The teachers’ decision about their ability to teach is dependent on their will and confidence to execute that particular task. Understanding this concept can go a long way in helping educators boost the teachers’ self-efficacy in mathematics. This concept is commonly known as the ‘I can’ or ‘I cannot’ belief. Self-efficacy is the most important factor that predicts teacher effectiveness in the classroom (Alsup, 2004; Kazemi, Lampert & Ghousseini, 2007; Rimm-Kaufman & Sawyer, 2004). The challenges that pre-service mathematics teachers encounter can be partly explained by the lack of confidence in their skills (Aemi, 2008). Teachers can improve their performance and self-efficacy through training and experience. When teachers learn and apply some key strategies, their students’ performance improves. Pre-service teachers come with previous experience in learning and teaching mathematics (Fajet, Bello, Leftwich, Mesler, & Shaver, 2004; Tatar & Buldur, 2013).
However, the self-efficacy theory is changeable. In essence, the most important period for the lifelong development of the teachers’ self-efficacy entails the years of training (Briley, 20012). The investigation of the relationship between pre-service elementary teachers and self-efficacy has been the focus of several educational studies. Results of such studies suggest that the relationship between the two aspects is one of the factors that predict the teachers’ behaviors, attitudes, and effectiveness in the classroom context (Albayrak & Unal, 2011; Haverback & Parault, 2008). Part of the existing literature demonstrates that teachers who are conscious of their self-efficacy and teaching efficacy work effectively and efficiently (Briley, 2012). Besides, they endeavor to spend more time on their work and with students to increase their chances of success (Onen & Kaygisiz, 2013).
Different research works indicate that the teachers’ efficacy influences the students’ achievement by increasing their motivation and self-efficacy to accomplish more academically (Haverback & Parault, 2008). Several studies have demonstrated that the mathematics methodology course increases pre-service confidence in solving numerical problems (Briley, 2012; Swars, Hart, & Smith, 2007). Despite these positive effects, Albayrak and Unal (2011) lament that only a few studies have examined the impact of various teaching programs on the attitudes and beliefs of future educators. The current research on the subjects of mathematics teaching self-efficacy mostly focuses on the quantitative aspects. A proper understanding of this training is indispensable if future educators are to make an impact on the students’ academic success.
Moreover, there is a need to understand how to promote the pre-service teachers’ perceptions of their skills, competence, and ability to teach mathematics with the view to informing policy and future direction on the teaching the subject (Ball & Bass, 2003; Musser, Peterson, & Burger, 2008). This study seeks to fill these gaps in knowledge. Consequently, it is important for future researchers to include direct interaction with individuals to be aware of the impact of the pre-service teachers’ self-efficacy belief. The study was carried out with the intention of examining the impact of the mathematics methodology courses on the pre-service teachers’ self-efficacy and beliefs, coupled with examining the possible factors responsible for their teaching efficacy.
According to Albayrak and Unal (2011), Alberta Bandura introduced the self-efficacy concept as a part of the social cognitive theory in the 1970s. This concept forms one of the fundamental beliefs of the social-learning theory. Besides, it continues to be incorporated into contemporary teacher-education programs to increase teaching confidence (Bray-Clark & Bates, 2003). Self-efficacy refers to “the beliefs in one’s capability to organize and execute the courses of action, which are required to produce given attainments” (Bandura, 1997, p. 3). Bandura emphasized that people’s choices to handle or avoid challenges depend on their level of self-efficacy.
Bray-Clark and Bates (2003) posit that self-efficacy “is a task-specific belief that regulates choice, effort, and persistence in the face of obstacles and in concert with the emotional state of an individual” (p. 14). Albayrak and Unal (2011) argue that efficacy beliefs “govern how people think, feel, motivate themselves and behave, and determine whether coping behavior is initiated, how much effort is expended, [and] how long the behavior is sustained when faced with obstacles and unfavorable experiences” (p. 183). Additionally, these authors note that individuals must demonstrate the necessary knowledge, skills, and efficacy beliefs to develop the capacity to perform specific actions efficiently. Following this explanation, Berna and Gunhan (2011) acknowledge that individuals with a strong sense of self-efficacy beliefs may show more effort when they face challenges and continue to demonstrate confidence and faithfulness to the struggle as they achieve the skills necessary to overcome the obstacles.
