Profiling sympathetic arousal in a physics course: How active are students?

Héctor J. Pijeira-Díaz, P.A. Kirschner, Sanna Järvelä, H.J. Drachsler

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    Low arousal states (especially boredom) have been shown to be more deleterious to learning than high arousal states, though the latter have received much more attention (e.g., test anxiety, confusion, and frustration). Aiming at profiling arousal in the classroom (how active students are) and examining how activation levels relate to achievement, we studied sympathetic arousal during two runs of an elective advanced physics course in a real classroom setting, including the course exam. Participants were high school students (N = 24) who were randomly selected from the course population. Arousal was indexed from electrodermal activity, measured unobtrusively via the Empatica E4 wristband. Low arousal was the level with the highest incidence (60% of the lesson on average) and longest persistence, lasting on average three times longer than medium arousal and two times longer than high arousal level occurrences. During the course exam, arousal was positively and highly correlated (r = .66) with achievement as measured by the students' grades. Implications for a need to focus more on addressing low arousal states in learning are discussed, together with potential applications for biofeedback, teacher intervention, and instructional design.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)397-408
    Number of pages12
    JournalJournal of Computer Assisted Learning
    Issue number4
    Early online date8 May 2018
    Publication statusPublished - Aug 2018


    • SELF
    • biosensors
    • classroom
    • electrodermal activity
    • learning activations
    • multimodal learning analytics
    • sympathetic arousal


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