New Project Funding

Pathways Fellow Maria Pavlova has been awarded a grant by the German Research Foundation on the topic "Psychosocial benefits of civic and political participation across the life span and in a European comparison: Who gains what from which activities, and why?" The project will be funded for 3 years with direct project costs up to 297,010 Euro. Maria is prinicipal investigator and the grant will also fund a doctoral student position for two years:

"Civic and political participation refer to unpaid voluntary activities that are undertaken collectively, typically in a voluntary organization, and directed at the common benefit. Civic participation may be distinguished from political participation. The former involves direct helping activities (e.g., volunteering as a coach for a children’s sports team or as a cook in a soup kitchen), whereas the latter involves attempts to achieve policy change (e.g., petitioning or volunteering for a political party). Although civically or politically engaged individuals do not receive any substantial remuneration, they also derive certain benefits from civic and political participation. Such benefits are known and include, among others, higher subjective well-being, avoidance of risky behaviours, and career-related benefits. However, earlier research has focused on showing that there are some benefits to citizen participation rather than systematically examining their mechanisms.

The present project aims to investigate which types of citizen participation are beneficial to participating individuals in which ways, why, at which age, and in which societies. Dr Pavlova draws a distinction between civic and political participation and consider different levels of involvement in a voluntary organization (i.e., membership, active participation, and volunteering). She proffers a conceptual model whereby these types of citizen participation yield psychosocial benefits through certain mediating pathways. The mediating pathways considered in the present project include meaning-making, sense of mastery and control, positive social interactions, useful contacts, and skill acquisition. Furthermore, she argues that the associations between citizen participation and psychosocial outcomes may be moderated by age at the individual level and by country at the aggregate level.

To test my conceptual model, Dr Pavlova will conduct a secondary analysis of three large datasets: the German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP), the British Household Panel Survey (BHPS), and the European Social Survey (ESS), Round 2012 (29 participating countries). Each of these datasets includes information on civic and political participation and other relevant variables, which in each case allow for testing some of the pathways in my conceptual model. Two panel surveys make robust longitudinal analyses possible, whereas the ESS enables her to conduct a rigorous cross-national comparison. Taken together, analyses of these data will provide a systematic, differentiated, and explanatory account of the psychosocial benefits of citizen participation. Findings will have not only scientific but also practical value to policy makers and organizations in the third sector and health care, nationally and internationally."


Call For Papers

Pathways alumnus Martin Obschonka is guest editing a special section of the International Journal of Psychology on the development of entrepreneurship together with Per Davidsson from the Queensland University of Technology.

Futher information (PDF)



Press Release

MSU, Finland partners receive $3.6M grant to study science learning

More students need to feel motivated and excited about learning science if the United States is going to succeed in producing a more scientifically literate workforce.
Michigan State University researchers hope to make that happen by testing the best ways to improve learning experiences in high school. The team is using a $3.6 million grant from the National Science Foundation and partnering with scholars in Finland, where students outperform most of the world on international tests.
“Our interest is really to enhance engagement in science,” said principal investigator Barbara Schneider, Pathways PI, John A. Hannah Chair and University Distinguished Professor in the College of Education and Department of Sociology. “Not everyone will be a scientist, but all students need scientific knowledge to understand and contribute to the world. We want to develop a model where we can maximize their opportunities to learn.”
Over the five-year project, science education researchers will work with teachers in the United States and Finland to design and implement curriculum units in physics and chemistry classes. These project-based lessons will allow researchers to study the impact of new science teaching strategies modeled after the Next Generation Science Standards, a voluntary set of guidelines now being introduced in schools in many parts of the United States.
Participating students will each receive smartphones to provide real-time data to researchers. The system prompts students to answer questions on the phones about their learning experiences from a social and emotional, as well as academic, perspective. Of particular interest are the classroom messages that may be discouraging underrepresented student groups from pursuing careers in science-related fields.
Like the United States, Finland is in the process of restructuring its science curriculum in an effort to increase overall interest in STEM learning. Joseph Krajcik, Lappan-Phillips Professor of Science Education at MSU and co-principal investigator, will oversee the creation of curriculum materials and professional development for teachers. He said it will be exciting to collect evidence across two very different education systems and learn about which classroom ingredients lead to success for all students.
“The Finnish students do well on global tests, but they are not necessarily more interested in science,” Krajcik said. “We want to know how we can create zones where students feel empowered by learning science, know why it’s important and how they can use it in their lives.”
Collaborating researchers in Finland are Pathways PI Katariina Salmela-Aro and Jari Lavonen, both based at the University of Helsinki. Also working on the project from MSU are Corey Drake, Melanie Cooper, Deborah Peek-Brown, Marcos Caballero and Laurie Van Egeren.

October 2015