Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Psychology & Higher Education

First Committee Member

Gwen Marchand

Second Committee Member

Matthew Bernacki

Third Committee Member

Harsha Perera

Fourth Committee Member

Jonathan Hilpert

Fifth Committee Member

Jenifer Utz

Number of Pages



This dissertation is composed of three studies designed to explore the dimensionality of subjective task value and relations among subjective task value dimensions with theoretically-posited outcomes. In particular, these studies aim to clarify issues regarding the dimensionality of subjective task value as a way forward to investigate the short-term longitudinal effects among general and specific subjective task value components with achievement-related outcomes, including both academic performance and students’ engagement choices.

Expectancy-value researchers have described the components of subjective task value in multiple ways, leading to multiple competing structural representations of subjective task value data. The purpose of the first study was to examine these competing multidimensional factor structures by comparing hierarchical and bifactor representations of both confirmatory factor analysis and exploratory structural equation modeling (ESEM) models across three theoretical conceptualizations of subjective task value. Results indicate that, in an undergraduate life science learning context (n = 334), the best representation for subjective task value data was a bifactor ESEM model that allowed for the disentangling of general and specific variance of general subjective task value, specific value beliefs, and specific costs. Full measurement invariance of the retained structure across continuing generation and first-generation students, and no differential item functioning was found across gender. General subjective task value and specific opportunity cost significantly and positively predicted achievement and specific utility value significantly and negatively predicted achievement, confirming the criterion-related validity of general and specific factors for predicting achievement outcomes.

The purpose of the second study was to examine the temporal relations among general and specific subjective task value constructs and achievement across a semester of an undergraduate biology course. Based on longitudinal data from 1,114 undergraduate science students, latent variable autoregressive and cross-lagged panel analyses revealed that relations among general subjective task value, specific value beliefs and costs, and achievement were relatively stable over the course of a semester. Significant positive relations were observed between prior attainment value and later utility value, early intrinsic value and subsequent utility value, and early psychological cost and later opportunity cost and effort cost. Among value beliefs and costs, significant negative effects were observed between prior effort cost and later attainment value and utility value and between early psychological cost and subsequent intrinsic value. With respect to achievement, significant and negative associations between early utility value and later achievement and significant, positive relations between early opportunity cost and psychological cost and later achievement were observed, providing evidence suggestive of worthwhile cost.

The purpose of the third study was to examine the effects of students’ sociodemographic characteristics, prior achievement, and general and specific subjective task value dimensions on study group partnerships outside of class in a semester-long undergraduate biology course (n = 184). Study group networks at the middle and end of the semester were found to have relatively few connection between individuals in the course, with first-generation students overrepresented among the completely disconnected students. Exponential random graph models revealed that first-generation students were significantly less likely to be selected as study group partners at the middle and end of the semester. At the midsemester, one’s perceptions of effort cost associated with course engagement was significantly and negatively associated with being selected as a study partner, and students that had similar levels of psychological cost were more likely to form study group partnership. In addition, separable temporal exponential random graph models suggested that, between the middle and end of the semester, attainment value was a significant predictor of forming new study group partnerships, intrinsic value was significantly associated with continuing to select the same study group partners, however students that had similar levels of intrinsic value were significantly more likely to dissolve their study group partnership.


Bifactor model; Expectancy-value theory; Social network analysis; Structural equation modeling; Subjective task value


Educational Psychology

File Format


File Size

12.4 MB

Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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