Date of Paper/Work


Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Leadership (Ed.D.)

Type of Paper/Work



Karen Westberg, Michael Klein, Kathleen Boyle


This qualitative case study examined how Finland’s JOPO class, designed for 8th and 9th grade students who disengage from or drop out of their traditional class, helps students re-engage in school, discover a sense of belonging and motivation, and strengthen a sense of self-efficacy about successfully completing 9th grade. Called “the class of flexible learning,” the JOPO class combines academic small-group learning with workplace on-the-job learning and learning camps, which take the students out of school for natural environment activities that build teamwork and enhance social and emotional learning. Eight schools in five parts of Finland participated in this study. Teachers, principals, guidance counselors, youth workers and former JOPO students who are now young adults shared their experiences about factors they felt were key to the program’s success. Nearly all JOPO students in these schools not only completed the required 9th grade but continued on to a vocational or academic upper secondary school.

Bandura’s concept of self-efficacy, Dweck’s theory of growth mindset, Noddings’ theory of caring education, and Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences formed the framework for the study. JOPO teachers and students cited the emotionally safe learning community that evolved, the early sense of trust and belonging, on-the-job learning, and the teachers’ positive ‘noticing’ and commitment to the students as key in developing academic self-efficacy. Students gained new motivation and strengthened self-efficacy beliefs about being able to complete school. Principals and teachers credited early intervention with students, learning camp experiences, and selection of appropriate students and teachers for the program as success factors. The JOPO class began in 2006 and was adopted nationwide in Finland in 2008. It serves approximately 1,850 students each year in middle schools throughout the nation.


self-efficacy, JOPO class, on-the-job learning, belonging, social-emotional learning, growth mindset, caring education, student motivation, at-risk students, flexible learning, whole-child learning

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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