studies:

Study I examines i) changes in mathematics achievement, self-concept and individual interest, ii) how those changes are connected, and iii) whether they are predicted by the teaching condition (co- vs. solo taught classes).

Study II focuses on classroom goal orientations, and examines i) how students’ perceptions of the purposes for engaging in academic work change over time, and whether those changes are ii) linked with changes in achievement, and iii) different in co- versus solo taught classes.

Study III explores the stability and change in students’ mathematics self-efficacy and test anxiety profiles, how those profiles are connected with achievement, and whether they vary as a function of the teaching condition (co- vs. solo taught classes).

The role of interprofessional collaboration in promoting teacher and pupil well-being in Finnish comprehensive school

This PhD project focuses on interprofessional collaboration in school as one of the environmental factors contributing to teacher and pupil well-being. Engagement, burnout, and self-efficacy as dimensions of well-being are examined. The dissertation includes three studies according to the following research questions.

Study I: What are the structures of interprofessional collaboration in schools and how is interprofessional collaboration related to teacher well-being?

Study II: How is interprofessional collaboration related to pupil well-being?

Study III: How do pupil welfare professionals experience interprofessional collaboration structures in school and how do they perceive different actors’ roles in this collaboration?

Perfectionism, achievement striving, and study-related well-being during upper secondary education: Gender differences and developmental dynamics

This PhD project focuses on the dynamics between upper secondary students perfectionism and study-related (engagement, burnout) and more general (depression, anxiety, stress) well-being. In this study we form groups of perfectionists based on two dimensions – strivings and concerns –, and we believe that these formed groups differ in, for example, psychological well-being. Also, information on students’ gender, various indices of achievement striving and aspirations will be included.

Study I examines a) what kinds of perfectionistic profiles can be identified among upper secondary students, b) how they differ between general and vocational students, and c) how they relate to academic and more general psychological well-being and academic achievement.


Study II examines a) temporal stability of both perfectionistic dimensions (mean levels) and profiles (group composition) during one year, and b) gender differences in perfectionistic dimensions and profiles.


Study III investigates a) long-term stability and change in perfectionistic profiles in the course of upper secondary studies, and b) how those profiles predict various academic and emotional outcomes.

Perceived support in general upper secondary education: associations between support, school burnout, student engagement and educational goals

This PhD project focuses on examining perceived support in general upper secondary education and associations between support, school burnout, student engagement and educational goals. The dissertation includes three studies:


Study I: "The development of school burnout in general upper secondary education: the role of support and schoolwork difficulties". This study investigates how schoolwork difficulties and support received during students’ whole educational path predict development of school burnout in general upper secondary education. 

Study II: ”Student engagement and support in general upper secondary education: a person-centered approach”. This study examines the change and stability in students’ engagement profiles and relations between engagement profiles and support during their three-year-studies in academic track. 

Study III

This study explores how do perceived support, school burnout and student engagement predict general upper secondary education students’ educational goals.

Developmental trajectories of motivation: A parallel-process approach to goals, values, and expectancies

The focus of this PhD project is on individual differences in the developmental dynamics of achievement goal orientations, value beliefs, and self-perceptions of competence during secondary education.


Study I investigates the joint development of achievement goal orientations within one academic year and their associations with subject-specific expectancy-value profiles and academic achievement.


Study II investigates the joint development of achievement goal orientations across the transition to lower secondary education and their mediating role in the development of domain-specific self-concepts from 6th to 9th grade.


Study III explores the joint development of achievement goal orientations across the transition to upper secondary education and how the trajectories predict educational aspirations and academic achievement.

Comprehensive school students’ sources of self-efficacy in self-regulation –Development and trajectories of change during a school year

My PhD project focuses on comprehensive school students’ self-efficacy beliefs (Can I?) to control and assess own behaviours, emotions and thinking in learning situations. My dissertation consists of three sub-studies, which are divided into following main themes:


Study I. “Students’ self-efficacy in self-regulation together with behavioural and emotional strengths: investigating their self-perceptions”. This study investigated how comprehensive school students perceive their self-efficacy related self-regulation and their behavioural and emotional strengths, and whether received pedagogical support played a role in how students perceive themselves.


Study II aims to study how both primary and lower secondary school students’ self-efficacy in self-regulation beliefs develop and change over the course of one school year, and to see whether gender, received pedagogical support, behavioural and emotional well-being predicts trajectories of change.

Study III aims to study whether students’ school performance is associated to sources of self-efficacy in self-regulation.

Anna K
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