Is the self-efficacy of maths teachers related to teaching competency?

Is the self-efficacy of maths teachers related to teaching competency?

The role of teachers is one of the essential elements that ensure the proper functioning of the education system and the world for students’ benefit.  In addition to guiding them academically, teachers can influence children’s future, making them better human beings. A teacher can instill content knowledge, life skills, good dispositions, traditional values, and modern-day issues to students.

Teaching mathematics goes beyond the knowledge capacity of teachers and pre-service teachers. In other words, equipping students with different 21st-century skills and attitudes is the main goal of teaching mathematics, rather than transferring content knowledge. The confidence teachers have in their planning and implementation skills affects their teaching and learning objectives in online education. A number of problems can arise in the classroom if the teacher is lacking in confidence. A teacher may have comprehensive mathematical knowledge and skills yet have low self-confidence while lecturing. They may not be able to use their expertise and abilities adequately in the classroom teaching process, leading them to perform their profession poorly. The self-confidence of the teacher is important in terms of providing more effective teaching to their students.

 What is the meaning of maths self-efficacy?

As defined by Bandura (1997), mathematics self-efficacy is one’s beliefs or perceptions concerning their abilities in mathematics education. Mathematics self-efficacy is operationalized as a belief which should be internalized by teachers and pre-service teachers. On the other hand, teaching competencies can be defined as the knowledge and skills that they must perform in their profession effectively and efficiently. Without sufficient knowledge, enthusiasm, and self-efficacy in these areas, it is unlikely that future elementary teachers will be able to provide effective instruction (Battista 1986; Stevens & Wenner, 1996; Tosun, 2000).

Mathematics self-efficacy is different from teachers’ mathematics competencies. Teacher competencies refer to a teacher’s professional knowledge and expertise, while teacher self-efficacy is tied to a more general concept. Teacher self-efficacy is more than having technical experience and skills; it also includes confidence that one has in putting this knowledge and competencies into practice. Having this confidence helps to provide an effective teaching environment in the classroom and to manage the negativities that may be encountered in classroom management by strengthening the student-teacher relationship. Gavora (2010) pointed out that a teacher’s high self-efficacy enables them to use their professional knowledge and skills successfully. Students learn more from teachers who have high self-efficacy (Zuya et al., 2016).

In line with Küçükalioğlu and Tuluk (2021), mathematics teachers with high self-efficacy were observed to have a positive effect on students’ mathematical achievement. Therefore, the self-efficacy of mathematics teachers seems to be the determining factor in their way of teaching and behaviour in class. According to Bandura (1995), teachers with low self-efficacy tend to create an environment that has an adverse effect on students’ mathematical achievement. I would add that if a teacher does not attend their lesson prepared for the misconceptions about the related content that students may encounter, they may not notice the student’s current misconception, which may lead to the student’s learning based on faulty thinking and understanding.

The association between mathematics education, self-efficacy, and teaching competency

The question of how the mathematics competencies and self-efficacy of teacher candidates who grew up with technological advancements (i.e. the flipped learning approach) have been a matter of curiosity. What are the teaching competencies and self-efficacy of elementary mathematics pre-service teachers in teacher education at a foundation university?

When we look at the studies carried out to date in general, we can say that most of the studies (e.g., Çakıroğlu & Işıksal (2009); Gülten (2013)) examining the variables focused on gender, age, and grade level were conducted on pre-service teachers and teachers as study groups. Reviewing the previous studies, we observed that most of them were carried out in state universities, and that teacher education programs involved preservice mathematics teachers who were exposed to insufficient practicum. Having analyzed the literature, there was no research carried out on pre-service teachers who have been educated in a foundation university in Istanbul!

 Considering that practicum courses attended by freshmen years were intensively included in the internship in order to improve pre-service teachers’ mathematics self-efficacy and mathematics teaching competencies, examining the relationship between mathematics self-efficacy and mathematics teaching competencies aims to bring a different perspective to the related literature.

