Käyttäytymistieteellinen tiedekunta


Recent Submissions

  • Törnroos, Maria (Helsingin yliopisto, 2015)
    The role of individual differences in perceptions of stress has long been recognized. Despite this, the models that are used to measure stress at the workplace the job strain model and the effort-reward imbalance model were developed to assess strenuous work characteristics and their health effects, regardless of the individual. Because work characteristics are usually measured using self-reports the measures cannot be completely objective. The present study examined the susceptibility of the job strain model and the effort-reward imbalance model to Five-Factor personality traits and cynicism. In addition, this study tested the longitudinal measurement invariance of the effort-reward imbalance scales. This study was part of the ongoing prospective, population-based Young Finns study. The measurements for the present study were carried out in 2001, 2007, and 2012. Five-Factor personality traits were assessed with a questionnaire on the Five-Factor model, and cynicism was assessed with a scale derived from the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory. Work characteristics were measured with questionnaires on the job strain model and the effort-reward imbalance model. The results showed that high neuroticism was associated with higher job strain and higher effort-reward imbalance and that high agreeableness was associated with lower job strain and lower effort-reward imbalance. High extraversion, high openness, and high conscientiousness were associated with lower job strain. Furthermore, high conscientiousness was related to lower effort-reward imbalance only in men. High job strain prospectively predicted higher cynicism six years later. The effort-reward imbalance scales achieved strict longitudinal measurement invariance and showed adequate criterion validity. Although developed to measure the structural work environment, the job strain model and the effort-reward imbalance model seem to be susceptible to Five-Factor personality traits especially to neuroticism and agreeableness. In addition, high job strain seems to have far reaching consequences on cynical attitudes. Furthermore, the results show that scores on effort-reward imbalance from different time points can reliably be compared with each other. This study shows that organizations and occupational health services should apply a more person-oriented approach to increasing wellbeing at work.
  • Sahlstedt, Heli (Helsingin yliopisto, 2015)
    The aim of this study is to introduce how basic education works in Finland with the new comprehensive school form, in which all pupils from grades 1 9 study in the same school building. The school is specially designed and constructed for this purpose. The view point of this research is school pedagogy. This study describes the development of normal institutional school guidance towards the newest school form with a focus on the vertical and coherence development in the Finnish school system. The study examines experiences of unified comprehensive school practice from the view point of teachers, pupils and guardians. It investigates the diverse diversity of opinions between teachers, pupils and guardians and what things should be considered in the future when new schools like this are built. The research involved a case study of a new unified comprehensive school built in a capital region of Finland in 2006. The research data were collected in five different phases between 2005 and 2010. The data consist of answers from 275 guardians, 871 pupils and 64 teachers. The study used mixed methods, and the data were collected with Quest-MM according to closed and open questions. The qualitative data were analysed with the content analysis. The quantitative material was analysed by using the Kruskall-Wallis test and cross tables. According to the results, the teachers, pupils and guardians showed significant statistical differences in their opinions about the school. Altogether 83 % of the guardians and 71 % of pupils were satisfied with the unified comprehensive school. In fact, 70 % of the guardians and 60 % of the pupils wanted to see the construction of more unified comprehensive schools. The guardians focused on the safety of their own child in the school. They appreciated that in the new school form, their child did not have to change schools between grades 6 and 7, a transition that the parents usually found to be undesirable. The students tended to highlight the informal elements, such as friendship, the school environment and school rules; they also showed marked age-related differences in their views. The teens thought that the unified comprehensive school was suited mainly for the younger primary school pupils. The teachers were the most critical of the new school form; 53 % of them were satisfied with it, and only 29 % wanted to see more of them. The teachers considered the matter primarily from the point of view of their own work. They thought the unified comprehensive school was a rich working environment, but disliked it as an organization. According to the teachers, the unified comprehensive schools are built too large to function effectively. The action of a large school organization must be divided, so that the risk of the parts is to divide such action too much. Horizontal coherence did not work. Also, the guardians, like the teachers were skeptical of the number of pupils in the unified comprehensive school. According the guardians, large size of the school units reduced the safety of the pupils. The result show that one can see the need to reduce the size of the unified comprehensive school for the benefit of the pupils and teachers. Additionally, school ergonomics, school culture and pedagogy also deserve careful consideration. The school must to realise that pupils studying between the ages of 6 and 16 have different needs. The unified comprehensive school seems to require more resources or help from outside of the school in establishing their pedagogy and school culture from the beginning. ________________________________________ Keywords: basic education, comprehensive school, unified comprehensive school, school pedagogy
