Ongoing projects

Social ecologies of resilience among at-risk children starting school in South Africa and Finland: A visual participatory research project (SISU)

Social ecologies of resilience among at-risk children starting school in South Africa and Finland: A visual participatory research project (SISU) contributes to the joint call on children and youth of the National Research Foundation of South Africa and the Academy of Finland by increasing present day knowledge of protective processes that promote children’s resilient management of transitions to starting school. The leading objective of the research project is to explain why, and how some at-risk South African and Finnish children make positive transitions to school. The second objective is to identify sociocultural processes embedded in the children’s social ecologies that support their resilience in successful school transitions. A third objective is to examine and further develop participatory visual research methodologies for investigating and promoting children’s resilience and positive adaptation to school. The research project is framed by the Social Ecology of Resilience theory (Ungar, 2011) which emphasizes the cultural and contextual nature of resilience. Additionally, the project draws on sociocultural theories to understand how the funds of knowledge of children’s social ecologies support their boundary crossing and positive adaptation to school (Forman, Minick, & Stone 1993; González, Moll, & Amanti, 2005). In applying visual participatory methodologies, the research project provides a nuanced understanding of sociocultural processes engendering children’s positive transitioning to school. In doing so, the study contributes to the development of culturally sensitive protective mechanisms, for educational purposes in particular, that increase children’s socio-emotional well-being and enable young learners both in South Africa and Finland to overcome inequalities and risk of marginalization. The artifacts (i.e. drawings, photos, and video footage) produced via visual participatory methodology will be communicated to relevant stakeholders in a multiple ways. We shall develop a digital library of children’s drawings, photos and videos that illustrate the dynamics of children’s social ecologies of positive transitions to school. This archive will make sociocultural pathways to children’s adjustments public to inspire research, professional thinking, and pedagogical development. Moreover, the library will support and strengthen knowledge exchange, research collaboration and educational development work between South Africa and Finland.

Project duration: 2013 – 2016

Project funding: Academy of Finland


Towards children’s efficacious agency in formal and informal contexts (AGENTS)

This research project contributes to the Skidi Kids research programme by identifying factors both promoting and hindering children´s efficacious agency in the formal and informal contexts of childhood. In this research project, we explore the potential of theoretical concepts of self-efficacy, resilience and agency in order to define “efficacious agency” at theoretical and empirical levels. Our hypothesis is that young children are not merely reactive, passive and controlled either by environmental or biological forces but that through efficacious agency they can make themselves more efficacious, proactive and self-regulating. The core empirical data of this research project is based on video material, which will be used in various ways: for data gathering and for producing stimulations that support the development of resilience and agency in children.  The initial progressive refinement of our hypotheses will guide the next phases in the research project whose major goal is to create and use stimulations as pedagogical methods and tools for supporting the development of children´s efficacious agency in diverse contexts. In following this line of thought, the main principle in the research project is to consider children as co-researchers who are active participants in data production and interpretation for the promotion of their efficacious agency. This approach requires the refinement of video research methods to meet the authentic worlds and voices of children. In sum, this research project contributes to global efforts that aim to prevent marginalisation and inequality in children’s participation and well-being. Having a focus on children’s efficacious agency, its development and support mechanisms are powerful means to make negative developmental trends positive for every child.

Scientific leaders: Professor Kristiina Kumpulainen, University of Helsinki (PI), Professor Sanna Järvelä, University of Helsinki (PI) and Professor Lasse Lipponen, University of Helsinki

