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Motivation, Self-Efficacy and Teacher’s Role in a Student’s Success Within a Mathematics Classroom

Motivation, Self-Efficacy and Teacher’s Role in a Student’s Success Within a Mathematics Classroom

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Abstract

This research study will be conducted to investigate the relationship between motivation, self-efficacy and teacher relationships of students to their success in a mathematics classroom. The participants of this study will include tenth, eleventh and twelfth grade students enrolled in Honors Algebra II Trigonometry at Baker High School. Half of the students were randomly chosen and assigned to Comparison Group #1 and the other half of the students were assigned to Comparison Group #2. Both groups received the same questionnaire to complete. The questionnaire includes statements and questions pertaining to the individual student’s attitudes and feelings towards mathematics to see if these factors have an impact on how well the student performs in class. Some questions also asks the students about their relationship with their teachers and whether or not the students feel like they are supported in the classroom. Within the demographic section on the questionnaires, students are asked questions regarding their current average in the course. From the questionnaire, we will obtain numerical values, later referred to as points, and students’ current averages in the mathematics course that will be used to assist in determining the relationship. To analyze the data collection, we will construct histograms, a scatterplot and calculate the measures of central tendencies to determine if a relationship exist between these two variables. We will also compare the two comparison group’s values for each variable to see how similar the two groups are and to see if they yield the same results.

Introduction

Every student is unique and performs differently when placed in a mathematics classroom. A problem that is continuously arising in education is that students are easily discouraged and begin to believe that they are not good at certain subjects, specifically mathematics. These thoughts and beliefs can determine how successful each student will be in the classroom. Some factors that can contribute to students motivation, self-efficacy and achievemt in a mathematics classroom include the teacher’s attitude and performance, goal setting and prior experiences in the classroom. It is believed that students who set goals in a classroom and are held accountable to those goals will generally be successful and perform better than those students who do not set goals (Ng, 2016). As teachers, it is our responsibility to encourage and motivate our students to always try their best and to help them grow to become lifelong learners. As a high school math teacher, it is important that I understand, address and master these factors at the beginning of each semester so my students can perform at their full potential and have a positive experience in my mathematics classroom. Within this study, we will examine to see if a relationship exists between a student’s motivation, self-efficacy and teacher relationships and the role these factors play in the student’s success within a mathematics classroom.

Summary of Prior Literature

Mathematics is a course in which all of the objectives build on one another and requires students to recall prior knowledge. If students have a bad experience in a mathematics course, it can be a challenge for them to rebuild their self-efficacy and get them motivated to learn again (Roick & Ringeisen, 2018). In order for a student to be successful in a high school or college mathematics course, he or she must demonstrate motivation to learn the basics in elementary or middle school. As mentioned by Skaalvik and Skaalvik, if students believe that they are capable of performing well on an assignment, they will generally perform better than those who do not believe in themselves (2011). The way a student perceives him or herself can play a large role in their educational career, especially in a mathematics classroom. Motivation is said to be driven by a student’s self-efficacy, attribution and control beliefs, and interest and intrinsic motivation (Pantziara & Philippou, 2012). When students have a say or choice in what they learn, they experience a greater autonomous motivation, which leads to them partaking in deep processing and mastery learning (León et al.,2015).

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There is also said to be a positive correlation between a student’s motivation in the classroom and the teachers support provided (Skaalviket al., 2015). If a teacher encourages his or her students daily and pushes them to do better in school, the student becomes motivated to learn. It is important that teachers take the time to get to know his or her students (Rongrong & Singh, 2018). By learning about their strengths and weaknesses and what the students need in the classroom to be successful, the teacher is establishing a relationship that can encourage and motivate the students to be successful. There is also an association between student and teacher relationships and their engagement in the classroom (Roorda, 2017). If students feel more comfortable in the classroom and can trust their teacher and peers, he or she is more likely to participate and engage in class discussion. When teachers display positive characteristics and show support within the classroom, students behave positively, acquire motivation and present good attitudes (Ng, 2016). By having students develop and use these deep processing and mastery skills, they place themselves on the path of success.