  • Niemelä, Reko (Helsingin yliopisto, 2015)
    Doctoral dissertation Inclusionary practices in a Finnish pre-primary school context has been made in the context of the five-year EU project Includ-Ed (2006- 2011), which has 14 European universities as partners. The aim of the research was to find out the most supportive practices and the most unsupportive practices from a perspective of inclusion experienced by agents (persons). Agents are children, parents, teachers and administration and organisation members who were interviewed by communicative open interview. There were a total of 54 interviews. Inclusion is examined through perspectives of transformation and critical communication. Critical communicative methodology assumes that people can interpret their own behaviour and modify their actions based on that. To be able to analyse interviews, theory-based categories were used. After this, clusters were created using open categorisation. Of the results, when answering types are separated, 212 quotations were from professionals (teachers, administrators, members of organisations) whilst 88 quotations were from family and children. Professionals did make their voices heard more often than parents and children. Professionals gave over four times more transformative quotations than parents/children. Parents/children gave slightly more exclusionary quotations than professionals. In the light of research findings, parents and children are still unable to make their voices heard as well as they could, and parents attitude and preconceptions are unsupportive of inclusion. Lack of resources was the most unsupportive practice to inclusion according to the professionals. For all the agents, the most supportive practice to inclusion was co-operation. Keywords: inclusion, educational science, critical communicative methodology, content analysis, agents, ATLAS.ti
  • Klenberg, Liisa (Helsingin yliopisto, 2015)
    Executive functions (EFs) are essential for coordination and controlling of other cognitive functions and behavior. EFs are involved in all purposeful activity, and for children, they are important for learning and functioning in school environments. Difficulties in EFs are common in school-age children with developmental disabilities, such as attention deficit disorder (ADHD). This thesis consists of three studies addressing EFs in school-age children. The first study employed neuropsychological tests from the Developmental Neuropsychological Assessment NEPSY to examine age-related differences in EFs in a sample of 400 children. The second study investigated the methodological factors related to EF measures in a sample of 340 children using response inhibition tasks from the NEPSY-II, the second edition of the Developmental Neuropsychological Assessment. The third study aimed at constructing a new instrument, the Attention and Executive Function Rating Inventory ATTEX, for the clinical assessment of EFs and verifying the psychometric properties of the rating scale in a sample of 916 children. Age-related improvement in EF task performance continued throughout the school-age period, proceeding from inhibition to attention control, and further to fluency of actions. A closer examination of response inhibition showed developmental variation even within this EF domain. The developmental change was apparent at school age, but different outcome measures and the cognitive requirements of tasks had an effect on how the development of response inhibition was depicted. In the assessment of everyday EF behaviors, the ATTEX rating scale demonstrated high internal consistency reliability and good criterion and discriminant validity for ADHD. The EF profiles were different for the ADHD subtypes, and children with predominantly inattentive symptoms showed more wide-ranging difficulties in EFs than children with combined symptoms of inattention and hyperactivity-impulsivity. Carefully examined, reliable, and valid measures are essential for both the scientific research and clinical assessment of EFs. Factors related to the measures, e.g., materials, stimuli, and the selected outcome measure, and the cognitive processes involved in tasks have effect on how development of EFs is depicted. Close examination of these factors can help to attain a more consisted account on EF development. In the clinical assessment of EF difficulties, the measures need to be sensitive to the actual difficulties that arise in every-day situations. These are best assessed with standardized rating scales. The new rating scale presented in this thesis proved to be a suitable measure both for screening and examining the detailed EF profiles of children in school situations.