Our research into self-efficacy and mathematics

We conducted a study with second, third, and fourth-grade teacher candidates at the department of Middle School Mathematics Teaching at MEF University in Istanbul, Turkey, in the 2021-2022 academic year. When we analyze the scores obtained through the questionnaires (Özgen & Bindak, 2008 for self-efficacy;  Esendemir et al., 2015 for teaching competency), we can say that the self-efficacy of pre-service mathematics teachers is higher than their competence in teaching mathematics. There is a relationship between pre-service mathematics teachers’ mathematics self-efficacy and mathematics teaching competency. The results revealed that there is a statistically significant and positive relationship between the pre-service mathematics teachers’ self-efficacy and their teaching competencies. This result means that as mathematics teacher candidates’ teaching competencies increase, their self-efficacy also increases (Check for the full manuscript of the graduation thesis).


We mentioned that instructors have responsibilities such as educating learners, conveying their knowledge, guiding students’ futures, and preparing learners for life. We have proven that the effective provision of this environment is related to teachers’ self-efficacy and mathematics teaching competencies. So, what can we do to create this environment?
We suggest that various activities and practices related to self-efficacy beliefs and teaching competency should be included in teacher training programs so that teacher candidates can use their teaching skills effectively in the classroom. So, what various activities can encourage the efficient use of our skills in the classroom? For example, it may be beneficial for pre-service teachers to create awareness by preparing a presentation on mathematics teaching competency, especially for the “Methods” course, which is one of the field courses, before starting their professional life.
In order to increase the awareness level of elementary school mathematics teacher candidates studying in education faculties, seminars can be organized about the perception of mathematics self-efficacy and mathematics teaching competency as an important factor in success.                   

Key Messages

  • Teachers’ self-confidence and self-efficacy skills are significant factors in providing more effective teaching to their students.
  • Pre-service mathematics teachers’ self-efficacy was higher than their mathematics teaching competencies.
  • Mathematics teachers’ self-efficacy seems to be the determining factor in their teaching styles and behaviour in the classroom and affects their teaching quality.
  • There was a significant and positive relationship between the pre-service mathematics teachers’ self-efficacy and their teaching competencies.
  • Teachers’ self-efficacy and teaching competencies should be sufficient for teaching in order for them to begin their professional careers properly.

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Büşra Uysal

Büşra Uysal

Büşra Uysal is a mathematics teacher. She graduated from MEF University, Istanbul. She gained teaching experience in both systems including face-to-face and online systems intensively. She received a Mentoring Certificate (2020-2021) and has been a supervisor for university students. In the scope of the “University within School” project, she did tutoring lessons with students. Her professional interests are to provide students with mathematical thinking skills and to create effective classroom environments where students can discover information and share their ideas freely.

She worked as a volunteer teacher at the Youth Education Center (Sarıyer Gençlik Eğitim Merkezi, Istanbul) within the “Social Responsibility Project” scope. In 2022, she conducted research on Pre-service Elementary Teachers’ Self-Efficacy for Teaching Mathematics & Teaching  Competency and presented at MEF University International Educational Sciences Student Conference (MEFEDUCON, 2022)

Dr Bengi Birgili

Dr Bengi Birgili

Research Assistant in the Mathematics Education Department at MEF University, Istanbul.

Dr Birgili is a research assistant in the Mathematics Education Department at MEF University, Istanbul. She experienced in research at the University of Vienna. Her research interests focus on curriculum development and evaluation, instructional design, in-class assessment. She received the Emerging Researchers Bursary Winners award at ECER 2017 for her paper titled “A Metacognitive Perspective to Open-Ended Questions vs. Multiple-Choice.”

In 2020, a co-authored research became one of the four accepted studies among Early-Career Scholars awarded by the International Testing Commission (ITC) Young Scholar Committee in the UK [Postponed to 2021 Colloquium due to COVID-19].

In Jan 2020, she completed the Elements of AI certification offered by the University of Helsinki.


Twitter: @bengibirgili




References and Further Reading

Bandura, A. (1995). Self-efficacy in changing societies.

Bandura, A. (1997). Self-efficacy: The exercise of control. Freeman and Company Press.

Battista, M. T. (1986). The relationship of mathematics anxiety and mathematical knowledge to the learning of mathematical pedagogy by preservice elementary teachers. School Science and Mathematics, 86(1), 10–19. 

