Academic journal article Journal of Educational and Developmental Psychology

Change in Pupils' and Students' Attitudes toward School as a Function of Age - A Finnish Perspective

Academic journal article Journal of Educational and Developmental Psychology

Change in Pupils' and Students' Attitudes toward School as a Function of Age - A Finnish Perspective

Article excerpt


The article describes changes in pupil and student contentment as a function of age in the general education system. School satisfaction was measured with a 216-item test with 15 different versions simultaneously in all grades of primary and lower secondary education and in two grades in upper secondary general education. IRT modeling with matrix sampling was used to equate the versions for all the grades. Pupil/student contentment decreased significantly after the 2nd grade with the intensity of the satisfaction declining steadily until the 8th grade. From 9th grade on, contentment recovered as it began to increase once again, albeit moderately. It then stayed constant until the 2nd grade in high school. Pupil/studentcontentment decreased especially in the areas of assessing teachers, classroom activities, and lessons; there was a smaller reduction in the areas of school atmosphere and physical environment. Over the years, the girls were more satisfied with school than were the boys. Pupils with a higher achievement level were more satisfied than those with a low level of achievement.

Keywords: self-assessment, school satisfaction, pupil contentment, attitude toward school, IRT modeling, school attitudes, student attitudes, pupil attitudes, school climate, student-school relationship, teacher-student relationship, primary education, lower secondary education, higher secondary education

1. Introduction

Though an ever greater share of learning nowadays is achieved in non-formal connections or through non-formal pedagogy (Silberman-Keller, 2006; Bekerman & Silberman-Keller, 2004; Frasca, 2003), pupils and students are still attending school and it can be considered as their "working place". One may relevantly ask: should one enjoy being in the working place? So, by extension, one may ask should one enjoy being in school? Some writers (e.g., Olkinuora & Mattila, 2001, 20; Liinamo & Kannas 1995, 110-111) have connected pupils'/students' enjoyment in school to the quality of the school and areas such as "working conditions". Due to administrative development in schools many usually administer some kind of self-assessment in school. One of the first exercises to achieve this is to measure the level of satisfaction of the pupils and the teachers. The layman's judgment is that, if overall satisfaction is not acceptable, then other functions of the school also cannot be done well. This layman's viewpoint does not differ much from research results. The characteristics of well-functioning schools have been connected to the concept of a "positive climate" as a central feature (OECD, 1995, 20). However, Hautamäki and colleagues (Hautamäki et al., 1999) have noticed that school satisfaction and effectiveness do not necessarily go together.

This article approaches school satisfaction from the pupils'/students' contentment viewpoint. It starts with the brief examples of the pupil/student attitude reviewed on the basis of the international research literature. Secondly, relevant Finnish studies are presented as a basis for the comparison of results in the empirical part of the study. Finally, the changes in the pupil/studentcontentment are described as a function of age. The subjects of the study are pupils from the 1st grade to the 9th grade and students of upper secondary schools

2. Student Attitude in the Research Literature

In the ERIC database (, there is a myriad of publications concerning "Pupil/student attitudes" (over 63,000 hits at spring 2012), "teacher student relationship" (over 18,000 hits), "school attitudes" (over 1, 390 hits), or school climate (over 2,000 hits). Obviously, it is not possible to cover all possible aspects of the topic in a brief article. Although these studies have touched on different aspects (e.g., different grades, approaches, background theories, settings, and the research problem) as Ruoho, Koskela and Pihlainen-Bednarik (2006, 110) have noted, they are here classified under the umbrella of "school satisfaction. …

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