Problematic pupil. Expert discourse between Finnish teachers and specialists in Child Guidance Clinic in 1968–1991

Thesis event information

Date and time of the thesis defence

Place of the thesis defence

Linnanmaa campus, lecture hall IT116

Topic of the dissertation

Problematic pupil. Expert discourse between Finnish teachers and specialists in Child Guidance Clinic in 1968–1991

Doctoral candidate

Master of Arts Anne Koskela

Faculty and unit

University of Oulu Graduate School, Faculty of Education, Teachers, Teaching and Educational Communities

Subject of study



docent Jutta Ahlbeck, Åbo Akademi University


docent Seija Jalagin, University of Oulu

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Finnish teachers and Child Guidance Clinics experts’ definitions of problematic pupils in 1968–1991

This study set in the field of history of education examines how expert discourse and practices produced boundaries between problematic and normal pupils and, furthermore, shaped perceptions of normal children and childhood. This article dissertation analyses how and what nature of problematic pupils were discursively produced in collaboration with experts in schools and child guidance clinics from 1968 to 1991.

The study material consists of teachers’ statements on those pupils whom they perceived as problematic due to, for instance, a learning disability or behavior. The 365 statements compiled to the Oulu child guidance clinic forms have been analyzed with a data-driven approach using methods of scientific history. The concepts discourse, power/knowledge and governance based on Michel Foucalt’s studies were used in formulating this study’s research questions and, furthermore, as theoretical tools for analysis. The study understands deviance and problematicness as discursively produced, historically formed and contextually bound.

The results of this study indicate that the line between problematic and normal pupils was drawn discursively through interaction with teachers and child guidance clinic experts. Discourse was shaped by statements and practices related to the statement process. Based on the results of this study I suggest that pupils’ problematicness was produced interactively at grassroots level in school and in a continuing process. The definition process of problematicness was affected by everyday life at school, available solution alternatives for problems along with place and time bound expectations and norms laid by society, school, and teachers. These expectations and norms included, for instance, standards of learning and what teachers regarded as acceptable. The child guidance clinic forms together with teachers’ statements that based on these forms acted as a technique for normalizing governance, i.e., as a concrete means of governance. They played a part in defining both problematic children and the contrasting normal children.
Last updated: 23.1.2024