The Experience Sampling Method (ESM)

The Experience Sampling Method (ESM) is a signal-contingent method of data collection. ESM has been used effectively with adolescent and adult populations for decades to study their affective states during a range of activities. In the SciMo study, specially programmed beepers were distributed to participants. The beepers quietly signaled the students at two randomly selected times during each day’s science class. In response to each signal, students completed an Experience Sampling Form (ESF) in which they recorded their activities and thoughts at the time of the signal, as well as various dimensions of their subjective experience. In response to open-ended questions, students provided a brief description of their thoughts and activities at the time of the signal.

Students reported on the cognitive dimensions of their subjective experience by rating (on a 4-point scale):

  • a) the challenge of the activity the were engaged in;
  • b) their skill in meeting these challenges;
  • c) the degree of control they felt;
  • d) the degree of choice they felt in how activities were done;
  • e) the degree to which they felt they were living up to their teachers’ expectations; and
  • f) their levels of concentration at the moment they were signaled.

Similarly, students also rated these affective dimensions of their experience:

  • g) enjoyment of the activity;
  • h) interest in the activity; and,
  • i) anxiety, and
  • j) anger.

The ESF takes less than 1 minute to complete. In previous ESM studies conduced by the Principal Investigator, teachers reported minimal, if any, interruptions to classroom as a result of students’ participation in ESM instruction (often teachers are often even aware that students have been signalled).

Hektner, J.M., Schmidt, J.A., & Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2007). Experience sampling method: Measuring the quality of everyday life. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.