Publication Date

8-2010

Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Dr. Steven R. Wininger (Director), Dr. William Pitt Derryberry, Dr. Julia Link Roberts

Degree Program

Department of Psychology

Degree Type

Specialist in Education

Abstract

Comparing the mathematics performance of American students to their counterparts in other countries has been a common theme in recent literature, with conclusions generally finding that American students are falling far behind. One response to this problem may involve research which has shown a modest positive correlation between student interest and achievement in math (Koller, Baumert, & Schnabel, 2001; Schiefele, Krapp, & Winteler, 1992). Being able to identify students with high levels of interest in math may allow educators to provide advanced instruction to such students.

Current measures of student interest in mathematics are lacking in that they often are not based on any one theory, they do not cover all characteristics of individual interest, and are based on a self-report format. Therefore, the goal of this thesis was to develop a teacher identification form of student interest in mathematics to add to the literature a psychometrically sound measure of student interest in math which is assessed by classroom teachers instead of the students themselves.

The teacher identification form was developed based on the characteristics of individual interest as defined by Hidi and Renninger’s (2006) Four-Phase Model of Interest Development. To determine reliability and validity of the form, second through sixth grade math teachers in six elementary schools in Warren County, KY completed the form both in a pilot study and also later as part of an identification process for students to receive advanced math instruction.

For the purposes of data analysis, results were separated by grade. Reliability estimates for the form, as indicated by Cronbach’s alpha, were found to be .934 for third grade, .925 for fourth grade, and .901 for fifth grade. The overall Cronbach’s alpha for grades two through five was .926. These high reliability coefficients indicate high consistency among the items.

Validity of the identification form was established by correlating results with the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills (ITBS) math section, a standardized assessment taken by all students in the six schools. Correlations between teacher identification rating composites and ITBS math scores were as follows: .379 for third grade, .417 for fourth grade, and .460 for fifth grade. The sixth grade data set was incomplete, and thus that correlation for was .300. Each individual item on the identification form and the grade composite scores all correlated with ITBS math scores significantly at the .01 level, indicating sufficient validity of the form.

An important observation about the results is that the highest validity coefficients as well as the narrowest range of correlations were found for fifth grade data. The next highest correlations were found for fourth grade, and the lowest correlations and widest range of correlations were found for third grade data. The possibility that this pattern of results may be due to better developed individual interests of older students or that students’ individual interests are more easily identified by their teachers in higher grades is discussed.

Disciplines

Curriculum and Instruction | Science and Mathematics Education