Mustonen, V. (2018) Challenges of Expertise and Organizational Learning during Digital Transformation of Forensic Fingerprint Investigation. Department of Educational Sciences, University of Helsinki. Helsinki Studies in Education (number 23) series. The dissertation can be downloaded from the following address:

Hakkarainen, K. (Handledare), Juha Tuunainen (Handledare), Pasi Pohjola (Handledare)

Aktivitet: ExaminationstyperHandledare eller bihandledare av doktorsavhandling


The focus of the present dissertation is on personal and collaborative expertise in fingerprint examination, and the carrying out of interventions supporting the organizational transformation of forensic practices of learning and working. The study took place in the context of the digital transformation of fingerprint examination that involved moving from individuals working with real physical samples and analogical documentation to collective processes of analyzing digital fingerprint data. Internal and external criticism is forcing forensic communities to make improvements in terms of further harmonizing criteria, processes and competence requirements. The aim is to improve the quality of forensic investigation at the Fingerprint Laboratory of the Finnish National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) by creating a culture of collectively sharing and enhancing professional knowledge and competence among investigators. A further aim is to deepen understanding of forensic expertise on the personal, collective and organizational level. The conceptual foundations of the research lie in sociocultural frameworks such as adaptive expertise, professional vision, and collective knowledge creation.
The assessment of personal and collaborative expertise in fingerprint examination is based on multiple case studies and action-research methods. The dissertation comprises this summary and three sub-studies published as internationally refereed articles. Study A traces the development of adaptive expertise in fingerprint examination in two apprentices across a two-year training program. The program was designed by the present researcher to support the acquisition of more reflective, collaborative and development-oriented professional competences. Study B addresses critical aspects of collectivized fingerprint-investigation practices that involve distributing analyses of fingerprints across several independent examiners. The study involved organizing, documenting, and analyzing “discrepancy” meetings between examiners who had ended up with conflicting judgments and decisions regarding challenging latents, i.e., fingerprints found from a crime scene. Study C reports discourse interaction in a series of developmental seminars in which the fingerprint laboratory reflected on the transforming of fingerprint-investigation methods and operational guidelines, and worked out new analytic criteria and guidelines for using digital instruments. The multi-faceted data consisted of audio-recorded interviews and group discussions, reflective learning diaries, fingerprint analyses and their written and visual documentation, the results of fingerprint examinations, delayed self-assessments, and jointly constructed PowerPoint notes and quality documentation. The data was iteratively analyzed by means of qualitative content analysis.
The findings from the studies were as follows. First, the new training methods enabled the apprentices to acquire sophisticated professional competences although their personal ways of reflecting on evolving professional performance differed. Second, the discrepancy meetings revealed how the experienced examiners used partial and limited information in making reconstructive inferences justifying their diverging judgments about the poor-quality latents. The meetings helped with regard to working out more refined criteria for assessing challenging cases and ending up with more coherent decisions. Third, analyses of the developmental seminar discussions revealed that the fingerprint examiners collectively succeeded in verbalizing and constructing their perceptions and interpretations toward a more refined, joint understanding of the criteria of no-value fingerprints, criteria for color-coding and work-out procedures for dealing with discrepant cases, and documentation and other aspects of using the digital instruments. The results of the research were incorporated into some of the NBIFL operational guidelines and quality requirements, as well as guidelines on professional activity in the laboratory.
Period20 jan 2018