Self-efficacy is also generally categorized as a motivational make, with available literature demonstrating that the beliefs contained in this construct not only affect the people’s judgments and perceptions, but they also shape how an individual can perform in a given scenario (Pajares & Graham, 1999; Phan, 2012; Hinton, Flores, Burton, & Curtis, 2015). This research study seeks to connect the self-efficacy and the relevant theoretical perspectives, as explained under the theories of expectancy-value and self-concept in the available literature. According to the expectancy-value theory, “Individuals will be motivated to engage in tasks when they value the outcome expected; they will be less predisposed to perform tasks whose outcomes they do not value” (Pajares, 1996, p. 558). This assertion implies that positive self-efficacy beliefs will lead to a positive contribution to the expectation for action. For instance, if a teacher tends to show a great level of lesson planning, it is most likely that his/her expectations will be very high.
The available literature demonstrates that the self-efficacy belief has two components – outcome expectancy and efficacy expectation (Bray-Clark & Bates, 2003). The efficacy expectancy refers to the belief that an individual has the capability to finish a job successfully. On the other side, the outcome expectancy underscores the belief that the accomplished task will result in the desired outcomes (Bandura, 1986). Most people develop self-efficacy through observational learning and experiences in social settings to develop one’s personality (Czerniak & Schriver, 1994). The experiences that people go through provide them with an opportunity to develop self-efficacy.
Abilities, attitudes, and cognitive skills make up self-efficacy, which plays an important role in people’s perception of situations and responses to these different situations (Bandura, 1986; Kranzler & Pajares, 1997; Swars, 2005). In practice, people believe in their abilities, and thus they take chances in accomplishing tasks based on self-efficacy (Grossman & McDonald, 2008). Such individuals trust themselves and believe that they will achieve reasonable results when they focus on doing something (Hall & Ponton, 2005). Conversely, people who possess low self-efficacy have little belief in their abilities, and thus they often remain doubtful about their ability to achieve positive outcomes (Pendergrast, Garvis, & Keogh, 2011). Accordingly, their efforts and determination will always fall below the standards, thus forcing them to get undesired results.
Sources of Self-Efficacy
Bandura (1977) identified, “four factors of self-efficacy, which include performance accomplishment, vicarious experience, verbal persuasion, and physiological states” (p. 86).
This aspect is also referred to as masterly experience, and it is considered the most contributor and influential source of efficacy information because individuals who have succeeded in a task are likely to perfume outstandingly in similar tasks in the future (Charalambous & Philippou, 2003). However, not all successful experiences reinforce efficacy. For instance, an individual’s sense of self-efficacy cannot be reinforced when success is attained through unbalanced external assistance or exposed to an easy and unimportant task (Bray-Clark & Bates, 2003). Successful completion of a task strengthens one’s sense of self-efficacy, which allows individuals to believe that they have the requisite skills to produce every task. However, the failure to deal entirely with a challenge or task will undermine and weaken one’s self-efficacy (Enochs, Smith, & Huinker, 2000). Hackett and Betz (2009) explain that mastery experiences allow pre-service teachers to develop a stable sense of efficacy.
