What is the effect of academic performance

The relationship between exam anxiety and performance. The influence on academic self-concept

Table of Contents


1. introduction
1.1 Exam anxiety
1.1.1 State and trait fear
1.1.2 Fear of statistics
1.2 The (academic) self-concept
1.3 Design and Hypothesis

2. Material and method
2.1 sample
2.2 material
2.3 Procedure
2.4 Statistical evaluation

3. Results
3.1 Descriptive Statistics
3.2 Hypothesis 1
3.3 Hypothesis 2
3.4 Hypothesis 3
3.5 Hypothesis 4
3.6 Hypothesis 5
3.7 Hypothesis 6
3.8 Hypothesis 7
3.9 Hypothesis 8

4. discussion
4.1 Descriptive data
4.2 Hypotheses
4.3 Other aspects of the discussion




The present questionnaire study deals with the constructs of general test anxiety, statistical anxiety, state anxiety and the academic self-concept. A total of 18 test subjects of the 2-time bachelor's degree in Psychology at the University of Koblenz Landau, with an average age of 20.88, took part. The first measurement time inquired about the state anxiety before a relevant statistics exam. The second measurement point, the expected and achieved grade, the statistical fear, the general fear of examinations and the academic self-concept. The hypothesis test was carried out on the basis of correlation calculations. A positive correlation between state anxiety and general test anxiety was found. Condition anxiety and the academic self-concept, condition anxiety and the expected and achieved grade, as well as statistical anxiety and the academic self-concept show no evidence of a connection. The general test anxiety and the academic self-concept, the state anxiety and the statistical anxiety, as well as the grade achieved and the academic self-concept also show no connection, but here the calculated value deviates only slightly from the significance limit. It can be assumed that these hypotheses could have been confirmed with a higher number of participants. Furthermore, the slightly above-average academic self-concept of the test subjects is probably a possible explanation for the lack of significance. The presumed influence could therefore not be adequately investigated. Due to limited research in this area and a lack of representative results, it is recommended that the study be carried out again with a larger sample and further suggestions for improvement noted.

1 Introduction

In the course of life, every person constructs a diverse and individual picture of himself with his abilities and skills. The development of this self-concept already begins when a toddler looks in the mirror for the first time and realizes that he sees himself in the mirror. It is a process in which you get to know your feelings, preferences and characteristics and deal with them (Trautwein & Möller, 2015). The assessments of one's own abilities influence the experience and behavior in a variety of ways, which has already been confirmed in several educational-psychological studies (Meyer, 1984). The presentation of one's own abilities and competencies is described as an academic self-concept or also here as the self-concept of skills used synonymously. Both actual abilities and subjective ideas determine learning behavior, performance and learning success (Siensmeier-Pelster & Schöne, 2008). Thus, the academic self-concept plays an important role in school performance and its relationship has already been confirmed in several studies (Schöne et al., 2012). In research on achievement motivation, it is one of the central objects of investigation. Various influencing factors on the academic self-concept are discussed, including primarily social comparison, upbringing and performance evaluation, as well as the evaluation by significantly others, such as parents or teachers (Spinath, 2004).

The present work deals with the following research question: “How do performance and test anxiety influence the academic self-concept?”. While connections between the ability self-concept and performance have to be shown, there is now above all interest in the influence of test anxiety, which has so far only been little researched. One encounters the phenomenon of exam anxiety in many different life situations, at the latest when we enter school we humans are confronted with exams and evaluative situations. Examination anxiety is one of the most stressful emotions for learners (Pixner & Kaufmann, 2013). In basic research and in various areas of application of psychology, exam anxiety is one of the most intensely researched topics, as it is widespread in today's society (Rost & Schermer, 2006). Since the answer to the research question takes the form of a longitudinal examination based on a relevant statistics exam, the term test anxiety includes both trait (general test anxiety) and state anxiety (state anxiety), as well as statistical anxiety. The aim of the work is to examine even more factors that influence the ability self-concept. Furthermore, the test anxiety can possibly be used to determine a connection in more detail, which is also relevant for test anxiety research. In the next sub-chapters, more precise definitions, theories and studies of the various fears and the self-concept with the component of the academic self-concept follow.

