Affect, Epistemic Emotions, Metacognition, and Self-Regulated Learning
by Anastasia Efklides - 2017
This article deals with the functioning of affect and epistemic emotions, such as surprise and curiosity, in self-regulated learning (SRL). The claim is that affect plays a major role in SRL not only as an independent process that can facilitate or impede learning activities and performance but also through its interactions with cognition and metacognition. These interactions render metacognition a hot rather than a cold process. Critical cognitive states that have implications for affect and metacognition are processing fluency/disfluency, interruptions, discrepancies, or gaps in knowledge. Epistemic emotions focus on such cognitive states and are related to metacognitive experiences such as feeling of difficulty (in the case of surprise) and feeling of confidence (in the case of curiosity). Two studies exemplifying the relations between metacognitive experiences and epistemic emotions are presented. The implications of the findings for learning and SRL are discussed.
The concept of self-regulated learning (SRL), when first introduced in educational research in the 1980s, brought a new perspective to theories of learning (e.g., Zimmerman & Schunk, 1989). The emphasis in cognitive theories of learning was on acquisition of content knowledge (e.g., conceptual learning) and the constraints on itdevelopmental or cognitive. SRL theories changed the emphasis from content knowledge to goal-driven and strategic regulation of knowledge. Motivation and goal setting are critical components of SRL, and so are the metacognitive monitoring and control of learning processes. The person is an active agent in his or her learning and responsible for the outcomes of it. Τhe person decides whether to initiate learning activities or not, direct his/her thinking, carry out the needed cognitive processing, monitor and control cognitive processing through the use of learning, cognitive, or metacognitive strategies, and evaluate and reflect on the outcome of cognitive processing (e.g., Schunk & Zimmerman, 1994). The evaluative phase is critical for subsequent cycles of learning because it offers the ground for a personal account of the factors that might have impacted the current learning outcomes.
The SRL conception of learning affect (in the sense of learning-related affective responses or emotions) plays a role particularly at the beginning of a learning event (e.g., interest or anxiety) or at the evaluation of the learning outcomes phase (e.g., pride or shame). The role of emotions is often reduced to their interactions with motivation such as achievement goals, and attributions about learning outcomes (Pekrun, 2006; Weiner, 2014). This makes sense because SRL is conceived as a top-down process, and emotions are presumably implicated in goal setting and evaluation of the outcomes of a SRL cycle that sets the scene for next ones. Pekrun (2006) extended the range of emotions implicated in learning to include emotions during learning as well (e.g., when studying or taking exams). Emotions during learning are related to final performance (Pekrun, Elliot, & Maier, 2009), but it is not clear if and how they are implicated in the regulation of learning besides their effect on motivation.
However, take the case of a student who made an error as he worked on a problem. Monitoring of errors is a metacognitive process. But is awareness of an error a cold metacognitive event (purely informational experience) or a subjective experience that encompasses an evaluative component as well? Making an error has implications for the self and our goals, and hence is appraised as such. This entails that metacognitive awareness of an error is hot metacognition that includes both an informational and an affective component (Aarts, De Houwer, & Pourtois, 2013). When we become aware of having committed an error, we experience negative feelings, both negative affect and distinct emotions (e.g., embarrassment, confusion, anxiety), and this may influence our control decision to quit, ignore, or continue processing, ask for help, increase effort, use control strategies, and so on.
Respectively, a student finishes a test and is happy because she responded correctly. Knowing that you did well on a test is a metacognitive process that conveys subjective feedback about ones response (in the absence of external feedback). This information is in the form of a feeling of confidence about ones response. In our example, the student is happy about her performance based on the metacognitive feeling of confidence. These examples suggest not only that there are interrelations between metacognition and affect but also that subjective experiences in the form of metacognitive feelings or affect and emotions provide information that is critical for bottom-up regulation of learning (e.g., Nussinson & Koriat, 2008). Hence, affect plays a major regulatory role in SRL, and this is done in interaction with metacognition.
The aim of this chapter is to lighten the role of emotions and affect in the regulation of learning and the interactions of affect with metacognition. This will hopefully contribute to a revision of current conceptualizations of SRL in the direction of a more substantive role of affect in SRL. The claim being made here is that affect in SRL can have effects independent of cognition or metacognition but also in interaction with them. Moreover, although the main models of emotions in learning (e.g., attribution theory, Weiner, 1985, 2014; control-value theory of emotions, Pekrun, 2006) emphasize achievement emotions, I will discuss the interactions of metacognition with two epistemic emotions, namely surprise and curiosity, that arise in response to cognitive states such as discrepancies, inconsistencies, or interruptions of processing. Epistemic emotions play a major role in the change of cognitive processing mode (e.g., from automatic to analytic) or search for new information that can resolve a gap or uncertainty in our knowledge.