  • Karhula, Kati (Helsingin yliopisto, 2015)
    Health care personnel often have irregular working hours and stressful work characteristics, which may challenge employees possibilities to sleep and recover sufficiently. The aim of this study was to examine the association of stressful work characteristics, measured as job strain, with sleep and psychophysiological recovery in shift working health care professionals. As part of the Finnish Public Sector Study, 95 participants were recruited from hospital wards that belonged to the top (high job strain, HJS, n=42) or bottom quartiles on job strain (low job strain, LJS, n=53) as determined by the average job strain score among the employees of the ward. These participants experienced job strain at least as high (HJS group) or as low (LJS group) as the average on their ward. Measurements included a Trier Social Stress Test (TSST), and 3-week field measures of sleep-wake rhythm with sleep diary and actigraphy. The 3-week rosters included three pre-selected, circadian rhythm and recovery controlled measurement days, one morning shift, one night shift and a day off, and the following measurements: ratings of sleepiness (Karolinska Sleepiness Scale), Psychomotor Vigilance Test (PVT), 24h heart rate variability (HRV) measurements and saliva samples of stress biomarkers (cortisol and alpha-amylase). The rosters of the HJS group included more single days off and quick returns than the rosters of the LJS group. Severe sleepiness (KSS score of ≥7) was more common in the HJS group in quick returns. The HJS group reported poorer recovery from all work shifts and after morning shifts than the LJS group. High job strain was not associated with extended working hours. The HJS group had more difficulties in initiating sleep after evening shifts, more often reduced sleep efficiency before morning shifts, and took fewer and shorter naps before the first night shift than the LJS group. Additionally, the HJS group had more often lapses in the PVT during night shifts. Insufficient sleep (31%) and sleep complaints (often 68%) were common in shift workers regardless of the job strain group. The TSST resulted in, on average, a 2.27-fold increase in cortisol concentration in the HJS group and a 1.48-fold increase in the LJS group (non-significant group difference). The HJS group also had higher salivary alpha-amylase levels 30 minutes after awakening in the morning shift. Apart from that, the salivary cortisol and alpha-amylase levels, profiles and total secretion showed no statistically significant stress group differences. Heart rate and HRV, before and during sleep, were similar in both job strain groups. Shift work contributed to impaired sleep in both the high and low job strain groups, although the sleep impairments were more pronounced in the HJS group. Associations between job strain and psychophysiological stress-related reactions and recovery were modest. Intervention studies are needed to determine whether increasing recovery time by reducing the number of quick returns and single days off would also reduce job strain and improve sleep quality among shift workers. Emphasising the importance of sufficient sleep might promote shift workers´ recovery and well-being.
  • Oksanen-Lyytikäinen, Johanna (Helsingin yliopisto, 2015)
    The idea of this research was to articulate the meanings of costume and costume design through three contemporary operas Helsinkiin 2005, Le Saxophone 2011 ja Kohtaus kadulla 2013 process descriptions. The aim of this study was to research the meaning of costume and costume design in different opera contexts from the point of view of the costume design-er, but also from the viewpoint of the composer, stage director, performers and the audience. These meanings are considered in the entirety of the above-mentioned operas. Besides will be asked, how do production, performing context and the quality of the collaboration and interaction influence to the artistic pro-cesses from the viewpoint of costume design. As the basis of the multiple case study there was fenomenographic and semi-otic approach to the opera phenomena and producing and interpreting the mean-ings of the costume. The meanings of the costume were to be introduced by adapting methods of craft science, practice-led and artistic research. As main research material was used artists descriptions of their processes, diaries, notes and visual documents like sketches and photographs of the productions. Also material collected by interviewing and inquiry methods was used. As the research result I pronounce the context-based meaning of the costume. The role and meaning of the costume changes according to which phase of the process and from whose viewpoint it is considered. The meaning of the costume is different to different artists or producers and it changes during the processes. To the director costuming can give, besides visual stage picture, tools to create action with, and to the performer it for example will function as a help to create the character and as a protection during performances. To the audience costume tells of the backgrounds or the nature of the characters or something from the stories behind the artwork. When compared, the sketches produced during the artistic processes and the photographs taken from the stages, it was clearly to be seen that the costume sketches had their impact to the stage picture. Through the sketches of the com-poser it was to be noticed that the creative processes in different arts to some extent remind each other. The documentation and analyzing documents of the artistic processes opens up a great chance to create a picture of what happens during art making.
