Social climate and avoidance of help-seeking in secondary mathematics classes

Year: 2019

Author: Smalley, Roy

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

In Australia, student under-participation and disengagement are persistent problems in secondary mathematics classes. Academic help-seeking is a unique self-regulated behaviour that is important for cognitive engagement in mathematics classes and involves complex social interactions with others. The aim of this study was to investigate and identify salient psychosocial features of the classroom learning environment that influence students to avoid seeking help in secondary mathematics classrooms.

The objectives of the study were to investigate if a direct relationship existed between the social climate and avoidance of help-seeking in secondary mathematics classes. Based on theory and previous empirical findings, it was hypothesised that student’s self-efficacy (academic and social) and self-theories of intelligence would mediate the relationship between the students’ perceptions of the social environment and avoidance of help seeking.

Students’ perceptions of the social climate, academic and social self-efficacy, self-theories of intelligence, and help-seeking goals and intentions, were assessed for a sample of 600 Australian students in 54 classes from eight secondary schools and two TAFE institutes. Confirmatory factor analyses were used to assess the validity of the measurement model. The measurement model for social climate was reduced from seven to four factors (Task Orientation, Teacher Support, Cooperation, Investigation) to address issues of multicollinearity. The resulting mediated structural equation model (SEM), informed by theory and previous empirical studies, was then assessed using Mplus. These results were then integrated into a single structural model and the indirect paths in the model were be tested by constructing bootstrap confidence intervals.

The structural model accounted for 29.6% of the variance for Help-seeking Avoidance. The social climate factors accounted for 10.2% of the variance in the Self Theory of Intelligence factor, 36.7% for Academic Self-Efficacy, and 47.0% for Social Self-Efficacy with Peers. The findings supported the hypothesis that students' perceptions of the social climate of the mathematics classroom have a direct effect on their intention to avoid seeking help when needed. The findings provide further support for the importance of teachers establishing classrooms with clear learning goals and where students are encouraged to cooperate rather than compete with each other.