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Students’ emotional experiences in assessed, online, group activities

Version 2 2024-01-12, 14:33
Version 1 2023-11-08, 11:48
posted on 2024-01-12, 14:33 authored by Jake Hilliard

 This thesis concerns students’ emotional experiences when undertaking assessed, online, group activities. It reports research investigating: the range of emotions experienced by students; the causes of these emotions; their impact on students’ participation and performance; and how and why students regulated their emotions.

Three empirical studies were conducted. The first study explored the experiences of 294 students, using an online survey. The second employed an online diary to investigate the emotional experiences of 46 students at various stages throughout an assessed, online, group activity. The third explored tutor perspectives of students’ emotional experiences, gathering data via online discussion forum threads (12 tutors) and semi-structured interviews (16 tutors).

Findings revealed that students experienced a wide variety of pleasant and unpleasant emotions when undertaking these learning activities, with the emotions of anxiety (before collaboration), frustration (during collaboration), and relief (after collaboration) being particularly pervasive. Emotions were primarily caused by: other students (e.g., their participation and performance); the outcomes of the activity (e.g., the grade or result); or the students themselves (e.g., self-belief). Other causes were: the group; the task; the learning model; technology; and external factors. Students largely perceived pleasant emotions to have positive impacts on their participation and performance and unpleasant emotions to have negative impacts. However, several unpleasant emotions (e.g., anxiety, frustration) were also reported to have facilitative effects by some students. Students used many strategies to regulate their emotions, and these were categorised into five general dimensions (social support; changing or directing thoughts; active task-related behaviour; modifying emotional response; and evasion or avoidance). Emotions were primarily regulated to enhance performance (of self, others, or the group) in the activities, to improve wellbeing, and foster relationships with fellow group members.

This research represents an original and essential contribution to a nascent field of investigation. As well as informing future research inquiry, recommendations can be used by practitioners to help create positive and supportive group learning environments. 



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