As demonstrated by Hoy and Spero (2005), vicarious experiences are modeled by someone else. Research indicates that vicarious experiences may modify efficacy beliefs, expectations, or judgments about self-competence through comparison with the achievement of others (Berna & Gunhan, 2011). This aspect implies that watching competent and convincing individuals with more or less the same capabilities as the observer can influence the observer’s self-efficacy beliefs (Charalambous & Philippou, 2003). Hoy and Spero (2005) argue that the “degree to which the observer identifies with the model moderates the efficacy effect on the observer” (p. 3). This assertion means that the more directly an observer relates with knowledgeable, motivated, and credible individuals, the stronger the outcome of his/her efficacy. Therefore, when pre-service teachers watch other experienced teachers complete their tasks successfully, they will also want to trust their abilities and work hard to achieve the same. According to Battista (1994), Bandura explained that when people see others with whom they have similar characteristics succeed through sustained effort, they raise their belief that they have the same capabilities and chances of success. Thus, in the training program, the educator could increase self-efficacy by administrating or molding the desired skills.
Verbal or social persuasion
Verbal or social persuasion provides a further opportunity for reinforcing the beliefs or expectations of an individual, particularly in the context whereby significant others express confidence and faith in the capabilities demonstrated by the individual (Charalambous & Philippou, 2003). This assertion also holds when encouragement is provided effectively and realistically by real experiences (Berna & Gunhan, 2011; Bursal & Paznokas, 2006; Phelps, 2010). Hoy and Spero (2005) add that verbal or social persuasion may entail “a pep talk or specific performance feedback from a supervisor or a colleague, or it may involve the general chatter in the teachers’ lounge or in the media about the ability of teachers to influence students” (p. 3). Individuals are more likely to do the task when they are persuaded that they can succeed. Social persuasion is a major source of self-efficacy in removing past hindrances responsible for encouraging self-doubt and disorder. Additionally, it influences the credibility, trustworthiness, and expertise of convincing individuals (Hoy & Spero, 2005). In the training program, pre-service teachers are exposed to colleagues who succeed, which in turn influences them to raise their confidence so that they can also excel. For instance, they go through a self-reflection process to identify the weaknesses that undermine their ability to succeed and focus on eliminating these weaknesses to perform like other teachers (Enochs et al., 2000; Hackett & Betz, 2009).
Psychological states underscore how positive feelings such as relaxation and confidence or negative feelings such as faster heartbeat, exhaustion, and pain affect the people’s decisions (Charalambous & Philippou, 2003). Battista (1994) argues that emotional reactions and responses to situations influence the development of self-efficacy. This assertion implies that emotions, moods, stress, and physical reactions have effects on a person’s opinion of his/her abilities in a given situation. However, the actual awareness of a physical or emotional reaction is not a very significant aspect of the relationship between psychological responses and the development of self-efficacy. On the contrary, the most significant factor is the perception and interpretation that a person uses to reduce stress and elevate mood during challenging or difficult tasks (Ashton & Webb, 1986; Battista, 1994; Cakiroglu, 2008).
Self-Efficacy in the Pre-Service Teachers’ Context
Literature shows that most pre-service teachers specializing in mathematics or other related subjects have low levels of self-efficacy (Swars et al., 2007). This observation holds despite the fact that they understand the significance of self-efficacy in mathematics, and, thus, they should show high levels of teaching efficacy (Ashton, Webb, & Doda, 1982; Smith, 2008). Indeed, some pre-service teachers have confirmed their enthusiastic dislike for subjects that they are supposed to teach once they begin their profession (Bates, Latham, & Kim, 2011). Students observe their teachers’ self-efficacy about the subjects and adopt the same behaviors towards the subjects. Often, the attitudes and judgments of teachers concerning their ability will have a direct impact on the attitudes and outcomes of their students toward the subjects (Hackett & Betz, 2009; Kazmpour, 2008).
A study by Albayrak and Unal (2011) acknowledges that teachers with a positive sense of self-efficacy belief can influence student motivation and achievement. The most common forms of efficacy behaviors demonstrated by these teachers include “elevating expectations, valuing, pushing (encouraging), greeting behavior, opening, and closing ritual, equalizing response opportunities, feedback and teacher help, waiting, praising and respecting” (Albayrak & Unal, 2011, p. 184). Other studies have underscored some characteristics associated with pre-service teachers with high levels of self-efficacy. First, these teachers view challenging problems as tasks that must be mastered (Bates et al., 2011; Cone, 2009).
