Interest or importance: Predicting Finnish students’ end-of-school attainment in history and social studies

  • Najat Ouakrim-Soivio
  • Sirkku Kupiainen
  • Jukka Rantala


The role of motivation plays an important role in learning and in international studies of learning outcomes. However, the cross-sectional nature of international studies does not allow causal conclusions regarding the relations between students’ attainment and attitudes. A shared understanding of the intertwined relation between the two relies on evidence from other, more restricted longitudinal studies. In this article, we use longitudinal data to study the role of Finnish students’ history and social studies-related attitudes and school achievement in explaining their attainment in a national test at the end of lower secondary education, and the impact of these on students’ choice of and success in the respective exam(s) in the matriculation examination at the end of upper secondary education. Our results show that students grouped according to their choice of the history and/or social studies exam(s) in the matriculation examination differed significantly from each other in their subject-related attitudes, attainment in the national test, and school grades in the two subjects already three years prior to the examination. To end the paper, we will shortly discuss the results in terms of improving teachers´ and students’ understanding of how motivational attitudes are associated with learning outcomes and through them guide students’ later educational and exam choices.