Teachers' attributions and beliefs about girls, boys and mathematics : a comparative study based on 40 Afrikaans-speaking secondary mathematics teachers in the Western Cape

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

This dissertation is concerned with teachers' beliefs regarding boys, girls and mathematics. The present study is a partial replication of a study conducted by Fennema et al (1990) and the results are compared. The present study extended the work of Fennema et al (1990) through an exploration of the structure of the data. Forty female teachers in the Western Cape region were interviewed. They were asked to identify their two most and least successful boys and girls in mathematics and to attribute causation for success and failure. They _were also asked to respond to 20 characteristics on a "Likert type" response format. The results generated from the present study concluded that teachers believed their female students to be their more successful mathematics students. They attributed the most successful girls' achievement mainly to effort whereas with the most successful boys, achievement was attributed to ability and effort. Both the most successful boys and girls failures on mathematics tasks were attributed to the difficulty of the task. Achievement of the least successful girls was attributed mainly to teacher's help and for the boys it was attributed to teacher's help and task. For both these groups, ability and to a lesser extent, effort, are given as the main reasons for failure on mathematics tasks. Very little difference was found between teachers' responses regarding the characteristics of their best boy and best girl mathematics students. When exploratory factor-analysis was performed a difference was found in the factor-solutions for the boys and the girls. This study suggests that there might be a difference in teachers' beliefs regarding boys and girls achievement in mathematics that is worthy of further exploration.

Bibliography: pages 75-82.