K-8 Teachers' Self-Efficacy Beliefs for Teaching Mathematics
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AbstractMathematics knowledge and skills serve as the "gatekeeper" to students' choice of college majors, success obtaining college degrees, and entry into the workforce. However, on the mathematics portion of standardized tests, U.S. fourth and eighth graders performed below their peers in countries such as Singapore, Hong Kong, China, and Japan and, nationally, 61% of fourth-grade African American students performed below the basic achievement level compared with 20% of fourth-grade White students (Braswell, Dion, Daane, & Jin, 2005). Many instructional strategies have been suggested to improve students' mathematics performance, but the role teachers play cannot be overlooked. Teachers' self-efficacy beliefs, or their confidence for teaching mathematics, have been suggested as being instrumental as well. The three research questions in this mixed-method study examined (a) the effects of K-8 teachers' self-efficacy beliefs for teaching mathematics, (b) factors that influence those beliefs, and (c) how and why those beliefs might influence teachers' mathematics instruction. Differences were explored by participants' gender, school level, school type, and years of teaching mathematics. This study used the Modified Teacher Self-Efficacy Beliefs Scale--Mathematics (MTSEBS-M) survey instrument, a modification of the Teachers' Efficacy Beliefs System--Self Form (TEBS-Self) originally developed by Dellinger, Bobbett, Olivier, and Ellett (2008, p.764). The quantitative analysis consisted of descriptive statistics and inferential statistics using a t-test of independence samples on total scores, a one-way ANOVA on total scores, and a chi-square test of independence on 35 survey items using median splits on each survey item scores. The MTSEBS-M also included two open-ended questions that, along with four follow-up interview questions, were analyzed for themes to form the qualitative portion of the study. Of the 66 participants who completed the survey, 35 (53.0%) of them fully completed it, whereas 31 (47.0%) partially (meaning participant completed at least 50.0S%) completed it.Quantitative study findings show that teachers believe that the higher their self-efficacy belief, the more they tend to use the following classroom instructional approaches in mathematics: planning mathematics evaluations to accommodate student differences, utilizing teaching aids and teaching materials, engaging students in developing higher-order thinking skills in mathematics, providing students with mathematics concepts that are accurate and comprehensible, detecting and correcting students' misunderstandings or mathematics errors, and providing students with suggestions that improve mathematics learning. Quantitative analyses show significant differences by gender, school level, school type, and years of teaching mathematics for several survey items (e.g., tendency for more male than female teachers to provide students with suggestions for improving mathematics learning). In addition, participants feel more confident in teaching number and operations than other mathematics content areas, and no significant differences appear in this finding by gender or school-level variables. Further, the quantitative findings reveal factors that teachers believe influence their self-efficacy beliefs for teaching mathematics, including: available/required curriculum materials; local, state and/or national policy; colleague dispositions and practices; administrator dispositions and practices; teaching experience; student mathematics performance; teacher teamwork; collaborative teaching; availability of teaching aids such as manipulatives; and mathematics education program. Qualitative findings show that the following factors influence participants' level of self-efficacy belief, positively or negatively: length of time teaching mathematics, student mathematics performance, teacher mathematics enjoyment and ability, state mathematics standards, and instructional insight and decision-making. In particular, participants call for clearer definitions of the requirements put forward in the Common Core State Standards-Mathematics.Finally, participants believe that their level of self-efficacy beliefs influences their mathematics instruction positively or negatively. In particular, they believe that their high level of confidence creates positive attitudes among students. The following themes emerge from the interview responses: mathematics content knowledge, teaching experience, influential role of teacher confidence/creating positive attitudes among students, collaborative learning among students, professional development, and government policies. Study findings suggest that (a) teacher self-efficacy beliefs about their capabilities for teaching mathematics affect student attitudes for learning mathematics, (b) teachers should identify factors that influence their beliefs so they can capitalize on positive factors and minimize negative factors in their environment, and (c) the dispositions and practices of school administrators, such as principals, could increase or decrease teacher confidence for teaching mathematics.