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Motivation & belief profiles of mathematics students at all levels of the community college system

Harbaugh, A.G. (2010) Motivation & belief profiles of mathematics students at all levels of the community college system. In: Annual Meeting of the Pacific Northwest Section of the Mathematical Association of America, 9 - 10 April 2010, Seattle University, Seattle, WA


This study addressed two research questions. (1) Is the multitrait-multimethod (MTMM) confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) the better statistical tool to detect the presence of five distinct dimensions in a traditional survey tool for epistemic beliefs? (2) What are the epistemic belief and achievement goal orientation profiles of students at different levels of mathematics in the junior college system? Participants were enrolled in all levels of mathematics classes from a community college district in the Pacific Northwest. An epistemic belief scale was constructed using items from survey instruments in the personal epistemology literature. Along with epistemic belief dimensions (certainty, structure, authority, innate ability, quick learning), the survey items were also classified as being axiomatic, ontologic, deontologic or procedural in nature. The MTMM analysis revealed the presence of five distinct dimensions of belief, and accounted for an additional source of variance related to the wording of the items. Fit indices suggest a strong correspondence between model and data. Students achievement goal orientations were measured with a survey based on Nicholls original task, ego and work-avoidant framework. Statistically distinct profiles emerged for the four levels of mathematics surveyed (developmental, terminal/non-calculus math, calculus preparation, and post-calculus). Differences between the math levels were detected for all epistemic belief dimensions except structure of knowledge. The effect of math level was statistically significant for all three goal orientations. Relationships between the measured constructs will be presented, along with future research plans regarding the MTMM CFA protocol for survey research.

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