Çakıroğlu, E., & Işıksal, M. (2009). Preservice elementary teachers’ attitudes and self-efficacy beliefs toward mathematics. Education and Science, 34, 151.

Esendemir, Ö., Çırak, S., & Samancıoglu, M. (2015). Pre-service elementary math teachers’ opinions about mathematics teaching competencies. Gaziantep University Journal of Social Sciences, 14(1), 217–239.

Gavora, P. (2010). Slovak pre-service teacher self-efficacy: Theoretical and research considerations. The New Educational Review, 21(2), 17–30. 

Gülten, D. Ç. (2013). An investigation of pre-service primary mathematics teachers’ math literacy self-efficacy beliefs in terms of certain variables. International Online Journal of Educational Sciences, 5(2), 393–408. 

Küçükalioğlu, T., & Tuluk, G. (2021). The effect of mathematics teachers’ self-efficacy and leadership styles on students’ mathematical achievement and attitudes. Athens Journal of Education, 8(3), 221–238. 

Özgen, K., & Bindak, R. (2008). The development of a self-efficacy scale for mathematics literacy. Kastamonu Education Journal, 16(2), 517–528.

Stevens, C., & Wenner, G. (1996). Elementary preservice teachers’ knowledge and beliefs regarding science and mathematics. School Science and Mathematics, 96(1), 2–9. 

Tosun, T. (2000). The beliefs of preservice elementary teachers toward science and science teaching. School Science and Mathematics, 100(7), 374–379.

Zuya, H, E., Kwalat, S, K., & Attah, B, G. (2016). Pre-service teachers’ mathematics self-efficacy and mathematics teaching self-efficacy. Journal of Education and Practice, 7(14), 93–98. 

Translating across words, paradigms, and traditions of education 

Translating across words, paradigms, and traditions of education 

EERA is delighted and honoured to be partnering with the Global Educational Network in Europe (GENE) to make significant research funds available to our members to further research the area of global education. We asked the recipients of the Global Education Award 2020/21 to share their research with the broader EERA community.  

 At the beginning of 2021, the two authors of this blog, along with Finnish colleagues Inkeri Rissanen and Katri Jokikokko, received a Global Education Award from the GENE network. With this award, they promised to do something they were all passionate about: Explore teacher students’ implicit knowledge in issues related to global education and consider how teachers’ beliefs might play out in their future work as teachers.

As we write this blog a year after receiving the award, we are deeply immersed in data analysis in Bamberg, Germany, where Mervi is visiting Susanne. While delving into the data, we try to see if we can find harmony within the diversity of Finnish and German teacher students’ thoughts. Yet we find that we must also create harmony in our research practices, translating not only data in three languages but also our own implicit understandings of the educational traditions and research paradigms we may take for granted.

In our research, 32 Finnish and 35 German preservice teachers discussed issues related to diversity, culture, and change. All of the students had participated in a course focusing on these issues, and we hoped this shared experience would re-activate their common orientations. The groups conversed in three languages, Finnish, English, German, depending on the language of instruction of their course.

 Our method, documentary analysis (Bohnsack, 2010), requires us not only to understand the literal meaning of words but go beyond it and understand the values behind words. This proved rather difficult to do in a group in which none of us spoke all three of the required languages. For less critical sections of the transcripts, we used transcription software. For crucial parts of our research, we hired professional translators. The software, trying to be helpful, created words that looked Finnish but made no sense. We were able to remove this nonsense with a lot of manual revision and discussions, but the trickier task was to translate the context-specific understanding behind the words.

Translation beyond words

Our analysis focused on concepts such as culture, diversity, or change, all loaded with meaning. For example, instead of translating the term diversity, Germans use the English word, but as a strictly normative concept, meaning plurality is a good thing. In Finnish, diversity can be translated as moninaisuus, but it has not yet found its way into natural everyday conversation. So, it is not surprising that it could rarely be found in the preservice teachers’ discussions. The fact that some terms are missing could be a methodological challenge: how can the students talk without these particular words? However, with the documentary method, it was not: after rounds and rounds of analysis and abduction, the discussions revealed the students’ orientations towards diversity without the word even being mentioned.

