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Mervi Kaukko

Professor, kasvatustiede, monikulttuurisuuskasvatus
Tampere University
phone number+358503182399
City Centre Campus

About me

My current research has three primary areas: migration and refugee research, intercultural education and practice theories/praxis.

Migration/refugee research, especially in relation to childhood and education (Kaukko & Wilkinson 2018; Wilkinson & Kaukko 2019; Kohli & Kaukko 2017; Millei, Korkiamäki & Kaukko 2019), has been my main interest since the beginning of my PhD. Currently my main agenda in this field is to understand refugee students’ educational success and school wellbeing. I believe that while certain circumstances and processes can make refugee children vulnerable and struggle in school, the relationship between difficult experiences and consequent problems is correlational rather than causal (Kaukko & Wilkinson 2018). I want to understand how, despite a fragmented educational history and exile-related stressors, many refugee children succeed in schools, and what kind of educational practices they have found helpful in their learning.

The second theme is ethical praxis in intercultural education. Ethical praxis in intercultural settings requires teachers to critically reflect their work beyond their immediate teaching practice and think, what is good for the individual learners now and in the long run (regardless of where they will be), and what kind of practices resonate with the lifeworlds of the child, (regardless of how distant they are from the world of the teacher). In my ongoing research, I explore this with Finnish and Australian teachers and educational leaders working with refugee students.

My third, mainly theoretical research interest is closely linked to the other two. I frame my current research within practice theories, especially within the theory of practice architectures (Kemmis, Wilkinson, Edwards-Groves, Hardy & Bristol 2014). This theoretical approach conjoins the individual and the societalapproaches, and the ways in which experiences and the site-specific (educational) practices are nested with one another: how the everyday reality (of students, teachers, educational leaders, to take school as an example) is composed in socio-material realities (of schools) and, especially, shaped by the cultural-discursive, material-economic and social-political arrangements among which the practices are enacted (Kemmis et al 2014).

I came to Tampere in 2019 to join the Institute for Advanced Social Research (IASR) after three years at Monash University, Australia. Before that, I was a lecturer (Global Education) at University of Oulu, Finland. I continue as an adjunct researcher at Monash University and a docent (adjunct) at Oulu University.


I am Professor (Multicultural Education) at Faculty of Education and Culture. I lead the Kone-foundation funded project From Panic Solutions Towards Equal Refugee Education — Participation, Support and Inclusion of Students from Countries in Crisis (KOTI) (2023-2027) and I am the Project Manager for NordForsk-funded project Relational Wellbeing in the Lives of Young Refugees in Finland, Norway and the UK (2020-2024). Year 2022-2023 I spend at Harvard Graduate School of Education as a Fulbright fellow. 

Research unit

MTT - Multiculturalism, Transnationalism and Transformation in Education

Research fields

Refugee education, practice theory, multicultural education, intercultural education, research ethics. 

Selected publications

Korkiamäki, R., & Kaukko, M. (2023). Faceless, voiceless child – Ethics of visual anonymity in research with children and young people. Childhood, 30(1), 55–70.

Heikkinen, H., Kiilakoski, T., Kaukko, M. & Kemmis, S. (2023) Tehtävänä on käytäntöjen muuttaminen. Ekososiaalinen sivistys käytäntöarkkitehtuuriteorian valossa. [Changing practices. Eco-social wisdom in the light of practice architectures] Kasvatus 1(23).

Dunwoodie, K., Kaukko, M., Wilkinson, J., Reimer, K., & Webb, S. (2020). Widening university access for students of asylum-seeking backgrounds: (Mis)recognition in an Australian context. Higher Education Policy, doi:10.1057/s41307-019-00176-8.

Rissanen, I., Kuusisto, E., Timm, S., & Kaukko, M. (2023). Diversity beliefs are associated with orientations to teaching for diversity and social justice: A study among German and Finnish student teachers. Teaching and Teacher Education, 123, 103996.

Kaukko, M., Alisaari, J., Heikkola, L., Haswell, N. (2022) Migrant Background Students’ Experiences of Facing and Overcoming Difficulties in Finnish Comprehensive Schools. Education sciences. 12, 450. DOI: 10.3390/educsci12070450

Kaukko M., Wilkinson J., Haswell, N. (2022). ‘This is our treehouse’. Investigating play through a practice architectures lens. Childhood. DOI:10.1177/09075682221091419

Kauhanen, I., Kaukko, M., Lanas, M. (2022) Pockets of love. Unaccompanied children in institutional care in Finland. In Children and Youth Services Review. Vol 141, DOI:10.1016/j.childyouth.2022.106621 

Alisaari, J., Kaukko, M. & Heikkola, L. (2022) Kotoutuminen, kuuluvuus, kielitaito ja kaverit: Opettajien ajatuksia maahanmuuttajataustaisten oppilaiden opetuksen kehittämiskohdista. [Integration, belonging, language and friends. Teachers’ thoughts about areas to develop in migrant students’ education]. Kasvatus ja aika 16(2), 26–46. DOI:10.33350/ka.103434

Alisaari, J., Kaukko, M. & Heikkola, L. (2022) Riitänkö minä? Osaanko auttaa? Opettajien huolia maahanmuuttajataustaisten oppilaiden opetuksessa. [Am I enough? Exploring teachers’ worries about working with migrant students] Kasvatus 53 (3), 229–244.

