Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


The Lutrill and Pearl Payne School of Education

Document Type



This intrinsic case study examined groups of gifted and high achieving middle school mathematics students in one school’s advanced and honors program. The purpose of this study was to determine how the students view themselves in light of noncognitive constructs, how they regard and apply those constructs in their mathematics studies, how the work of those constructs can affect their attitudes toward mathematics, and how they believe educators can help foster success in math via noncognitive factors. The researcher employed a questionnaire, observations, focus group interviews, and interviews with key informants to gather study data. With the theoretical lenses of Bandura’s self-efficacy and Deci & Ryan’s self-determination, the researcher also assessed students’ math self-efficacy and examined its integration with their self-regulation (management of thoughts and behaviors). Themes were identified for classifying students’ math attitudes, the sources and types of motivation that determine their effort, and their observable applications of noncognitive factors. The research identifies commonalities and differences for student subgroups in the study with respect to the noncognitive factors examined.

Though most of these gifted and high-achieving math students were strong in math self-efficacy, unfavorable self-regulation often inhibited their effort despite their self-efficacy levels. In the absence of autonomy in self-regulation, many of these students were not motivated to put forth the effort necessary to excel. The findings revealed that these students did not demonstrate devaluation of math in the first year of middle school as research predicted (Pajares & Graham, 1999). Although most students had positive math attitudes and were high in math self-efficacy, many reported that they did not practice consistent academic behaviors, and the researcher found that they used academic perseverance as a fix-it strategy rather than a tool to continue excellence.

Also important to this study was student voice; research in the literature review indicates its value for informing policy and understanding. In the last part of the study, the researcher interviewed the students to identify useful supports for their learning in math; the students were creative and forthcoming about ways educators could help their mathematics success, and they provided practicable improvements that may prove useful for students in other populations.



Committee Chair

Kim Skinner