Motivation predicts academic achievement beyond cognitive ability. Expectancy value theory (Eccles et al., 1983) is a widely accepted and powerful approach explaining academic achievement as well as educational choices and attainment. Recently, attention to the multiplicative term of expectancy and value beliefs has increased. Trautwein et al. (2012) reported a detrimental effect of high task value when expectancy beliefs were low. We aimed to replicate and extend their study by using a large, representative sample of students attending upper secondary school in the German federal state Schleswig-Holstein (N = 3367). Following Trautwein et al. (2012), we applied latent interaction modelling to test whether the predictive value of expectancy value interactions differs for grades, final examinations, and standardized test scores as measures of achievement in two domains. We took the multi-dimensional structure of task value into consideration, analyzing the four components (attainment, intrinsic value, utility and cost) separately. Both a verbal and a non-verbal domain (English as a foreign language and mathematics) were investigated. Overall, the results supported those of Trautwein et al. (2012). However, our findings suggested measure- and domain-specific differences when using expectancy value beliefs and their interactions to predict academic achievement. Interaction terms predicted final examination results in both English and mathematics. Further, interaction effects were significant for grades in English but not mathematics. In general, effect sizes of multiplicative terms were small, especially in contrast to expectancy beliefs. Findings are discussed regarding the practical and conceptual importance of the multiplicative term in expectancy value theory applied in an educational setting.
Individual differences in cognitive ability predict educational attainment and achievement (Deary, Strand, Smith, & Fernandes, 2007; Kuncel, Hezlett, & Ones, 2004; Rohde & Thompson, 2007). However, psychological constructs capturing individual differences in motivation (e.g., motivation, interest, and self-concept) have been shown to explain an additional amount of variance in these outcomes (ChamorroPremuzic, Harlaar, Greven, & Plomin, 2010; Duckworth & Seligman, 2005; Kuncel, Ones, & Sackett, 2010; Steinmayr & Spinath, 2009). One of the most influential frameworks to conceptualize achievement motivation is expectancy value theory (EVT; Eccles, 2009; Eccles et al., 1983; Wigfield & Eccles, 2000; Atkinson, 1957; for reviews, see Eccles & Wigfield, 2002; Wigfield & Eccles, 2000). According to expectancy value theory, achievement motivation depends on two elements: (a) expectancy of success as students’ beliefs of how well they will do on the activity, and (b) value beliefs describing the extent to which students’ value the activity (Eccles et al., 1983; Wigfield & Eccles, 1992; Wigfield, 1994). In other words, a person who beliefs a successful result when engaging in the task is possible, but does not have a compelling reason to do so will refrain from putting in a great deal of effort. Vice versa, if the task is important but is viewed as unlikely to be accomplished, the person might choose to engage in another task with higher expectancy of success. Value beliefs can be further differentiated into four subcomponents: cost, attainment value, intrinsic value, and utility value (see Eccles et al., 1983; Wigfield & Eccles, 1992; Trautwein et al., 2012). EVT has been shown to explain students’ effort (e.g., Dietrich, Viljaranta, Moeller, & Kracke, 2017), choices (e.g., Updegraff, Eccles, Barber, & O'Brien, 1996; Nagy, Trautwein, Baumert, Köller, & Garrett, 2007; Eccles & Wang, 2015), and achievement in a variety of contexts, including academic achievement on different educational levels (e.g., Denissen, Zarrett, & Eccles, 2007). Despite their clear theoretical distinction, expectancy and value beliefs are strongly correlated empirically.