School environmental factors and mathematics teaching effectiveness: implication for e-learning.

Author:Amoo, Sikiru A.
 
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Introduction

The origin of mathematics as a core subject in secondary school system may have been an attempt by the policy makers to solve certain quantitative problems of human's daily life. Today, the importance of mathematics permeates all aspects of human endeavour (Ilori, 2003). Mathematics as the queen of science cannot be completely separated from sciences because of its applications to physical sciences. Increasingly, applicants for the best employment opportunities will need a good grasp of science, mathematics, and computer technology. However, the societal values and views about its importance among the school subjects have not been fully explored. Why this is so, and what can be done to increase their achievement, are important educational concerns now. Successful attempts to teach mathematics effectively have been made recently, and a range of educational policies, programmes, school effectiveness and methods for effective instruction have been identified (Oyedeji, 2000; Adewale and Amoo, 2004).

The recent push for accountability based on students' achievement, by means of standardized testing, has resulted in the realization that students are not performing as well as expected in spite of the huge amount being expended to improve infrastructure, retraining teachers and raising the status of the teaching profession (Amoo, 2011). This gap is even more pronounced in the area of mathematics. Many factors contribute to poor performance on students' achievement. Among these are family values and climate, school environment, teachers' factors, society's view about mathematics, peer pressure, and test -taking anxiety. At another dimension, students' judgment of their capability to accomplish a task or succeed in an activity, or self-efficacy, is a key factor. Self-efficacy beliefs help determine how much effort a student will expend and how much stress and anxiety they will experience as they engage on a task. Teacher efficacy beliefs, a teacher's perception of how effectively they can affect student learning, have also been found to have a great impact on their self-efficacy, and therefore the achievement of their students. In as much as we want to remediate the problems facing the teaching and learning of mathematics, such factors like teachers' characteristics, their teaching effectiveness and school environmental factors that promote teaching effectiveness are important.

On the other hand Adewale (2010) states that one of the measures of school effectiveness that has stood the test of time is student's achievement. There seems to be a relationship between school effectiveness and school quality. The studies of Farombi, (1998); Onwuakpa, (1998) and Fabayo (1999) deal with school quality. While school quality is looking at the level of material inputs allocated to schools on a per pupil level and the level of efficiency with which fixed amounts of material inputs are organized and managed to raise students' achievement (Fuller, 1986). School effectiveness is interested in such variables as: instructional leadership provided by the school head, curriculum - learning objectives, learning activities, and achievement measures (Adewale 2004). Others are monitoring of pupils and pupils attendance, discipline and school climate, expectations for quality work supported by staff and pupils, existence of school and community partnership programmes. However, the indicator of school effectiveness that is so obvious to the society is the product of schooling, (that is, the achievement level of the students in examinations). If a school produces students with high grades, the school is often tagged effective while a school that cannot turn out students with high grade may be regarded as an ineffective one.

It appears that definition of school effectiveness is a complex task, one which should be expressed in terms of qualitative variables (school climate, instructional leadership, high expectations, etc.) as well as quantitative variables (achievement scores). The different methods used to measure school effectiveness can be analyzed along four basic dimensions: (1) level of aggregation; (2) criteria of effectiveness; (3) time frame of analysis; and (4) population. The patterns that have emerged in studying schools as complex social systems reveal a set of distinct characteristics in high-achieving schools. These factors include: (1) strong administrative leadership, particularly in the area of curriculum and instruction; (2) an orderly, safe environment conducive to learning; (3) a pervasive and broadly understood instructional focus emphasizing a commitment to basic skills; (4) teacher behaviours that convey the expectation that all students must obtain at least minimum mastery; and pupil achievement as the basis of programme evaluation. If our children are to achieve levels of productivity, citizenship, and personal comfort that exceed our own, they will have to be better educated. Much of that improved education must be provided in schools through a teacher's guidance. Therefore, our schools must become more effective to be able to carry out these functions (Owen, 2004).

School effectiveness researchers' aim is to ascertain whether differences in resources, processes and organizational arrangements affect student outcomes, and if so in what way. Most educators would agree with Leithwood, Jantz & Steinbach (1999) when they concluded that conceptualizing effectiveness in terms of standardized achievement test scores was too narrow because it ignored all the effects of schooling, and the wider range of cognitive and affective variables that were essential outcomes of school effectiveness but could not be reflected by a test score. It is argued in another way that while the above observation is true, the reality of the politics of schooling demands a tangible measure that can be looked at comparatively and until more measures are ascribed to other desirable outcomes of schooling, and assessment of the psychometric properties of those outcomes are in place, students' achievement and competences would remain the yardstick by which schools are judged effective. Additionally, some variables such as: teachers' characteristics and school environmental factors have been reported to have impact on students' achievement (Amoo, 2000)

Much of the research into mathematics education in recent years has been driven by concerns about students' achievement in mathematics. In response to these concerns there has been a refocusing of attention...

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