  • Joensuu, Matti (Helsingin yliopisto, 2015)
    Job control has been a key concept in research on the psychosocial work environment and employee health for decades. A general hypothesis is that the more job control employees have, the lower their risk of stress-related diseases. However, the evidence to date has been inconclusive. The two components of job control, skill discretion and decision authority, may be differentially associated with health, which is a possible explanation for previous mixed findings. Therefore, this study examined the longitudinal associations of job control and its components separately, along with mental health and incident cardiovascular disease. The samples used were the Still Working study (N=13 868), the Finnish Public Sector Study (N=60 202) and the Individual-Participant Data Meta-analysis in the Working Populations consortium (N=197 473). Survey responses to job control scales were linked to information on sickness absences and hospitalizations due to psychiatric disorders and hospitalizations and mortality from cardiovascular diseases derived from national registers for initially healthy employees. The follow-up period ranged from one year for sickness absence to 20 years for mortality. The data were analyzed using Cox proportional hazard models, probit regression and random-effects meta-analysis. Employees from hospital wards were linked to information on hospital ward overcrowding in an instrumental variable regression analysis of an external measure for job control. Skill discretion and decision authority showed different, to some extent opposite and subgroup specific associations with mental and cardiovascular health. In several analyses a high decision authority was associated with an increased risk of future mental or cardiovascular ill health. In the Still Working cohort study, the adjusted hazard ratio for cardiovascular mortality was 1.47 (95% confidence interval, CI, 1.12, 1.93) for high decision authority and 1.01 (95% CI 0.76, 1.34) for high skill discretion. Job control as a combined construct was not associated with incident cardiovascular disease in the meta-analysis of prospective studies when adjusted for age, sex and socio-economic status (hazard ratio 0.95, 95% CI 0.75-1.19 for highest quartile vs. lowest quartile). In the instrumental variable regression hospital ward overcrowding did not function as an external indicator for job control. Job control appears to be an equivocal concept in terms of health risk as its components were differently associated with health outcomes. These findings suggest that decision authority and skill discretion need to be separated and different work contexts should be differentiated in studies on job control, mental health and cardiovascular diseases.
  • Virtala, Paula (Helsingin yliopisto, 2015)
    Infants already demonstrate readiness for music processing. Although culture-specific music-processing skills are acquired through exposure to music, even in the absence of formal training, the processing of music sounds is known to be facilitated by music training from early on. Major vs. minor and consonance vs. dissonance categorisations have a central role in Western tonal music and are highly meaningful for Western listeners. However, their neural basis and its development have not been extensively studied. The present thesis examined the preattentive processing of Western music chord categorisations from infancy to adulthood by measuring event-related potentials (ERPs) of the electroencephalogram (EEG), using a mismatch negativity (MMN) paradigm. The effect of music expertise on their processing was studied in school-aged children and adults. In the MMN paradigm, minor chords, inverted major chords, and highly dissonant chords were presented infrequently as deviant sounds in the context of root form major chords. Since all chords were transposed to several frequency levels, the deviant chords introduced no new frequencies to the paradigm, and thus an MMN caused by simple physical deviance was prevented. The results demonstrate the facilitating effects of music expertise on Western music chord discrimination neurally in adults and school-aged children, and behaviourally in adults. Sensitivity to Western music chord categorisations, particularly consonance vs. dissonance, was evident already at birth. While there was no evidence of major vs. minor discrimination as indicated by MMN elicitation in school-aged children without music training, there was tentative evidence of it in newborn infants and non-musician adults. Only musician adults demonstrated sensitivity to root vs. inverted chords, indicating that the facilitating effect of music expertise on the neural processing of the chords grows with age and years of practice. The present thesis suggests that, building on early auditory skills, some implicit knowledge of Western music chord categorisations is acquired via exposure to music during development, without formal training. However, consistent neural representations of complex chord categories may require extensive amounts of formal music training.
