The First Steps study



Unviersity of Jyvaskylä

Department of Psychology: Jari-Erik Nurmi, Kati Vasalampi, Kenneth Eklund, Timo Ahonen, Kaisa Aunola, Asko Tolvanen, Anna-Liisa LyyraNoona Kiuru, Gintautas Silinskas, Riikka HirvonenEmmi Enlund

Department of Teacher Education: Marja-Kristiina Lerkkanen, Anna-Maija Poikkeus, Helena Rasku-Puttonen, Minna Torppa, Eija Pakarinen, Riitta-Leena Metsäpelto, Jenni SalminenSirpa Eskelä-Haapanen, Maryam Zarra-Nezhad, Tuomo Virtanen

Department of Education: Tuire Koponen, Mikko Aro, Pirjo-Liisa Poikonen

Normaalikoulu: Marita Kontoniemi

University of Turku

Psychology: Elisa PoskipartaTiina Turunen, Pekka Niemi, Annarilla Ahtola

University of Eastern Finland

Education and psychology: Jaana ViljarantaMartti Siekkinen, Leena Holopainen, Minna Mäkihonko

Doctoral Students

Heidi Korpipää, Heli Muhonen, Joona Muotka, Saara Nousiainen, Milja Parviainen, Viola Penttinen, Sanni Pöysä, Susanne Roos, Jenni Ruotsalainen, Riitta Sikiö, Xin Tang, Tiina Turunen, Riitta Virinkoski


The First Steps longitudinal study examines student learning, motivation, and problem behaviour in different interpersonal contexts, such as school, home and peer groups. It comprises a rich database of assessments of students’ reading and math performance, motivation and engagement, social skills, peer relations, as well as well-being. The follow-up stated in 2006 and will be continued until 2019. Children have been studied from kindergarten until the end of comprehensive school in 2016. At the moment, their educational decisions, dropping out of school, and well-being are studied during secondary education (in vocational and upper secondary schools).

The population-based sample of children (born in 2000) from four municipalities involved more than 2,000 children from preschool to Grade 4, and approximately 1,800 children with their parents and teachers in in Grades 6, 7 and 9. After Grade 9, the sample also includes all classmates of these 2,000 earlier involved students. This means about 5,500 students altogether. This research has gained a lot of attention in Finland and abroad. Because of the large data and frequent data points, it is in many ways a unique study.

At each measurement point in comprehensive school, parents have filled in questionnaires on their parenting styles, well-being, and background information, as well as on their children’s behaviour and motivation, beliefs, and concerns regarding their child, as well as homework and literacy practices in the home. Similarly, at each of these measurement points, children’s teachers have filled in questionnaires concerning their teaching style, stress, pedagogical goals and practices, and classroom background information on, for example, support for children’s special needs. Teachers have also provided ratings on individual students (a subsample of 650 children of the original sample) concerning student motivation, problem behaviours, teacher–child relationship, and partnership with parents. A subsample of the teachers have participated in classroom observations (live observations or audio and video recordings) which have been coded using the CLASS and ECCOM instruments concerning teacher practices and classroom quality. In secondary education students will be answering questionnaires on their educational decisions and aspirations, well-being and school burn-out. Also, information about their educational path will be gathered from educational archives.

The study has been conducted as a collaboration between the University of Jyväskylä, the University of Turku and the University of Eastern Finland.




For more information, contact: professors Jari-Erik Nurmi, Anna-Maija Poikkeus, Marja-Kristiina Lerkkanen, Timo Ahonen, Martti Siekkinen and Pekka Niemi.


  • Longitudinal follow-up and transitions
  • Learning and motivation
  • Risk for reading disability 
  • Classroom quality and interaction
  • Teacher-child relationship
  • Parenting
  • Partnership


Niilo Mäki Institute: Pekka Räsänen, Tuire Koponen

University of Tampere, Special education: Sirpa Eskelä-Haapanen

University of Tallinn, Estonia:  Eve Kikas, Piret Soodla

University of Oxford, UK: Lars-Erik Malmberg, Kathy Sylva

University of Virginia, US: Bridget Hamre, Robert Pianta

University of Michigan, US: Frederick Morrison

Utrecht University: Paul Leseman

University of Alberta, US: Rauno Parrila, George Georgiou

Florida Atlantic University, US: Brett Laursen

Hong Kong Institute of Education: Xiao Zhang 


  • Academy of Finland project funding (2016-2019, Nurmi)
  • Finnish Cultural Foundation (2014–2016, Lerkkanen, Poikkeus, Rasku-Puttonen)
  • Academy of Finland project funding (2014-2016, Lerkkanen)
  • Academy of Finland project funding (2013–2015, Poikkeus)
  • Academy of Finland project funding (2006–2011, Center of Excellence, Nurmi