This aspect implies that high self-efficacy enables teachers to master challenging problems so that they can be solved successfully both presently and in the future (Bray-Clark & Bates, 2003). Accordingly, they develop the prerequisite skills that boost their confidence in related tasks or other challenging problems. Second, high levels of self-efficacy cause pre-service teachers to develop a solid and stable interest in the activities that they undertake (Charalambous, Philippou, & Kyriakides, 2008; Grossman & McDonald, 2008). An intense interest in something allows an individual to acquire the skills and knowledge that will guarantee positive outcomes. When mathematics teachers have little interest in the subject, they will achieve poor results, as exhibited in the performances of their students (Hackett & Betz, 2009; McClain & Cobb, 2001).
Third, pre-service teachers with high levels of self-efficacy are likely to develop and form a strong sense of commitment to their activities. This move-in turn allows them to acquire new skills since they are often ready to learn new approaches and strategies for tackling math problems and the challenges that their students face (Czerniak & Schriver, 1994; Riggs & Enochs, 1990). Fourth, pre-service teachers with high levels of self-efficacy are hands-on and self-organized. In most cases, they do not wait to tackle their problems when they occur, but they work to eliminate or minimize possible challenges. Finally, pre-service teachers with high levels of self-efficacy have an excellent ability not only to recover from disappointments and impediments very quickly but also to work toward the next success (Huinker & Madison, 1997; Kagan, 1992).
In a study aimed at measuring the self-efficacy of in-service teachers in Slovakia, Gavora (2011) cited other research studies to demonstrate that teachers with high levels of self-efficacy have the following attributes.
- Open to a new idea
- Less critical with their learners
- Have the ability to reach students in spite of external factors(family, school, and community) and individual factors
- They are highly enthusiastic
- They are usually highly committed to their teaching;
- They are highly effective in managing the classroom
- Persevere in the face of challenge
- Foster humanistic approach in the classroom
- They are not teacher-centered
These observations are consistent with the assertion held by most social learning perspectives that the self-efficacies demonstrated by teachers are of huge importance in determining how they approach various tasks, challenges, and goals related to student learning (Lampert, 2001). Normally, self-efficacy correlates positively with the effective teachers’ actions in the classroom context (Gavora, 2011).
Conversely, pre-service teachers who have a negative self-efficacy display characteristics that function to disrupt or affect the student’s educational outcomes and achievements. Tschannen-Moran and Hoy (2007) posit According to social-cognitive theory, teachers who do not expect to be successful with certain pupils are likely to put forth less effort in preparation and delivery of instruction and to give up easily at the first sign of difficulty, even if they actually know of strategies that could assist these pupils if applied. Self-efficacy beliefs can thus become self-fulfilling prophesies, validating beliefs of either capability or incapacity (p. 80).
First, teachers with a negative developed sense of self-efficacy often tend to keep away from demanding and difficult tasks. In most cases, they believe that challenging situations and tasks are beyond their abilities. The practice becomes routine among teachers who avoid difficult tasks, which undermines their ability to acquire the required skills to solve various challenges. Second, these teachers tend to concentrate on their limitations, failures, and negative outcomes (Bates et al., 2011; Charalambous et al., 2008). Third, these teachers lack the ability to come back and start planning for future success. Finally, they lose confidence in their personal abilities and stop working on tasks that they think they will not manage. Some of the common behaviors demonstrated by teacher professionals with low self-efficacy beliefs and expectations include lowering expectations, sorting, lessening, questioning, and distancing (Albayrak & Unal, 2011). Self-efficacy beliefs influence an individual’s previous performance (Bandura, 1997). Therefore, it suffices to conclude that past unsuccessful experiences of pre-service may form the underlying reasons as to why teachers develop low-efficacy beliefs and internalize some of the negative behaviors indicated above (Cone, 2009).