  • Sakurai, Yusuke (Helsingin yliopisto, 2014)
    This doctoral thesis explored international university students academic engagement and factors contributing to its enhancement and impediment. It revealed characteristics of international students academic engagement by demonstrating similarities to and differences among various groups of students, including between international student sub-groups and between domestic and international students. The four studies that make up this thesis incorporated two survey datasets on students learning experiences at the University of Helsinki one set for international students at the Bachelor s and Master s level, and the other set for international and domestic doctoral students. Studies I and II focused on different subgroups of international Bachelor s and Master s level students. Study I especially explored the associations of different dimensions of students teaching-learning environment and academic engagement. The purposefulness of the course assignments and the relevance of learning contents were associated with adopting a deep approach to learning and being organised in their studies. Furthermore, the better the students perception was of how well their courses were organised and learning contents were aligned with each other, the lower was their stress level. The research further attempted to show whether the association model differed between two major international student cohorts in the same educational context: European and Asian international students. Study I concluded that the impacts of dimensions of the teaching-learning environment on students academic engagement did not differ between the student groups. However, the scores indicating students cognitive engagement, including the surface approach to learning and organised studying for the Asian students, were statistically significantly higher than those of the European students, but the sizes of the differences were considered to be very small. Study II further narrowed the scope by analysing Chinese students cognitive engagement vis-à-vis the other international students, with attention given to the students survey extreme response styles. The results suggested that the Chinese students used the surface approach more than the other students with a small amount of difference, but these results warrant additional attention when the students extreme response styles are taken into account. Furthermore, the study showed that the Chinese students applied the deep approach and organised study as much as the other students. The Chinese students might take a deep approach and organise their studies even more if the levels of their extreme response styles were equivalent to that of the other students. Studies III and IV shed light on factors associated with international doctoral students academic engagement in their studies. Study III used both quantitative measures and students open-ended answers about their academic experiences. It addressed influential factors in their experiences of satisfaction with their studies and thoughts about abandoning their programmes. Both positive and negative factors in research supervision and positive factors in the personal domain were significantly associated with student satisfaction. The doctoral students levels of academic satisfaction were lower in the Faculty of Arts, and higher among those who had not yet decided on the format of their doctoral thesis: monograph or article-based thesis. In addition, the results suggested that students who had problems in supervision and department-related matters, including financing, research facilities and administrative responsibilities, were more prone to have considered dropping out of their studies. Study IV examined the association of doctoral students motivation to undertake doctoral studies and the levels of their emotional engagement. It demonstrated the differences and similarities of the association between international and domestic doctoral students by integrating a data-driven statistical approach. The results suggested that students who started their doctoral studies with low motivation to extend their career prospects were significantly less satisfied. More international students than domestic students were classified in the cluster of students who began their studies hoping to develop their career prospects with moderate levels of research interest. This thesis contributes to our knowledge of the characteristics of international students academic engagement by demonstrating that students studying in the same educational context appeared to engage in their studies in a fairly comparable way. The thesis stresses the importance for university teachers to be sensitive about their own understanding of particular groups of students in the current, highly diversifying atmosphere of tertiary education. The comparison of different groups with the use of effect sizes consistently showed only very small or even negligible differences. Therefore, this thesis calls more attention to the practical size of differences between different cohorts, which have often been reported in previous comparative studies, but without a great deal of interpretation. Finally, the four studies could not demonstrate links between the students positive engagement in their studies and their academic peers. Hence, this thesis argues that international students may not take sufficient advantage of peer support and collaborative synergy during their university studies.
  • Zilliacus, Harriet (Helsingin yliopisto, 2014)
    Supporting Students Identities and Inclusion in Minority Religious and Secular Ethics Education: A Study on Plurality in the Finnish Comprehensive School The purpose of this doctoral thesis is to explore how education in minority religions and secular ethics supports students identities and inclusion in the Finnish comprehensive school. The focus is on students in grades 1 6 (age 7 13) in the Helsinki metropolitan area. The identities of the students are viewed from a constructivist perspective as their conceptions of themselves in the context of the instruction group and the school. The student s different identities, including his or her religious and non-religious identities, are examined as part of an intercultural educational context. In this context student inclusion is viewed as the student s experiences of him- or herself as equal and integrated. This article-based thesis takes a qualitative approach and is based on four articles, each targeting one sub-question which aims at answering the research problem. Article I focused on how students experience instruction in their own minority religious education or in secular ethics, and how they perceive themselves as part of the overall school culture. This study was based on a participant observation study in 2009 10 undertaken in five different minority religion and secular ethics classes in one comprehensive school. The findings indicated that minority students generally found having their own group to be a positive experience. However, the study also showed that students expressed a negative sense of difference in relation to majority students and that there were several practical concerns in the organization of the classes. The subsequent articles, Articles II IV, were based on interviews with 31 teachers and 3 teacher coordinators in 2011. Article II focused on how minority religion and secular ethics teachers view the task of supporting and including plurality within the classroom. Article III focused on how teachers and teacher coordinators view the inclusion of minority religious education in the school culture. The final article, Article IV, focused on how teachers of minority religions view the significance of education in supporting students identities. The findings within these articles illuminated how students identities were embedded in the educational context, which included both supportive and challenging aspects. The supportive aspects that the teachers and teacher coordinators emphasized included a sense of belonging and community in the group, the inclusion of students with immigrant backgrounds, as well as the support given to students diverse cultural and religious backgrounds. The support given to students backgrounds was strongly dependent on the size and structure of the mixed age class and the teachers capacities to take all students into account. A central challenging aspect included structural discrimination in the education. In teachers views, some minority students also felt separated and isolated in relation to majority students and were subject to instances of discrimination. Furthermore, the overall lack of dialogue within the schools and between the classes emerged as a challenge for including the minority students in the school cultures. The findings moreover indicated that the way minority religious education supports students identities includes challenges. The current system of education appears strong with regard to supporting students identities within a given tradition. However, it does not always take into account modern plurality and the individual identities of students. In teachers views students identities were frequently seen as bound to a particular tradition, and socialization into the religious tradition was clearly present. This puts into question the adequacy of the current model and educational practice. For the future development of religious education it is vital that the challenges in the educational context are met and that students identities are viewed as open to change and individual development.