1.1 Exam anxiety

Fear can appear in different forms depending on the context of the investigation, which shows the complexity of the basic emotion (Ekman, 1984). Fehm and Fydrich (2011) define exam anxiety as "a persistent and clearly noticeable fear in exam situations and / or during the time of exam preparation that is not appropriate to the conditions of exam preparation and the exam itself". The fear that is generated can manifest itself on the cognitive, emotional, physiological and behavioral levels. Increased sweating, increased breathing rate, palpitations, dry mouth and nausea are sympathetic and parasympathetic activation reactions that express themselves as fear on a physiological level (Fehm & Fydrich, 2011). On the emotional level, feelings such as hopelessness, fear, depression and despair develop. Procrastination and avoidance tendencies show the behavior level. Self-deprecating, catastrophic thoughts, which are connected with thoughts about the consequences of poor performance, show reactions on the cognitive level (Fehm & Fydrich, 2011). There are also approaches that describe test anxiety as a threat to self-worth due to negative evaluation by others, but also as a fear of failure and evaluative situations (Schwarzer, 1993; Meijer, 2001; Zeidner & Mathewes, 2005). In addition to the definition just mentioned, there are also numerous others, which emerges from the fact that test anxiety is not a defined disorder according to the classification systems for mental disorders DSM-IV and ICD-10 and therefore there is no uniform definition. The predominant fear of evaluations by others and the fear of failure fall under the diagnostic criteria for social phobias, which is why clinically significant test fears are assigned to these in the DSM-IV (Fehm & Fydrich, 2011). Depending on the focus of the symptoms, it is sometimes also counted among the specific phobias, as in the ICD-10. Social phobias are serious fears “triggered by confrontation with certain types of social or performance situations” (Sass, 2003). Specific phobias, on the other hand, are defined as clinically significant fear “triggered by exposure to a particular feared object or situation” (Sass, 2003). In both disorders, people avoid the fearful situations or objects. Fehm and Fiedrich (2011) created a working model (Figure 1) that specifically depicts the factors predisposing to test anxiety.

Figure not included in this excerpt

Figure 1.Disturbance model for test anxiety (Fehm & Fydrich, 2011), enlarged figure on page 37

The factors include biological vulnerability, personal factors and individual learning history. If there is a negative exam experience or a problematic life situation, these triggering factors can "trigger" the exam anxiety. Other sustaining factors then add to these test anxiety-related problems. This includes coping strategies and situational and person-related variables (Fehm & Fydrich, 2011).

Emotions influence a variety of cognitive processes that are central to learning and performance (Pekrun, 2018). According to Pekrun (2006), fear is a physiologically activating emotion that can motivate one to act in order to avoid failure. The perceived emotion is always directed towards an object to which we devote our attention. The resources of our working memory are used by both positive and negative emotions. So while you need resources because you are afraid of an exam and worry accordingly, fewer resources are available for actually processing tasks (Pekrun, 2018). Empirical studies have shown that emotions such as fear can generate task-irrelevant thinking, which can lead to a lack of attention and a reduction in cognitive performance (Pekrun et al., 2002). The findings are summarized in interference and attention deficit theories. The fact that competence deficits also impair performance, since they reduce performance and promote anxiety, was recorded in ability deficit models and empirically confirmed (Lang and Lang, 2010). Both cross-sectional field studies and laboratory research have shown that exam anxiety correlates negatively with performance in cognitively demanding tasks. For simple and / or repetitive tasks, the performance is not influenced or increased by the fear (Pekrun, 2018). It should be noted that fear, on the one hand, reduces performance, but on the other hand also results from poor performance. In the end, this interaction can lead to a negative downward spiral, so that the fear increases more and more and the performance decreases further and further. The influence of test anxiety on performance remains negative overall, even if there were positive and zero correlations that indicate increased motivation (Pekrun, 2018).

1.1.1 State and trait fear

Spielberger, Gorsuch and Lushene (1970) dealt with trait and state anxiety, which they summarized under the "State-Trait Anxiety Inventory" and which in the present work as a German adaptation (STAI) by Laux, Glanzmann, Schaffner and Spielberger (1981) is used to capture state anxiety. State anxiety describes the state anxiety in a situation and can therefore occur with varying degrees of intensity at different points in time (Spielberger, 1972). Age, gender, specifically used coping strategies, defense mechanisms and characteristics of the situation influence the level of anxiety about status (Laux et al., 1981). Trait fear describes fear as a quality and as a relatively stable trait. The fear of traits is a residue of past experiences, which is used to record and process environmental experiences so that a corresponding behavior can then be generated (cf. Spielberger, 1972). If a person is generally more likely to be highly anxious, they tend to assess a situation as threatening and accordingly show a higher level of anxiety than less anxious people (Spielberger, 1972). State anxiety can be accompanied by tension, restlessness, apprehension and fear of future experiences (Hodapp, Rohrmann &ringenisen, 2011). If a person assesses an objective stressful situation as threatening, fear develops. The intensity of fear corresponds to the level of threat experienced and lasts as long as the situation is perceived as threatening (Laux et al., 1981).

