MIDDLE SCHOOL MATH ACHIEVEMENT: A GROUNDED STUDY OF SELF-EFFICACY DOMAINS
Doors to other educational opportunities and future professions are closed when students have a low motivational profile in mathematics starting in elementary school and continue with an unchanged profile into high school (Lazarides et al., 2020). Students must learn how to increase their mathematical self-efficacy in order to increase their opportunities for the future. Increasing self-efficacy promotes other student agency skills that will generate increased engagement and ultimately academic achievement (Fisher et al., 2021). By prioritizing the enhancement of mathematical self-efficacy among students, we can concurrently foster greater levels of motivation and engagement in the subject. Although self-efficacy is known to be the primary predictor of math achievement, the aspects of building self-efficacy that work best for middle school students is still unknown. This study seeks to address that gap. Through a thorough review of the literature and analysis of existing research, this grounded research study contributes to our understanding of the importance of self-efficacy in education and provides practical implications for improving student outcomes, specifically in the content area of mathematics, utilizing specific strategies in the classroom setting related to Bandura’s four domains of self-efficacy. The research conducted included three phases: The first phase included secondary data from 587 middle school students from a school in Northern California who completed a Self-Efficacy Questionnaire for Children (SEQ-C). Phase 2 included a week-long in-situ problem solving experience with 34 students from four different groups using data from the SEQ-C: (a) students who self-reported low self-efficacy and attend a grade level math class, (b) students who self-reported high self-efficacy and attend a grade level math class, (c) students who self-reported high self-efficacy and attend an enriched level math class, and (d) students who reported low self-efficacy and attend an enriched level math class. Transcripts derived from student reflections conducted during Phase 2 of the study were analyzed. Subsequently, a select cohort of 11 students, distinguished by their capacity to articulate their chosen self-efficacy domain and its perceived efficacy, were engaged in comprehensive in-depth interviews. These interviews were designed to facilitate an extensive exploration into the underlying rationales that substantiated their chosen self-efficacy domain and its effectiveness. Findings from the three phases of the research show that self-efficacy is multifaceted and is not limited to a dominant galvanizer and, in fact, individual students were able to verbalize their preferred self-efficacy domain galvanizer and its effectiveness.