# Exploring mathematics teacher leaders’ attributions and actions in influencing senior secondary students’ mathematics subject enrolments

- 14 Downloads

## Abstract

School leaders employ various school-based actions to influence students’ subject enrolments at senior secondary levels (Years 11 and 12), which in turn affect students’ entrance into tertiary courses and career choices. In the context of reported declines in the proportion of students opting to study higher-level mathematics, this qualitative study sought insights into seven Australian mathematics teacher leaders’ decision-making processes and actions in their particular school contexts. It aimed to relate their actions to particular attributions for enrolment declines and their goals for students’ learning and achievement. The leaders’ attributions included students’ lack of ability, changes in university courses’ pre-requisites, students’ lack of effort or persistence, and negative attitudes towards mathematics. The leaders described a variety of school-based actions; some school leaders had actually chosen opposing actions but expressed similar reasons for implementing them, and vice versa. Tensions among external pragmatic constraints, the actions of other school staff, and the teacher leaders’ own goals for student learning in mathematics framed the findings of this study.

## Keywords

Mathematics teacher leaders Senior secondary mathematics Subject selection Decision making Attributions## Notes

### Acknowledgements

The authors would like to acknowledge with appreciation the teacher leader participants. Special thanks to Professor **** for her contribution to the data analysis.

## References

- Ames, C. (1992). Classrooms: goals, structures, and student motivation.
*Journal of Educational Psychology, 84*, 261–271.Google Scholar - Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (2018). My School. Retrieved from https://www.myschool.edu.au/about/
- Author (2017). Journal of mathematics teacher education.Google Scholar
- Bazeley, P. (2007).
*Qualitative data analysis with NVivo*. London: Sage.Google Scholar - Boaler, J., Wiliam, D., & Brown, M. (2000). Students’ experiences of ability grouping – disaffection, polarisation and the construction of failure.
*British Educational Research Journal, 26*(5), 631–648.Google Scholar - Bush, T., & Glover, D. (2014). School leadership models: what do we know?
*School Leadership and Management, 34*(5), 553–571.Google Scholar - Commonwealth of Australia. (2008). National numeracy review report. Canberra, ACT: Human capital working group, Council of Australian Governments. Retrieved from https://alearningplace.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/National-Numeracy-Review.pdf
- Creswell, J. W. (2007).
*Qualitative inquiry and research design: choosing among five approaches*(2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar - di Martino, P., & Zan, R. (2010). ‘Me and maths’: towards a definition of attitude grounded on students’ narratives.
*Journal of Mathematics Teacher Education, 13*(1), 27–48.Google Scholar - Dweck, C. S. (2007).
*Mindset the new psychology of success: how we can learn to fulfill our potential*. New York: Ballantine Books.Google Scholar - Dweck, C. S. (2010). Mind-sets and equitable education.
*Principal Leadership, 10*(5), 26–29.Google Scholar - Espinoza, P., Arêas da Luz Fontes, A. B., & Arms-Chavez, C. J. (2014). Attributional gender bias: teachers’ ability and effort explanations for students’ math performance.
*Social Psychology of Education, 17*(1), 105–126.Google Scholar - Fennema, E., Peterson, P. L., Carpenter, T. P., & Lubinski, C. A. (1990). Teachers’ attributions and beliefs about girls, boys, and mathematics.
*Educational Studies in Mathematics, 21*(1), 55–69.Google Scholar - Forgasz, H. (2010). Streaming for mathematics in years 7–10 in Victoria: an issue of equity?
*Mathematics Education Research Journal, 22*(1), 57–90.Google Scholar - Gemici, S., Bednarz, A., Karmel, T., & Lim, P. (2014).
*The factors affecting the educational and occupational aspirations of young Australians*, NCVER, Adelaide. Retrieved from http://www.lsay.edu.au/publications/2711.html. - Harris, K-L., & Jensz, F. (2006). The preparation of mathematics teachers in Australia: meeting the demand for suitably qualified mathematics teachers in secondary schools. Report prepared for the Australian Council of Deans of Science. Retrieved from http://www.cshe.unimelb.edu.au/research/disciplines/docs/Prep_Math_Teach_Aust.pdf
- Ho, K. F. (2010). Year 11 advanced mathematics: Hearing from students who buck the trend. In L. Sparrow, B. Kissane, & C. Hurst (Eds.), Shaping the future of mathematics education:
*Proceedings of the 33rd annual conference of the Mathematics Education Research Group of Australasia,*pp. 248–255. Fremantle, Australia: MERGA.Google Scholar - Hulleman, C. S., Schrager, S. M., Bodmann, S. M., & Harackiewicz, J. M. (2010). A meta-analytic review of achievement goal measures: different labels for the same constructs or different constructs with similar labels?
*Psychological Bulletin, 136*(3), 422–449.Google Scholar - Jang, L. Y., & Liu, W. C. (2012). 2 × 2 Achievement goals and achievement emotions: a cluster analysis of students’ motivation.
