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  • Sex Roles, Vol. 40, Nos. 5/6, 1999

    Goals, Values, and Beliefs as Predictors ofA chievement and Effort in High School

    Mathematics Classes1

    Barbara A . Greene,2 Teresa K. DeBacker, Bhuvaneswari Rav indran, andA . Jean KrowsUniversity of Oklahoma

    Gender and motivation in high school mathematics class were examined byusing an expectancy-value framework. There were 366 students (146 males,212 females)from a school with an enrollment of approximately 1900 students(81% Caucasian , 8% Native American , 5% Hispanic, 4% African American ,and 2% Asian). These students completed a questionnaire consisting of 92items which measured students situation-speci c goals (4 subscales), task-speci c values (3 subscales), task-speci c beliefs (3 subscales), and genderself-schemata (2 subscales). Students percentage grade in math and self-reported effort in math class were the dependent variab les. The three sets oftask-speci c variab les each accounted for between 11% and 14% of variancein achievement, while the gender self-schemata variab les contributed another2%. Task-speci c goals were much stronger predictors of effort than anyother set of variab les. An unexpected nding was that, for both males andfemales, endorsing the stereotype that mathematics is a male domain wasnegatively related to reported effort. There were also differences in the predic-tion of achievement and effort based on gender and math class type (requiredor elective). Several path models supported these results.

    Important questions concerning the role of gender in explaining mathemati-

    cal achievement and achievement-re lated behaviors remain unanswered

    despite ongoing research efforts. As Meece, Wig eld, and Eccles noted

    1A version of this paper was presented at the 1997 annual mee ting of the American EducationalAssociation in Chicago. We would like to thank the teache rs who allowed us into their

    classroom and the colleague s who provided us with helpful comments.2To whom corre spondence should be addressed at Departme nt of Educational Psychology,

    University of Oklahoma, 820 Van Vleet Oval, Norman, OK 73019 2041; e-mail:bgreene@ou.edu.


    0360-0025/99/0300 0421$16.00/0 1999 Plenum Publishing Corporation

  • 422 Greene et al.

    (1990) , although there is evidence that achievement diffe rences between

    male s and female s are disappe aring, differences in choice s related to mathe -

    matics seem to persist. Of concern is the related nding that females are

    less like ly than male s to choose high school coursework that requires highe r

    level mathematics (Meece et al., 1990) . This is a concern because choice s

    made in high school can limit the choice s available in college and for

    career decisions. Therefore, the purpose of this study is to furthe r our

    understanding of the psychologic al variable s that in uence achievement-

    related behaviors and choice s made by boys and girls in regard to high

    school mathematics by building upon the work of Eccles and her colleague s.

    There have been conside rable efforts focusing on motivational expla-

    nations for gender diffe rences in both achievement and choices related to

    mathematics (Eccles, 1984; Eccles, 1987; Eccles, Adler, & Meece, 1984;

    Fennema & Sherman, 1977; Fennema, 1994; Licht & Dweck, 1983; Mills,

    Ablard & Stumpf 1993) . Much of this work has been in response to consis-

    tent evidence that female s, when compared to male s, have lower con dence

    in the ir math ability and are less like ly to enroll in advance d coursework

    in mathematics. These diffe rences seem to persist even when there is no

    evidence of actual achievement diffe rences.

    Several researchers have sought an explanation for differences in math-

    ematics achievement and choice through the linking of low perceived ability

    in mathematics with ability attributions . For example , Licht and Dweck

    (1983) argued that girls exhibit a maladaptive motivational patte rn in math-

    ematics (i.e ., they have low perceived ability and they attribute the ir failure s

    to ability) that leads to a helpless motivational stance since they convince

    themselves that they cannot be successful. However, Eccles and her col-

    league s tested the gender and learned helple ssness in mathematics hypothe -

    sis and failed to nd support for the he lple ss patte rn tting female s more

    than male s (Eccles, Adle r, and Meece, 1984; Parson, Meece, Adle r, &

    Kaczala, 1982) .