Translation beyond paradigms

The need to translate went beyond needing to agree on the literal meaning of words. We also had to translate our practices as researchers, making them compatible. Susanne works within a reconstructive paradigm, focusing on language. Mervi is most at home within participatory paradigms, with the analytical focus on practice. We soon found out that our attention points in the same direction, trying to find educational practices that can respond to the needs of the changing world; we just use slightly different lenses.

Translation beyond traditions of education

Finally, perhaps most interestingly, we translated our understandings across slightly different educational traditions. We share an interest in global education, but explicating what we mean by education, Bildung or kasvatus, was a fascinating task. The Finnish kasvatus and German Bildung are both complex terms describing educational processes and practices which are impossible to simply translate into English. We came to an agreement that Bildung is in line with our understanding of global education: it refers to the processes in which an individual acquires the needed skills and knowledge for individual growth and character formation (on an individual level), while also learning to be an active and critical member of their community (on a social level) to open up new possibilities for individual and shared lives (Kaukko, et al. 2020).

Experimenting with new research methods required us to problematise some of the ways of working we might take for granted. Multilinguality pushed us to scrutinise our understanding of some of the words we work with. Only working in and through English would have left some of the nuances in the shadows. All the steps pointed out very clearly that we need humans for all this as software cannot do this. Moreover, all these steps pushed us to consider the dimensions of global education in our own work. It is not enough to say that our research is framed within global education. We need to shape our research practices accordingly, so that we genuinely try to see the issues from another point of view.

A global education lens also requires us to reconsider our own responsibilities as researchers: What can we as educational researchers do to “open people’s eyes and minds to the realities of the world, and awaken them to bring about a world of greater justice, equity and human rights for all”? (Maastricht Global Education Declaration, 2002, see also 2018; Scheunpflug, 2021) A deeper understanding of the beliefs and orientations of preservice teachers, which could help us develop better, fairer, and more sustainable teacher education, is one way to pursue this.

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Blog Authors

Dr Mervi Kaukko

Dr Mervi Kaukko

Associate Professor in Multicultural Education, Tampere University, Finland

Dr Mervi Kaukko works as associate professor in multicultural education in Tampere University, Finland. She was previously a lecturer at Monash University, Australia and Oulu University, Finland. Her interests include global education, refugee/migration studies, participatory methodogies and practice theories.

Dr Susanne Timm

Dr Susanne Timm

Research Assistant, Otto-Friedrich-University, Bamberg

Dr Susanne Timm worked as a research assistant at the University in Göttingen, Frankfurt, Hamburg, and is currently at Otto-Friedrich-Universität in Bamberg. Her special interests are comparative and intercultural education. During the last years, Dr Timm has carried out a qualitative study on culture in teacher education while focusing more and more on global education.

GENE Awards

EERA is delighted and honoured to be partnering with the Global Educational Network in Europe (GENE) to make significant research funds available to our members to further research in the area of global education.

These research awards are funded by Global Education Network Europe (GENE), the European network of Ministries and Agencies with national responsibility for policymaking, funding, and support in the field of Global Education. For this reason, the subject area for research projects undertaken is that of Global Education.

The purpose of the award is to support quality research around the themes outlined here  – which have been identified as of interest to policymakers. Gathering of existing research, application of existing research from other areas of education to Global Education, follow-up studies, all are perfectly acceptable. It is not expected that the research has to draw policy conclusions – but to make available up-to-date, policy-relevant research from which policymaker can draw their own conclusions.

References and Further Reading

Bohnsack, R. (2010). Documentary method and group discussions. In R. Bohnsack, N. Pfaff, & W. Weller (eds.),Qualitative analysis and documentary method in international educational research (p. 99-124). Barbara Budrich.

Kaukko, M., Francisco, S., Mahon, K. (2020) Education in a world worth living in. In Mahon, K., Francisco, S., Edwards-Groves, C., Kaukko, M., Kemmis, S., and Kirsten P. (eds). Pedagogy, Education and Praxis in Critical Times. Springer, 1-13. 

Maastricht Global Education Declaration (2002) A European Strategy Framework for Improving and Increasing Global Education in Europe to the Year 2015. Dublin: GENE.

Scheunpflug, A. (2021). Global learning: Educational research in an emerging field. European Education Research Journal, 20(1), 3-13.