Alisaari, J., Kaukko, M., Heikkola & L. (2022) The Joys of Teaching: Working with language learners in Finnish classrooms. Scandinavian Journal of Education, 66 (4), 566-579 DOI: 10.1080/00313831.2021.1897877

Laletas, S., Grove, C., Sharma, U., O’Toole, T. & Kaukko, M. (2022) Breaking down the walls of the ‘Ivory Tower’: critical reflections on how co-teaching partnerships can bridge the gap between inclusive education theory and practice, Teachers and Teaching, DOI: 10.1080/13540602.2022.2062742

Millei, Z., Kaukko, M. & Korkiamäki, R. (2022) Thinking with publics, politics and ethical boards in ethnographic research. In B. Hünersdorf, G. Breidenstein, J. Dinkelacker, O. Schnoor & T. Tayagunova (eds) Going public? Ethnography in Education and Social Works and its Publics. Springer. 

MacDonald, K., Diamond, F., Wilkinson, J., Sum, N., Longmuir, F., Kaukko, M. (2022) Creating spaces of learning in academia: Fostering niches for professional learning practice. Studies in Continuing Education (44)2, 266-283, DOI: 10.1080/0158037X.2021.1956890

Keary, A., Reupert, A., Kaukko, M., & Wilkinson, J. (2022) Education and Ethics of Care when Working with Refugee Families during COVID-19. Early years. DOI: 10.1080/09575146.2022.2031120

Haswell, N., Kaukko, M., Knag Fylkesnes, M., Sullivan, P. (2023) Keeping each other safe: Young refugees’ navigation towards a good life in Finland, Norway, and Scotland. In Reimer, K. Kaukko, M. Kemmis, S. Mahon, K. & Windsor, S. (eds). Living Well in a World Worth Living in for All: Current practices of social justice, sustainability and wellbeing (Part 1). Springer. 

Kaukko, M., Windsor, S., Reimer, K. (February 2023). Searching for worlds for living in. In Reimer, K. Kaukko, M. Kemmis, S. Mahon, K. & Windsor, S. (eds). Living Well in a World Worth Living in for All: Current practices of social justice, sustainability and wellbeing (Part 1). Springer. 

Wilkinson, Jane & Kaukko, Mervi (2020) Educational leading as pedagogical love: The case for refugee education. International Journal of Leadership in Education. Special issue Understanding Leadership for Refugee Education.

Wilkinson Jane & Kaukko Mervi (2020) How to support students of refugee background in your school Brooks, Jeff. & Heffernan, Amanda. (Eds.). The school leadership survival guide: What to do when things go wrong, how to learn from mistakes, and why you should prepare for the worst. Information Age Publishing: Charlotte, NC.

Sjølie Ela, Francisco Susanne, Mahon Kathleen, Kaukko Mervi, Kemmis Stephen (2020) Learning of academics in the time of the Coronavirus pandemic. Journal of Praxis in Higher Education, Vol. 2, Issue 1. 85-107

Petäjäniemi, Maria, Kaukko, Mervi & Lanas, Maija (2020) Confined in Waiting - Young Asylum Seekers Narrating in and out of Temporary Shelter. YOUNG Special Issue: Intersections of Care, Punishment and Protection. DOI: 10.1177/1103308820904271 

Kauhanen, Iida & Kaukko, Mervi (2020) Recognition in the lives of unaccompanied children and youth: A review of the key European literature. Child & Family Social Work. DOI:10.1111/cfs.12772Kaukko, Mervi, Kielinen, Marko, Alasuutari, Hanna (2019): Linnunpesästä lentoon. Valmistavan opetuksen praksis opettajien kertomana. Aikakauskirja Kasvatus 5(19), 474-488.

Reimer, Kristin, Kaukko, Mervi, Wilkinson, Jane, Dunwoodie, Karen & Webb, Sue (2019) Acknowledging the Head, Heart, Hands and Feet: Research with Refugees and People Seeking Asylum in Higher Education. In Widening Participation and Lifelong Learning. 21(2), 190-208.

Wilkinson, Jane & Kaukko Mervi (2019) Leading for praxis in refugee education. Orchestrating ecologies of socially just practices. In Jeffrey Brooks, Khalid Arar & Ira Bogotch (eds) Education and Immigration: Policy, Leadership and Praxis for a Changing World. Bingley, UK: Emerald’s Advances in Educational Administration. 

