RTRL.57: Teacher Beliefs as Predictors of Student engagement and achievement in Math (Archambault, Janosz, & Chouinard, 2012)


Archambault, I., Janosz, M., & Chouinard, R. (2012). Teacher beliefs as predictors of adolescents’ cognitive engagement and achievement in mathematics. The Journal of Educational Research, 105, 319-328.

What did the researchers want to know?

How do teachers’ beliefs affect students’ cognitive engagement and achievement in math?

What did the researchers do?

Archambault, Janosz, and Chouinard studied 79 teachers and 2,364 of their students in Grades 7-11 at 33 schools in Québec. Teacher beliefs were measured using a questionnaire containing items pertaining to their expectancies about students’ ability to succeed in math, their sense of self-efficacy as a teacher. Students’ cognitive engagement was measured using a questionnaire that asked students to rate the amount of time and effort they were ready to invest in math-related activities, and students’ math achievement was gauged by asking them to report their average grade in math during the given school year. The teachers completed their questionnaire between January and March, and the students completed their questionnaire at the end of the previous school year and again at the end of the given school year.

What did the researchers find?

Hierarchical linear modeling revealed that teachers’ expectancies about students’ success and teachers’ sense of self-efficacy had a significant effect on their students’ math achievement at the end of the given school year. Specifically, teachers who expected more student success and who had a stronger sense of self-efficacy had students who showed greater math achievement. Furthermore, this did not vary between high- and low-achieving students. In general, all students showed increased achievement at the end of the school year regardless of their achievement the year before if they had a teacher who expected student success and who had a strong sense of self-efficacy. However, teacher beliefs were not significantly related to students’ self-reported engagement level.

What does this mean for my classroom?

According to the researchers, “the more teachers maintain high expectations and the more efficacious they feel in helping their students succeed, the more students’ achievement in- creased over the year” (p. 324). Although this study was focused on math classrooms, it is plausible that beliefs and self-efficacy among music teachers also can influence their students’ achievement in the music classroom. It is important that music teachers believe that all students can be successful at music and experience growth in musical knowledge and skills throughout the school year. Rather than buying into the traditional myth of musical “talent” that is innate in some but not in others, students will benefit from having a music teacher who believes in the musical potential of every child in their classroom, is confident that every student can succeed in music, and communicates this confidence to their students.