Motivation, Anxiety, and Work Ethic as Mediators Between Cognitive Activation Instruction and Mathematics and Science Performance
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This study examined instrumental motivation to learn mathematics, mathematics anxiety, and mathematics work ethic as mediators of the relationship between cognitive activation instruction and mathematical and scientific literacy. Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) data were obtained on 4,500 students, 15-16 years old, from Australia. Structural equation modeling (SEM) was used to estimate mediational paths, and multi-group SEM was conducted to find out if these mediational paths were invariant across levels of socioeconomic status and gender. Results showed that the effect of cognitive activation in mathematics lessons on mathematics and science performance was significantly mediated by mathematics anxiety, instrumental motivation to learn mathematics, and mathematics work ethic. For the most part, gender and socioeconomic did not significantly moderator these mediational paths. The findings of this study converge with previous literature demonstrating benefits of cognitive activation instruction and expand this literature by explaining how cognitive activation instruction may influence math and science performance. Specifically, this study provides original correlational evidence that cognitive activation instruction helps to reduce anxiety and increase instrumental motivation, which in turn may increase work ethic and science and math performance. Mathematics work ethic, an understudied construct, should be examined in future motivational research and theory building, as it played an instrumental role in the models tested in this study. Practically, this study could help to inform educators about the potential benefits of using cognitive activation instruction in the classroom and the important roles mathematics anxiety, instrumental motivation, and work ethic play in students’ math and science performance.