Decisions made by schoolchildren can undermine the motivation of others to learn

Research focused on learning-to-learn skills uncovers educational differences and opportunities, which are things not equally shared by all pupils. This is the research field of Risto Hotulainen, a professor of educational assessment.

What are your research topics?

My colleagues and I are studying learning-to-learn skills. We look into how pupils' skills develop and how the skills gained are linked with the transitional stages of the educational path, for example, when transferring from comprehensive school to upper secondary school.

The study of learning to learn includes the measurement of skills and the investigation of willingness, or attitudes and motivation, in new kinds of learning situations. Several factors are associated with the development of both skills and the will, including health and wellbeing, the class in which the learning takes place, regional differences, and the educational background of the parents. These interconnections are key to my research.

Where and how does the topic of your research have an impact?

Through the school journey, children and their parents make decisions on, among other things, the languages to be studied. Several children making these choices simultaneously results in grouping in a school. Those neglecting such decisions are left outside the groups, leading to differences in attitudes related to skills and learning between outsiders and group members. Combined with the pupil's language, cultural background, gender, domicile and the parents' educational background, varying groups appear to erode the achievement of equality in education.

What is particularly inspiring in your field right now?

The rapid development and routinisation of various assessment tools are causing headaches and offering new opportunities in research. So far, not much research has been conducted on the utility of different assessment tools that focus on digital learning environments and utilise digital solutions.


Risto Hotulainen is a professor in the Centre for Educational Assessment at the Faculty of Educational Sciences.

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