Epistemic Emotions and Observations Are Intertwined in Scientific Sensemaking: A Study among Upper Secondary Physics Students

Elisa Vilhunen*, Mei Hung Chiu, Katariina Salmela-Aro, Jari Lavonen, Kalle Juuti

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


This study contributes to the understanding of the relationship between emotions and development of scientific understanding by examining (1) how students perform in scientific sensemaking in the context of a three-cycle predict-observe-explain (POE) activity, (2) what kind of trajectories of situational epistemic emotions students show when making sense of the phenomenon, and (3) how students’ performance in sensemaking is related to their emotional trajectories. Data from 109 participant students were collected in six upper secondary physics classes. Students’ performance in sensemaking was evaluated based on their answers on POE items and categorised through qualitative content analysis. Situational epistemic emotions (surprise, curiosity, confusion, and boredom) were measured using a four-point Likert scale after each POE cycle. Latent class growth analysis was used to identify groups of students with distinctive emotional trajectories. The relationship between the performance in POE activity and emotional trajectories was explored by a chi-square test. The results indicate that students’ inability to make relevant observations is significantly related to experienced boredom. Furthermore, students who perform better in making sense of the phenomenon are more likely to experience surprise, curiosity, and confusion. This implies that engaging students to be curious when they observe and test predictions is an important mission for curriculum designers and teachers in practice. The findings underline the importance of epistemic emotions in educational settings and the complexity of the interplay between cognitive and affective factors in learning situations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1545-1566
Number of pages22
JournalInternational Journal of Science and Mathematics Education
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2023 Jun


  • Epistemic emotions
  • Observation
  • Scientific sensemaking
  • Upper secondary school

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • General Mathematics


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