Achievement Emotions: Functions, Origins, and Implications for Practice

Reinhard Pekrun, University of Munich

Emotions are ubiquitous in achievement settings at school. Students experience various emotions in these settings, such as enjoyment, hope, pride, anger, anxiety, shame, or boredom. Despite the relevance of these emotions for students’ learning, performance, and well-being, they have not received much attention by researchers; test anxiety studies and attributional research are notable exceptions. During the past fifteen years, however, there has been growing recognition that achievement emotions are central to individual and collective productivity. In this presentation, I will use Pekrun’s (2006) control-value theory of achievement emotions as a conceptual framework to address the following issues. (1) Which emotions are experienced in achievement settings and how can they be measured? (2) Are achievement emotions functionally important for learning and performance? Test anxiety research has shown that anxiety can exert profound effects on cognitive performance; is this true for other achievement emotions as well? (3) How can we explain the development of these emotions; what are their individual and social origins? To provide answers, the emotional implications of cognitive appraisals, achievement goals, and social environments will be discussed. (4) Are achievement emotions and their functions universal, or do they differ between task domains, genders, and socio-cultural contexts? (5) How can achievement emotions be regulated and treated, and what are the implications for psychological and educational practice? In closing, open research problems will be addressed, including the prospects of neuroscientific research, strategies to integrate idiographic and nomothetic methodologies, and the need for intervention studies targeting achievement emotions.