Mathematics Education Research Journal

, Volume 29, Issue 2, pp 133–142 | Cite as

Theoretical foundations of engagement in mathematics

  • Helen M. G. Watt
  • Merrilyn Goos
Original Article

Aims and purpose of the special issue

The special issue, “Theoretical Foundations of Engagement in Mathematics: Empirical studies from the field”, provides a vehicle to promote the elaboration of significant theories and frameworks relevant to mathematics education research—specifically learners’ engagement in mathematics. The topic of student engagement has been a burgeoning area of inquiry over the last decades. This volume offers the possibility to view and interpret diverse quantitative and qualitative empirical findings through the lenses of student engagement theories, including both “inside-out” (within-person emphases) and “outside-in” (system and context) frameworks. Collectively, the articles present and analyse diverse empirical findings, framed by prominent theories including expectancy-value, achievement goal, self-determination, and sociocultural theories. Researchers from different contexts, Australia and Germany, discuss their findings using contemporary data from the...


Motivation Engagement Mathematics Students Theory 


  1. Australian Academy of Science. (2016). The mathematical sciences in Australia: a vision for 2025. Canberra: Australian Academy of Science.Google Scholar
  2. Butler, R. (2012). Striving to connect: extending an achievement goal approach to teacher motivation to include relational goals for teaching. Journal of Educational Psychology, 104, 726–742. doi: 10.1037/a0028613.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Butler, R. (2014). What teachers want to achieve and why it matters: an achievement goal approach to teacher motivation. In P. W. Richardson, S. A. Karabenick, & H. M. G. Watt (Eds.), Teacher motivation: theory and practice (pp. 20–35). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  4. Centre for International Economics. (2015). The importance of advanced physical and mathematical sciences to the Australian economy. Canberra: Australian Academy of Science.Google Scholar
  5. Chubb, I., Findlay, C., Du, L., Burmester, B., Kusa, L. (2012). Mathematics, engineering and science in the national interest. Retrieved 12.05.16 from:
  6. Dweck, C. S., & Elliott, S. (1983). Achievement motivation. In P. Mussen (Ed.), Handbook of child psychology: socialization, personality, and social development (Vol. 4, pp. 643–691). NY: Wiley.Google Scholar
  7. Eccles, J. S. (2016). Engagement: where to next. Learning and Instruction, 43, 71–75. doi: 10.1016/j.learninstruc.2016.02.003.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Eccles [Parsons], J. S., Adler, T. F., Futterman, R., Goff, S. B., Kaczala, C. M., Meece, J. L., & Midgley, C. (1983). Expectations, values and academic behaviors. In J. T. Spence (Ed.), Achievement and achievement motivation (pp. 75–146). San Francisco: W. H. Freeman.Google Scholar
  9. Eccles, J. S., Jacobs, J. E., Harold, R. D., Yoon, K. S., Abreton, A., & Freedman-Doan, C. (1993). Parents and gender-role socialization during the middle childhood and adolescent years. In S. Oskamp & M. Costanzo (Eds.), Gender issues in contemporary society, Claremont Symposium on Applied Social Psychology, 6 (pp. 59–83). Thousand Oaks: Sage.Google Scholar
  10. Elliot, A. J., & Harackiewicz, J. M. (1996). Approach and avoidance achievement goals and intrinsic motivation: a mediational analysis. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 70, 461–475. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.70.3.461.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Fredricks, J. A. (2011). Engagement in school and out-of-school contexts: a multidimensional view of engagement. Theory Into Practice, 50(4), 327–335.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Fredricks, J. A., Blumenfeld, P. C., & Paris, A. H. (2004). School engagement: potential of the concept, state of the evidence. Review of Educational Research, 74(1), 59–109. doi: 10.3102/00346543074001059.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Fredricks, J. A., Filsecker, M., & Lawson, M. A. (2016). Student engagement, context, and adjustment: addressing definitional, measurement, and methodological issues. Learning and Instruction, 43, 1–4. doi: 10.1016/j.learninstruc.2016.02.002.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Friedel, J. M., Cortina, K. S., Turner, J. C., & Midgley, C. (2010). Changes in efficacy beliefs in mathematics across the transition to middle school: Examining the effects of perceived teacher and parent goal emphases. Journal of Educational Psychology, 102(1), 102–114.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Fullarton, S. (2002). Student engagement with school: individual and school-level influences. Longitudinal Surveys of Australian Youth (LSAY) Research Report No. 27. Melbourne: ACER.
  16. Goos, M. (2013). Sociocultural perspectives in research on and with mathematics teachers: A zone theory approach. ZDM Mathematics Education, 45(4), 521–533.Google Scholar
