EDUCA Flagship brings research-based knowledge to reform education and teaching

Researchers at the University of Helsinki focus on both learning variability and the occupational wellbeing of teachers and principals in the Education for the Future EDUCA Flagship funded by the Research Council of Finland.

The modern school system faces a number of challenges: learning outcomes continue to decline, the number of students from immigrant backgrounds is growing rapidly, the dropout rate is increasing, and technology is changing our teaching and study methods. These challenges require wide-reaching, research-based corrective measures.

The Education for the Future EDUCA Flagship will address these future challenges by combining education, psychology, learning analytics, sociology, and economics with research and development work in the educational sector.

The consortium of the EDUCA Flagship consists of researchers from the Universities of Jyväskylä, Helsinki and Turku, and Aalto University, and is led by Marja-Kristiina Lerkkanen, Professor of Education at the University of Jyväskylä. In total, the consortium brings together hundreds of researchers from Finland and from top universities abroad, such as Harvard, Yale, KU Leuven, and Oxford.
“The data infrastructure being built with the help of EDUCA will enable the collection of large amounts of data on the learning outcomes of students, as well as learning difficulties, motivation and well-being, which will be linked to the data of Statistics Finland,” says Marja-Kristiina Lerkkanen. “This enables versatile and multidisciplinary data analysis and artificial intelligence-based predictions. Additionally, scalable digital interventions that meet the needs of learners can be developed while studying their efficiency and cost-effectiveness. The data infrastructure will also be made widely available to researchers.”

Research-based knowledge for education policy decisions

With the help of the Flagship, the research-based nature of education policy decisions and experiments and the competence of teachers and directors will be strengthened. Research will increase understanding of the variations of individual and social learning processes, optimal learning moments and challenges of learning engagement, as well as the effectiveness of scalable educational technology solutions.

“The need for research-based information related to the decision-making in the reformation of education and teaching, both in Finland and globally, is apparent,” says Marja-Kristiina Lerkkanen. “The challenges are shared, but the solutions have not typically been research based. The EDUCA Flagship will rise to these challenges.”

“The ecosystem of the EDUCA Flagship is globally unique,” says Professor Mikko-Jussi Laakso from the University of Turku. “It is based on the digital ViLLE learning environment, which has received awards from Unesco and Unicef. Currently, it is already in use in more than 70 percent of schools in Finland and in dozens of countries globally. It enables research-based, scalable individual and collective analyses and interventions from the classroom to the national level. EDUCA enables seamless collaboration with learners, teachers, researchers, and decision-makers.”

University of Helsinki focuses on study of learning variability and teacher wellbeing

At the University of Helsinki, research under the EDUCA Flagship is headed by Academy Professor Katariina Salmela-Aro

“In EDUCA, the University of Helsinki focuses on learning variability across time, people and contexts, as well as principal and teacher barometers,” says Salmela-Aro.

Research on variation in learning, motivation and wellbeing is conducted on three levels. 
First, in terms of individuals at different times, in different school subjects and situations (within-person variability); second, between different learners (within-group variability); and third, variability across contexts.
The barometers pertaining to teachers and principals as well as longitudinal studies are used to investigate the development of teachers’ and principals’ job-related demands, resources and burnout and engagement.

Four new Flagships have been selected to the Research Council of Finland’s Finnish Flagship Programme. Finnish Flagships are large centres of excellence, combining high-quality research and diverse scientific and societal impact with strong collaboration with the business sector and other actors in society.