**Relationships among higher secondary student’s beliefs about mathematical ability, goals, learning strategies, and mathematics achievement, in the Maldives: A three-path mediational analysis by Ahmed Riyaz (2013)**

I was browsing through reading material on Google, trying to locate background information on student learning abilities in the Maldivian setting. This recent PhD thesis caught my eye and my earlier thoughts on the compilation of the bibliography came back. I mean, Maldives would be one of the countries with the largest density of PhD holders I think. A population of just over 300,000 people and yet over 100 PhD holders as far as I know (I need to lookup this data).

I for one am very passionate about knowing the details of their research topics and their research journey.

Since I came across this thesis by Ahmed Riyaz, I am going to add it here so that I don’t forget about. I should remember to follow-up with the compilation of the bibliography soon enough.

**Abstract of the Thesis**

Structural equation modelling techniques were used to test a three-path mediational model of mathematics achievement on the relationships among higher secondary students’ beliefs about mathematical ability, achievement goals, learning strategies, and mathematics achievement. Participants were higher secondary students (n = 341) who were studying advanced level mathematics at the Centre for Higher Secondary Education, one of the largest school that provides higher secondary education in the Maldives. Questionnaires were used to collect self-report data.

Students’ final year mathematics results (i.e., standardised test results) were used as the achievement data. Incremental beliefs had a positive relation with mathematics achievement, mediated by mastery goals and deep-learning strategies. Incremental beliefs had a negative relation with mathematics achievement, mediated by performance-approach goals and surface-learning strategies. Entity beliefs had a negative relation with mathematics achievement, mediated through performance avoidance goals and surface-learning strategies. Incremental beliefs also had an overall indirect positive relation, and entity beliefs had an overall indirect negative relation with the achievement. The results of the mediational model showed the best possible pathways that students could follow in the academic setting as far as performance and building capacity in mathematics were concerned. The results might be useful to teachers and educators with respect to making decisions aimed at creating a better learning environment for students and to improve the quality of mathematics education provided to higher secondary students in the Maldives.

**The following are some selective, subjective snippets from the thesis.**

The research utilizes Goal Theory as its theoretical framework.

“Many psychological and motivational theories have been used to explain motivation and to predict behaviour in achievement situations. One such theory is achievement goal theory, which has been one of the most influential theories of motivation in educational research for the last 25 years (Senko, Hulleman, & Harackiewicz, 2011). The theory was developed to describe and understand students’

adaptive and maladaptive responses to achievement challenges (Dweck, 1986; Nicholls, 1984; Senko et al., 2011).” (p.4)

The study is focussed on higher secondary education in the Maldives and the sample is taken from CHSE. The following data taken from World Bank Education Statistics 2012, and reproduced on p.7 of the thesis is quite interesting and I believe I will be needing similar information for my research.

Also of interest is the pass percentage og A-level mathematics results for 2005 to 2011. The pass percentage is bordering at the half-mark is very unsettling for me. (see p.9).

**Purpose of the study**

This study relates to belief systems and achievement.

The purpose of this study was to test a mediational model to see if students’ beliefs about mathematical ability are related to higher secondary mathematics achievement, mediated by goal orientations and learning strategies. Different specific pathways were tested in the model to examine the indirect relation of beliefs about mathematical ability with mathematics performance, via achievement goals and learning strategies. Based on achievement goal theory and students’ beliefs about mathematical ability, the achievement model was tested on the Grade 12 students of the CHSE who were undertaking mathematics and completed their final year in 2010. (p.10)

**Research Questions**

- Are higher secondary students’ beliefs about their mathematical ability related to their mathematics achievement, as mediated by achievement goals and learning

strategies?- What are the beneficial and non-beneficial pathways in the mediational model?
- What are the possible alternative models for the sample studied?

Research Hypotheses

To answer research questions 1) and 2), and based on the mediational model developed, nine hypotheses were developed. Of these, five hypotheses (H1.1 to H1.5) were posed for testing the effect of incremental beliefs on achievement, and the other

four hypotheses (H2.1 to H2.4) were posed for testing the effect of entity beliefs on achievement. The hypotheses are as follows:

Hypothesis 1.1

Incremental beliefs about mathematical ability will have an indirect positive relation with mathematics achievement, mediated via mastery goals and deep-learning strategies (i.e., INCR->MASTERY->DEEP->RESULT).

Hypothesis 1.2

Incremental beliefs about mathematical ability will have an indirect positive relation with mathematics achievement, mediated via mastery goals and surface-learning strategies (i.e., INCR->MASTERY->SURFACE->RESULT).

Hypothesis 1.3

Incremental beliefs about mathematical ability will have an indirect positive relation with mathematics achievement, mediated via performance-approach goals and deep-learning strategies (i.e., INCR->APPROACH->DEEP->RESULT).

Hypothesis 1.4

Incremental beliefs about mathematical ability will have an indirect (positive or negative) relation with mathematics achievement, mediated via performance-approach goals and surface-learning strategies (i.e., INCR->APPROACH->SURFACE->RESULT).

Hypothesis 1.5

Incremental beliefs about mathematical ability will have an overall indirect positive relation with mathematics achievement.

Hypothesis 2.1

Entity beliefs about mathematical ability will have an indirect positive relation with mathematics achievement, mediated via performance-approach goals and deep-learning strategies (i.e., ENTITY->APPROACH->DEEP->RESULT).

Hypothesis 2.2

Entity beliefs about mathematical ability will have an indirect negative relation with mathematics achievement, mediated via performance-approach goals and surface learning strategies (i.e., ENTITY->APPROACH->SURFACE->RESULT).

Hypothesis 2.3

Entity beliefs about mathematical ability will have a indirect negative relation with mathematics achievement, mediated via performance-approach goals and surface learning strategies (i.e., ENTITY->AVOID->SURFACE->RESULT).

Hypothesis 2.4

Entity beliefs about mathematical ability will have an overall indirect negative relation with mathematics achievement.

Whenever I come across a scholarly writing, specifically one that centres on the Maldives, my interest mainly lies in the bibliography of resources cited for the compilation of the work. If I take a moment to contemplate on the reason behind this, I guess my professional background would come into play. Bibliometrics is something that appeals to me. A citation list can indicate the width and breadth of the area being addressed (granted that a PhD thesis would have included a comprehensive literature review); it also indicates where we stand as a nation in the area being studied; also it gives the user other relevant papers in the field. As I scrolled down the reference list I was slightly disappointed to not come across enough Maldivian scholarly work being referred to. I have reproduced the only two scholarly sources my eyes caught. This lack of sources is not surprising, especially in such a specialised area. The two sources are unpublished PhD thesis. This raises questions in my mind whether these PhD scholars never followed up on their work and published or whether Ahmed Riyaz was unable to find published material by these authors.

- Nazeer, A. (2006). Teaching economics in secondary school level in the Maldives: A cooperative learning model. Unpublished PhD thesis, The University of Waikato, Hamilton.
- Shareef, M. (2010). Environmental education in the Maldives: The Implementation of inquiry-based learning at the primary level. Unpublished Master of Education thesis, Unitec Institute of Technology, Albert.

Now, if these two authors (Abdulla Nazeer & Mohamed Shareef) never did publish, why was that? Lack of research & publication avenues?; lack of motivational factors for publication?; or simple lack of interest? (These are the type of questions that baffles me – being an information worker…)

Those interested in reading the full thesis, I accessed it through the website of Victoria University of Wellington. I also have a soft copy saved for my own archival purposes.