Student engagement at the beginning of vocational studies


  • Satu Niittylahti University of Tampere
  • Johanna Annala Tampere University, Finland
  • Marita Mäkinen Tampere University, Finland



Student engagement, vocational education, first-year student, adolescence, mixed-methods


This mixed-methods study examined student engagement at the beginning of vocational studies. The focus of the study was on students’ certainty about their career choices, how they experienced the social environment in vocational education and the relationship of these factors to student engagement. Firstly, 364 first-year students (aged 15–17) participated in the quantitative survey. Secondly, 17 students were selected for interviews. According to the results, student engagement at the beginning of vocational studies is related to overcoming uncertainty. In addition, students’ engagement and career choices are strengthened by the support and confirmation they receive, the students’ interest in their studies, their general abilities and their coping skills. Having friends at school diminished feelings of insecurity while co-operating with friends eased their sense of inadequacy. According to the results, teaching and the organisation of schooling may promote or hamper learning and active participation. Therefore, student engagement in vocational education seems to be strengthened through interactions with other students, friends and peers, and the teachers and other adults in the student’s life. This supports a more collective and collaborative view of engagement.


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How to Cite

Niittylahti, S., Annala, J., & Mäkinen, M. (2019). Student engagement at the beginning of vocational studies. Nordic Journal of Vocational Education and Training, 9(1), 21–42.



Peer-reviewed research articles