Journal of Mathematics Teacher Education

, Volume 19, Issue 1, pp 33–55 | Cite as

Challenging teacher beliefs about student engagement in mathematics

  • Janette BobisEmail author
  • Jennifer Way
  • Judy Anderson
  • Andrew J. Martin


This study explored the beliefs about student engagement in mathematics of three Year 5 and 6 teachers, focusing on the shifts that occurred during a 10-week intervention. Data obtained from teacher surveys, interviews, video-recorded workshop observations and artefacts from teachers’ classrooms reveal variations in their reactions to the professional learning experiences. Teacher responses were mediated by personal and contextual elements including teacher efficacy beliefs, teacher confidence in mathematics and their conceptions of student engagement. Theories of teacher conceptual change are used to account for variations to teacher beliefs.


Teacher beliefs Mathematics education Engagement Teacher efficacy 



This research was funded by an Australian Research Council Linkage Projects Grant, in partnership with the Catholic Education Office, Sydney.


  1. Aguirre, J., & Speer, N. (1999). Examining the relationship between beliefs and goals in teacher practice. The Journal of Mathematical Behavior, 18(3), 327–356.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Aubusson, P., Ewing, R., & Hoban, G. (2009). Action learning in schools. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  3. Bandura, A. (1997). Self-efficacy: The exercise of control. New York: Freeman.Google Scholar
  4. Barrington, F. (2011). Australian mathematical sciences institute interim update on year 12 mathematics student numbers. Melbourne: Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute.Google Scholar
  5. Beswick, K., Callingham, R., & Watson, J. (2011). The nature and development of middle school mathematics teachers’ knowledge. Journal of Mathematics Teacher Education, 14(1), 1–27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bobis, J., Anderson, J., Martin, A., & Way, J. (2011). A model for mathematics instruction to enhance student motivation and engagement. In D. Brahier (Ed.), Motivation and disposition: Pathways to learning mathematics, National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Seventy-third Yearbook (pp. 31–42). Reston Va.: NCTM.Google Scholar
  7. Bruce, C., Esmonde, I., Ross, J., Gookie, L., & Beatty, R. (2010). The effects of sustained classroom embedded teacher professional learning on teacher efficacy and related student achievement. Teaching and Teacher Education, 26(8), 1598–1608.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Constas, M. A. (1992). Qualitative analysis as a public event: The documentation of category development procedures. American Educational Research Journal, 29(2), 253–266.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cooper, K. (2014). Eliciting engagement in the high school classroom: A mixed-methods examination of teaching practices. American Educational Research Journal, 51(2), 363–402.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Cross, D. (2009). Alignment, cohesions, and change: Examining mathematics teachers’ belief structures and their influence on instructional practices. Journal of Mathematics Teacher Education, 12, 325–346.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Desimone, L. M. (2009). Improving impact studies of teachers’ professional development: Toward better conceptualisations and measures. Educational Researcher, 38(3), 181–199.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Di Martino, P., & Zan, R. (2011). Attitude towards mathematics: A bridge between beliefs and emotions. ZDM, 43, 471–482.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Dweck, C. (2000). Self-theories: Their role in motivation, personality, and development. Philadelphia: Psychology Press.Google Scholar
  14. Ernest, P. (1989). The knowledge, beliefs and attitudes of the mathematics teacher: A model. Journal of Education for Teaching: International Research And Pedagogy, 15(1), 13–33.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Finn, J. D. (1989). Withdrawing from school. Review of Educational Research, 59, 117–142.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Forgasz, H., & Leder, G. (2008). Beliefs about mathematics and mathematics teaching. In P. Sullivan & T. Wood (Eds.), The international handbook of mathematics teacher education: Knowledge and beliefs in mathematics teaching and teaching development (Vol. 1). Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.Google Scholar
