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Non-cognitive skills and Singaporean students: International comparisons
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Paper presented at the 4th Redesigning Pedagogy International Conference, Singapore, 30 May to 1 June 2011
The search for reliable non-cognitive predictors of academic achievement has identified domain-specific self-constructs such as self-efficacy and self-concept to be among those that are important (Lee, 2010). Students who are aware of their limits may be motivated to work harder, and students who believe they will be able to master future work will be motivated to persevere even when they find the work difficult. Most research in this field comes from Western Anglo countries, which are individualist in orientation, and it is not known how applicable it is to the (collectivist) Singapore context. This paper will present the results from two studies investigating non-cognitive variables and mathematics achievement in Singapore schools, exploring these and related constructs including mathematics anxiety, general anxiety, personality, and attributions for success. The study will introduce the idea of confidence as being conceptually distinct from both cognitive ability and personality and yet related to both - to educational research, and demonstrate that it is a better predictor of achievement than self-efficacy. This may be because confidence measurement requires students to evaluate (rate their confidence that they gave the correct answer) performance on problems just solved; ratings of self-efficacy on the other hand only ask students to rate their confidence that they could solve some future problem, without requiring them to evaluate their actual performance. Thus, confidence ratings are more evaluative and cognitive, and indicate metacognitive monitoring. Generally there is a very close match between Singaporean students’ mathematics performance and their confidence in their mathematics performance, and this relationship appears strongest among students who are more readiness. Building on the basis that the students’ non-cognitive profiles differ among the various courses of study, educators can use this information to maximize learning outcomes within a holistic education framework. Finally, the investigation of other psychological outcomes such as depression and anxiety may provide alternative perspectives in adopting diverse pathways in motivating learning and inspiring excellence for all students.
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