Learning difficulties, academic well-being and educational pathways among adolescent students

Tutkimustuotos: VäitöskirjatyypitTohtorinväitöskirjaArtikkelikokoelma


The purpose of this thesis was to investigate the interplay between learning difficulties in mathematics and reading, academic well-being and educational pathways. Particular emphasis was placed on mathematical learning difficulties, that was the main interest of research in all four studies. In Study I, the relations between mathematics performance and different language skills (word-, reading comprehension, and spelling) were investigated in ninth-grade students (N = 810). Study II focused on the relative importance of mathematics and reading achievement on students’ (N = 1152) educational aspirations together with interest and well-being measures. Study III investigated change and stability of mathematical learning difficulties and academic well-being across the transition to upper secondary education in adolescent students (N = 980). Finally, educational dropout was predicted with learning difficulties and academic well-being in Study IV.

Structural equation modelling techniques were used in all the studies and resulted in the following findings. Students’ reading skills were strongly related to their mathematics performance while spelling was not (Study I). Latent profile analysis identified a group of students with combined difficulties in mathematics and reading but no “single difficulty” groups (Study IV). Mathematics was more important compared to reading for boys’ educational aspirations, while for girls reading was more important (Study II). School burnout predicted educational aspirations indirectly through interest while academic self-concept had a positive direct effect on students’ educational aspirations (Study II). Students with mathematical learning difficulties and low-achieving students did not differ from their peers in academic self-concept development from grade nine to upper secondary education although they experienced lower levels of academic self-concept in grade nine (Study III). However, students with mathematical learning difficulties in general upper secondary education displayed opposite change patterns in school burnout compared to typically achieving students. Both learning difficulties and academic well-being predicted educational dropout (Study IV). In general, learning difficulties and academic well-being were related (Study II, III, & IV) but a group of students with average performance in reading and mathematics, but negative academic well-being was identified (Study IV).

To conclude, learning difficulties and academic well-being are related and both shape students’ educational pathways. Moreover, mathematical learning difficulties co-occur frequently with difficulties in reading in this age group. These findings emphasize the importance to identify individual differences not only in students’ academic achievement, but also concerning their well-being, and support both areas in school.
AlkuperäiskieliEi tiedossa
Painoksen ISBN978-952-12-3463-7
Sähköinen ISBN978-952-12-3464-4
TilaJulkaistu - 2016
OKM-julkaisutyyppiG5 Tohtorinväitöskirja (artikkeli)


  • learning difficulties
  • educational dropout
  • well-being
  • educational pathways