Student Attribute Research

The first student attribute shown to be consistently related to math outcomes was the construct of math anxiety. This, too, was shown to be highly correlated with math performance beyond that of math confidence, math usefulness, or quantitative skill (Bandalos,Yates, & Thorndike-Crist, 1995; Cates, 2003; Ironsmith et al., 2003). Bai, Wang, Pan, and Frey (2009) published a factor analytic validity study of the Mathematics Anxiety Scale Revised demonstrating its discriminative ability, and this affective measure was administered to participants in this study.

Secondly, Bandura (1986) conceptualized and demonstrated the central role that self-efficacy beliefs (i.e., student attributes) play in a person’s ability to succeed. Likewise, Saxon, Levine-Brown, and Boylan (2008) as well as Levine-Brown, Bonham, Saxon and Boylan (2008) described the absolute necessity of affective assessment, effective academic advising and appropriate placement in supporting the developmental education student. Specifically, they questioned the paucity of affective assessment utilized in post-secondary education, and provided a cogent argument for the inclusion of student attribute measures, such as motivation, self- efficacy, and anxiety. As Saxon, et.al reported, less than 7% of community colleges assessed affective states of their students, despite acknowledgement of impact on student learning (Bandura, 1986; Betz & Hackett, 1993).

Likewise, research demonstrated role of self-efficacy and confidence to be strongly correlated with academic achievement beyond that provided by prior math preparation (Betz & Hackett, 1993; Ironsmith, Marva, Harju, & Eppler, 2003; Langenfeld, 1993; National Math Advisory Panel, 2008; Pajares & Miller, 1994; Vizek Vidovic, 1999) and SAT quantitative scores (Cassady & Johnson, 2002; Ironsmith et al., 2003). Betz and Hackett (1993) developed the Mathematics Self Efficacy Scale (MSES) to capture this construct. The MSES was an extension of original work by Dowling (1978), who first developed the Math Confidence Scale. For this study, a revision of Dowling’s original scale was utilized.

The third construct shows how motivation influences academic performance has been studied extensively and demonstrates substantial impact on achievement (Cauley & McMillan, 2010; Hustinx, Kuyper, Van der Werf, & Dijkstra, 2009; Ironsmith et al., 2003; Preckel, Holling, & Vock, 2006). Earlier research (Deci & Ryan, 1985) described a self-determination theory of motivation and concluded that motivation is not a bi-dimensional construct. They postulated three separate motivational states including extrinsic motivation and intrinsic motivation as well as a third, amotivational state. As a result, investigators developed an academic motivation scale based on this theoretical framework to measure three motivational states across seven domains (Vallerand, Pelletier, Blais, Briere, Senecal, & Vallieres, 1992; 1993). This instrument was also translated into Greek (Barkoukis, Tsorbatzoudis, Grouios, & Sideridis, 2008) and evaluated with large samples (Cokley, Bernard, Cunningham, & Motoike, 2001) that resulted in supporting the basic factor structure. The academic motivation scale utilized in this study was a revision of Vallerand et al.’s original work.

A fourth attribute, math usefulness, was based on the usefulness of reading-in-our-lives research, and how the construct of "usefulness" influences academic achievement (Shell, Murphy, and Bruning, 1989). Subsequently, an instrument to measure student perception of mathematics usefulness on passing Basic and Intermediate Algebra was designed to assess a possible mediating effect on anxiety and self-efficacy in adult learners (Fennema & Sherman, 1976; Ironsmith et al., 2003).