Do grades shape students' school engagement? The psychological consequences of report card grades at the beginning of secondary school

Astrid M. G. Poorthuis, Jaana Juvonen, Sander Thomaes, Jaap J. A. Denissen, Bram Orobio de Castro, Marcel A. G. van Aken

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Receiving report card grades is psychologically salient to most students and can elicit a range of affective reactions. A 3-wave longitudinal study examined how grades shape students’ (N = 375; M age at Wave 1 = 12.6 years) school engagement through the affective reactions they elicit. Emotional and behavioral engagement were measured at the start of secondary school and 6 months later. Halfway through this period, students’ positive and negative affective reactions to their 1st report card in secondary school were assessed. As expected, lower report card grades predicted lower emotional and behavioral engagement in spring, when controlling for prior levels of engagement. These links were mediated by students’ affective reactions. Boys and children who perceived the performance norms in their class to be high were more affectively reactive to their grades, which resulted in a stronger indirect effect of grades via negative affect on emotional engagement. Complementing the traditional view that grades are consequences of school engagement, the current findings suggest that grades function also as antecedents of school engagement.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)842-854
JournalJournal of Educational Psychology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • school engagement
  • positive and negative affect
  • grades
  • school transition
  • school performance

Cite this