In what follows, I will first give a brief description of the metacognitive and affective model of SRL (MASRL; Efklides, 2011), which provides a theoretical framework that envisages interrelations between metacognition and affect. Then I will give a brief overview of the relations of affect and emotions with cognition and metacognition in SRL. Then I will present evidence on interrelations between metacognition and epistemic emotions, and discuss the implications of such evidence for the mechanism underlying SRL.
Before presenting the MASRL model, and for conceptual clarity, I will briefly provide the definitions of affect and metacognition. Affect refers to subjective experiential states that have a pleasant/unpleasant valence. It is a generic term that encompasses emotions, feelings, mood, self-esteem, attitudes, and so on (Forgas, 1994). Specifically, emotions take discrete forms in terms of subjective experience and autonomic reactivity (e.g., fear, anger, joy), are short lived, and are triggered by stimuli or events that are relevant to ones goals or concerns. They can have behavioral manifestations (e.g., facial expressions or bodily posture) and action tendencies (i.e., approach-avoidance), and they often involve appraisals about the triggering stimuli/events (Frijda, 1986; Pekrun, 2006). Feelings are the experiential part of emotions or subjective states that inform about the good functioning of the organism or processing (Frijda, 1986). Moods, on the other hand, are what is left after an emotion has ceased to exist and last longer than emotions (Forgas, 1994; Frijda, 1986).
Metacognition is cognition about cognition (Nelson, 1996), or the monitoring and control of cognition (Flavell, 1979). It takes the form of metacognitive experiences, metacognitive knowledge, and metacognitive skills (Efklides, 2008; Flavell, 1979). Metacognitive experiences comprise subjective experiences such as metacognitive feelings (e.g., feeling of difficulty or tip-of-the-tongue states), metacognitive judgments such as judgment of learning (JOL), and task-specific knowledge, that is, what the person is heeding as one is working on a task. Metacognitive knowledge is declarative knowledge or beliefs about persons (including the self), tasks, strategies, and goals, and metacognitive skills are procedural knowledge or strategies people use to control cognitive processing, such as orienting, planning, monitoring, correcting, and evaluating.
THE MASRL MODEL
The MASRL model (Efklides, 2011) stresses the interactions of metacognition with affect. It posits that the task and its context is a critical component of the SRL process. However, the task has objective characteristics, but their representation may vary across students depending on their prior knowledge or skills. The processes involved in the representation of the task and its demands function at two levels of generality: the Person level and the Task X Person level.
(a) At the Person level, the representation of task structure and processing demands is done based on the persons capabilities or prior domain-specific knowledge, but also on metacognitive knowledge, such as beliefs about which tasks are easy or difficult (Efklides & Vlachopoulos, 2012), motivational orientations or expectancy-value beliefs, agency beliefs, and affective components such as well-developed interests, self-concept about ones competence in various knowledge domains, and attitudes toward various knowledge domains. For example, students with low self-efficacy in mathematics avoid analyzing the task structure and processing features even of easy problems because they believe mathematics is difficult and they do not understand it (e.g., Usher, 2009).
(b) Task representation at the Task X Person level involves a closer analysis of actual task features, namely, analysis of task structure and processing demands (e.g., whether it requires memory retrieval processes). At the same time, the person, through metacognitive experiences, becomes aware of the state of cognitive processing, that is, whether it is fluent or there are interruptions, discrepancies, gaps, conflicts, or progress. Metacognitive monitoring presumably, but not exclusively, informs the need for control of processing (Efklides, 2014), the use of cognitive and metacognitive strategies, as well as effort exertion.
At the Task X Person level, besides the metacognitive loop that regulates cognitive processing, there is a different loop encompassing affect and its regulation. The decision on control processes during cognitive processing is based on metacognitive experiences and/or affect. For example, a student who does not like mathematics experiences negative affect when given a math problem; hence, when coming across a difficulty, he may decide to quit processing without effort exertion (as a response to the negative affect that accentuates the experienced difficulty). If, despite the negative affect, the difficulty experienced is judged manageable (as informed by the metacognitive loop) or worth trying to resolve it (affective loop), then control is guided jointly by metacognitive experiences and affect. As a consequence, the student exerts effort and uses cognitive or metacognitive strategies for the control of processing.