Helmke (1983) found that the fear of the state occurs mainly in situations that threaten self-esteem, which thus affects exam or management situations. Laux, Glanzmann, Schaffner and Spielberger (1981) also point out that several studies attribute the high level of anxiety in highly anxious people to situations involving the self. The model of trait anxiety with general anxiety as a property can be transferred to test anxiety, as this is also a stable personality trait. Thus, trait exam anxiety differs from trait anxiety only in that trait exam anxiety encompasses the anxiety associated with trials. Thus, according to Spielberger, people with a high level of trait test anxiety react in test situations with an increase in state anxiety because they assess the situation as threatening (Hodapp et al., 1982).

1.1.2 Fear of statistics.

According to Macher, Paechter, Papousek and Ruggeri (2012), statistical anxiety describes the feelings of discomfort and anxiety that arise when confronting a person with statistical learning situations, tasks and content. Similar to general test anxiety, a person with high general statistical fear is more afraid in any statistical situation than a person without high general statistical fear, since it is a persistent personality trait. From the literature it becomes clear that statistics is a very fearful subject, especially for students from social science courses. These people often have a negative academic self-concept in relation to mathematics and science (Ruggeri et al., 2008; Macher, Paechter, Papousek, & Ruggeri, 2012). Statistical fear is seen as a genuine form of fear, as it correlates in part with trait fear in statistical reviews, but a large part cannot be significantly explained by this. Statistical anxiety, just like trait anxiety, can lead to a hindrance to academic progress, since people who are extremely anxious and are confronted with statistical situations tend to procrastinate (Macher et al., 2012). Cruise, Cash and Bolton (1985) developed the most frequently used questionnaire for assessing statistical anxiety. They recognized that it was a multidimensional construct, whereby one had to take into account both the fear in statistical situations and the attitude towards statistics. If you look at the previous studies, it becomes clear that statistical anxiety promotes procrastination and fear of states in the exam, and can also lead to behavior that is conducive to learning. The main focus of research in this area is primarily on the influence of statistical anxiety on exam preparation, performance, and learning (Macher et al., 2012; Pekrun, 1988).

1.2 The (academic) self-concept

A person's self-concept can influence their experience and behavior in many ways (Meyer, 1984). Attitudes, assessments and evaluations of various aspects of oneself are summarized under the term self-concept (Trautwein & Möller, 2015). Several different terms describing the construct can be identified in the literature. Including the concept of self-esteem, self-perception or self-image (Mummendey, 2006). The various terms indicate a theoretical and conceptual ambiguity. Nevertheless, they all deal with the subject of how a person perceives and evaluates himself and his abilities and qualities. While the above-mentioned terms mainly describe the assessment, the image or the perception of oneself, the self-concept primarily comprises the knowledge of oneself and integrates self-image and ideal image (Mummendey, 2006).

Psychological self-concept research began at the end of the 19th century. The psychologist William James (1892) divided the self into the units "I-Self" and "Me-Self" for the first time. While the “Me-Self” represents one's own person as an object of contemplation, the “I-Self” is the subject who contemplates. The "Me-Self" is aware of the knowledge about oneself and thus corresponds to the idea of ​​the self-concept.

It can be divided into the material, spiritual and social self, which gives it a hierarchical, multidimensional structure. The spiritual self forms the highest level of the hierarchy and includes the perception of one's own thought and judgment processes, as well as one's own properties, abilities and attitudes (James, 1892). The social self is the subjective conception of how the own person perceives the external perception in social reference groups. It should be mentioned here that the social self has as many different variations as there are different perceptions of the person. The material self refers to knowing one's possessions and one's body (James, 1892). In the course of symbolic interactionism at the beginning of the 20th century, the fact that self-concepts are influenced by interactions with the social environment took on a new meaning. Cooley (1902) summarized this principle of external perception under the term “looking-glass-self”.A person constructs his own self-concept on the basis of the assumption about how one is perceived and evaluated by other people in the social environment. While the caregivers in particular have a strong influence on a person's self-concept, Mead (1934) found that social groups also play an important role in this. Your own self-concept is expanded by trying to get clues during the interaction with other people that reveal how this person thinks about you and then integrate these clues into your self-image. A number of different models for the genesis of the self-concept have developed within various disciplines of psychology. However, according to Shavelson, Hübner and Stanton (1976) there was a lack of theoretical depth and Marsh and Craven (2006) were also of the opinion that self-concept research was in a phase without concrete theoretical and empirical approaches, also known as "dustbowl empiricism".