Kaukko Mervi, Korkiamäki, Riikka & Kuusisto, Anna-Kaisa (2019): Normatiivisesta etiikasta elettyyn kohtaamiseen: tutkimuksellista hengailua yksin tulleiden maahanmuuttajanuorten kanssa. [From normative ethics towards lived encounters: research-like hanging out with unaccompanied minors] In Kaisa Vehkalahti & Niina Rutanen (Eds.) Lasten ja nuorten tutkimuksen etiikka II [Ethics of childhood and youth research II]. 

Millei, Zsuzsa, Korkiamäki, Riikka & Kaukko, Mervi (2019). ‘Arctic Childhoods' and mobilized differences - the mattering of skis and skates. In Pauliina Rautio & Elina Stenvall (eds.) Social, Material and Political Constructs of Arctic Childhoods: An Everyday Life Perspective. Springer. 

Dunwoodie, Karen, Kaukko, Mervi, Wilkinson, Jane Reimer, Kristin & Webb, Sue (2019) Widening university access for students of asylum-seeking backgrounds: (Mis)recognition in an Australian context. Higher Education Policy. 

Wilkinson Jane & Kaukko Mervi (2019) How to support students of refugee background in your school Brooks, Jeff. & Heffernan, Amanda. (Eds.). The school leadership survival guide: What to do when things go wrong, how to learn from mistakes, and why you should prepare for the worst. Information Age Publishing: Charlotte, NC.

Kaukko Mervi & Wilkinson Jane (2019) ‘Learning how to go on’: Refugee students and informal learning practices. International Journal of Inclusive Education 

Kaukko Mervi (2018) Intertwined journeys of a PhD-student, unaccompanied minors and the “refugee crisis”. International Journal of Doctoral Studies. 

Kaukko Mervi, Kiilakoski Tomi (2018) Tutkimus on toimintaa [Research is action]. In Honkatukia, Päivi (eds.) Miten tutkia nuoria ja nuorisotyötä [How to do research with youth and on youth work?] Helsinki, Finland: Nuorisotutkimusverkosto /Vastapaino.

Petäjäniemi, Maria, Lanas, Maija & Kaukko, Mervi (2018): Osallisuus turvaa hakevan reunaehdoissa: hätämajoitusyksikössä asuvien turvapaikanhakijoiden kertomuksia osallisuudesta ja osattomuudesta [Participation and seeking for safety: Narratives of asylum-seeking people in emergency housing]/ Aikuiskasvatus. [Adult Education] 2018/1.

Kaukko Mervi & Wilkinson Jane (2018) Praxis and language: Teaching newly arrived migrant children to ‘live well in a world worth living in’. TESOL in Context 27(1). 

Heikkinen, Hannu, Kiilakoski, Tomi, Huttunen, Rauno, Kaukko Mervi, Kemmis Stephen (2018). Koulutustutkimuksen arkkitehtuurit Aikakauskirja Kasvatus 49 (5), 368–383.

Kohli, Ravi & Kaukko, Mervi (2017) The management of time and waiting of unaccompanied asylum seeking girls in Finland. Journal of Refugee Studies. doi:10.1093/jrs/fex040. 

Kaukko Mervi & Wernesjö Ulrika (2017) Belonging and participation in liminality. Unaccompanied children in Finland and Sweden. Childhood: A Journal of Global Child Research 24(1)2017, 7-20, doi:10.1177/0907568216649104 

Kaukko Mervi (2017) The CRC of unaccompanied children in Finland. International Journal of Children’s Rights, 25(1)2017, 140 – 164, doi: 10.1163/15718182-02501006

Kaukko Mervi, Dunwoodie Karen & Riggs Elisha (2017) Rethinking the ethical and methodological dimensions of research with refugee children. ZEP: Journal for International Educational Research and Development Education 1(2017), 16-21.

Kaukko Mervi (2016) The P, A and R of participatory action research with unaccompanied girls. Educational Action Research, 24(2) 2016, 177-193, doi:10.1080/09650792.2015.1060159 

Kaukko Mervi & Fertig Michael (2016) Participatory action research, global education and social justice: Emerging issues from practice. International Journal of Development Education and Global Learning 7(3)2016, 24-46, doi:

Kaukko Mervi & Parkkila Helena (2014) Nykyajan totaaliset laitokset tyttöjen suojelijoina. [The total institutions of today. Girls in foster care]. In Gissler, Kekkonen, Känkäinen, Muranen & Wrede-Jäntti (eds.) Nuoruus toisin sanoen. [Youth in other words]. Helsinki: Youth Research Network and National Institute for Health and Welfare, 113-121.

Kaukko Mervi (2013) 'We have to learn for ourselves' Participation of unaccompanied minors in a Finnish reception center. Siirtolaisuus-Migration, Special Issue “Unaccompanied Refugee Minors”, 12-21.

Kaukko Mervi (2013) Everyday choices, meaningful activities and reliable adults. Diverse paths to empowerment of unaccompanied asylum-seeking girls. In: Törrönen, Borodkina, Samoylova & Heino (eds.): Empowering Social Work: Research & Practice. Helsinki: Palmenia Centre for Continuing Education, 200-221.