  17. 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, 59–109.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Fredricks, J. A., & Eccles, J. S. (2002). Children’s competence and value beliefs from childhood through adolescence: Growth trajectories in two male-sex-typed domains. Developmental Psychology, 38, 519–533.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Furinghetti, F., & Morselli, F. (2011). Beliefs and beyond: How and whys in the teaching of proof. ZDM Mathematics Education, 43, 587–599.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Furinghetti, F., & Pehkonen, E. (2002). Rethinking characterizations of beliefs. In G. Leder, E. Pehkonen, & G. Törner (Eds.), Beliefs: A hidden variable in mathematics education? (pp. 39–57). Dordrecht: Kluwer.Google Scholar
  21. Gettinger, M., & Walter, M. (2012). Classroom strategies to enhance academic engaged time. In S. L. Christenson, A. L. Reschly, & C. Wylie (Eds.), Handbook of research on student engagement (pp. 653–673). New York: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Goldin, G., Rösken, B., & Törner, G. (2009). Beliefs: No longer a hidden variable in mathematical teaching and learning processes. In J. Maass & W. Schloeglmann (Eds.), Beliefs and attitudes in mathematics education: New research results (pp. 1–18). Rotterdam: Sense.Google Scholar
  23. Goldsmith, L. T., Doerr, H. M., & Lewis, C. C. (2014). Mathematics teachers’ learning: A conceptual framework and synthesis of research. Journal of Mathematics Teacher Education, 17(1), 5–36.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Gregoire, M. (2003). Is it a challenge or a threat? A dual-process model of teachers’ cognition and appraisal processes during conceptual change. Educational Psychology Review, 15, 147–179.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Guskey, T. R. (2002). Professional development and teacher change. Teachers and Teaching: Theory and Practice, 8, 381–391.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Guskey, T. R. (2003). What makes professional development effective? Phi Delta Kappan, 84(10), 748–750.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Hadré, P. L., Kendrick, A. D., & Sullivan, D. W. (2008). Measuring teacher perceptions of the ‘‘how’’ and ‘‘why’’ of student motivation. Educational Research and Evaluation, 14(2), 155–179.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Hardré, P. L., & Sullivan, D. W. (2008). Teacher perceptions and individual differences: How they influence rural teachers’ motivating strategies. Teaching and Teacher Education, 24(8), 2059–2075.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Hill, P., & Rowe, K. (1996). Multilevel modelling in school effectiveness research. School Effectiveness and School Improvement, 7, 1–34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Kaasila, R., Hannula, M. S., Laine, A., & Pehkonen, E. (2008). Socio-emotional orientations and teacher change. Educational Studies in Mathematics, 67(2), 111–123.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Lawson, M., & Lawson, H. (2013). New conceptual frameworks for student engagement research, policy, and practice. Review of Educational Research, 83, 432–479.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Leatham, K. (2006). Viewing mathematics teachers’ beliefs as sensible systems. Journal of Mathematics Teacher Education, 9, 91–102.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Leatham, K., & Hill, D. (2010). Exploring our complex math identities. Mathematics Teaching in the Middle School, 15(4), 224–231.Google Scholar
  34. Liljedahl, P. (2010). Noticing rapid and profound mathematics teacher change. Journal of Mathematics Teacher Education, 13(5), 411–423.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Martin, A. J. (2007). Examining a multidimensional model of student motivation and engagement using a construct validation approach. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 77, 413–440.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Martin, A. J. (2008). The motivation and engagement scale. Sydney: Lifelong Achievement Group (
  37. Martin, A. J., Anderson, J., Bobis, J., Way, J., & Vellar, R. (2012). Switching on and switching off in mathematics: An ecological study of future intent and disengagement amongst middle school students. Journal of Educational Psychology, 104, 1–18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Martin, A. J., Bobis, J., Anderson, J., Way, J., & Vellar, R. (2011). Multilevel variance in psycho-educational phenomena: Exploring differences across constructs. German Journal of Educational Psychology/Zeitschrift für Pädagogische Psychologie, 25(1), 49–61.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Maxwell, J. (2004). Causal explanation, qualitative research, and scientific inquiry in education. Educational Researcher, 33(2), 3–11.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Middleton, J. A., & Spanias, P. A. (1999). Motivation for achievement in mathematics: Findings, generalizations, and criticisms of the research. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 30, 65–88.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Nardi, E., & Steward, S. (2003). Is Mathematics T.I.R.E.D? A profile of quiet disaffection in the secondary mathematics classroom. British Educational Research Journal, 29(3), 345–367.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. (2014). Principles to actions: Ensuring mathematical success for all. Reston, VA: NCTM.Google Scholar
