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THINK research centre seminar: Play and Learning in Finnish Education Policy and Practice

Kristiina Kumpulainen, Department of Teacher Education, University of Helsinki

Play is a serious matter to young children across cultures. This is evidenced by the passionate, intensive, and energetic engagement many children invest in this activity. Play experiences are widely recognised to create the foundations for children’s healthy and holistic development. In Finland, children’s opportunities for play are highly regarded in the education of children under seven years old, and lately the interest towards play and playful learning have extended to the education of older children, even adults. In my talk, I will be reflecting on current international research on play and learning and how this scientific evidence is taken up in Finnish education, in its policy and practice. I will draw attention to the possibilities and thresholds, and show how play and learning is also about playing with learning. I will end my talk by considering the changing landscapes of play in the digital era and their consequences for children’s learning, educational practice and teacher professional competencies.

Event details

Dr. Kristiina Kumpulainen is Professor of Education at Department of Teacher education, Faculty of Behavioural Sciences, University of Helsinki. She is also the founding member and the scientific director of the Playful Learning Center ( She received her PhD in Education from the University of Exeter in 1994 focusing on children’s collaborative writing with computers. She has held two distinguished scholarly positions awarded by the Academy of Finland. In the years 2006-9 she directed the national interdisciplinary research network on learning, CICERO Learning at the University of Helsinki. She has also served as the Director of the Information and Evaluation Services Unit at the Finnish National Board of Education before her present position. Prof. Kumpulainen has been a visiting professor at the University of Warwick, Institute of Education, and at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Prof. Kumpulainen’s research focuses on tool-mediated learning and communication in various settings, including early childhood centers, schools, museums and teacher education settings. She has also addressed methodological questions in the analysis of social interaction in collaborative and creative learning in online and offline spaces. Her current research centers on learning across contexts, play and playful learning, digital literacy, learner agency and identity, resilience, as well as visual participatory research.


Baring Court 114