Students’ Beliefs About Learning and Intelligence: an Examination of Academic Stream, Gender, LD Status, and Achievement

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Matheson, Ian
Streaming , Gender , Motivation , Achievement , Learning Disabilities
In the present study, the researcher examined the motivational variables of students within the Ontario Secondary School system, where groups based on course stream, LD status, gender, and achievement level were compared. This research was partially exploratory, where the researcher aimed to validate existing research on gender, LD status, and achievement, as well as to examine how motivational variables relate to course stream. Past research has shown that endorsing an entity theory of intelligence, having a preference for performance goals, attributing success to ability rather than effort, and having low confidence in one’s ability to self-regulate are all associated with lower achievement, and with the presence of a learning disability (e.g., Baird, Scott, Dearing & Hamill, 2009). A total of 243 secondary school students (127 male, 116 female) from one rural school in Ontario participated in this study. The participants completed a 28-item questionnaire made up of several subscales, including the Implicit Theories of Intelligence Scale (Dweck, 1999), the Learning vs. Performance Goal Preference Scale (Dweck, 1999), the Effort Attribution Scale (Dweck & Leggett, 1988), and the Self-Efficacy for Self-Regulated Learning Scale (Zimmerman et al., 1992). Regarding stream, an independent t-test revealed that students in the university English course had significantly more confidence in their ability to self-regulate than their peers in the college English course. A MANOVA revealed that individuals who had received a mid-term English grade of A (80-100%), regardless of stream, had significantly more confidence their ability to self-regulate than students who received lower grades. Finally, an independent t-test revealed that participants with a learning disability were more concerned with their personal growth than their performance when compared to participants without a learning disability. No differences in motivational variables were found between males and females. These findings suggest that educators and parents should place more emphasis on helping students to develop confidence in their self-regulatory abilities, as this appears to be an important variable in students’ achievement, as well as related to the academic stream in which they are enrolled.
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