The effect of Learner Autonomy on student performance in GCSE Mathematics in a private school in Dubai, U.A.E.

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The British University in Dubai (BUiD)
The teaching, learning and assessment of Mathematics has become a cause of concern from educational stakeholders the world over. One of the main causes of concern is that student’s around the globe are underperforming in Mathematics assessments. According to the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) Mathematics assessment in 2009, just 30.7% of participating countries were above the international benchmark mean expectation. One of the roots of this underperformance in mathematics is based on students’ maths anxiety, which is akin to an unwanted feeling by students towards mathematical problems. A possible method of reducing students’ maths anxiety is for them to become more autonomous with their own learning and have a higher sense of self efficacy. Learner autonomy is a concept mainly found in an ELT context, and at its core were concepts that could be applicable to a mathematics context. The impact of learner autonomy on student’s performance in a GCSE Mathematics exam was investigated in this study. The study took place in a private school in Dubai, United Arab Emirates over a four month period. Students participated in Yellis assessment at the beginning of Grade 10 that predicted their performance in their GCSE examinations. Data collected in this study was a combination of both qualitative and quantitative data, gathered from three questionnaires given to the participants. Additionally a statistical analysis was undertaken comparing Yellis baseline predictions, students own predictions and actual GCSE performance. The findings suggest that improved autonomous learning by students improved their performance in GCSE Mathematics. The students had become more reflective on their own learning, set realistic targets for themselves, could identify different learning strategies and became more responsible for their learning. The findings also showed that students own predictions were closer to actual performance than the Yellis baseline predictions. The study recommends that core aspects of learner autonomy be implemented into a learners’ educational life earlier and the need for a student centred curriculum be implemented, similar to the International Primary Curriculum (IPC) currently in existence. The study also recommends the further investigation into the role of teacher autonomy impacting on learner autonomy.
student performance, mathematics, maths self efficacy, learner autonomy, GCSE mathematics, Yellis, maths anxiety