  • Mononen, Riikka (Helsingin yliopisto, 2014)
    The purpose of this thesis was to investigate the effectiveness of early mathematics interventions for young children with low performance in mathematics. Previous research has indicated that early mathematics skills are a strong predictor of later mathematics performance. The goal of early mathematics support by means of interventions is to improve mathematics performance, and consequently, to diminish the possibility of mathematics learning disability emerging later on. This thesis sought to complement and extend previous research in the field of early mathematics interventions, by reviewing early mathematics interventions, and investigating the effectiveness of two early mathematics intervention programmes. Study I reviewed mathematics interventions (N = 19) aimed at 4–7-year-old children with low performance in mathematics. For each intervention, effect sizes were calculated for mathematics outcome measures, and the pedagogical implementation was described. The effectiveness of the RightStart Mathematics (RS) (Cotter, 2001) instruction was investigated in Studies II and III. In Study II, the instruction was provided for Finnish kindergartners (RS group: n = 38, comparison group: n = 32) in general education classrooms, with focus on low-performing children. In Study III, the RS instruction was provided in special education classrooms for children with a specific language impairment (SLI group: n = 9, comparison group: n = 32). In Study IV, a mathematics intervention programme Improving Mathematics Skills in the Second Grade (IMS-2) (Mononen & Aunio, 2012) was developed, and its effectiveness for second graders performing low in mathematics was examined (IMS-2 group: n = 11, low-performing controls: n = 13 and typically performing controls: n = 64). In Studies II-IV, quantitative methods were used for analysing the interventions’ effects. According to the results of the review, in the majority of the interventions, the mathematics skills of the participating children improved more than the skills of the children in control groups, with effect sizes varying from small to large. Progress in mathematics learning was evident when instruction included one or more of the following instructional features: explicit instruction, peer-assisted instruction, applying a concrete-representational-abstract sequence, computer assisted instruction, or games. Study II showed that the RS instruction was as effective as the typical Finnish kindergarten mathematics instruction. The counting skills of the initially low-performing children improved to the level of their typically performing peers. Follow-up in the first grade revealed performance differences between the initially low- and typically performing children, highlighting the importance of continuously monitoring progress, and providing intensified support. In Study III, children with a SLI receiving RS instruction improved their counting skills to the level of their peers. In the first grade follow-up, the children with SLI performed similarly to their peers in addition and subtraction skills (accuracy) and multi-digit number comparison. In Study IV, the mathematics skills of the second graders participating in the IMS-2 intervention did not improve more than the skills of the children in control groups. However, the study provided valuable information about the functionality of the IMS-2 programme’s intensity and content. To conclude, in general, the results indicate that rather than waiting for children to fail, mathematics interventions can be used successfully to promote the early mathematics skills of children with low performance in mathematics, already before the onset of formal schooling and in the early grades. Therefore, identifying low performance in mathematics and providing sufficient support should be emphasised already in early childhood education, in accordance with the Finnish three-tiered educational support system. Keywords: early mathematics skills, low performance in mathematics, mathematics learning disability, mathematics intervention, review, specific language impairment, educational support
  • Martikainen, Silja (Helsingin yliopisto, 2014)