Project duration: 2010 – 2014

Project funding: Academy of Finland

Portfolio of projects

VISCI – Virtual Intelligent Space for Collaborative Innovation

As education and business today are increasingly globalized, new challenges are facing communication, interaction, and collaboration for the advancement and creation of innovation. There is a clear need for new knowledge about ubiquitous computing, communication, and knowledge co-construction processes in virtual teams as well as about the possibilities of modern information technology to support virtual knowledge co-creation and innovation. This consortium research project tackles these challenges via a multidisciplinary research approach incorporating expertise from several disciplines, namely computer science, information technology, education and behavioral sciences, linguistics and communication, as well as industrial engineering and management science. The project focuses on the following research themes: a) Communication and interaction in and for innovation in virtual teams and b) Technology as an enabler of interaction and innovation in virtual teams. The project applies a user-centred approach that aims at supporting human interaction and innovation with novel, intelligent technologies. Special attention will be paid on the supporting role of technological ubicomp solutions. 
During the project, the team will implement in an iterative manner several prototypes of a web-based virtual space for supporting collaborative innovation in educational and company settings. The VISCI systems will offer users novel, innovative features that will be specified and developed across the project. The project implementation will take place via three working packages: a) Specification and planning b) Implementation and testing and c) Empirical validation and user studies.
The project will be implemented using a rapid prototyping model, where the focus of the project work is iteratively switched forth and back between the three work packages, and the whole cycle over the work packages is iteratively repeated several times. In sum, this research project will create valuable new scientific knowledge for the information society via a multidisciplinary research approach focusing on communication, interaction, and enabling technology for the advancement of collaborative innovation in virtual teams in networks of educational institutions as well in company networks. It will develop and test novel technologies that facilitate social interaction and collaborative knowledge creation for learning and innovation. It will explore how adaptive and personalized technology works as an enabler in learning and innovation processes, encouraging creativity and self-expression among individuals. It will produce new knowledge on how individuals from different backgrounds interact, communicate and collaborate in virtual spaces to co-construct knowledge and to create innovations through emerging technologies.

Scientific leaders (PI’s): Professor Kristiina Kumpulainen, CICERO Learning Network, University of Helsinki, Professor Petri Myllymäki, Helsinki Institute for Information Technology (HIIT) Professor Riitta Smeds, Helsinki University of Technology (TKK)

Project duration: 2009 – 2012

Project funding: Academy of Finland


Learning Bridges – Learning and Teaching at the Intersection of Formal and Informal Learning Environments

The project investigates and develops teaching and learning practices at the intersection of formal, informal and non-formal contexts. In particular, the project develops pedagogical approaches to bridge gaps between formal and informal learning environments so that the funds of knowledge as well as social practices developed in one setting can become resources in the other. Moreover, the project examines the possibilities of digital video technology and social media to support participants’ transitions and knowledge generation across contexts. The research project will be carried out in a comprehensive school setting (grades 1-9) in the metropolitan area of Helsinki. The learning transitions among students and educators will be analyzed across three different contexts: the school and non-school contexts, such as Museum of Technology, City Libraries, and after-school clubs.

Scientific leaders: Professor Kristiina Kumpulainen, CICERO Learning Network (PI), Professor Leena Krokfors, University of Helsinki and Professor Lasse Lipponen, University of Helsinki

Project duration: 2008 – 2009

Project funding: Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture

PICCO, The Dynamics of Children’s Science learning and Thinking in a Social Context of a Multimedia Environment

This research project investigates children’s science learning and thinking in social context of a multimedia environment in an early year’s classroom. The goal of the research project is to widen theoretical, methodological and pedagogical understanding of children’s conceptual development in an activity context based upon tool-mediation and socially shared learning activities, child-initiation and spontaneous exploration. The research project approaches conceptual learning from the perspective of cognitive and sociocultural psychology in order to illuminate the sociocognitive processes of science learning when modern multimedia technological possibilities are in children’s use. The theoretical and methodological foundations of the research project are laid by theories and set of concepts derived from cognitive and social psychology, cognitive science, studies of discourse, learning and social practice and from artificial intelligence. The empirical data of this research project is derived from one Finnish day care centre. Twenty-three children aged between six to seven years participated in the study. The data collection was conducted in a four week period during which the children took part in a learning unit on space and time. The learning activities and tools in the unit consisted of child initiated; exploratory activities during which children had versatile tools in their use, including a multimedia learning tool, PICCO. The data of the research project consists of video recordings of children’s interviews before and after the experiment as well as of the children’s individual and social activities during learning unit. Children’s exploration paths during the use of the multimedia environment have also been recorded. Subsidiary data of the project consist of teacher interviews and parent diaries. The analyses of the empirical data of this research project are currently undergoing. In all, the results of the research will be important for theoretical and applied research as well as for educational practice with early year’s learners.