Having a student motivated to learn is a key role in how successful he or she can and will be in the classroom. According to Gilbert et al. (2014), there are two motivational theories, the Expectancy-Value Theorem and the Achievement Goal Theory. The Expectancy-Value Theorem states that social influences can determine the success of students and the Achievement Goal Theory explains the reasons why students seek after certain goals (Gilbert, 2014). When students make their own goals, they will be more likely to strive to accomplish those goals and do whatever it takes to show that they are capable of achieving them.

Research Questions

  1. How does a student’s feelings towards mathematics effect his or her motivation in the classroom?
  2. Does a student’s desire to be successful in the classroom play a role in student’s behavior and motivation?
  3. Does a student’s attitude towards his or her teacher determine how well he or she will perform in the classroom?

Research Hypothesis

I believe that those students who are driven and motivated to learn will perform better than those who are not motivated. I also believe that those students who set goals will be encouraged to accomplish those goals and as a result be more successful. Students who have developed self-efficacy and display their confidence in the classroom will be more successful and perform better than their peers perform. I also expect there to be a strong correlation between student success and the positive, encouraging role their teacher plays. If a teacher does not encourage and motivate his or her students, their success rate in the class will be lower than a teacher who does provide those characteristics. With these hypotheses, I believe there will be a strong, positive correlation between students who are motivated, have self-efficacy and a supportive teacher to their success in the mathematics classroom.

Method

Participants

The participants during this experiment will consist of tenth, eleventh and twelfth grade students that are currently enrolled and taking my Honors Algebra II Trigonometry course. The only criteria that must be met is that the students are enrolled in my class and not another teacher’s Honors Algebra II Trigonometry course. To encourage student participation in the study, students will be offered an incentive of a free homework pass if they choose to participate as well as complete the study. To recruit participants, I will mention it to all of my classes and explain to the students what they would be required to do and mention the incentive. In addition to going over the study in class, I will also place flyers around the classroom a couple of weeks before the survey takes place so that students see them daily and can gain more information about it if they need it.

Instruments

The instrument that I will be using within this research study is a questionnaire that I created. This questionnaire consist of four components: consent form, demographics, statements with a rating scale and open-ended questions. The consent form must be filled out prior to completing the questionnaire. If a student does not return the consent form, he or she cannot partake in the study.

The demographic section allows us to get to know the students participating in the study. In this section, it asks the students to specify their gender, age, race, current grade level and current grade in their Honors Algebra II Trigonometry course. This information will be used within our research and assist in the data analyzation process.

Students will be presented with sixteen statements regarding self-efficacy, motivation and teacher relationships in a mathematics classroom. Students are asked to fill in the corresponding box that accurately represents how they feel after reading each statement. Each student can choose from the following options: Strong Agree, Agree, Neither, Disagree, Strongly Disagree. Below are some examples of statements that students will read and then mark one of the above responses based on their feelings developed after reading the statement.

  • Performing well in this mathematics course is important to me.
  • Not passing this mathematics course motivates me to do better.
  • I feel confident when I am doing mathematics.
  • I feel encouraged to learn in a mathematics classroom.
  • I know my teacher wants the best for me.

The last four questions on the questionnaire are open ended which allows the students to express their feelings and explain their answers which could not be done in the previous section. Below are three of questions that appear on the questionnaire. Student responses to these questions will help us learn about what the student needs from the teacher to be successful in the class.

  • What motivates you to do well in school?
  • What I like most about math class is ……
  • What I do not like about math class is ……

The responses from these questions will help us to measure the relationship present, if any, between the two variables previously mentioned.