Let us take an example: Mary is a student who is good at mathematics and likes working on math tasks. One day in the classroom, she is given a challenging math task. Although at first glance, she thinks this is a difficult task (based on her metacognitive knowledge), her positive attitude toward math makes her curious about the way the problem can be solved and willing to engage in problem solving. This is a decision at the Person level. Following this decision, she revisits the problem and starts its processing (Task X Person level). As she is working on the problem, she experiences difficulty. Her judgment of learning is that the probability of solving the problem is low. Her initial positive feelings decrease, and she realizes that she needs to revise the initial approach to the problem. As she tries various ways to tackle the problem, she becomes aware that the original representation of the problem was incorrect, and there is another representation that can lead to the solution. She feels a pleasant surprise, relief, and renewed interest. She starts working with the novel task representation and solves the problem. While carrying out the solution, she feels that processing is running fluently. She also feels confident that the solution is correct and satisfied with her response. When reflecting on the whole learning experience, she feels proud that she overcame the difficulty and solved the problem.
This example suggests that the student started with goal setting in a top-down mode of regulation of learning based on her previous domain-specific skills and metacognitive knowledge and the affective response to the problem. As the metacognitive experiences and affect changed during problem solving, she became aware of the lack of progress in processing (monitoring), and this led to a decision to change the problem representation (control). However, it was the pleasant surprise and affect that reinforced the decision to start a new SRL cycle because it denoted that the previous negative metacognitive and affective experiences were not valid anymore. Therefore, awareness of ones thinking, monitoring of the fluency of processing, and evaluation of the progress made as conveyed by metacognitive experiences and affect during problem solving, that is, hot metacognition, led to bottom-up regulation of problem solving until the goal was achieved.
AFFECT, COGNITION, AND METACOGNITION
Since the 1980s, there has been a lot of research on the interrelations between cognition and affect (e.g., Bower, 1981), showing that affect activates memory information, and memory information activates affective responses. Furthermore, positive affect is associated with holistic, more creative, and less critical thinking, whereas negative affect is associated with more analytic processing (Alter, Oppenheimer, & Epley, 2013). Affect is also at the heart of decision making, intuition, and evaluative judgments (Schwarz, 2005; Schwarz & Clore, 1983). All of the above constitute what is called hot cognition (Thagard, 2006).
There is also a relationship between emotions and cognition. Curiosity, surprise, and confusion are epistemic emotions in the sense that they focus on knowledge states (Muis, Psaradellis, Lajoie, Di Leo, & Chevrier, 2015); their role is to turn attention to information that is most relevant to current cognitive processing. DMello (2013) showed that epistemic emotions are present during learning along with achievement emotions.
In addition to the relations between affect and cognition, there are also relations between affect and metacognition that have implications for SRL. As Efklides (2016) showed in a literature review, there is evidence suggesting that metacognition, in the form of metacognitive experiences, interacts with affect. Specifically, metacognition can have effects on affect, affect can have effects on metacognition, and both of them may be triggered by knowledge states such as conflict, interruption of processing, or discrepant events.
Specifically, metacognitive experiences impact appraisals of learning-related or achievement emotions (Pekrun, 2006; Weiner, 1985, 2014). For example, appraisals of task value or controllability during cognitive processing presuppose subjective evaluations of task difficulty, effort to be exerted or already exerted, and expectancies about the learnability of the task material or processing outcomes. Such subjective evaluations take the form of metacognitive experiences such as feeling of difficulty, feelings of effort, judgments of learning (JOLs), or confidence. One could argue that feelings of effort provide information on cost (a form of value appraisal; Eccles & Wigfield, 2002), whereas feeling of difficulty or JOLs inform about the controllability of the situation through the expectancies they create. Confidence, on the other hand, provides subjective feedback on the quality of processing outcome, namely success or failure (see Tornare, Czajkowski, & Pons, 2015, who showed that outcome-related emotions were predicted by self-concept and performance, but the effects were mediated by metacognitive experiences such as feeling of difficulty and feeling of success). Metallidou and Efklides (2001) showed that feeling of difficulty, along with estimate of effort or time spent on the task, predicted attributions of task difficulty, whereas feeling of confidence predicted attributions of competence. Moreover, reattributing feeling of difficulty to task difficulty rather than lack of competence changes the emotions experienced and subsequent SRL (Autin & Croizet, 2012).
Conversely, affect can have effects on metacognitive feelings, such as feeling of difficulty, and metacognitive judgments such as JOLs. For example, Efklides and Petkaki (2005) showed that negative mood increased the self-reported feeling of difficulty in math problem solving, and Koriat and Nussinson (2009) showed that induced feeling of difficulty through the contraction of the corrugator muscle (i.e., frowning), which is indicative of effort exertion, impacted subsequent JOLs.
Furthermore, there are relations between metacognition and core affectivity, that is, positive and negative affect. Such relations originate from cognitive states such as fluency in processing and response formation. Fluency triggers positive affect and disfluency negative (Winkielman & Cacioppo, 2001). It also impacts metacognitive experiences such as feeling of difficulty and feelings of effort exertion (Efklides, 2016; Efklides, Schwartz, & Brown, in press).
