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PhD Projects

Influence of temperamental sensitivities on motivation in learning contexts

This PhD project focused on the linkages between temperamental reward and punishment sensitivities and students’ goal strivings, as well as their interest experiences, psychological strain, and effort exertion. Participating students ranged from elementary students in the early school years to university students. The thesis comprised three original publications:

Rawlings, A. M., Tapola, A., & Niemivirta, M. (2017). Predictive effects of temperament on motivation. International Journal of Educational Psychology, 6(2), 148-182.

Rawlings, A.M., Tapola, A., & Niemivirta, M. (2020). Longitudinal predictions  between temperament and motivation in the early school years. European Journal of Psychology of Education 35(2), 451-475.

Rawlings, A.M., Tapola, A., & Niemivirta, M. (2021). Temperamental sensitivities  differentially linked with interest, strain, and effort appraisals. Frontiers in Psychology, 11:551806.

Development of academic well-being during secondary education: Relations to performance, motivational beliefs, and aspirations

This PhD project focused on the developmental dynamics between academic well-being (school engagement and burnout), motivational beliefs (self-concept and interest), and academic performance (mathematics and reading) among adolescent students during both lower- and upper secondary education and, further, how these factors jointly shape students’ educational and occupational aspirations. The thesis is comprised of three sub-studies:

Widlund, A., Tuominen, H., & Korhonen, J. (2018). Academic well-being, mathematics performance, and educational aspirations in lower secondary education: Changes within a school year. Frontiers in Psychology, 9, 297.


Widlund, A., Tuominen, H., Tapola, A., & Korhonen, J. (2020). Gendered pathways from academic performance, motivational beliefs, and school burnout to adolescents’ educational and occupational aspirations. Learning and Instruction, 66, 101299.


Widlund, A., Tuominen, H., & Korhonen, J. (under review). School engagement and burnout across lower and upper secondary education: Trajectory profiles, progressions, and educational outcomes. 

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 and changes in interest, self-efficacy, and perceived difficulty during a task. PsyArXiv.

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. 

Study I investigates what kind of motivational (expectancy-value) profiles can be identified in university students, and how the different motivational profiles predict well-being (i.e., engagement, burnout, sense of belonging, depression, and loneliness). 

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

Study 2: How is interprofessional collaboration related to pupil well-being?

Study 3: 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.