Affective factors are defined as emotional experiences that capture and reflect how a person becomes aware, interprets, and emotionally relates to the environment (Mahn & John-Steiner, 2013). The affective factor of interest has been a focus of many studies within science education (e.g., Dohn 2011, 2013a, 2013b; Dohn, Madsen, & Malte, 2009; Hong & Lin, 2011; Hong, Lin, Chen, Wang, & Lin, 2014; Kang, Scharmann, Kang, & Noh, 2010; Lin, Hong, & Chen, 2013; Lin, Hong, & Huang, 2012; Lin, Lawrenz et al., 2013; Palmer, 2004). Interest has several distinguishing characteristics setting it apart from other factors. Namely, interest is always directed toward an object and plays a significant role in self-motivated behavior, attention, goal setting, and learning strategies in educational settings (Ainley, Hidi, & Berndorff, 2002; Hidi & Renninger, 2006). Students who are interested in science have a greater potential to seek out opportunities that contribute to their public understanding of science (Falk, Storksdieck, & Dierking, 2007). Another important aspect of interest is its two-fold operative nature. Thorndike (1935) stated that interest “acts in a forward direction to dispose the person towards certain behaviors, making him connect situations to responses different from those which would ensure if the interest were lacking.” (p. 58). For example, when students are interested, their motivation to become involved in learning activities is enhanced (Renninger, 2000; Schiefele, Krapp, & Winteler, 1992). Thorndike went on to say that interest “acts in a backward direction to make certain experiences satisfying and so to arouse a confirming reaction which causes the person to continue or repeat the behavior.” (p. 58). As students' interest increases during learning activities, their motivation to become further involved increases (Herwartz-Emden, Schurt, & Waburg, 2007; Schiefele, 2001). Thus, interest could be understood as representing two different states: current interest (i.e., backward direction) or future intended interest (i.e., forward direction). Thorndike stated, “If the behavior is satisfying enough to arouse the confirming reaction, it is continued or repeated.” (p. 58). Therefore, as students' current interest is satisfied, motivation is increased, which propels them forward and provides yet further opportunities for sustainable growth in their learning—an example of synergy.
Enjoyment is viewed as an emotion that is typically short in duration and manifested when a person's perceived skills match the perceived challenges of a particular activity (Fredrickson, 1998; Fredrickson & Branigan, 2005) and reflect a person's emotional beliefs as opposed to how a person thinks (Hartley, 2006). Relevant to this study is how researchers have defined enjoyment in relationship to learning experiences (Goetz, Hall, Frenzel, & Pekrun, 2006; Pekrun, Goetz, Titz, & Perry, 2002). Expressed thoughts such as “I look forward to learning science” reflect the enjoyment one expresses toward learning activities in school; “I enjoy going to botanical gardens” expresses the enjoyment toward preferred or self-selected leisure activities outside of school. Experiencing these emotions toward an area of interest inside or outside of school provides opportunities to develop a generalized sense of enjoyment for that area (Goetz et al., 2006). Enjoyment experienced by students during free-choice, science-related activities (e.g., science museums, astronomy, or robotic clubs) or environment-related activities (e.g., scouting, hiking, or summer camps) also provide opportunities for developing meaningful awareness of science and the environment (Palmberg & Kuru, 2000). These experiences both support and promote interest and engagement in learning—an example of synergy. Thus, the affective factors examined in this study represent students' emotional experiences rather than how they think.