Project duration: 2006-2009

Funding: Academy of Finland


MATIS, Mathematics Teacher Learning in the Information Society

MATIS, the Mathematics Teacher Learning in the Information Society -research project investigates the application and adaptation of a cultural artefact, MILE-International, in Finnish pre-service mathematics teacher education. The technological learning environment consists of a digitalised video database of authentic classroom practice in mathematics education as well as of communication and search tools to support collective inquiry and teacher learning. The project will explore how mathematics teacher education aiming at reflective and inquiry-oriented practice is supported and changed by this technological artefact. In addition, the research project will explore communal reflection as a mechanism for identity building in technology-based mathematics teacher education, and carefully analyse the processes of mathematics teacher learning at the intersection of new technologies, learning cultures and societal demands. By investigating the social and cultural contexts constructed around the technological learning environment, the research project aims at increasing scientific knowledge about the processes of mathematics teacher education and learning embedded within and constituted by the social practices in which the learners and teachers engage during their application of the digitalised case-based material. Studying cultural and personal changes in mathematics teacher education classrooms is likely to provide valuable information about how cultures, their artefacts, and individuals create and re-create each other. In all, the project will develop pedagogical guidelines and instructional activities for meaningful and empowering mathematics teacher education in the information society. This research project is part of the Finnish Life as learning -research programme.

Researchers: Dr. Kristiina Kumpulainen, University of Oulu (PI) and Dr. Sinikka Kaartinen, Univeristy of Oulu

Project duration: 2002 – 2006

Project funding: Academy of Finland


LEARN, Learning at School as a Communal and Interactive Practice

This research project investigates the processes and conditions for learning and instruction in a third grade classroom that was encultured into working and acting as a community of inquiry across the curriculum. Theoretically, this study aims at investigating the potential of the sociocultural perspectives on learning and instruction to support the development, implementation and evaluation of the processes and conditions for learning and instruction across different pedagogical situations and across the curriculum. Methodologically, this study aims to contribute to the development of multiple analytical tools to examine the communicative practices of interactive rich classrooms in diverse settings from both social and individual viewpoint. Pedagogically, this study aims at creating a rationale for supporting meaningful, student-centered and problem-based learning across different pedagogical situations in the classroom. The research project will be realised as a series of case studies in which the interactive practices of the case study classroom are analysed qualitatively by using fine-grained micro level analyses methods. The subjects of the study are seventeen third-grade students from a Finnish elementary school, and their teacher. The empirical data corpus of the case studies consists of nine hours of videotaped classroom sessions gathered from three different domains, namely from philosophy, science and mathematics. The data selected for both quantitative and qualitative analyses cover whole class or half class discussions in different pedagogical situations that are of interest in this study. The results of the study will be published as a series of four articles in refereed scientific journals and gathered in the doctoral dissertation of M.Ed. Kovalainen.

Project duration: 2003-2013

COLISM, Community of Learners is Science and Mathematics

The objective of the COLISM-research project is to develop pre-school, primary and secondary school mathematics and science education on three dimensions. Firstly, the project investigates the implementation of a new form of educational approach to mathematics and science instruction based on the idea of distributed expertise in a community of learners. The goal of the community is that its participants consisting of students, teachers, and scientists collaboratively create a continuous and supportive network to support their mathematics and science learning and professional development. In this network expertise is shared and jointly constructed. Secondly, the project investigates the practices of these communities within and between classroom contexts. Particular attention is paid to the nature of social interactions that take place in these learning communities through different channels (e.g. face to face interaction, teleconferencing, electronic mailing) and how they give rise to the construction of scientific knowledge among its members. Students’ learning processes, personal attitudes and achievements in learning mathematics and science including the development of conceptual structures and meta-cognitive skills as well as teachers’ pedagogical practices and epistemological beliefs in planning, implementing and evaluating their work will also be considered. Thirdly, the project develops guidelines for mathematics and science curricula, the design of effective learning situations and evaluation. Emphasis is placed on student-centred and problem-based learning activities, collaborative learning methods, meaningful learning, authenticity, complexity, integration of mathematics and science learning, and on the use of information and communication technology. In addition to learning mathematics and science, the curriculum concentrates on developing students’ thinking and problem solving skills as well as risk management in the changing society.

