Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Document Type



Investigating student emotions has gained attention in motivational literature because they represent mechanisms for interpreting experiences and behaviors. Physical education (PE) is critical to promoting skills and positive experiences that lead to an active and healthy lifestyle. Yet, in PE there is a dearth of information and theoretical evaluation of student emotions. To address this gap, this dissertation uses the control value theory of achievement emotions (CVTAE) as a lens to investigate student emotions, antecedents, and outcomes in PE-related settings.

The purpose of Study 1 was to investigate effects of an attribution-training treatment on participants’ emotions and motivation toward a PE-related task. The experimental design tested appraisals of control as an antecedent of emotion. Female college students (N=144) were randomly allocated to three treatment groups: high-attribution (internal, high control; n=46), low-attribution (external, low control; n=49), and control (n=49), and asked to complete a novel physical task. The treatment consisted of video, feedback, and a written prompt. Results showed that students in the high-attribution group reported higher levels of enjoyment and lower levels of boredom following treatment, compared to the other groups. Group differences were not found regarding free-choice behavior.

The purpose of Study 2 was to examine relationships between student emotions in PE and self-reported in-class engagement, disruptive behavior, and leisure-time physical activity. Middle school students (N= 401) completed a longitudinal study evaluating relationships between emotions (enjoyment, pride, relief, anger, boredom, and shame) and outcomes. Results demonstrated unique associations between emotions and outcomes. Specifically, shame predicted higher behavioral engagement and less disruptive behavior, but had a negative relationship with leisure-time physical activity. However, effect sizes revealed that emotions explained small amounts of variance in these outcomes.

This dissertation highlights three important areas: (a) significance of discrete emotions, (b) testing major assumptions of CVTAE, and (c) teachers modulating emotion. Discrete emotions present unique relationships with antecedents and outcomes. However, evidence for CVTAE was stronger for antecedents than for outcomes. Lastly, teachers may modulate emotional experiences of students using attribution training. In doing so, PE teachers can potentially facilitate higher levels of student motivation by enhancing adaptive and decreasing maladaptive student emotions.



Committee Chair

Garn, Alex