Examining Emotion and Academic Anxiety Through Students' own Voices

Wednesday 2:15pm Northrop Hall: 340


Michael Pelch, Washington State University-Vancouver
Scott Freeman, University of Washington-Seattle Campus
We sought to investigate how students' academic anxiety and emotions influence their university experience. Few studies have explored the connection between emotion and academic anxiety. Previous studies have shown connections between anxiety during exams and performance. Anxiety has also been shown to disproportionately impact women and underrepresented minorities in academic settings. Emotion has been shown to impact self-regulated learning, which in turn influences students' study habits and class performance. Emotion is also suggested to influence choices students make about courses, study habits and their motivations to succeed. Students in an introductory science course were given the Cognitive Test Anxiety scale and the resulting scores were used create bins of low, moderate and highly anxious students. Nineteen interview participants were explicitly chosen representing those three groups. Next, they participated in an open 60-minute one-on-one interview. Transcripts were analyzed using an emergent grounded theory approach. This method of qualitative analysis uses inductive reasoning to determine patterns in participants' responses in order to develop a model. Emergent grounded theory employs line-by-line analysis, open and focused coding and constant comparison to develop categories. Our results expand on previous work by providing greater detail on the perceptions and emotions students with high anxiety associate with poor performance. We found that students who described actions and behaviors consistent with high anxiety also focus on negative emotions related to self and ability, and describe a pervasive defeatist mentality. Highly anxious students also more frequently report employing poor self-regulatory methods and challenges adopting new study strategies. These emotions and the association of personal value with earned grades is in line with models of performance goal orientation. Our results provide connections between academic anxiety and self-regulated learning through emotion, and could have implications for researchers seeking to reduce traditional achievement gaps in both STEM performance and persistence.

Presentation Media

Pelch EER2017 (PowerPoint 2007 (.pptx) 5.5MB Jul18 17)