Research Design

During this study, our research will be designed around the matching technique. To conduct the matching, the students will randomly be assigned to the two sample groups but each student will not know which group he or she is assigned to. Students will complete their questionnaire which contains a question asking them to list their current grade in the Honors Algebra II Trigonometry course. Based on the grade that the students list, they will be matched with another student from the opposite group. Students who have them same or similar grade will be matched together. Once the students have completed the questionnaire, they will receive points based on how they feel toward statements regarding motivation, self-efficacy and teacher relationships in the mathematics classroom. Students will receive the points listed below for each of the following responses:

1 Point – Strongly Disagree

2 Points – Disagree

3 Points – Neither

4 Points – Agree

5 Points – Strongly Disagree

Once the points have been calculated, the matched pairs will be compared on the responses they gave each statement as well as their overall total points earned.

Data Analysis

To be able to draw appropriate conclusions about the relationships between motivation, self-efficacy and teacher relationships to student success in the classroom, we will analyze the data in multiple ways. As previously mentioned, each student provides numerical values meaning that our analysis will be in forms that represent a quantitative study.

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Using the student’s current grade in his or her class, we can construct a histogram in which the grades are on the x-axis and the frequency is on the y-axis. This will include all the students that participate in the questionnaire. Another histogram will be constructed consisting of the overall points each student received from their responses on the questionnaire. Point totals will be on the x-axis and frequency will be on the y-axis. Since both values will range greatly, each tick mark on the x-axis will have a scale of ten. So for the current grade and total points received from the questionnaire, on the x-axis the tick marks will read as follows 0-10, 11-20, 21-30 and so on until all values fall into a column. We will label them this way so that the responses, or in our case the numerical values, are mutually exclusive and exhaustive. By creating these histograms, we can see which score and points had the highest and lowest frequencies.

A scatterplot will also be constructed where the student’s current grade will be placed on the x-axis and their total points from the questionnaire will be placed on the y-axis. By constructing a scatterplot, we can see if there is any type of relationship present between the two variables. If there is a relationship present, we can calculate the correlation coefficient and slope to see if the relationship is positive or negative as well as strong or weak. The closer the correlation coefficient is to ±1, the stronger the relationship between the two variables. The slope of the line tells us whether it is a positive or negative relationship.

Just to recall, the students were randomly assigned to two groups, Comparison Group #1 and Comparison Group #2. From the student’s current grade and the points received from the questionnaire, we can measure the central tendencies for each group. Our central tendencies include mean, median and mode. The mean is the average of the vales (the sum of all the values divided by the total number of values), the median is the value that is in the middle and the mode is the value that occurs the most (Johnson et al, 2017). Once we have calculated these values, we can compare the two groups. Since every student was randomly assigned to the two comparison groups, they should be approximately the same on all measures. We can compare the means of students grades and the mean amounts of each groups total points. We can also do this using the median and mode. If the sample of values is normally distributed, all of the central tendency values should be close to if not the same value.

By using several different quantitative data analysis techniques, it provides us with more opportunities and support to our hypothesis in determining whether or not there is a relationship between the two variables. It also allows us to compare the two groups of students to determine if they are similar in their points received from both the questionnaire and their course grade. From these data analysis methods, we will have a better understanding of the role of motivation, self-efficacy and teacher relationships to success in the mathematics classroom.

Conclusion

As a high school mathematics teacher, I have learned a lot from this research proposal. I have only been teaching for a year so I am still in the learning stages and trying to figure out my teaching style. One thing that I have learned from this research proposal is the importance of a student’s self-efficacy and motivation in the classroom. While these factors can contribute to the student’s success, it is ultimately the teacher’s responsibility to ensure that the students feel safe, motivated and have the opportunity to perform at their full potential in the mathematics classroom. Eventually, I would like to give the questionnaire to my students and ask them to complete it. I would run all of the data analyses that were mentioned previously in this study and seek to find a relationship between the two variables. Having a math major, I am very interested to see the two histograms and construct a scatterplot to see if a linear relationship exists. I would also like to conduct further research on which teaching styles students prefer and what type of activities in the classroom interest them. If I can figure out what activities and teaching styles interest my students, it will provide opportunities for them to be engaged which can lead to motivation to learn and more students becoming successful in the classroom.

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