    Fennema and Peterson (1985) also argued for the importance of

    con dence in one s ability to learn math and the role of causal attributions

    for achievement (successes or failure s) in math. Their notion was that

    high-le vel achievement in mathematics require s Autonomous Learning

    Behaviors that deve lop when childre n have high perception of ability; whenthey attribute success to ability and effort, and failure to lack of effort;

    and when they perceive the utility of mathematics. Although these three

    facets of motivation have been supporte d in the lite rature as fostering an

    adaptive stance toward learning (e.g., Schunk, 1989; Eccles et al.,

    1983; Mille r et al., 1996) , there is no direct, empirical evidence that

    problems associated with Autonomous Learning Behaviors (Fennema &Peterson, 1985) offer explanations for gender diffe rences in motivation to

  • Goals, Values, and Beliefs 423

    learn mathematics. However, a recent longitudinal study found differences

    in the strategies reported by male s and female s in solving mathematics

    problems (Fennema, Carpenter, Jacobs, Franke , Levi, 1998) . Fennema et

    al. (1998) found that male s were more like ly to report abstract strategies

    that re ected a deep understanding of mathematics than female s who were

    more like ly to report concre te strategie s. This nding could be inte rpreted

    as supporting the Autonomous Learning Behaviors hypothe sis.Eccles (1984) has argued, and we agree, that an expectancy-value

    framework offers an alternative to the traditional approach of studying

    gender diffe rences in mathematics through attempts to identify the de cits

    shown by female s. In addition to having a philosophica l problem with using

    a medical mode l approach that focuse s on discove ring the female defect

    that impedes motivation to learn mathematics, we be lieve that such an

    approach limits our unde rstanding of the diffe rent factors that in uence

    the motivation of both male s and female s in mathematics.

    The purpose of this study was to use a variation of the expectancy-

    value framework propose d by Eccles and her colle ague s (Eccles et al., 1983;

    Eccles, 1984; Eccles, Wig e ld, Harold, and Blumenfe ld, 1993; Eccles and

    Wig e ld, 1995; Wig eld, 1994; Wig e ld and Eccles, 1992) to explore diffe r-

    ent aspects of gender and motivation that may help explain motivation

    and performance in mathematics. An overview of the model, and our

    modi cations of it, is described below and shown in Fig. 1. The only major

    modi cation, from the earlie r mode l propose d by Eccles et al., (1983) , was

    the inclusion of task-speci c goals as direct in uences on achievement and

    achievement-re lated behaviors. A lthough short term goals were include d

    in the original version of the Expectancy-V alue Mode l (Eccles et al., 1983)

    only long term goals were actually tested in the research conducte d on the

    mode l (Wig e ld, 1994) . Additionally, goals in the original model were

    Fig. 1. Rev ised Expectancy Value Mode l.

  • 424 Greene et al.

    conceptualize d as aspects of a child s self that existed prior to encounte ring

    an achievement situation (Eccles et al., 1983) , whereas in our formulation

    the goals are part of the child s inte rpretation of the current achievement

    situation (Maehr, 1984) . In this sense, we have borrowed from Maehr s

    (1984) notion of goals as part of a student s Components of Meaning (i.e .,

    the student s interpretation of an achievement situation) and added them

    to the Expectancy-Value Mode l. We believe the addition of task-speci c

    goals will add to the power of the model to explain achievement and

    achievement-re lated behaviors and think they might act as mediators be-

    tween task-spe ci c value s and achievement and achievement-re lated behav-

    iors. We also agreed with Meece et al., (1990) that choosing to take course s

    in mathematics is an important indicator of motivation, and thought that

    comparing motivational constructs for male and female students in required

    course s (situations without choice ) and elective course s (situations with

    choice ) would be an informative approach to the issue of choice .

    An Expectancy-Value Model and G ender Differences

    The Eccles et al. (1983) mode l propose s that an individual s achieve-

    ment-related behaviors (persistence, choice , and performance ) can be pre-

    dicted by subje ctive task value s and expectancie s for success; which in turn

    can be predicted by task be lie fs, broad goals, and general self-schemata.

    Task be liefs, broad goals, and general self-schemata are seen as predicted

    by an individual s perception of the attitude s and expectancie s of her/his

    socialize rs and her/his inte rpretations of past experiences. The research

    done using the mode l has provided evidence that different patte rns of

    behaviors are predicted by diffe rent patte rns of task values and outcomes

    expectancies (Eccles et al., 1983; Wig e ld and Eccles, 199


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