The Relationships Between Perceptions of Constructivist Learning, Control-Value Appraisals and Achievement Emotions in Further Education Mathematics


Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Achievement emotions towards learning mathematics can determine the motivational processes that impact achievement, and other important educational, social and economic outcomes. Thus, an understanding of achievement emotions and their antecedents is a useful line of enquiry that could underpin future research and educational practice. Unfortunately, negative emotions towards mathematics are prevalent amongst adult students returning to education to gain qualifications in Further Education (FE). Within the theoretical framework of the control-value theory (CVT) of achievement emotions (Pekrun, 2006), the current research explored the role of perceived cognitive constructivist principles in FE mathematics classrooms in creating positive learning experiences for those students.
This mixed methods research comprised an explanatory sequential design to explore the relationships between adult students’ perceptions of constructivist learning, control-value appraisals, and achievement emotions towards learning mathematics in FE. Using critical realism to inform each stage of the investigation, the following three studies were conducted.
Study 1: A quantitative, questionnaire-based approach was designed to investigate the relationships between perceptions of four constructivist-informed classroom practices, students’ appraisals of control and value, enjoyment, and anxiety in a sample of adult students (N =103) of mathematics in FE. Multiple regression analyses revealed that perceptions of investigation learning related positively with control appraisals, value appraisals, and enjoyment, and negatively with anxiety. Perceived involvement in learning was negatively, and personal relevance in learning positively, related to anxiety. Appraisals of control and value positively related to enjoyment. Control appraisals negatively related to anxiety.
Study 2: Two embedded mixed methods questionnaire-based studies combining experimental and qualitative data determined the causal direction of the salient relationships identified in Study 1, and offered qualitative information regarding the mechanisms underlying those relationships. An online questionnaire was completed by adult FE mathematics students (N=89), in which participants were presented with experimental vignettes describing hypothetical mathematics students and corresponding quantitative and qualitative questions. Results indicated that higher appraisals of control and intrinsic value were associated with more enjoyment; higher control appraisals were associated with lower anxiety; higher perceived investigation learning was associated with more enjoyment and higher appraisals of control, intrinsic value and utility value, and lower anxiety. Qualitative findings suggested that perceptions of investigation learning may foster positive subjective appraisals and contribute favourably to emotions by providing students with autonomy and avoiding passive learning practices.
Study 3: One-to-one interviews with seven students and six teachers in FE explored the underlying conditions that determine the effectiveness of constructivist learning practices in fostering favourable control-value appraisals and emotions towards learning mathematics in FE. Findings from thematic analysis suggested that cognitive-constructivist informed practices such as active learning and authentic tasks may elicit enjoyment and reduce anxiety towards mathematical content via shaping positive appraisals of control and value, whereas a social learning environment is conducive to creating overall positive learning experiences.
Consolidation of findings from across the three studies are presented, along with conclusions of how findings from Studies 2 and 3 explain the results of Study 1. Limitations of the current research and possible directions for future research are suggested, and recommendations for practice are discussed.
Date of Award2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Edge Hill University
SupervisorLAURA NICHOLSON (Director of Studies), LINDA KAYE (Director of Studies) & GORDON LAING (Director of Studies)


  • Constructivist Learning; Control-Value Theory; Enjoyment; Anxiety; Mathematics; Further Education; Critical Realism; Mixed Methods Research

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