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Project Details
Funding Scheme : General Research Fund
Project Number : 14618118
Project Title(English) : A Longitudinal Investigation on Student Engagement in Mathematics in Chinese Higher Education Institutions from Multiple Perspectives 
Project Title(Chinese) : 多元視角下中國高校學生數學學習投入的縱向研究 
Principal Investigator(English) : Prof Yin, Hong-biao 
Principal Investigator(Chinese) : 尹弘飈 
Department : Dept of Curriculum & Instruction
Institution : The Chinese University of Hong Kong
E-mail Address : yinhb@cuhk.edu.hk 
Tel : 39431213 
Co - Investigator(s) :
Dr Chen, Gao-wei
Dr Han, Jiying
Prof Lai, Man-hong
Prof Lu , Genshu
Prof Macfarlane, Bruce
Dr Yang, Min
Panel : Humanities, Social Sciences
Subject Area : Education
Exercise Year : 2018 / 19
Fund Approved : 340,676
Project Status : Completed
Completion Date : 30-6-2021
Project Objectives :
What are the characteristics of students’ behavioral, emotional and cognitive engagement in mathematics in Chinese HEIs?
What are the effects of student engagement on their cognitive and affective learning outcomes in mathematics?
What are the roles of personal, classroom and institutional factors in influencing student engagement in mathematics?
How do student engagement in mathematics and its relationships with classroom environment, institutional characteristics and learning outcomes change over time?
What are the roles of Chinese cultural contexts in motivating, maintaining and transforming student engagement in mathematics?
Abstract as per original application
(English/Chinese):

Realisation of objectives: 1. This first objective has been perfectly realized in the project. As revealed in the results of the project, students' profile of motivation and engagement demonstrated that there was a notable decrease in the scores from adaptive to maladaptive factors of students' cognitive, emotional, and behavioral engagement, echoing the characteristics of engaged learners suggested by researcher in general. Meanwhile, there were significant differences in student engagement between groups with various demographic characteristics and types of learners. For example, students at research-oriented universities scored significantly higher than their counterparts at teaching-oriented universities. Male students scored significantly lower on adaptive motivation and adaptive engagement, but significantly higher on maladaptive motivation and maladaptive engagement (e.g., Yin, 2022). 2. This second objective has been perfectly achieved in the project. As revealed in the research outcomes of the project, there were various types learners who had distinctive characteristics in terms of their motivation and engagement (e.g., Tian et al., 2021; Yin, 2022). In addition, our results showed that students who engaged more in face-to-face synchronous interactions yielded greater positive effects on student learning and had significant gains on all the constructs of academic learning outcomes and development. As for students' perceived learning environments, face-to-face synchronous interactions were supportive to increase the level of teacher academic assistance. Moreover, it contributed to shaping an interpersonally connected and cognitively aroused environment in terms of teacher affective support, peer collaboration, students' feeling of belonging, and teachers emphasizing creativity. It was also positively associated with both the academic and nonacademic outcomes. In contrast, the engagement in online asynchronous interactions were more helpful for motivating students cognitively, as indicated by its relationship with teachers' academic assistance and emphasizing creativity. However, it had a minimum or even no effect on the social aspects of the learning environment (Yin & Shi, 2022). 3. The third objective has been perfectly fulfilled in the project. The results of the project revealed that personal, classroom, and institutional factors played significant roles in influencing student motivation and engagement in mathematics. For personal factors, the results showed that students' perceptions of the difficulty of learning mathematics promoted their fragmented conceptions of mathematics, while at the same time demotivating their cohesive conceptions, academic efficacy as well as mathematics grade (Yin et al., 2020). Moreover, gender was significantly related to students' motivation, engagement, and satisfaction with their learning. For example, male students scored significantly lower on adaptive motivation and adaptive engagement, but significantly higher on maladaptive motivation and maladaptive engagement (Yin 2022). Meanwhile, female students were more satisfied with their online learning experiences during the COVID-19 (Yin et al., 2022). Classroom environments were significantly related to students' beliefs of mathematics learning and mathematics achievement. As indicated in the results of the project, students' perceptions of the classroom environments characterized by teacher support, student autonomy, cooperation among students, and classroom discipline positively predicted their cohesive conceptions of mathematics and academic efficacy in mathematics, and were weakly associated with their fragmented conceptions of mathematics. Furthermore, the results displayed significant positive mediation effects on paths from students' perceptions of classroom environments to their mathematics achievement via academic efficacy and via both cohesive conceptions and