Expectancy-Value, Tracking and Gender as Predictors of Achievement and Aspiration in Mathematics: a Study of 15-Year-Old Students in the Netherlands.

  • Erik Roosken

    Student thesis: Master's Thesis


    According to expectancy-value theory (EVT) achievement-related choices are influenced by the rela-tive value and probability of success of a specific task. This study draws on EVT and its multiplica-tive character to explore the relations between student motivation for mathematics and educational outcomes. This study is relevant because there currently is a worldwide shortage of a vocationally and academically trained workforce in the STEM occupations. Therefore, finding possible solutions for the growing problems in the STEM field in the Netherlands, based on the results of the study, is important.
    Because little research has yet been conducted on the subject, the main contribution of this study is to investigate the effect of student motivation on academic achievement and aspirations, and how the effect varies across tracks and genders. Exploring gender differences in motivational behaviour and mathematical achievement and aspirations is relevant because of the low number of students and in particular female students aspiring careers in the STEM field.
    The research is based on a secondary dataset as it utilizes the PISA data of 2012. The sam-pling design used for the PISA assessment was a two-stage stratified sample design. For this study, data from 4224 students in 175 different schools is used. Hence, a hierarchical structure within the data is expected and therefore this study utilizes multilevel regression analyses for testing the hy-potheses, as it ensures that the assumption of statistical independence is not violated due to the data being nested in a hierarchical fashion.
    The data was collected by OECD using a student questionnaire and the PISA mathematics test. From the data obtained from the questionnaire, this study was interested in the gender of the students and in which track the students were enrolled. Furthermore, mathematics inter-est/enjoyment and mathematics instrumental motivations were utilized as interest and utility value. Mathematics self-efficacy was the expectancy component, while mathematics intentions/aspirations and student achievement, the results from the PISA 2012 mathematics test, were utilized as out-come variables.
    The results demonstrate that student motivation was consistently predictive of achievement and aspirations but there was variation of the effect across tracks. The predictive role of student mo-tivation was comparable in different tracks in some cases, such as the effect of self-efficacy on achievement, but different in other cases, such as the effect of interest value on aspirations. Alt-hough students motivation was comparable for both genders, there were some differences. For girls interest value had a clear effect on achievement. Self-efficacy had a negative effect on aspirations for boys, while no effect was detected for girls. The multiplicative effect of expectancy and value was largely negative or absent; only the interaction between self-efficacy and utility positively affected math achievement. Some interactions varied across tracks, however no variation across gender was detected.
    Some limitations of the study include not have taken into account the variation in the com-position of tracking in secondary schools in the Netherlands and the newly introduced ‘forced choice’ format for measuring aspirations used in the PISA test. A practical implication to increase math aspirations and reduce differences in math achievement, making mathematics obligatory in all learning profiles in all tracks is a possible solution. Furthermore, the positive effect of utility value implies that it may serve as an effective intervention target in order to increase math aspirations.
    Date of Award12 Mar 2020
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorKate Xu (Supervisor)


    • expectancy-value
    • tracking
    • Gender
    • mathematics
    • achievement
    • aspirations
    • PISA
    • multilevel regression

    Master's Degree

    • Master Onderwijswetenschappen

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