[en] Students’ affect and motivation are key determinants of academic effort, academic choices, and academic success. The present dissertation scrutinizes students’ affect and motivation with respect to (a) possibilities of economic assessment, (b) structure, and (c) development. To this end, the present dissertation focusses on three central affective-motivational constructs that have a long tradition in educational science and are not only important with respect to students’ learning, but are also considered to be vital learning outcomes themselves: academic self-concept, academic interest and academic anxiety. This dissertation includes three studies that are based on large-scale data sets.
In the first study, we examined the feasibility of short scales to assess affective-motivational constructs. This is an important research question, as testing time in educational research is typically scarce, which makes the use of long scales problematic. Specifically, we developed three-item and single-item scales for general and subject-specific (i.e., mathematics, German, French) academic anxieties and academic self-concepts and evaluated their psychometric properties by systematic comparison with corresponding long scales. Our results showed that (1) all three-item scales showed satisfactory reliabilities and substantial correlations with long scales, (2) the reliabilities and correlations of single-item measures were somewhat lower. Importantly, however, (3) the correlational patterns of the three-item as well as single-item scales with important students’ characteristics (e.g., gender, school satisfaction, achievement) were similar to those obtained with the corresponding long scales. We concluded therefore that when a study design requires short measures, three-item scales and perhaps even single items may be used as reasonable alternatives for assessing academic anxiety and academic self-concept.
The second study tackled the question of structural models of students’ affect and motivation. With regard to academic self-concept, much research has been devoted to the structural conceptualization of this construct. Current structural models consider academic self-concept to be not only subject-specific by nature but also hierarchically organized with general academic self-concept operating at the apex of the hierarchy. Although theoretical considerations and consistent correlational patterns of academic interest and academic anxiety measures indicate that these constructs show similar structural characteristics to academic self-concept, structural models that can account for and test these characteristics are missing. Therefore, first, we specified and examined structural models of academic self-concept, academic interest, and academic anxiety, separately. Our results underscored empirically the structural similarities between the constructs. Furthermore, theoretical predictions and empirical results indicate interrelations between the different affective-motivational constructs. In order to properly examine the constructs’ interrelations, the multidimensional and hierarchical organization of the constructs needs to be taken into account. Therefore, in the next step, we developed an integrative model which provides a comprehensive formal psychometric representation to capture and analyze the complex interplay of general and subject-specific (i.e., mathematics, French, and German) components across academic self-concept, academic interest, and academic anxiety. Finally, we validated the integrative model with respect to indicators of students’ achievement.
In the third study we investigated the developmental dynamics of students’ affect and motivation from Grade 7 to 9. Importantly, in previous developmental research the multidimensional and hierarchical organization of the constructs was rarely taken into account. Consequently, little is known about the manifold developmental dynamics of general and subject-specific components of academic self-concept, academic interest, and academic anxiety. Therefore, we applied longitudinal models that capture the hierarchical and subject-specific structure of these constructs to contribute to a fuller and more nuanced understanding of their developmental processes. The investigated constructs showed moderate differential stabilities at the general and subject-specific levels. Further, the development of academic self-concept, academic interest, and academic anxiety seems to be characterized neither by top-down nor bottom-up developmental processes. Rather, general and subject-specific components of the constructs in Grade 9 were shown to be primarily a function of the corresponding components in Grade 7. However, there proved to be several negative ipsative developmental processes across different school subjects.
Name of the research project :
Achievement Motivation: Assessment, Structure, and Development