  43. Pianta, R., Hamre, B., & Allen, J. (2012). Teacher-student relationships and engagement: Conceptualizing, measuring, and improving the capacity of classroom interactions. In S. L. Christenson, A. L. Reschly, & C. Wylie (Eds.), Handbook of research on student engagement (pp. 365–386). New York: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Reeve, J., Jang, H., Carrell, D., Jeon, S., & Barch, J. (2004). Enhancing students’ engagement by increasing teachers’ autonomy support. Motivation and Emotion, 28(2), 147–169.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Reschly, A. L., & Christenson, S. L. (2012). Jingle, jangle, and conceptual haziness: Evolution and future directions of the engagement construct. In C. Wylie, S. L. Christenson, & A. L. Reschly (Eds.), Handbook of research on student engagement (pp. 3–19). New York: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Rösken, B., Hannula, M., & Pehkonen, E. (2011). Dimensions of students’ views of themselves as learners of mathematics. ZDM, 43, 497–506.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Ross, J. A., & Bruce, C. D. (2007). Professional development effects on teacher efficacy. Results of randomized field trial. Journal of Educational Research, 101(1), 50–60.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Ross, J. A., McDougall, D., Hogaboam-Gray, A., & LeSage, A. (2003). A survey measuring elementary teachers’ implementation of standards-based mathematics teaching. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 34(4), 344–363.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Schunk, D. H., & Mullen, C. A. (2012). Self-efficacy as an engaged learner. In S. Christenson, A. Reschly, & C. Wylie (Eds.), Handbook of research on student engagement (pp. 219–236). New York: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Skilling, K. (2014). Teacher practices: How they promote or hinder student engagement in mathematics. In J. Anderson, M. Cavanagh, & A. Prescott (Eds.), Curriculum in focus: Research guided practice (proceedings of the 37th annual conference of the Mathematics Education Research Group of Australasia) (pp. 589–596). Sydney: MERGA.Google Scholar
  51. Stake, R. (2000). Case studies. In N. K. Denzin & Y. S. Lincoln (Eds.), Handbook of qualitative research (2nd ed., pp. 435–454). London: Sage.Google Scholar
  52. Stipek, D., Salmon, J., Givvin, K., Kazemi, K., Saxe, G., & MacGyvers, V. (1998). The value (and convergence) of practices suggested by motivation research and promoted by mathematics education reformers. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 29, 465–488.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Thomson, S., De Bortoli, L., Nicholas, M., Hillman, K., & Buckley, S. (2010). PISA in brief: Highlights from the full Australian report. Melbourne: ACER.Google Scholar
  54. Timperley, H., Wilson, A., Barrar, H., & Fung, I. (2007). Teacher professional learning and development: Best evidence synthesis iteration. Wellington, New Zealand: Ministry of Education.Google Scholar
  55. Turner, J. C., Warzon, K., & Christenson, A. (2011). Motivating mathematics learning: Changes in teachers’ practices and beliefs during a nine-month collaboration. American Educational Research Journal, 48(3), 718–762.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Wilkins, J. L. M. (2008). The relationship among primary teachers’ content knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, and practices. Journal of Mathematics Teacher Education, 11(2), 139–164.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Yin, R. K. (2009). Case study research: Design and methods. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  58. Zazkis, R., & Hazzan, O. (1999). Interviewing in mathematics education: Choosing the questions. Journal of Mathematical Behaviour, 17(4), 429–439.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Janette Bobis
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jennifer Way
    • 1
  • Judy Anderson
    • 1
  • Andrew J. Martin
    • 2
  1. 1.Faculty of Education and Social WorkUniversity of SydneySydneyAustralia
  2. 2.School of EducationUniversity of New South WalesSydneyAustralia

Personalised recommendations