Student perceptions of the classroom environment: Relations to motivation and achievement in mathematics

Abstract

This study examined the relationship of 979 middle school students’ perceptions of their mathematics classroom environment to their motivation and achievement. Structural equation modeling indicated that motivational variables (utility, personal achievement goals, efficacy) mediated the influence of perceived teacher expectations, teacher support and use of reform practices on mathematics standardised test scores. Our study provides empirical evidence that students’ perceptions that their teachers believe that they are capable of learning and understanding mathematics positively relate to their Mastery and Performance Goal orientations and mathematics Utility. Further, we found an interaction between students’ perceptions of the frequency of reform practice use in their mathematics classroom and mathematics efficacy. For students with lower mathematics efficacy, their perceptions of more frequent use of reform practices in their mathematics class related to higher standardised test performance. For students with higher mathematics efficacy, perceived use of reform practices did not significantly relate to standardised test performance. These data suggest that frequent exposure to reform practices is especially critical for students who judge themselves as being less capable in mathematics and who are lower performers. This finding differs from prior research that has suggested that reform practice use benefits higher achievers but not lower achievers. An important implication of our study is the need for coordinated, ongoing professional development that highlights reform pedagogy and beliefs while also focusing on student motivation theories and strategies.

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Acknowledgments

The research reported here was supported by grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to Transforming East Alabama Mathematics (TEAM-Math; EHR No. 0314959) and to the Math and Science Partnership-Motivation Assessment Program (MSP-MAP; EHR No. 0335369). Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. A version of this study was presented at the 2009 annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association in San Diego, CA.

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Correspondence to Melissa C. Gilbert.

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Gilbert, M.C., Musu-Gillette, L.E., Woolley, M.E. et al. Student perceptions of the classroom environment: Relations to motivation and achievement in mathematics. Learning Environ Res 17, 287–304 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10984-013-9151-9

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Keywords

  • Classroom perceptions
  • Efficacy
  • Mathematics
  • Personal achievement goals
  • Utility