A structural equation model looking at student’s participatory behavior and their success in Calculus I
Keller, Rachel E
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Abstract Background Government projections in the USA indicate that the country will need a million more science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) graduates above and beyond those already projected by the year 2022. Of crucial importance to the STEM pipeline is success in Calculus I, without which continuation in a STEM major is not possible. The STEM community at large, and mathematics instructors specifically, need to understand factors that influence and promote success in order to mitigate the alarming attrition trend. Previous work in this area has defined success singularly in terms of grades or persistence; however, these definitions are somewhat limiting and neglect the possible mediating effects of affective constructs like confidence, mindset, and enjoyment on the aforementioned markers of success. Using structural equation modeling, this paper explored the effect of participation on grades in freshman college calculus and investigated whether these effects were mediated by affective variables. Results Results indicated that participation had no significant direct effect on any of the success components in the final model—a finding that was not only counterintuitive but actually contradicted previous research done on this data. Participation was however highly correlated with two other exogenous variables indicating it would be inappropriate to dismiss it as being unrelated to success. Furthermore, the results suggested a cluster of affective success components and an achievement component with confidence being the intermediary between the two. Conclusions This paper extends upon previous work with this data set in which the effect of participatory behaviors on success was investigated wherein success was measured singularly with expected course grade and affective components of success were not considered. The limited explanatory power of the model, coupled with the seemingly contradictory results, indicates that participatory behaviors alone might be insufficient to capture the complexity of the success response variable.