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In instructional settings there are a variety of factors that can influence students’ learning and performance. Internal and external factors, such as student cognitive ability, attitudes, personality, and school climate, have been well researched and shown to predict student performance (Anderson, 1982; Poropat, 2009; Roth, Becker, Romeyke, Schafer, Domnick, & Spinath, 2015; Stevenson & Newman, 1986). Receiving feedback is undoubtedly a common occurrence in a typical classroom, and performance feedback has been consistently linked to student performance on a task (e.g., Lipnevich & Smith, 2018; Hattie & Timperley, 2007; Kluger & DeNisi, 1996; Shute, 2008). Feedback can elicit a broad range of both positive and negative emotions, which have been shown to impact student academic outcomes (e.g., Ma, 1999; Goetz & Hall, 2013; Goetz, Lipnevich, Krannich, & Gogol, 2018; Pekrun, 2006; Zeidner, 2007). There is evidence suggesting that differential feedback elicits a range of variable emotional responses in learners (Lipnevich & Smith, 2009a, 2009b; Vogl & Pekrun, 2016), however, the exact mechanisms and links among specific types of feedback and emotions remain to be examined.
This paper explored links among three key constructs pertinent to student learning: performance feedback received, emotions elicited as a result of such feedback, and subsequent academic performance. Based on relations described in the literature between feedback and emotions, as well as between emotions and performance, we hypothesized that emotion played a mediational role in the relation between feedback type and performance on an essay task. We hypothesized that feedback that included grades would elicit more negative emotions, whereas feedback in the form of written comments alone would elicit fewer negative emotions. Further, we hypothesized that negative emotions would negatively predict essay performance and positive emotions would relate to higher essay scores.
A sample of 464 university students (M =18.91,SD=2.51) were asked to write an essay and then were encouraged to revise it based on feedback presented to them. Path mediation models showed that overall negative affect, as well as discrete negative emotions, mediated the relation between receiving feedback and student change in score. Furthermore, the direct effect of receiving a numeric score negatively predicted students’ change in essay scores and positively predicts the experience of negative emotions. The indirect effect was positive, suggesting that the experience of negative emotions may serve as a motivational factor in students’ desire to improve performance. The researchers will discuss practical applications and call for research needed to further explain the reciprocal causal role emotions play in different feedback mechanisms and performance.