Self theories of intelligence and maths anxiety in a first year statistics cohort

O'Shea, A. and Swan, T. (2011) Self theories of intelligence and maths anxiety in a first year statistics cohort. In: 46th Australian Psychological Society Annual Conference 2011, 4-8 Oct 2011, Canberra, Australia.


Overcoming maths anxiety and beliefs of inability is one of the greatest obstacles psychology students report when faced with the prospect of studying statistics at university for the first time. Integrating interventions into standard curriculum and pedagogical practices may assist in reducing these beliefs and distress. This research investigates how self-theories of intelligence impact on maths anxiety levels in students studying first year statistics. It examines whether a series of short interventions embedded in the curriculum can change a student's self-theory of intelligence, moving them from a fixed (entity theorist perspective) to a more fluid view (incremental theorist perspective) of intelligence, and whether this in turn reduces reported levels of overall maths anxiety. A study was conducted using a cohort of 213 first year students, with information collected on a student's self-theory of intelligence and maths anxiety levels via three surveys. A control group of 120 students completed the survey only, while a further 93 students
completed the survey and participated in a series of intervention workshops. Both the control group and the intervention group demonstrated a significant increase in scores on the self-theory questionnaire indicating that both groups showed a shift towards the incremental theory of intelligence. Those students who were originally identified as entity theorist, showed the greatest shift in self-theory scores within the intervention group. Of most interest was a reduction in maths anxiety in the intervention cohort compared with an increase in maths anxiety with the control cohort, with a significant difference in a change of maths anxiety levels between the two groups. Overall this study found that the self-theory of intelligence has a direct relationship with a student's maths anxiety level at a university level and that a shift in self-theory, to a more fluid perspective of intelligence, may reduce maths anxiety levels. These results have implications regarding choice of pedagogical practices and curriculum content to be used with first year
psychology students encountering statistics for the first time.

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Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Commonwealth Reporting Category E) (Paper)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information (displayed to public): The author/s will retain copyright of their abstract, in addition to the moral rights they are entitled to as author/s of the abstract. The Australian Psychological Society Ltd does not hold copies of any papers presented at conferences. A formal paper was not produced for publication in the conference proceedings as the APS conference organisers decided not to offer this in 2011.
Depositing User: epEditor USQ
Faculty / Department / School: Historic - Faculty of Sciences - Department of Psychology
Date Deposited: 08 Jun 2012 06:37
Last Modified: 03 Jul 2013 01:12
Uncontrolled Keywords: ability; anxiety; stress; mathematics; statistics; first year
Fields of Research (FoR): 17 Psychology and Cognitive Sciences > 1701 Psychology > 170103 Educational Psychology
13 Education > 1302 Curriculum and Pedagogy > 130208 Mathematics and Numeracy Curriculum and Pedagogy
13 Education > 1303 Specialist Studies in Education > 130309 Learning Sciences
Socio-Economic Objective (SEO): C Society > 93 Education and Training > 9301 Learner and Learning > 930103 Learner Development

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