University of Chile (CHILE)
About this paper:
Appears in: EDULEARN15 Proceedings
Publication year: 2015
Pages: 5770-5775
ISBN: 978-84-606-8243-1
ISSN: 2340-1117
Conference name: 7th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 6-8 July, 2015
Location: Barcelona, Spain
Achievement goal theory has been one of the most prominent theories of motivation in educational research (Senko et al., 2011). One of the main issues researched using this framework has been the impact of achievement goal orientation in student engagement, which, in turn, affects their learning performance outcomes (Wolters, 2004; Pekrun et al., 2009; Cheng, Shu-Yun, 2013). Emotional engagement has been shown as salient in learning performance outcomes. Student goal orientation typically influences their emotional engagement by experiencing feelings of fun, interest, boredom, enjoyment, anxiety and others (Prekun et al., 2010). More specifically, the literature shows that mastery goal orientation predicts emotional engagement (Gonida et al., 2009); while the results for performance approach and performance avoidance goal orientation are mixed (Prekun et al., 2006).

The study of context variables may help to disentangle the mixed results presented in previous research. A teacher’s provision of structure has been pointed as one of the context variables that explain student engagement in achievement learning contexts (Jang et al., 2010; Reeve and Tseng, 2011). According to the literature, sound structure is provided when a teacher communicates clear expectations, frames the learning activity with explicit directions, takes the lead during the learning process, provides step by step directions when needed and strong guidance along the task (Jang et al., 2010).

The evidence on the impact of provision of structure on student emotional engagement is also mixed. Karns (2005), for example, suggests that less structured learning activities in marketing education are considered more interesting and enjoyable by students (emotional engagement). Thomas (2002), suggests that the less structured environment provided by an online discussion forum could be insufficient for the generation of truly conversational modes of learning which, in turn, could negatively affect the level of engagement. Interestingly enough, Mesurado (2009) finds positive evidence for the impact of structured learning activities on student engagement when the student has a mastery goal orientation for the task.

The work of Mesurado (2005) suggest that the contradictory findings of previous research on antecedents of student engagement could be reconciled by incorporating the joint effect of level of structure and achievement goal orientation in student engagement. Consequently, and based on Control-Value Theory of Achievement Emotions (Pekrun, 2000), we develop hypotheses on the moderating role of level of structure on the relationship between each category of achievement goal orientation (Mastery, Performance Approach, and Performance Avoidance) and student emotional engagement.

More than 300 students from a business undergraduate program in Chile participated in this study. The learning activity’s level of structure was manipulated by randomly assigning each student to one of the two possible learning activities: high level of structure vs. low level of structure. Students completed questioners on Achievement goal orientation and emotional engagement in two different sessions. The results provide evidence on the moderating role of level of structure only for the cases of performance avoidance - emotional engagement and performance approach - emotional engagement relations.
Achievement goal orientation, emotional engagement, learning activity.