Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Middle-Secondary Education and Instructional Technology

First Advisor

Dr. Christine Thomas - Chair

Second Advisor

Dr. Jennifer Esposito

Third Advisor

Dr. Pier Junor Clarke

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Draga Vidakovic


An Exploratory Study of Mathematics Engagement of Secondary Students by Tracy Thomas Brown A large proportion of American students are not psychologically connected or engaged to what is occurring in their classes; in addition, they fail to take school seriously, have lost interest in school, and do not value or seek out success (Steinberg, Brown, & Dornbusch, 1996). In addition, the relationship in a mathematics classroom between schooling and engagement from the student’s perspective is not well known (Cothran & Ennis, 2000). The purpose of this study was to investigate engagement in order to describe students’ constructs of student engagement, their beliefs, attitudes, and values as they relate to engagement in secondary mathematics. Three broad questions guided this investigation: (a) What are students’ practices and beliefs concerning student engagement in the secondary mathematics classroom? (b) What are the patterns of engagement in the secondary mathematics classroom? (c) What are the interactions between the student in the secondary mathematics classroom and primary contexts that affect student engagement? Data were collected through behavioral observations, interviews, recent events, journals, and observer’s perceptions in this interpretive case study. Participants in this study were eleventh- and twelfth-grade high school students who were recruited from a high school in a rural community in the southeast United States. Data from the transcriptions of observations, interviews, researcher’s journal, and students’ journals were analyzed using a constant comparative and pattern-matching method using a tentative codebook. The codebook included: (a) themes derived from the affective, behavioral, and cognitive dimensions of student engagement; (b) contexts that affect student engagement; (c) properties of attribution theory; (d) the processes and sources of self-efficacy; and (e) factors that researchers have found that affect student engagement. Themes for each participant emerged from the data. A cross-case analysis was conducted. The cross-case themes were (a) moods, feelings, and/or physical conditions; (b) effort; (c) behavioral engagement, including attentiveness and help-seeking skills; and (d) approach to instruction. Findings from this study show that there are specific student practices, behaviors, and patterns that affect engagement. This study provides specific descriptions of these practices, behaviors, and patterns with respect to the influences on student engagement.

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