Self-efficacy enables teachers to create strategies that enhance performance and provide the desired feedback for positive results (Cone, 2009). Teachers who have a high level of self-efficacy can create some strategies that they use to approach different class problems (Ashton et al., 1982). Accordingly, they have some alternatives that allow them to develop a strong sense of success. In teaching practice, the best results are often attributable to the sourcing and utilization of several strategies (Charalambous et al., 2008).
The performance of various students in mathematics may depend on various factors. However, teachers with high self-efficacy believe that performance is mainly subject to the experiences obtained from classrooms (Cone, 2009; Hart, 2002; Phelps, 2010). Accordingly, teachers will use their self-efficacy to ensure that all children perform well in mathematics regardless of their backgrounds and histories (Bursal, 2007). For example, teachers who understand self-efficacy will stress its significance to the learners and maintain it during the learning process (Stipek, Givvin, Salmon, & MacGyvers, 2001). Bandura (1986) stated that self-efficacy allows teachers to achieve the desired outcomes even with students who have learning and behavior difficulties in performing. In this case, a teacher believes that external factors such as parents, background, intelligence quotient (IQ), school conditions, and environment do not affect the outcomes of learning as long as the teacher uses the best and most appropriate strategies to deliver different units of the course (Battista, 1994; Charalambous et al., 2008). Therefore, these teachers will adopt different inclusive strategies that allow students to learn, develop interest, and work hard to pass the subject.
Tschannen-Moran and Hoy (2001) explain that the teachers’ efficacy refers to the belief that one’s abilities and strategies will bring the desired results for all students’ learning and engagement. The teachers’ efficacy belief is an adaptive and forceful contract (Kim, Sihn, & Mitchell, 2014). In literature, it holds that the teachers’ beliefs shape the students’ learning and achievements (Albayrak & Unal, 2011). Besides, the capacity of teachers to perform particular teaching tasks successfully in their current teaching conditions depends on self-efficacy (Lampert, 1990; Steele & Wildman, 1997).
In teacher efficacy research, it is evident that classroom activities implemented by a teacher influence the students’ learning outcomes (Bray-Clark & Bates, 2003; Isiksal, 2005). Consequently, the concept of teacher efficacy, as documented in various teacher-education studies, has two types of beliefs. The first one is personal teaching efficacy. The second one is teaching outcome expectancy, which states, “Teachers believe that effective teaching can affect the students’ learning and grade achievement (Albayrak & Unal, 2011; Cohen, 1988; Lee, 2010). Bandura (1986) called for a distinction between these two dimensions of teaching efficacies, because a teacher may assume that student learning originates from effective teaching while being uncertain of his/her essential capabilities for the successful delivery of lessons. The concept of teacher efficacy focuses on the factors that enhance their confidence and enable them to achieve the goals and objectives associated with class instruction and management, reflective teaching, student motivation and engagement, and stakeholder engagement in the educational process (Kazempour, 2008).
The investigation of the influence of self-efficacy on teaching has been a leading concern for several educational studies (Bray-Clark & Bates, 2003; Hoy & Spero, 2005). Most of these studies relate the concept of self-efficacy belief with the teacher efficacy belief to demonstrate how the latter enhances the student-learning outcomes in school. Albayrak and Unal (2011) acknowledged that
…teachers who believe student learning can be influenced by effective teaching outcomes expectancy beliefs and who also have confidence in their teaching abilities self-efficacy beliefs should persist longer, provide a greater academic focus in the classroom, and exhibit different types of feedback than teachers who have lower expectations concerning their ability to influence student learning (p. 184).
