Understanding the Relation Between Boredom and Achievement in Post-Secondary Students
Hunter, Jennifer Ann
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Pekruns (2006) control-value theory offers a comprehensive theoretical framework for understanding the causes and consequences of boredom in a learning context. One important aspect of this model is the relationship between boredom and academic achievement: Boredom and academic achievement are theorized to affect each other causally, with increased boredom leading to poorer academic achievement and poor academic achievement leading to increased boredom. Prior work on this model has conflated trait boredom, state boredom, and judgments of task boringness and has not examined the relationship between boredom and academic achievement using experimental designs. The present dissertation sought to better understand the relationship between boredom and achievement by, for the first time: distinguishing between trait boredom, state boredom, and judgments of task boringness; conducting experiments in the laboratory where extraneous variables could be better controlled; and using experimental manipulation for causal conclusions. Study 1 examined the naturally occurring relationship between state boredom and achievement (performance on a word list recall task) in the laboratory. Study 2 tested whether manipulating state boredom resulted in changes in word list recall, and Study 3 tested whether manipulating perceived word list recall resulted in changes in state boredom. State boredom and performance had a reciprocal relationship only for participants who memorized interesting word lists and only after repeated trials (Study 1); trait boredom predicted performance but state boredom did not (Study 2); and manipulating perceptions of performance had no effect on state boredom but did affect participants judgments of how boring the learning task was (Study 3). Thus, support for control-value theory is strongest when boredom is conceptualized as the boringness of a task or trait boredom rather than state boredom. Interventions to address boredom in the classroom can help target state boredom before it crystallizes into the more damaging forms of course-related and trait boredom. Guidelines for educators are offered. Future research work is proposed, most pressingly the need to replicate the current findings with more complex learning tasks.