There are two major theories about motivation: emotion, and achievement. The expectancy-value theory (EVT) indicates that expectancy (“how likely to succeed”) and task-value beliefs (“how important a task is perceived”) may be essential to choice, persistence, and performance in learning (Eccles et al., 1983; Wigfield & Cambria, 2010). The control-value theory of achievement emotions (CVTAE) proposes that achievement emotions affect mental resource utilization, motivation, cognitive strategizing, and self-regulation in academic tasks, and highlights its associations with student engagement and achievement (Pekrun, 2006). Although both theories propose valuable perspectives that can help understand the dynamics of academic motivation, academic emotion, and academic task performance, there have been very few studies done to explore such relationships in a real-time situation.Macro-level studies that have been conducted in the past do not account for individual differences and other micro dynamics within the population studied. 


To address these gaps, Kiuru et al. (2020) recruited 190 sixth-grade adolescents from a moderately large town and a medium-sized town in Central Finland. Based on their past academic performance, students were divided into three different groups. They were further randomly divided to either one of the two conditions: completing a non-challenging achievement task or completing a challenging achievement task, all within four minutes. Prior to completing the task, the students filled out a 5-point Likert scale evaluating their task value (whether they would enjoy or perceive it as important), expectancy (how likely to succeed), and emotions (how they would feel about the task). After completion, they completed similar scales on their emotions during and after the task, effort (how much they tried), task performance (how they perceived their performance and their actual performance), and attributions (factors contributing to their success). The results drew four conclusions. First, high task value, the expectancy of success, and positive emotions prior to the completion of a task predicted enhanced effort exerted during the task, which resulted in better task performance. In addition, higher expectations for success foreshadowed positive emotions during a task, which enhanced performance. Meanwhile, negative emotions were associated with decreased task performance. Also, high task performance was related to more attributions of effort and ability, and increased positive emotions after the task. Lastly, the study found a relationship between task performance during the task, high attributions of ability, and higher academic achievements in a later task.


The results of the study shed light on the role that emotions and motivational beliefs play in achievement settings. Parents and teachers can adopt practices that specifically incorporate positive reinforcement to encourage positive emotions and motivational beliefs. For example, they can praise students’ efforts and provide feedback for improvements in the future. These results align with EPIC’s current research on how instructional design could motivate learning. They also pave way for future intervention studies that aim to facilitate positive motivational beliefs and emotions. 


If you want to learn more about Kiuru et al.’s (2020) study, check it out at: 


This post was written by Jessica Wang.



Eccles, J., Adler, T. F., Futterman, R., Goff, S. B., Kaczala, C. M., Meece, J. L., et al. (1983).

Expectancies, values, and academic behaviors. In J. T. Spence (Ed.). Achievement and achievement motivation (pp. 75–146). San Francisco, CA: W.H. Freeman.

Kiuru, N., Spinath, B., Clem, A. L., Eklund, K., Ahonen, T., & Hirvonen, R. (2020). The dynamics of motivation, emotion, and task performance in simulated achievement situations. Learning and Individual Differences, 80, 101873.

Pekrun, R. (2006). The control–value theory of achievement emotions: Assumptions, corollaries, and implications for educational research and practice. EducationalPsychology Review, 18, 315–341.

Wigfield, A., & Cambria, J. (2010). Students’ achievement values, goal orientations, and interest: Definitions, development, and relations to achievement outcomes. Developmental Review, 30, 1–35.