    Adequate rest and periods of activity are important for maintaining physiological homeostasis, for the adaptive functioning of the stress-response systems, and they promote psychological well-being. However, knowledge on the associations of sleep and physical activity with stress system functioning, and of physical activity with psychiatric problems is limited especially in children and youth. This study was designed to address three research questions, (1) whether sleep is associated with cardiovascular function in 8-year-old children, (2) whether physical activity is associated with psychiatric problems in 8-year-old children, and (3) whether physical activity is associated with hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical axis (HPAA) function in 8- and 12-year-old children. The participants came from an urban community-based cohort originally comprising 1049 infants born in 1998 in Helsinki, Finland. Sleep and physical activity were objectively measured using accelerometers. Sleep was also assessed using parent-reported questionnaire-based data. Of the 413 children invited to a follow-up, 321 participated at a mean age of 8.1 years. Of these, 231 to 274 were included in the analyses of sleep and ambulatory blood pressure, or cardiovascular reactivity to the Trier Social Stress Test for Children (TSST-C). The children s mothers and teachers filled in a questionnaire reporting common childhood psychiatric problems, and 199 children had valid data on physical activity and psychiatric problems from both observers. HPAA activity was measured via salivary cortisol concentrations, 252 of the children with valid data on physical activity had data on diurnal salivary cortisol, and 248 had data on salivary cortisol responses to the TSST-C. Later, of the 920 adolescents invited to a further follow-up, 451 participated at a mean age of 12.3 years. Of these, 283 adolescents with valid physical activity data provided data on diurnal salivary cortisol, and 272 adolescents provided data on salivary cortisol responses to a low-dose overnight dexamethasone suppression test (DST), a method used to study the individual physiological variation in HPAA feedback inhibition. In contrast with a wealth of evidence especially from adults, the results showed that sleep in healthy children was not associated with an unhealthy cardiovascular phenotype. Higher physical activity levels were associated with a lower probability for psychiatric problems in children as well as lower HPAA reactivity to psychosocial stress at 8 years of age. In addition, in early adolescence (12 years of age) physical activity was associated with lower morning cortisol levels in girls and higher HPAA suppression in response to the DST in boys. These results provide evidence on the health-related associations of sleep and physical activity in a community-based cohort of children. These findings offer insight into the influence of physical activity on physical and mental well-being, by suggesting that physical activity could promote health by moderating HPAA function. As the results are correlational in nature, further research using a prospective controlled methodology is called for. This study emphasizes the importance of sustaining and supporting high physical activity levels throughout childhood and adolescence.
  • Lehtonen, Esko (Helsingin yliopisto, 2014)
    In the visual control of locomotion, gaze is used to sample information in an anticipatory manner. In car driving, this anticipation functions at both a short and long time distance. At the short time distance, gaze leads the locomotion with a small (1‒3 s) time headway. Many steering models have explained this behavior by interpreting that drivers track a steering point on the road to obtain visual information which is directly translated to steering actions. This gaze behaviour can be called guiding fixations, because the gaze is providing information for the online control of the steering. At the long time distance, gaze serves trajectory planning by picking up information from the road further ahead. In curves, a part of the road can be visible in highly eccentric positions relative to the typical guiding fixations direction. In these situations, the information needs of the trajectory planning can result in eccentric look-ahead fixations toward the curve. The role of these fixations in the visual control of locomotion is not well understood. In this thesis, I have developed algorithmical methods for the identification of look-ahead fixations from eye movement data collected with an instrumented vehicle on real roads. In a series of three experiments, gaze behavior in curves was studied. The effects of driving experience and cognitive load were also investigated. In general, fixation distributions do not suggest a clear division between guiding and look-ahead fixations. However, a clear tail of eccentric fixations is present in the distributions, which can be operationally defined as look-ahead fixations in curves. Look-ahead fixations target the whole visible road, but locations with a smaller eccentricity relative to the guiding fixations were more commonly fixated than those with a high eccentricity. Experienced drivers allocated more time to look-ahead fixations compared to novices. Cognitive load may negatively affect trajectory planning by interfering with look-ahead fixations. Based on the results, the role of trajectory planning in the control of steering is discussed. The results are consistent with a hierarchical model of driving behaviour, where trajectory planning supplies the intended path for the level of the online control of steering.
