Loughborough University
Thesis-2014-Parsons.pdf (3.21 MB)

Enabling success in mathematics and statistics: the effects of self-confidence and other factors in a University College

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posted on 2014-06-27, 13:42 authored by Sarah Parsons
This thesis reports empirical and theoretical research into learning of mathematics and statistics at university level, with particular regard to students views of their self-confidence and experiences, and the effects of these on achievement. This study was conducted at a time of widespread national concern about difficulties in mathematics education in England, particularly at the transition from school to university Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) courses. Factors which affected non-specialist students learning of mathematics and statistics were investigated using student surveys in 2004/5, 2005/6 and 2006/7 (701 questionnaires) in the a-typical setting of a University College specialising in rural and land-based higher education. 52 student interviews were also carried out, primarily in 2008 and 2009, and are referred to but are not the main focus of this thesis. Both deductive and inductive approaches were used. Self-confidence was defined using three Mathematics Self-confidence Domains: Overall Confidence in Mathematics, Topic confidences for specific tasks, and Applications Confidence. Self-confidence was considered a belief, whilst liking of the subjects was an attitude, both forming part of affect , where affect comprised beliefs, attitudes and emotions. Student motivation was also investigated. The survey data, and examination and assignment marks, of engineering students learning mathematics and other non-specialist students learning statistics, were analysed both quantitatively (by descriptive statistics, ANOVA, Kruskal Wallis, Correlation, Multiple Regression, Factor and Cluster analyses) and qualitatively. Previous success in mathematics, primarily GCSE Mathematics grade, was found to be the greatest determinant of university students success in mathematics and statistics, but self-confidence and other affective variables also had significantly measurable effects. Significant effects on student confidence were also found for gender and dyslexia despite good achievement. Findings indicate that students self-confidence in mathematics does matter, as evidenced by significant relationships between confidence and achievement, but it was also concluded that these inter-relations were complex. Educators are encouraged to adopt student-focussed teaching styles which improve students self-confidence as a means to improving attainment.


Harper Adams University College



  • Science


  • Mathematical Sciences


© Sarah J. Parsons

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A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.

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  • en