Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


College of Education and International Services


Educational Psychology, Ph.D.

First Advisor

Jimmy Kijai

Second Advisor

Elvin Gabriel

Third Advisor

Nadia Nosworthy


Purpose of the Study

This dissertation addressed two problems in the literature. Firstly, while many study findings have highlighted the critical role of self-efficacy in students' achievement, additional research was needed about the four hypothesized sources that influence the improvement of students' mathematics self-efficacy. Many studies on self-efficacy sources were conducted with measures not closely tied to social cognitive theory and have not demonstrated sufficient reliability. Using the Sources of Mathematics SelfEfficacy Scale, Usher and Pajares (2009) addressed this problem. They suggested several recommendations for future research (Usher & Pajares, 2008b, 2009), including exploring the validity of their scale in different contexts, examining changes in students' self-efficacy across significant transition periods, and clarifying gender differences in the sources of self-efficacy. The very first part of my dissertation addressed each of those recommendations. This scale was validated with pupils in Standards 4 and 5 (Grades 5-6) because this context has gained less attention in studying mathematics self-efficacy sources. Gender and other demographic differences in pupils' scores on the sources of Middle School Mathematics Self-Efficacy Scale were analyzed, and the independent contribution of each source to predicting mathematics self-efficacy.


Data were collected from 277 primary school students in four North Eastern Education District schools in Trinidad. Two survey instruments and a mathematics achievement test were used to gather the data. The surveys were analyzed through descriptive statistics, structural equation modeling (SEM), exploratory factor analysis, confirmatory factor analysis, and Pearson correlation coefficient statistical programs. Exploratory factor analysis on a content-specific mathematics skills self-efficacy scale showed a two-factor scale. The scale had content validity and acceptable reliability. A four-factor confirmatory factor model demonstrated the best fit for the SMMSE scale for the primary school samples. As predicted, mastery experience was the strongest predictor of mathematics skills self-efficacy. Slight or moderate differences were observed between gender and age groupings. The analysis results verified the factor structure of the Sources of Middle School Mathematics Self-Efficacy with a new primary school sample. Contrary to previous research, neither mathematics skills self-efficacy nor any of the sources of mathematics self-efficacy were statistically significant predictors of mathematics achievement.


Student perceptions of their ability to perform basic math operations were positive (M=3.74, SD=0.53). Student perceptions of using math concepts were also positive (M=3.2, SD=1.63). Pairwise comparison using the Bonferroni procedure suggested that 11-year-olds (M=16.79, SD=3.64) reported significantly higher mastery experience than 12-year-olds (M=14.88, SD=4.09) and 13-14-year olds (M=14.27, SD=3.67). A comparison of the means suggested that males (M=17.82, SD=4.83) reported significantly higher physiological states than females (M=15.05, SD=5.46). There were no statistically significant predictors of mathematics achievement.


This study demonstrated that the surveys for mathematics skills self-efficacy and the Sources of Middle School Mathematics Self-Efficacy scale could be considered valid and reliable measures of those concepts among a Trinidad primary school population. Previously, research on the sources of mathematics self-efficacy focused on middle school students in the United States. This structural equation modeling found neither mathematics skills self-efficacy nor any of the sources of self-efficacy were statistically significant in predicting mathematics achievement among the primary school sample. These findings substantially contribute to the knowledge of mathematics achievement among primary school students in Trinidad and Tobago.

Subject Area

Mathematics--Study and teaching (Primary)--Trinidad and Tobago; Self-efficacy

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