*European Journal of Psychology of Education, 27*(1), 59–76.Google Scholar - Kennedy, J., Lyons, T., & Quinn, F. (2014). The continuing decline of science and mathematics enrolments in Australian high schools.
*Teaching Science, 60*(2), 34–46.Google Scholar - 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. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cedpsych.2014.11.005.Google Scholar - Marginson, S., Tytler, R., Freeman, B., & Roberts, K. (2013).
*STEM: Country comparisons: International comparisons of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education.*Report for the Australian Council of Learned Academies, Melbourne, Vic. Retrieved from http://www.acola.org.au. - McCurry, D. (2013). Overview of senior assessment and tertiary entrance in Australia and other countries
*.*Melbourne, Vic: Australian Council for Educational Research. Retrieved from http://research.acer.edu.au/qld_review/5/. - McPhan, G., Morony, W., Pegg, J., Cooksey, R. & Lynch, T. (2008).
*Maths? Why not?*Report prepared for the Department of Education, employment and workplace relations. Retrieved from http://www.aamt.edu.au/index.php/Activities-and-projects/ Previous-projects/Maths-Why-Not. - Middleton, J. A. (2013). More than motivation: the combined effects of critical motivational variables on middle school mathematics achievement.
*Middle Grades Research Journal, 8*(1), 77–95.Google Scholar - Miles, M. B., & Huberman, A. M. (1994).
*Qualitative data analysis*(2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar - Noyes, A., & Sealey, P. (2012). Investigating participation in advanced level mathematics: a study of student drop-out.
*Research Papers in Education, 27*(1), 123–138.Google Scholar - Office of Chief Scientist, Australia. (2012). Mathematics, engineering, and science in the national interest. Retrieved from http://www.chiefscientist.gov.au/2012/05/mes-report/
- Öqvist, A., & Malmström, M. (2017). What motivates students? A study on the effects of teacher leadership and students’ self-efficacy.
*International Journal of Leadership in Education., 21*, 155–175. https://doi.org/10.1080/13603124.2017.1355480.Google Scholar - Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development [OECD] (2006). Evolution of student interest in science and technology studies policy report. Retrieved from http://www.oecd.org/science/sci-tech/36645825.pdf
- Plenty, S., & Heubeck, B. G. (2013). A multidimensional analysis of changes in mathematics motivation and engagement during high school.
*Educational Psychology, 33*(1), 14–30.Google Scholar - Prieto, E., & Dugar, N. (2016). An enquiry into the influence of mathematics on students’ choice of STEM careers.
*International Journal of Science and Mathematics Education. Advance online publication., 15*, 1501–1520. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10763-016-9753-7.Google Scholar - Rolland, R. G. (2012). Synthesizing the evidence on classroom goal structures in middle and secondary schools: a meta-analysis and narrative review.
*Review of Educational Research, 82*(4), 396–435.Google Scholar - Schoenfeld, A. H. (2011).
*How we think: a theory of goal-oriented decision making and its educational applications*. New York, NY: Routledge.Google Scholar - Schunk, D. H., Meece, J. R., & Pintrich, P. R. (2013). Motivation in education: theory, research, and applications (4th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson Higher Education.Google Scholar
- Sullivan, P., Tobias, S., & McDonough, A. (2006). Perhaps the decision of some students not to engage in learning mathematics in school is deliberate.
*Educational Studies in Mathematics, 62*(1), 81–99.Google Scholar - Timms, M. J., Moyle, K., Weldon, P. R., & Mitchell, P. (2018). Challenges in STEM learning in Australian schools: Literature and policy review.
*Policy Insights*: Australian Council for Educational Research.Google Scholar - Victorican Curriculum and Assessment Authority (2018). ABC of scaling. Retrieved from http://www.vtac.edu.au/files/pdf/publications/abcofscaling.pdf.
- 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*(6), 1594–1611.Google Scholar - Weiner, B. (1972). Attribution theory, achievement motivation, and the educational process.
*Review of Educational Research, 42*(2), 203–215.Google Scholar - Weiner, B. (1974).
*Achievement motivation and attribution theory*. Morristown, NJ: General Learning Press.Google Scholar - Weiner, B. (2010). The development of an attribution-based theory of motivation: a history of ideas.
*Educational Pyschologist, 45*(1), 28–36.Google Scholar - Wieman, C., & Welsh, A. (2016). The connection between teaching methods and attribution errors.
*Educational Psychology Review, 28*(3), 645–648.Google Scholar - Wilson, P. H., Edgington, C., Sztajn, P., & DeCuir-Gunby, J. (2014). Teachers, attributions, and students’ mathematical work. In J.-J. Lo, K. Leatham, & L. R. Van Zoest (Eds.),
*Research trends in mathematics teacher education*(pp. 115–132). Cham, Switzerland: Springer.Google Scholar - Zevenbergen, R. (2005). The construction of a mathematical habitus: implications of ability grouping in the middle years.
*Journal of Curriculum Studies, 37*(5), 607–619.Google Scholar