University of Oulu

Pijeira‐Díaz, HJ, Drachsler, H, Kirschner, PA, Järvelä, S. Profiling sympathetic arousal in a physics course: How active are students? J Comput Assist Learn. 2018; 34: 397– 408.

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

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Author: Pijeira-Díaz, H.J.1; Drachsler, H.2,3,4; Kirschner, P.A.1,4;
Organizations: 1Faculty of Education, University of Oulu, Finland
2Goethe University Frankfurt, Germany
3German Institute for International Educational Research (DIPF), Germany
4Welten Institute, Open University of the Netherlands, Netherlands
Format: article
Version: accepted version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.8 MB)
Persistent link:
Language: English
Published: John Wiley & Sons, 2018
Publish Date: 2020-05-08


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.

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Series: Journal of computer assisted learning
ISSN: 0266-4909
ISSN-E: 1365-2729
ISSN-L: 0266-4909
Volume: 34
Issue: 4
Pages: 397 - 408
DOI: 10.1111/jcal.12271
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 516 Educational sciences
Funding: This study was funded by the Academy of Finland, project 275440 (SLAM).
Academy of Finland Grant Number: 275440
Detailed Information: 275440 (Academy of Finland Funding decision)
Copyright information: © 2018 John Wiley & Sons Ltd. This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Pijeira‐Díaz HJ, Drachsler H, Kirschner PA, Järvelä S. Profiling sympathetic arousal in a physics course: How active are students? J Comput Assist Learn. 2018;1–12, which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Self-Archiving.