Other studies have indicated that teachers with positive teaching efficacy beliefs not only engage in risk-taking behaviors such as sharing classroom control with students but also they invest time and resources into teaching to enhance the basic performance of students in spite of the difficulties faced (Arslan & Yavuz, 2012; Berna & Gunhan, 2011). Teachers with high teaching efficacy employ inquiry and student-centered strategies for efficiency and effectiveness. Besides, they demonstrate a personal belief of having the capacity to influence student achievement and motivation (Ashton & Webb, 1986; Savran-Gencer & Cakiroglu, 2007). Kim et al. (2014) acknowledge that the “students’ development of mathematical proficiency is related to teachers’ efficacy in teaching mathematics and highly effective teachers have a positive effect on the student learning outcomes because effectiveness influences the teachers’ determination for a task, willingness to take risks and the adoption of new ideas in their teaching” (p. 2).
Teacher efficacy is shown using various instructional and student-centered approaches. A diversity of instructional approaches means that the teacher does not use the same teaching methods from the first day to the last (Hofer & Pintrich, 1997). Such teachers play the role of a supervisor and mentor who trains students on how to acquire information and use it as knowledge (Cady & Rearden, 2007; Charalambous et al., 2008). Accordingly, students tend to work in groups to acquire and synthesize knowledge, and they approach the teacher only when they experience a significant setback or challenge (Czerniak, 1990). In contrast, teacher-centered learning entails a situation whereby the teacher controls all class activities and allows little room for student contribution (Hoffman, 2010).
The views, perceptions, and beliefs held by teachers affect their ability to teach and manage learning activities effectively in the classroom. It also affects the students’ achievement (Guskey & Passaro, 1994). Additionally, it is related to the behavior of teachers in the classroom in what Tschannen-Moran and Hoy (2001) note as “their openness to new ideas and their attitudes towards teaching” (p. 215). Research works also indicate that teacher efficacy tends to influence how a student eventually performs in course work, the attitude of the student toward what is being taught, and the eventual social, mental, and cultural growth of the student.
Summary of Research Studies on Teacher Self-Efficacy
The available scholarship on teacher self-efficacy demonstrates that the concept has been studied from many perspectives (Alsup, 2004; Bleicher, 2004). Besides, it has been at the core of teacher-education studies for several decades as one of the most fundamental aspects of influencing the behaviors, attitudes, and effectiveness of teachers (Albayrak & Unal, 2011). Drawing from social-learning theory, it is evident that the self-efficacy in contemporary teacher training is important in its role of enhancing the development of specific beliefs that reinforce the capacity to deal with modifications and promote desired behaviors (Kim et al., 2014).
Another study conducted by Isiksal (2005) found the effects of “gender and program year on both the pre-service teachers’ performance and self-efficacy scores” (p. 8). Specifically, the study found that female pre-service teachers scored higher as compared to their male counterparts in performance. However, no notable differences were discovered between the two on mathematics self-efficacy scores. Furthermore, senior pre-service teachers scored higher on performance as well as mathematics self-efficacy scores as compared to newer students enrolled in the education program.
In a study conducted by Savran-Gencer and Cakiroglu (2007) to investigate the efficacy beliefs of the Turkish pre-service teachers and their classroom management, it was found that pre-service science teachers usually expressed positive efficacy beliefs. Moreover, the study found that their teaching practices were the most important factors that affected their teaching efficacy.
In another quantitative study exploring the effect of a mathematics methodology course on elementary, pre-service teachers’ mathematics teaching efficacy beliefs in Turkey, Albayrak and Unal (2011) found that attending a mathematics methodology course changes the teaching efficacy beliefs of elementary pre-service teachers positively.
Arslan and Yavuz (2012) conducted a study at Istanbul University in Turkey seeking to establish potential (pre-service) teachers’ self-efficacy beliefs about mathematical literacy coupled with investigating these beliefs against a set of variables that included teaching department and gender. The study found that prospective teachers’ mathematics self-efficacy beliefs did not change according to the department. In another research study, Charalambous and Philippou (2003) found that pre-service teachers’ teaching efficacy beliefs gradually improved while they were participating in a TPP. Besides, they established that the main source of the development of their efficacy beliefs was “masterly experience” or actual experiences in a certain domain. Finally, they found out that teaching tasks and personal capabilities interacted with cognitive processing to result in different levels of teacher efficacy beliefs even though individuals may have similar experiences.
