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Board 260: Educational Contexts that Support Student Motivation Lead to Better Academic Outcomes in STEM: The Role of Mathematics Instructors in Student Motivation

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2023 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Baltimore , Maryland

Publication Date

June 25, 2023

Start Date

June 25, 2023

End Date

June 28, 2023

Conference Session

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Tagged Topics

Diversity and NSF Grantees Poster Session

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Chris S. Hulleman University of Virginia

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Chris S. Hulleman is an associate professor of education, psychology, and public policy at the University of Virginia. He is also the founder and director of the Motivate Lab, which collaborates with educational practitioners to help ameliorate systemic racism and inequality. His team develops and tests changes in educational practice that support the motivation of students from historically marginalized backgrounds in education. He received his BA from Central College (Iowa) in 1993 and his PhD in social and personality psychology from the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 2007. Prior to his career in psychology, he spent six years as a teacher, coach, and social worker. Chris is a second generation educator whose grandparents were tenant farmers in Iowa and Nebraska. He tries to emulate their hard work and persistence in the pursuit of social justice. One of his favorite childhood memories is eating his paternal grandmother’s homemade fruit pies with plenty of ice cream.

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Delaram A Totonchi University of Virginia

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Joshua Davis University of Virginia

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Michelle Francis University of Virginia

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Emma Huelskoetter

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Yoi Tibbetts University of Virginia

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Background Instructors play a critical role in creating educational contexts that can support or thwart student motivation and success (e.g., Meunks et al., 2020). For instance, research suggests that when instructors highlight the relevance of coursework to students' lives, students are more motivated and successful (e.g., Assor et al., 2002). However, more research is needed to understand the exact student motivational beliefs that are impacted by teacher practices. Accordingly, we grounded the study in the expectancy-value-cost motivational framework and examined whether students’ perceptions of their instructor supportiveness impact their expectations for success, perceived value (e.g., relevance), and perceived costs associated with their math coursework and, in turn, their math achievement. Instructors’ self-reported practices were also sought to complement the student findings.

Methods Data was collected as part of a larger study (NSF HRD#2000507). Students (N = 615) were enrolled in introductory math courses across six community colleges in the Southeast United States (67.3% female; 58.2% first-generation; 32.7% Black, 11.1% Latinx, 50.7% White, 2.1% Asian, and 3.4% who selected other races). Students’ perceptions of instructors’ support (measure adapted from Patall et al., 2013) were assessed at week 3, and their motivational beliefs—including expectancies for success, values for the course, and their perceived costs (measures adapted from Rosenzweig et al., 2019)—were assessed at weeks 3 and 12 of the fall 2021 semester. Students’ final course grades were obtained from the institution. Week 3 motivational indicators as well as students' race, gender, generation status, and high school GPA were included in our models to account for students’ initial levels of motivation, demographics, and prior achievement. We also surveyed 55 instructors at week 12 to explore their teaching practices and attitudes toward student success.

Results and Discussion Results of the path models suggested that students who perceived their instructors to be more supportive early in the semester had higher expectations for success (b = .43; 95% CI [.22, .64]) and higher perceptions of math value (b = .39; 95% CI [.18, .61]) later in the semester. In turn, students’ expectancies for success positively predicted their end-of-semester math grades (b = .75; 95% CI [.46, 1.00]). The indirect effect of perceived instructor supportiveness on math grades through expectancies for success (b = .32; 95% CI [.13, .54]) was significant. These results highlight the importance of instructors’ teaching practices in fostering student motivation and academic success. Relatedly, our qualitative examination of instructors’ teaching practices revealed that some instructors implemented strategies to help students find the math coursework more relevant to their lives. For example, one instructor mentioned: “As much as possible I try to discuss real-world connections and contexts with the students so that we can find purpose in what we are learning. The problems we work on involve real-world scenarios.” Our results have implications for improving teacher practices. For example, instructors’ attempts to highlight the utility and relevance of coursework could directly promote students’ beliefs in their abilities to succeed, their values for coursework and, in turn, their achievement in STEM.

Hulleman, C. S., & Totonchi, D. A., & Davis, J., & Francis, M., & Huelskoetter, E., & Tibbetts, Y. (2023, June), Board 260: Educational Contexts that Support Student Motivation Lead to Better Academic Outcomes in STEM: The Role of Mathematics Instructors in Student Motivation Paper presented at 2023 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Baltimore , Maryland. 10.18260/1-2--42707

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