On the basis of the criticism, Shavelson, Hübner and Stanton (1976) developed the so-called Shavelson model. The model (Figure 2) is based on the assumption of a multi-dimensional and hierarchical structure. The multidimensional structure has already been proven by empirical studies (Byrne, 1984, 1996). The definition of the self-concept remains with the statement that it is to be explained as a person's perception of himself, which arises in experiences with the environment and can be influenced within it.

Figure 2: The multidimensional and hierarchical self-concept model according to Shavelson, Hubner and Stanton (1976, p. 413)

The figure shows the hierarchical structure with the general self-concept at the top. This is followed by the academic self-concept and the non-academic self-concept, which are each divided into further facets. In the academic self-concept, the facets are self-concepts for the various school subjects. Meyer (1984) emphasized that the cognitive area of ​​self-concept describes the actual ability self-concept. The non-academic self-concept is divided into social, emotional and physical self-concepts, which are then differentiated more specifically (e.g. for the social self-concept according to peers and significantly different) (Shavelson et al., 1976). However, the prevailing hierarchical structure has loosened over time.

While the model was initially based on a general academic self-concept, the assumption was rejected after empirical studies with the self-descriptive questionnaire (SDQ, Marsh et al., 1983) because the mathematical and verbal self-concept did not correlate significantly with one another. Hence, from now on the two academic self-concepts were considered separately from each other (Marsh, Byrne & Shavelson, 1988). The new structure of the concept can be seen in Figure 3. The mathematical self-concept includes subjects such as mathematics, physics, economics and biology. Foreign languages, mother tongue, history and geography are assigned to the verbal self-concept. However, since biology, economy, geography and history cannot be clearly assigned, they also correspond to the respective other self-concept.

Figure not included in this excerpt

Figure 3. The academic self-concept in the revised model (after Marsh et. Al., 1988)

In the course of time, more and more standardized questionnaires have been developed to record the school self-concept, including the adapted scales used here to record the school self-concept (SESSKO) by Schöne, Dickhäuser, Spinath and Stiensmeier-Pelster (2012). It is precisely these that define the ability self-concept or academic self-concept as “the totality of the cognitive representations of one's own abilities in academic performance situations (e.g. in school or university)” (Schöne et al., 2002). However, there are some controversial differences between the individual questionnaires. While some authors claim that the cognitive-evaluative and affective components should be separated, others claim that this separation is not possible. Instruments that only consider the cognitive-evaluative component are preferred (Trautwein & Möller, 2015).

There are many different factors that influence self-concept. Möller and Trautwein (2015) mention that social, dimensional, critical and temporal comparisons are important factors for the genesis of the academic self-concept. Schöne, Dickhäuser, Spinath and Stiensmeier-Pelster (2002) take into account the social, individual and criteria-related reference norm in their scales for recording the school self-concept. Affective content is explicitly excluded with this instrument. Social comparisons between pupils and students are integrated into the self-concept. Mash (1987) described this effect as the “Big Fish Little Pond Effect”. The frame of reference for this effect is primarily the school class. If a high-performing person is compared with a less high-performing person, this downward comparison leads to a more positive self-concept and, conversely, an upward comparison leads to a negative self-concept. A person with average performance generates a positive self-concept if he is in a low-performing class and a negative one in a high-performing class (Trautwein & Möller, 2015). In the case of students, dimensional comparisons were also visible in which they compared themselves not only with other students, but also with their performance in other subjects, so that, for example, good performance in a verbal subject led to a deterioration in self-concept in a mathematical subject (Möller & Koller, 2004). There are also temporal comparisons between performance, which means that a person compares their performance in one area at different points in time. This type of comparison can also have both positive and negative effects. A criteria comparison takes place when a person compares objective or factually set criteria with their own abilities. The different forms of comparison often cannot be precisely separated from one another (Trautwein & Möller, 2015).

The internal / external frame-of-reference model (I / E model) by Marsh (1986) shows the relationships between self-concept and school performance within a subject. You speak of external and internal frames of reference, which are also social and dimensional comparisons. In the external frame of reference, a student compares his performance in a subject with the performance of his classmates. Through these social comparisons, the self-concept of talent in this subject also develops in the same direction (e.g. good performance = good self-concept). The internal frame of reference is again about the dimensional comparisons between performance from different subjects, which mutually influences the subject-specific self-concepts (e.g. good performance in math = poor evaluation of the verbal self-concept). Some studies have shown that social comparisons have a stronger effect and thus the influence of performance on self-concept plays a greater role in one subject than between subjects (Trautwein & Möller, 2016).


End of the reading sample from 37 pages