In Germany, school transition has been studied extensively. While most studies focused on students’ cognitive development, achievement and inequalities, the development of students’ affective characteristics has been neglected. However, studies have shown that positive emotions towards school and learning (such as school enjoyment) have a positive impact on school achievement (Hagenauer & Hascher, 2014; Pekrun et al., 2017).
School enjoyment may be defined as a positive emotional attitude towards the entire learning environment at school, i.e., lessons, teachers, classmates and school activities (Fend, 1997). Emotions, such as enjoyment, are aroused by cognitive appraisals and influenced by interpersonal relationships, individual experiences and goals (Mandl & Reiserer, 2000; Pekrun, 2006). At the transition to secondary school, the curricular demands, school subjects, teachers and classmates change. Therefore, school enjoyment is expected to change during the transition. Additionally, in line with stage-environment fit theory (Eccles & Midgley, 1989), one can expect that students with higher levels of parental support, higher educational and socio-cultural background will cope better with the transition to secondary school than disadvantaged children.
Previous studies have shown an increase of students’ school enjoyment girls reporting higher levels of enjoyment than boys (Hagenauer, Reitbauer, & Hascher, 2013; Harazd & Schürer, 2006; van Ophuysen, 2008). In our study, we analyzed the development of school enjoyment from 4th to 5th grade via latent growth curve models with data of the starting cohort kindergarten (N = 2737, 52 % female). We found an increase of school enjoyment when sex, school track and grades in mathematics and German were controlled for (Mslope = .36, SE = .10, p < .05). Indicator variables for disadvantaged children, e.g., HISEI, idealistic school aspiration, migration status or parental monitoring had no significant effect on the intercept or the slope factor. Methodological limitations and educational implications of the study will be discussed.