AERA 2018 Annual Meeting: “The Dreams, Possibilities, and Necessity of Public Education”
April 13-17, 2018
Title: Profiles in the Trajectories of Students' Expectancies and Values for Math and Language Arts
Authors: Hanna Gaspard, Fani Lauermann, Norman Rose, Jacquelynne Eccles, Allan L. Wigfield
Students’ reported expectancies and values for different academic domains generally decrease over the school years (Jacobs, Lanza, Osgood, Eccles, & Wigfield, 2002). This decline has been attributed to an interaction between developmental and school factors (Wigfield et al., 2015). One important explanation drawing on interest theory is a differentiation of students’ interests as a naturally occurring phenomenon (Schiefele, 2009). Intra-individual differences in students’ interests thus should become more pronounced with age, with some interests remaining high, but others declining. Furthermore, interest theory suggests that the average pattern of decline in different school subjects does not sufficiently represent the trajectories of individual students. Instead, there should be subgroups of students showing different trajectories across subjects. Accordingly, we examine whether meaningful subgroups can be identified in the trajectories of students’ expectancies and values across math and language arts for Grades 1 through 12. We further investigate possible links between these subgroups and students’ characteristics and career aspirations.
To this end, we reanalyzed data from the Childhood and Beyond study (N=1069). Its cross-sequential design with three cohorts spans across Grades 1 through 12. Expectancies and values in math and language arts were measured with five items assessing students’ self-concepts and two items assessing intrinsic value, using comparable wording in each domain and over the years. Growth-mixture modeling was used to examine profiles in the trajectories of expectancies and values in both domains. Associations of these profiles with students’ gender, parental education, teacher-rated math and reading abilities, and career aspirations in Grade 12 were investigated.
For self-concept trajectories, we found two meaningful profiles, characterized as “moderate math decline/high language arts” and “moderate math decline/strong language arts decline” (see Figure 1). Compared to the “moderate math decline/high language arts” profile, the “moderate math decline/strong language arts decline” profile included a higher proportion of males, and parental education and students’ reading ability were comparatively lower. This profile was associated with higher math/science-related and lower human services-related career aspirations in Grade 12.
For intrinsic value trajectories, we found three profiles, characterized as “strong math decline/language arts decline leveling off” and “moderate math decline/strong language arts decline”, and “stable math and language arts trajectories” (see Figure 2). There was a higher proportion of males in the “stable math and language arts trajectories” class compared to the other profiles, and the “strong math decline/language arts decline leveling off” class was characterized by a higher math ability than the “strong math decline/language arts decline leveling off” profile. The “strong math decline/language arts decline leveling off” class was associated with comparatively lower math/science-related career aspirations than the other two classes and higher human service-related career aspirations than the “stable math and language arts trajectories” profile.
These findings show that profiles in the trajectories of expectancies and values in math and language arts become more differentiated over the school years. These profiles were meaningfully associated with students’ characteristics and career aspirations, suggesting that trajectories in math and language arts should be considered jointly.