  • Kangas, Kaiju (Helsingin yliopisto, 2014)
    Designing, from its very premise, aims to create something new. Therefore, it can be seen as a form of object-oriented process of knowledge-creation, which, in turn, is considered a fundamental future competence. In order to productively participate in the future society, students need experience of creative knowledge work practices from an early stage of their education. Since the objects and effects of design are daily apparent all around us, engaging in and comprehending design processes provides a means of developing a deep understanding of the less tangible issues affecting us humans and the world we inhabit. However, design learning and knowledge-creation have not, especially at lower levels of education, attracted much research interest. The general aim of the present study is to examine how knowledge-creation exemplified by collaborative designing could be promoted at the elementary level of education. This objective is two-fold; on one hand, the present study investigates the nature of students' collaborative design learning processes and, on the other hand, the facilitation of these processes. Further, the study explores the role of social, material, and embodied dimensions of designing in the learning processes as well as in their facilitation. The study represents design-based research, where the pedagogical approach Learning by Collaborative Design (LCD) was, for the first time, applied at the elementary level of education. In order to examine and further advance the approach, a longitudinal project, the Artifact Project, was organized in an elementary school in Helsinki, Finland. Video data (approximately 16 h) from the project's lamp designing phase constitute the main data source of the present study. The leadership of this phase was provided by a professional designer, and the data consists of interaction between him and the students, as well as of the student teams' peer collaboration. In addition, selected views from the Artifact Project's Knowledge Forum database were analyzed. The data was approached through iterative cycles of qualitative content analyses. The findings indicate that elementary students are able to engage in and learn creative knowledge-creation and design processes, and that these processes can be structured and promoted using the pedagogical LCD approach. Three foci of participants' activity were identified in the study, indicating that in order to engage in genuine design inquiry, students need support in understanding the rationale directing the design practice, in actually engaging in these practices, and in the reflection and sharing of their emerging design knowledge. From the findings, four pedagogical implications were drawn. First, creative knowledge-creation and design processes evolve within long, preferably undefined periods of time. Second, design is inherently interdisciplinary, and students' emerging design knowledge also calls for knowledge of science and the humanities. Third, design competence develops through several connected levels social, material, and embodied of thinking, interacting, and meaning making. Fourth, collective and participatory learning facilitates creative designing and knowledge-creation. The implications drawn are linked with the emerging maker culture, which may provide new prospects for implementing design learning as well as underlining its significance in general education.
  • Koli, Annarita (Helsingin yliopisto, 2014)
    This dissertation concerns work-related well-being of vocational teachers and the possibilities for well-being promotion in changing work activity. Previous studies concerning teachers’ occupational well-being and change have focused either on individual teachers as recipients of change, or on the characteristics and reforms of teaching work on a general level. Only rarely has work-related well-being of teachers been studied from the viewpoint of work community and changing work activity. In my thesis, I study teachers’ work-related well-being as a phenomenon emerging in collective and changing work activity. I develop a method for promoting work-related well-being in the joint development of work activity. In this method, the work community is considered as an active agent in developing their work and promoting their well-being. I employ cultural-historical activity theory (CHAT), the methodology of developmental work research (DWR) and theoretical concepts that have been developed within them for studying work-related well-being. The activity-theoretical concept of object-dependent well-being emphasizes the personal sense of work and the employee’s successful work in experiencing work-related well-being. However, it is still unclear how an individual may find a new personal sense in his or her work in significant workplace transformations. My research task is: how is it possible for the teacher community to develop and reshape their work activity in order to promote their work-related well-being at the same time? My empirical research site is a work community of beautician teachers in a vocational school. I studied their work using ethnographic research methods 2002-2004, as part of a research and development project called “On the threshold of new expertise – personnel as the workplace change agent.” My dissertation consists of a theoretical part and four empirical articles. In the articles I analyze teachers’ changing work activity and their work-related well-being from different viewpoints. In the summary part of the thesis I develop a theory for studying and promoting work-related well-being that is based on both empirical articles’ findings and theoretical concepts of activity theory. In my dissertation, I study teachers’ work-related well-being as a developing relationship between the personal sense of work and collective object of teaching. The fragmental development of teaching appeared in the everyday work of teachers as disturbances, contradictory demands, and problems in their personal sense of work. In significant workplace transformations the relationship of the individual to his or her work may culminate in the experience of a personal double-bind and contradictory motives that threaten work-related well-being. My study shows that the teacher community did not have sufficient opportunities for working out a shared conception of the changed object of their work. Hence, also the development of new work practices and new sources of personal sense were not consolidated. My study also shows, however, that with the help of appropriate developmental tools, teachers may construct a shared understanding of the developmental needs of work activity and so promote their work-related well-being by jointly generating the future of their work activity. In significant workplace transformations, employee well-being can be promoted by supporting work communities in constructing a shared conception of the object of joint activity. This conception creates the ground for reshaping organizational practices, but it also offers an opportunity for individuals to construct a new relationship to their work and for finding new sources of work-related well-being in the changed work activity. During change even strong individual experiences of contradictory motives are not a negative phenomenon, but an important prerequisite for both individual and collective development. My study helps to understand individuals’ well-being experiences in changing work activity and shows the meaning of collective development in the promotion of work-related well-being.