Informed by the need to explain ways through which teacher efficacy can be enhanced, Kim et al. (2014) conducted a study to investigate “the South Korean elementary teachers’ mathematics teaching efficacy beliefs and the factors that increase the efficacy beliefs demonstrated by teachers” (p. 1). According to these authors, it is evident that teachers who believe that teaching can influence student learning (teacher efficacy) and who demonstrate high self-efficacy may provide “a greater academic focus in the classroom and offer diverse feedback according to the students’ academic backgrounds more than teachers who have low mathematics teaching efficacy beliefs” (Kim et al. 2014, p. 3).
The Role of Cognitive Domain in Math Teacher Performance
The teachers’ efficacy beliefs form strong determinants of the extent to which they can accomplish various tasks (Pajares, 1996). Most cognitive domains are related to how individuals perceive their self-efficacy (Artistico, Cervone, & Pezzuti, 2003). For example, Harrison, Rainer, Hochwarter, and Thompson (1997) posit, “Increased performance with computer-related tasks was found to be significantly related to higher levels of computer self-efficacy” (p. 85). On the other hand, performance tends to decrease as the individual’s level of perceived self-efficacy drops. Studies have revealed contrasts in cognitive task performance, but they have also shown that the results are similar. For example, Artistico et al. (2003) note that an individual’s sense of self-efficacy could be used to predict how well s/he can accomplish problem-solving tasks, regardless of age. This study also showed that participants with higher self-efficacy levels could outperform those with lower levels of self-efficacy. This observation gives credibility to Bandura (1993), who noted that depending on variations in the self-efficacy perception, an individual with the same level of knowledge and skills can still have poor, satisfactory, or highly satisfactory performance.
According to Turner (2010), teacher self-efficacy has a positive association with the willingness or eagerness of a teacher to start new teaching ideas and use them as variations in teaching strategies. Swars (2005) collaborates this argument by observing that teachers with a high perception of self-efficacy “are more likely to use inquiry and student-centered teaching strategies, while teachers with a low sense of self-efficacy are more likely to use teacher-directed strategies such as lecture and reading from the text” (p. 2). As such, it is common to find teachers with a low level of self-efficacy in classroom contexts using a traditional or teacher-directed method and technique, which is different o highly effective teachers who tend to build confidence among students, use student groups, and generously allow the learners to navigate through their learning process for optimal comprehension.
As suggested by Bandura (1986), it is possible that the theory of social cognition could offer a plausible explanation of the sources of such self-efficacy beliefs in teachers, which include their mastery experiences, verbal or social persuasions, the vicarious experiences they go through, and psychological arousal. Arguably, the most important factor in developing self-efficacy is mastery experiences (Arslan & Yavuz, 2012; Bandura, 1998; Hoffman, 2010). While mastery experiences are developed from the training programs that teachers go through in colleges, the actual teaching experience reinforces this mastery, which increases teachers’ self-efficacy (Hoy & Spero, 2005; Kazemi et al., 2007). Concerning psychological states or stimulation, the available scholarship has noted that a positive correlation exists between the feelings of satisfaction developed by the teacher in his or her teaching experiences on the one hand and the satisfaction derived from the achievement of actual teaching on the other (Tschannen-Moran & Hoy, 2007). These factors influence the teachers’ self-efficacy and their beliefs in a manner that affects their capability to accomplish their desired tasks or objectives.
The available literature shows that teacher efficacy influences the students’ learning outcomes, motivation, and attitudes toward the learning of different subjects. Besides, it adjusts the students’ beliefs, attitudes, and learning priorities toward their projected behavior in the classroom (Rimm-Kaufman, 2004; Boud, 2012). Most social learning theories support this concept and observe, “Understanding the belief structures of teachers and teacher candidates is essential to improving their professional preparation and teaching practices” (Pajares, 1992, p. 307). This observation implies that it is important for researchers in education to consider how these factors influence the efficacy of a teacher with a view to determining what is needed to assist teachers (especially teachers of mathematics) in gaining a greater sense of teacher efficacy.
