Insights for teachers: New Zealand student self-belief and confidence, and implications for achievement

High school students Education Self-efficacy International student assessment Pasifika New Zealand
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Student achievement in mathematics is related to many factors. This report looks at a range of student attributes, measured in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2012, that focus on students' confidence (self-efficacy), self-beliefs (self-concept), learning approaches and motivation as well as examining how these factors relate to mathematics achievement among 15-year-olds.

PISA is an international study that assesses and compares how well countries are preparing their 15-year-old students to meet real-life opportunities and challenges. PISA provides information on student achievement and how this relates to student and family, teaching and learning, and school-related factors.

Between 2003 and 2012 New Zealand experienced a decline in the average maths score achieved in PISA. This change in achievement parallels changes in learning beliefs, learning approaches and motivation among New Zealand students.

Key findings:

  • The performance and progress in mathematics of 15-year-olds is associated with their own beliefs about their maths ability, their confidence to tackle maths problems and the extent to which they are anxious about maths activities. Differences among students in these respects can mean a student is up to 1.5 - 2 school years ahead or behind in mathematics.
  • Other attributes such as openness to problem solving and perseverance are also associated with performance in maths at age 15 years.
  • Girls, Māori and Pasifika students and students from low socio-economic backgrounds have lower belief and confidence in their maths abilities and higher maths anxiety.
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