Student Self-Beliefs and Science Achievement in Ireland: Findings from the Third International Mathematics and Science Study (Timss)

Article excerpt

Several discussions of instructional design practices and models have emphasized the importance of student attitudes and motivation (Main, 1993; Spitzer, 1996). For instance, a motivational model of instructional design has been proposed for the improvement of instructional materials (Keller, 1983, 1984; Keller & Kopp, 1987) and that model has been tested in field settings (Visser & Keller, 1990). Further, a model of instructional design for application in higher education has integrated adult learning theory and the motivational model of instructional design (Bohlin, Milheim, & Viechnicki, 1993-1994). The importance of student motivation for the development of computer based instruction has been discussed (Hannafin & Rieber, 1989) and student attitudes and motivation are included in a proposed cognitive model of instructional design (Tennyson, 1992). Finally, there is an increasing recognition of the relationship between students' affective characteristics and their subsequent achievement outcomes (Pintrich, Cross, Kozma, & McKeachie, 1986).

A number of studies have assessed the relationship between student self-beliefs (such as academic self-concept and achievement expectancies) and subsequent science and mathematics achievement outcomes. For example, House (1993 c) found that students' self-appraisals of their overall academic ability were significantly related to grade performance in their science courses. Other research has shown that academic self-concept is significantly correlated with achievement in college chemistry (House, 1994, 1995b, 1996). With respect to mathematics achievement, student attitudes have been found to be predictive of performance in college algebra (House, 1993b, 1995c; Wheat, Tunnell, & Munday, 1991) and calculus (1995d). Similarly, mathematics self-efficacy was found to be a significant predictor of the mathematics achievement of high school students (Randhawa, Beamer, & Lundberg, 1993). Finally, other research has found that student self-beliefs are significantly related to achievement outcomes in other fields such as psychology (House, Keeley, & Hurst, 1996) and English (House & Prion, 1998), as well as other outcomes such as cumulative grade performance (House, 1993a, 1995a, 1997) and school withdrawal (House, 1992, 1993d).

A number of large-scale educational assessments of mathematics and science achievement have been conducted and the results have provided further understanding of student achievement (Mislevy, 1995). More specifically, comparisons of relative achievement levels, factors related to student achievement (such as student characteristics, instructional practices, and demographic variables) and cross-cultural comparisons of educational contexts have been conducted. The Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) represents the largest and most comprehensive international comparison yet conducted (Martin, 1996) and data were collected regarding student achievement and factors related to science and mathematics performance (Schmidt & Cogan, 1996). Consequently, TIMSS represents a unique opportunity to investigate specific student characteristics and their relationships to science and mathematics achievement.

The purpose of this study was to investigate the relationships between student self-beliefs and science achievement using data from the Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS). Previous research findings from students enrolled at single institutions have indicated that significant correlations exist between students' beliefs and their achievement outcomes. This study was intended to examine the generalizability of those findings in a cross-cultural context.

METHOD

Students

The TIMSS sample design represented the selection of schools during the first stage of sampling and then classrooms within schools during the second stage (a two-stage cluster design). …