Effectiveness in Teaching Mathematics
The debate on the various methodology courses provided at teacher-training institutions is gaining importance as educators, and other relevant stakeholders realize that teacher quality is tied to the students’ educational outcomes (Arslan & Yavuz, 2012; Haverback & Parault, 2008; Isiksal, 2005; Kim et al., 2014; Lancaster & Bain, 2010). Arslan and Yavuz (2012) cite previous research to demonstrate that the “most effective way to raise educational quality is to modify initial teacher education and recruitment and develop the means to train teachers that are already in-service” (p. 5622). The teacher-education programs are important for increasing pre-service teachers’ self-efficacy beliefs, which are critical to education due to their ability to influence teaching experiments as well as teacher-student interaction (Bray-Clark & Bates, 2003; Kim et al., 2014). Charalambous and Philippou (2003) give evidence for the assumption that carefully designed intervention programs (teaching practice programs or fieldwork) could result in positive shifts in the components of the affective domain. Besides, it is possible to modify the student teachers’ efficacy beliefs since they are not as stable as they are with experienced in-service teachers.
Mathematics self-efficacy is “a situational or problem-specific assessment of an individual’s confidence in her or his ability to perform or accomplish a particular mathematical task or problem successfully” (Hackett & Betz, 2009, p. 8). Scholars and practitioners in the field of education continue to examine how the concept of teacher self-efficacy influences their effectiveness. Teacher self-efficacy implies a function of the level of comfort that an individual has with the content that s/he is teaching in a classroom environment, and the grade of the students. A teacher who demonstrates a high level of self-efficacy while handling a reading lesson, for example, may show low teacher efficacy in teaching mathematics (Arslan & Yavuz, 2012; Brown, 2012; Kim et al., 2014). This assertion means that studying the impact of the efficacy of math teachers should be done with the factors affecting mathematics performance in mind. Some of the factors identified previously include the external environment, the behavior of pre-service teachers and students during a class session, support from school administration, and the influence of senior teachers among many others (Albayrak & Unal, 2011; Briley, 2012; Cakiroglu, 2000; Gresham, 2008; Stipek et al., 2001).
The teachers’ beliefs and attitudes towards mathematics are some of the major points that researchers must target in determining their role in raising teacher effectiveness levels in the handling of mathematics as a subject. Wilkins (2008) notes that the knowledge of the teacher and the attitudes, expectations, and beliefs that s/he may hold, play a significant function in influencing the teacher’s instructional practice. Studies indicate that teachers with low opinions or negative attitudes about mathematics end up using traditional instructional methods, which are essentially teacher-directed (Brown, 2012; Swars, 2005; Ediger, 2012).
The most powerful indicator that can be used in the evaluation of teacher effectiveness is self-efficacy. Self-efficacy for mathematics teachers is critical to the overall success and well-being of the global economy due to its contribution to nation-building and global safety. Therefore, it is critical for math teachers to be prepared to handle classroom dynamics that will eventually improve the students’ achievement. At a national level, mathematics teachers are at the center of the implementation of instructional practices that are not only effective but also good professional practices impacted by the high and positive self-efficacy of mathematics teachers. As such, the importance of the self-efficacy construct cannot be overemphasized if the success of mathematics teachers and students is to be maintained. In this study, the source of motivation has been the teaching environment and the motivation derived from the actual teaching experience and the success of the students. This aspect means that the teacher evaluators and motivators should shift their focus from judging the teachers’ efficacy solely by their academic and training achievements to considering the success indicators derived from the actual teaching experience. These sentiments have been explained through theoretical studies of cognitive psychology and social cognition. In these theories, self-efficacy has been related directly to teacher efficacy as an important educational research element.
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