  17. Jacobs, J. E., & Simpkins, S. D. (2005). Mapping leaks in the math, science, and technology pipeline. New Directions for Child and Adolescent Development, 110, 3–6. doi: 10.1002/cd.145.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Lazarides, R., & Watt, H. M. G. (2015). Girls’ and boys’ perceived mathematics teacher beliefs, classroom learning environments and mathematical career intentions. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 41, 51–61. doi: 10.1016/j.cedpsych.2014.11.005.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Lerman, S. (2000). The social turn in mathematics education research. In J. Boaler (Ed.), Multiple perspectives on mathematics teaching and learning (pp. 19–44). Westport: Ablex Publishing.Google Scholar
  20. Maltese, A. V., & Tai, R. H. (2011). Pipeline persistence: Examining the association of educational experiences with earned degrees in STEM among U.S. students. Science Education, 95, 877–907. doi: 10.1002/sce.20441.
  21. Martin, A. J. (2008). The motivation and engagement scale. Sydney: Lifelong Achievement Group ( ).
  22. Nicholls, J. G. (1984). Achievement motivation: conceptions of ability, subjective experience, task choice, and performance. Psychological Review, 91, 328–346. doi: 10.1037/0033-295X.91.3.328.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Nicholls, J. G. (1989). The competitive ethos and democratic education. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  24. Office of the Chief Scientist. (2014). Science, technology, engineering and mathematics: Australia’s future. Canberra: Australian Government.Google Scholar
  25. Pianta, R. C., & Hamre, B. K. (2009). Conceptualization, measurement, and improvement of classroom processes: Standardized observation can leverage capacity. Educational Researcher, 38(2), 109–119. doi: 10.3102/0013189X093323374.
  26. Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). Intrinsic and extrinsic motivations: Classic definitions and new directions. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 25, 54–67.Google Scholar
  27. Sells, L. W. (1980). Mathematics: The invisible filter. Engineering Education, 70, 340–341.Google Scholar
  28. Spearman, J., & Watt, H. M. G. (2013). Perception shapes experience: the influence of actual and perceived classroom environment dimensions on girls’ motivations for science. Learning Environments Research, 16(2), 217–238. doi: 10.1007/s10984-013-9129-7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Thomson, S., De Bortoli, L., & Buckley, S. (2013). PISA 2012: How Australia measures up. Camberwell: Australian Council for Educational Research.Google Scholar
  30. Thomson, S., De Bortoli, L., & Underwood, C. (2016a). PISA 2015: A first look at Australia’s results. Melbourne: Australian Council of Educational Research.Google Scholar
  31. Thomson, S., Wernert, N., O’Grady, E., & Rodrigues, S. (2016b). TIMSS 2015: A first look at Australia’s results. Melbourne: Australian Council of Educational Research.Google Scholar
  32. Turner, J. C., & Meyer, D. K. (2009). Understanding motivation in mathematics: What is happening in classrooms? In K. R. Wentzel & A. Wigfield (Eds.), Handbook of motivation at school (pp. 527–552). NY: Routledge.Google Scholar
  33. Turner, J. C., Midgley, C., Meyer, D. K., Gheen, M., Anderman, E. M., Kang, Y., & Patrick, H. (2002). The classroom environment and students’ reports of avoidance strategies in mathematics: A multimethod study. Journal of Educational Psychology, 94(1), 88–106.Google Scholar
  34. Vadeboncoeur, J. A. (2006). Engaging young people: Learning in informal contexts. Review of Research in Education, 30, 239–278.Google Scholar
  35. Watt, H. M. G. (2006). The role of motivation in gendered educational and occupational trajectories related to maths. Educational Research and Evaluation, 12, 305–322. doi: 10.1080/13803610600765562.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Watt, H. M. G., Shapka, J. D., Morris, Z. A., Durik, A. M., Keating, D. P., & Eccles, J. S. (2012). Gendered motivational processes affecting high school mathematics participation, educational aspirations, and career plans: A comparison of samples from Australia, Canada, and the United States. Developmental Psychology, 48, 1594–1611. doi: 10.1037/a0027838.
  37. Watt, H. M. G., Hyde, J. S., Petersen, J., Morris, Z. A., Rozek, C. S., & Harackiewicz, J. M. (2017). Mathematics—A critical filter for STEM-related career choices? A longitudinal examination among Australian and U.S. adolescents. Sex Roles. doi: 10.1007/s11199-016-0711-1
  38. Wolters, C. A. (2004). Advancing achievement goal theory: Using goal structures and goal orientations to predict students’ motivation, cognition, and achievement. Journal of Educational Psychology, 96, 236–250.Google Scholar
  39. Yik, M., Russell, J. A., & Steiger, J. H. (2011). A 12-point circumplex structure of core affect. Emotion, 11(4), 705–731. doi: 10.1037/a0023980.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Mathematics Education Research Group of Australasia, Inc. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Monash UniversityMelbourneAustralia
  2. 2.University of QueenslandBrisbaneAustralia

Personalised recommendations