The research project has been carried out at Oulu University, Faculty of Education in the years 1998-2001 in co-operation between experts representing mathematics and science, developmental and social psychology, education and communication studies. The project has been funded by the Academy of Finland, MALU 2002 research programme.

Research team: Dr. Kristiina Kumpulainen, University of Oulu (PI) and Dr. Sinikka Kaartinen, Univeristy of Oulu

Project duration: 1998 – 2001

Project funding: Academy of Finland


MILE-INTERNATIONAL, A Multimedia Interactive Learning Environment for Primary Mathematics Teacher Education

The purpose of this 3-year developmental research project is to develop European primary school mathematics education with the help of information and communication technology. The research project has its roots in MILE, which is a multimedia interactive learning environment developed for primary mathematics teacher education at Freudenthal Institute in the Netherlands. In the present project an international digital school, MILE-International, will be developed for mathematics teacher education in collaboration between three countries namely, Finland, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands.
The goals of this development project are:
• The construction of a European digital school to be used in mathematics teacher education and in-service education in the three participating countries. The digital school is realised in a multimedia-based learning environment which consists of a video database of school practice in the three participating European countries and of communication and search tools to support collaborative inquiry of mathematics education across countries. In summary, the digital school provides an international discussion forum on the quality of mathematics education in an European perspective. Within this forum expertise can be distributed and jointly constructed to support teachers’ professional development and students’ learning in mathematics.
• The construction of a specific in-service course for mathematics teacher education realised in the digital school developed in the project.
• Evaluation of the in-service course realised in the digital school
• The development of guidelines and standards for mathematics education including the design of curricula, effective learning situations and evaluation from an European perspective.

Researcher team: Dr. Kristiina Kumpulainen, University of Oulu (PI), Dr. Sinikka Kaartinen, University of Oulu, Dr. Maarten Dolk, Freudenthal Institute, The Netherlands and Melvyn Brown, University of Northumbria, UK

Project duration: 1999-2002

Project funding: EU Comenius 3.1. programme.

FACCT, Functional Analysis of Children’s Classroom Talk

This research project investigates social interaction and learning within the context of primary school education. Student-centred learning situations designed to support collaborative learning were situated in three curriculum areas – language, science/technology, and mathematics – each involving a distinct and different task. The role of technology in supporting learning and shaping classroom interaction was also investigated in one of the learning situations designed for the present study. Together with empirical research, the research project aimed to validate an innovative methodology which promises to reveal a great deal of information about the processes, conditions and effects of classroom interaction patterns on students’ learning and collaborative meaning-making. The theoretical basis of the interaction analysis framework developed in this research project draws on the sociocultural and socio-constructivist perspectives to learning as well as on discourse and conversation analyses. Major results of the research project are:
• Critical theoretical and methodological analysis of current understandings about the role of social interaction and learning in instructional settings
• Introduction and development of an innovative methodological tool for the analysis of social interaction and learning processes in educational contexts
• Analysis of social interaction and knowledge construction in modern, theory-driven learning situations with the help of the interaction analysis framework developed in this study
• Analysis of the socio-cognitive dynamics inherent in collaborative learning
• Description of the social conditions for collaborative learning and meaning-making
• Increase of pedagogical and instructional knowledge about the design and evaluation of instructional situations supporting social interaction and collaborative learning
The results of this research project are multi-faceted and they can be used and applied in teacher education and classroom-based instruction. In addition, the results can be used by researchers and learning theorists to underpin future work dealing with social interaction and learning in educational contexts.

Project period: 1995-1998

Project funding: Academy of Finland