Similarly, for SRL, it is important to monitor the rate of progress toward our goal (Carver, 2015; Carver & Scheier, 1998). If it is as expected, no specific affect is present. If the rate of progress toward our goal is faster than anticipated, we experience positive affect; if the rate is slower than expected, negative affect is experienced. This informs us that more effort is needed to attain our goal. From a metacognitive point of view, feeling of difficulty or ease of processing along with monitoring of effort and time spent on a task provide information about the velocity with which we approach our goal. Therefore, affect and metacognition jointly determine engagement with/disengagement from our goal.
To sum up, affect is an essential component of SRL, and its effects are not limited to achievement emotions. Moreover, affect exerts its effects on SRL in interaction with cognition and metacognition. This is particularly true for epistemic emotions, as shown in the following section.
Epistemic emotions offer awareness of knowledge states such as conflict, incongruence, discrepancy, interruption of processing, or gaps in ones knowledge (Muis et al., 2015). Their role is to facilitate action that can help restore processing. This can be done by focusing attention to particular aspects of a situation (e.g., discrepant information), seeking of new information, or construction of new schemas. Specifically, curiosity denotes a gap in ones knowledge (Litman, 2010). It activates behaviors such as exploration that can fill in the gap. Surprise, on the other hand, denotes the presence of unexpected and discrepant events (Mandler, 1975; Meyer, Reisenzein, & Schützwohl, 1997); its role is to refocus attention on the discrepant information and activate analytic processing (Topolinski & Strack, 2015). Confusion is experienced when there is conflict of response tendencies, and therefore no response can be formed. It prompts behaviors that can reduce confusion by resolving the conflict (for the constructive role of confusion in learning, see Muis et al., 2015).
From an SRL point of view, both epistemic emotions and metacognition have as their object knowledge states and cognitive processing. Therefore, there should be relations between them. Two studies that investigated the association of metacognitive experiences with surprise and curiosity, respectively, are presented in the following sections.
Self-reported surprise and feeling of difficulty will be increased in interrupted, as compared with noninterrupted, cognitive processing.
Self-reported surprise will correlate with self-reported feeling of difficulty.
Self-reported surprise will decrease as stimuli with interruptions are repeated across trials whereas feeling of difficulty will remain unchanged across trials.
e.g., 2 4 4 6 6 8 ---
From the MASRL models point of view, curiosity as exploratory behavior is manifested at the Task X Person level (state curiosity). However, curiosity can also be measured as person characteristic, that is, as trait. There is perceptual (PC) and epistemic curiosity (EC) (Berlyne, 1954; Litman & Spielberger, 2003). Perceptual curiosity captures seeking of new perceptual information, as when we visit new places. Epistemic curiosity is desire for knowledge that motivates an individual to seek new ideas, eliminate gaps in knowledge, and resolve intellectual problems (Litman, 2008; Mussel, 2010). EC can be associated with the pleasure of discovering new ideas (interest-type curiosity) or with an effort to reduce negative affect arising from uncertainty about, or gaps in, ones knowledge (deprivation-type curiosity; Litman, 2010).
2. Self-concept will not be related to state curiosity. On the contrary, positive attitude toward mathematics will be positively related to state curiosity because it taps interest in mathematics; negative attitude will be negatively related to state curiosity.
3. State curiosity will be negatively related to feeling of confidence but not necessarily to feeling of difficulty. It will be positively related to positive affect.
EPISTEMIC EMOTIONS AND SRLREVISITED
The aim of this chapter was to highlight the role of affect in SRL. Besides the unique effects of emotions on behavior and the interaction of emotions with motivation in the context of learning, I tried to show that affect also interacts with cognition and metacognition. The close relations of metacognitive feelings with affect render metacognitive experiences hot metacognition and suggest that the effects of monitoring on control in SRL may involve affective paths. One such path is epistemic emotions.
The study of emotions in SRL is at its beginning. Pekruns (2006) control-value theory of emotions is a promising line of research as regards the relations of emotions with motivation. The study of epistemic emotions in SRL, however, is in its infancy. Yet, the potential for understanding the functioning of emotions in SRL is high, particularly when we consider the interactions of affect with metacognitive experiences and discrete emotions. This is a novel and promising area of research because it connects affect with the monitoring and control of cognitive processing and gives metacognition a hot aspect that has not been noted in past research. All in all, including affect in SRL gives a new perspective to theories of SRL and an opportunity for a more comprehensive picture of the mechanisms underlying the regulation of learning.
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