The Roots of Low Self-Efficacy for Math in Middle School Students Josh Emmett, Ph.D. Point Loma Nazarene University email@example.com A presentation at ICCTE Conference 2012
Context for the Study• Convergence of: – practitioner research with empirical study• 7th grade students – Urban middle school – Historically low-performing students (& school)• Role of 3 researchers from PLNU: – Josh Emmett, Ph.D.—PI & instructional support – Dan Hall—Classroom teacher – Corey McKenna, Ph.D.—Co-PI, interviewer
Frame the Problem• Crisis of math achievement – Urban schools – Historically low-performing students• Critical intersection in educational pipeline – middle school – at-risk students• Can we turn the trend? – Influence of self-efficacy for math – Impact on effort, persistence, & perseverance
Theoretical FrameworkBandura’s (1986) Social Cognitive Theory• Sources of Self-Efficacy – mastery experience – vicarious experience – social persuasion – physiological states• Contributions of Ellen Usher’s study on self-efficacy of middle school math students
Research Question• What are the causes of low self-efficacy for math in a class of historically low-performing students at an urban middle school?
Method• Participants: – 20 students (participated in the study) – 7th grade – 36 students recommended by 6th grade teachers – 24 students purposely selected to match demographics of the school • 12 female, 12 male • 55% English Learners • 80% Latino, 10% Black, 10% White
Method (continued)• Data Collected • Structured interview (by Corey McKenna) • Survey response (by Corey McKenna) • Achievement data (by Dan Hall) • Classroom observations (by Josh Emmett)• Each student represents a bounded case Cross-case analysis (Stake, 2000) The cases in this study are “chosen because it is believed that understanding them will lead to more comprehensive knowledge and, perhaps, better theorizing about a still larger collection of cases” (p. 437).
Selectively Low Self-Efficacy: AdamAdam (pseudonym)• English Learner• Emotionally immature• Low-performance on state assessments (BB)• Younger brother (grade 4) is high achiever• Confident in his own errors “I like doing math. I’m good at it.”
Consistently Low Self-Efficacy: JillianJillian (pseudonym)• English Learner• Socially insecure• Low-performance on state assessments (BB)• Avoidance strategies well-developed• Momentary mastery (2-step equations) “We are the dumb class.”
Malleable Self-Efficacy: AbbeyAbbey (pseudonym)• Self-aware• Inconsistent performance on state assessments (PBBB)• Friend is high-achiever• Desire to do well, appeals for assistance “My weakest subject is math because it is hard and I don’t understand it.”
Resistant Self-Efficacy: BobbyBobby (pseudonym)• English Learner• Physically & verbally reactionary• Decreasing performance on state assessments• Twin brother is high achiever• Averse to long division “Why do we have to do this?”
Cross-case Analysis mastery vicarious social physiological persuasion statesAdam Perception of Brother presents a Very sensitive to Enjoys doing math mastery does not model encouragement necessarily align from teachers and with evidence discouragement from peersJillian Recurring failure Highly conscious Inaccurate self- Anxiety while in with momentary of academic and appraisal, seeks math class experiences of social hierarchy in affirmation from avoidance success school othersAbbey Inconsistent Comparisons to Strong reliance Responsive mastery friends upon feedback attitude & feelings experiences (both extremes) to successBobby Decrease in Brother presents a Intense reaction Physical reaction achievement model to feedback to expectations related to math
Findings: Self-Efficacy What are the causes of low self-efficacy for math in a class of historically low-performing students at an urban middle school?• Recurrence of failure in math compounds• Comparison to others (heightened emphasis on social acceptance and peer approval at MS)• Social persuasion has undermined self-efficacy – Reaction/behavior when given test results• Physiological states contribute to low self- efficacy – Intensified environment of an urban context
Implications for PracticeCan self-efficacy change?• Instruction that promotes mastery experiences• Teacher practices beyond instruction – motivation (limitation of verbal persuasions) – creation of classroom environment – feedback with awareness of low self-efficacy• Increased rigor of math through grade levels – CA emphasis on Algebra – CCSS Standards for Mathematical Practice
Implications for Christian Educators Social Cognitive Theory overlooks the nature of man, yet exposes the frailty of the human condition.• Response from Christian educators: – Set into these contexts – Combat against low self-efficacy of students • Positive encouragement is not enough• Complexity of students’ experiences – Need for light in a dark place
References• Bandura, A. (1986). Social foundations of thought and action: A social cognitive theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.• Stake, R.E. (2000). Case studies. In N. Denzin & Y. Lincoln (Eds.). Strategies of qualitative inquiry (pp. 435-454.) Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.• Usher, E.L. (2009). Sources of middle school students’ self-efficacy in mathematics: A qualitative investigation. American Educational Research Journal, 46(1), 275-314.