Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.

Department (Legacy)

Department of Early Childhood and Elementary Education

Degree Program

Curriculum and Instruction, PhD

Committee Chair

McGatha, Maggie

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Adelson, Jill

Committee Member

Bay-Williams, Jennifer

Committee Member

Snyder, Kate

Committee Member

Peters, Susan

Author's Keywords

Mathematics education; academic engagement; teacher self-efficacy


This study examined the relationship between elementary students’ academic engagement in mathematics and their teachers’ self-perceptions in mathematics. Early success in mathematics is seen as crucial for later success academically and professionally. Framed in Social Cognitive Theory this study sought to build on past research studies, which have found that student affective characteristics such as academic engagement, comprised of both behavioral and emotional engagement, vary across genders and ability levels. This study sought to use a number of control and independent variables to examine academic engagement in students and the relationship of that engagement to teachers’ mathematics self-concept and teaching self-efficacy. Due to the nested nature of the data, hierarchical linear modeling was used to analyze the data. Key findings indicated that, while classes of students vary on levels of academic engagement, in general this variability was not explained by the teacher’s self-perceptions. However, when it comes to behavioral engagement, one of the two components of academic engagement studied here, in mathematics class, arguably a characteristic that might be particularly influenced by teachers, girls and boys differ significantly not only in their engagement (with girls in this study reporting statistically significantly more engagement than boys) but also in the way in which their engagement relates to teacher self-perceptions. In fact, teacher self-perceptions account for approximately 62% of the difference between girls and boys on their reported levels of behavioral engagement. Thus, the results of this study support the theory that, if one is interested in helping close the STEM gap for girls, there is a need for more mathematically strong teachers of female students even in the early grades. Suggestions for future research including looking at what class-level factors might explain the between-class variability in academic engagement, and further exploring the finding that differences in gender slopes were partially explained by teacher self-perceptions.