A cross-lagged panel analysis of fear appeal appraisal and student engagement

Laura Nicholson, Dave Putwain

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The influence of how students appraise ‘fear appeals’, which are persuasive messages given by teachers prior to a high-stakes test, on student engagement, has not previously been tested using a robust methodological and analytical design that controls for concurrent relationships between the variables and stability over time. The present study addressed these limitations using a cross-lagged panel design to probe causal relationships between the appraisal of fear appeals as a threat or a challenge and student engagement. Fear appeal appraisal and four components of student engagement were measured over two waves, four months apart, in a sample of 1,991 Year 10 and 11 students. After controlling for unlagged and auto-lagged correlations, as well as gender and year group, the model fit the data well and several of the cross-lagged paths emerged as statistically significant. Regarding our main focus, a threat appraisal at Time 1 predicted both emotional engagement (negatively) and emotional disaffection (positively) at Time 2, and a challenge appraisal at Time 1 was a negative predictor of behavioural disaffection at Time 2. Concerning the cross-lagged paths between engagement components, Time 1 behavioural disaffection negatively predicted Time 2 behavioural engagement, and Time 1 affective engagement negatively predicted Time 2 affective disaffection. There was also a statistically significant negative effect of Time 1 emotional engagement on Time 2 threat appraisal. These findings suggest that there may be causal effects of fear appeal appraisals on behavioural and emotional disaffection, but that the relationship between a threat appraisal and emotional engagement may be reciprocal.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 14 Jul 2018
EventBritish Psychological Society (BPS) Education Section Conference - Oxford, United Kingdom
Duration: 14 Sept 201815 Sept 2018


ConferenceBritish Psychological Society (BPS) Education Section Conference
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


  • Fear appeal appraisals
  • student engagement
  • cross-lagged panel analysis


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