Trait and State Academic Emotions : Two Sides of the Same Coin?

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BIEG, Madeleine, 2013. Trait and State Academic Emotions : Two Sides of the Same Coin? [Dissertation]. Konstanz: University of Konstanz

@phdthesis{Bieg2013Trait-25394, title={Trait and State Academic Emotions : Two Sides of the Same Coin?}, year={2013}, author={Bieg, Madeleine}, address={Konstanz}, school={Universität Konstanz} }

2013 Trait- und State-Emotionen im Lern- und Leistungskontext : Zwei Seiten einer Medaille? Emotions in the school setting are gaining increasing attention among educational researchers but also among practitioners and policy makers. Emotions in achievement contexts, referred to as academic emotions, are of high importance with regard to students’ self-regulated learning, academic achievement, life-long learning, and career choices but are also valuable outcomes themselves. Yet, what do we mean when we are talking about emotions? An important distinction needs to be made, namely the one between trait and state emotions. Trait emotions are seen as habitual tendencies whereas state emotions are emotions experienced in a specific situation. When studying academic emotions, researchers usually rely on the assessment of emotions via self-reports from study participants, and a large proportion of previous studies have investigated emotions through the use of generalized self-reports (“How much enjoyment do you experience in general?”; i.e., trait emotions). However, momentary assessments examining actual emotions in achievement and learning situations (“How much enjoyment are you experiencing right now?”; i.e., state emotions) are becoming more popular as they are believed to be more ecological valid. It is assumed that state emotions are directly assessed and thus influenced by situational cues, whereas in trait assessments, individuals’ beliefs and semantic knowledge affect outcomes of the assessment (accessibility model of emotional self-report; Robinson & Clore, 2002). Thus, there may be a discrepancy between trait and state emotions. Research that explicitly compares trait and state emotions in the academic context is lacking, however, this appears to be a promising enterprise for determining whether it is justifiable to draw conclusions about trait emotions from state emotions and vice versa. In order to close this gap in educational research on emotions, the present dissertation comprises three empirical studies that aimed at comparing trait and state emotions and their assessments with regard to structural (Study 1) as well as mean-level differences (Study 2 and Study 3).<br /><br /><br />The first study explored structural relations between cognitive appraisal antecedents and academic emotions as stated in Pekrun’s control-value theory (2006). The appraisals of control and value, and the interaction of the two as predictors of emotions, were studied while using multiple trait and state assessments in one sample of 120 students in grades 8 and 11. Participants were asked about their control and value appraisals, and the discrete emotions of pride, anxiety, and boredom, in four subject domains. The appraisal antecedents as well as the emotions were assessed trait-based and state-based. In line with the hypotheses, results showed that control positively predicted pride and negatively predicted anxiety and boredom. Value positively predicted pride and anxiety and negatively predicted boredom. Furthermore, the interaction between control and value predicted emotions over and above the single main effects. An intraindividual approach was utilized, meaning data were analyzed within persons (multiple trait and state measurement points per person) rather than between persons. The analyses revealed that appraisal-emotion relationships were quite similar in trait and state data.<br /><br /><br />In the second study, trait and state assessments of academic emotions were compared with regard to mean-level differences to investigate whether there was a discrepancy between the two types of academic emotions and whether self-concept of ability moderated this discrepancy. A total of 225 secondary school students from two different countries enrolled in grades 8 and 11 (German sample; n = 94) and grade 9 (Swiss sample; n = 131) participated. Students’ trait academic emotions of enjoyment, pride, anger, and anxiety in mathematics were assessed with a self-report questionnaire. Furthermore, state academic emotions were assessed through the use of the experience-sampling method while participants were in class. The results revealed that students’ scores on the trait assessment of emotions were generally higher than their scores on the state assessment. Further, as expected, students’ academic self-concept in the domain of mathematics was shown to partly explain the discrepancy between scores on trait and state emotions. Results indicated that there was a belief-driven discrepancy between what students think they feel (trait emotion) and what they actually feel (state emotion). Thus, the two methods are quite different and trait emotions generally being rated higher than state emotions, which has important implications for future studies that use self-reports to assess academic emotions.<br /><br /><br />Study 3 sought to examine gender differences in trait (habitual) versus state (momentary) mathematics anxiety in two study samples. In line with the accessibility model of emotional self-report (Robinson & Clore, 2002), it was assumed that the frequently reported difference in trait mathematics anxiety between boys and girls would not emerge in state emotions. In the first study, 584 students were recruited from grades 5 to 10, and in the second study, 111 high school students from grades 8 and 11 participated. For trait math anxiety, the findings from both studies replicated previous research showing female students to report higher levels of anxiety than male students. However, no gender differences were observed for state anxiety as assessed by experience-sampling during a math test (first study) and when attending math classes (second study). The discrepant findings for trait versus state math anxiety were partly accounted for by students’ competence beliefs in mathematics, with female students showing lower perceived competence than male students despite having the same average math grades.<br /><br /><br />The three studies included in the present dissertation found that, although the structural relations between appraisal antecedents and emotions were found to be similar in trait and state data (Study 1), there were clear discrepancies between trait and state emotions with regard to mean-levels (Study 2 and Study 3). This discrepancy can be explained by students’ gender (Study 3) but also by subjective control beliefs that students hold (Study 2 and Study 3). The results of the present studies will hopefully encourage future researchers of academic emotions to clearly operationalize and differentiate between emotions as traits or states as both seem to be of value depending on the respective research question. For example, trait emotions have a stronger relation to future behavior and choices (Wirtz, Kruger, Napa Scollon, & Diener, 2003) but are unable to capture situational fluctuations of emotions. Findings from the present dissertation also strengthen ongoing endeavors to positively influence students’ subjective control conceptualized from either a trait (e.g., students’ academic self-concept) or state (e.g., subjective situational control) perspective. Implications for future research and practice are discussed, especially with regard to the importance of subjective beliefs and emotions in the achievement context. terms-of-use 2013-12-11T08:12:50Z Bieg, Madeleine Trait and State Academic Emotions : Two Sides of the Same Coin? Bieg, Madeleine eng

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