academic efficacy (Yin et al., 2020). Institutional factors played different roles in influencing students' perceptions of learning environments at the programme level and student engagement at the individual level. On the one hand, university type (teaching- or research-oriented universities) was not significantly related to students' perceptions of programme-level learning environments, but students in research-oriented universities were more satisfied with their learning experiences during the COVID-19 (Yin et al., 2022). On the other hand, under the context of online learning during the COVID-19, the advantage of students from research-oriented universities disappeared. There was no significant main difference between students from research and teaching-oriented universities on adaptive motivation, adaptive engagement or maladaptive motivation. Moreover, students from research-oriented universities scored higher than those from teaching-oriented universities on maladaptive engagement (Yin, 2022). In addition, teachers' perceived characteristics of the university environments, such as job demands and resources, stress from organizational inadequacy and new challenges of technologies, were significantly associated with self-efficacy to teach, which further influenced their commitment and well-being (Han et al., 2020; Huang et al., 2022; Lin et al., 2020; Yin et al., 2020). 4. For the fourth objective, influence by the COVID-19 pandemic, all universities in China changed to online teaching in early February 2020. This sudden and dramatic change of learning mode brought tremendous challenges to the project which strived for a longitudinal study on student engagement in mathematics learning. However, we overcome the difficulties through various means and collected data at different time points and situations to address this objective. The fourth objective has been satisfactorily realized in the project. Our results indicated that university students' prior experiences of mathematics learning during their secondary education had a prolonged impact on their engagement in university mathematics learning. Emotions and affects played important roles in different stages of mathematics problem solving consisting of understanding, planning, enacting, and evaluating (Fu & Yin, 2021; Lin et al., 2020), which highlights the significance to comprehensively cultivate student engagement from multiple dimensions. Moreover, the changes of learning and teaching mode before and during the COVID-19made a difference in student engagement. The results showed that students from research-oriented universities were more engaged in face-to-face learning contexts than those from teaching-oriented universities. However, the advantage of students from research-oriented universities in terms of motivation and engagement disappeared during the COVID-19 due to the adoption of online learning. In addition, although in the online teaching mode, the number of 'adaptive learners' increased, the adoption of online teaching mode during the COVID-19 also led to a small group of 'extremely maladaptive learners' in university learning. (Yin, 2022) 5. The fifth objective has been perfectly fulfilled in the project. The cultural contexts in Chinasignificantly influenced these students' motivation, engagement, and achievement in mathematics learning. The unique features of Chinese mathematics classrooms have led to various debates. As indicated by our results, mathematics classrooms in Chinese universities feature high teacher support and frequent teacher-student and student-student interactions, Chinese students, in some sense, tend to be obedient and appear to be passive learners, which is quite consistent with the 'Chinese learners' paradox' (Lin et al., 2020; Yin et al., 2020). Our research outcomes tend to suggest that the Chinese cultural model of learning —haoxuexin, referring to 'the heart and mind for wanting to learn' — learning is a lifelong process of self-perfection for Chinese students, which requires them to study hard regardless of obstacles. In the Chinese haoxuexin ideal, poor learning is associated with some painful, depressing experiences, but these negative emotions do not necessarily lead to a retreat from learning. Instead, a desire to learn in order to make up for one's inadequacies usually comes from the negative affect, and the focus is 'on the positive course of action under way' after the negative affect. In view of this cultural model of learning, the underlying cultural beliefs held by Chinese university students may account for the characteristics of their motivation and engagement in learning (Yin, 2020).
Summary of objectives addressed:
Objectives Addressed Percentage achieved
1.What are the characteristics of students' behavioral, emotional and cognitive engagement in mathematics in Chinese HEIs?Yes100%
2.What are the effects of student engagement on their cognitive and affective learning outcomes in mathematics?Yes100%
3.What are the roles of personal, classroom and institutional factors in influencing student engagement in mathematics?Yes100%
4.How do student engagement in mathematics and its relationships with classroom environment, institutional characteristics and learning outcomes change over time?Yes100%
5.What are the roles of Chinese cultural contexts in motivating, maintaining and transforming student engagement in mathematics?Yes100%
Research Outcome
Major findings and research outcome: 1. Students' perceptions of mathematics classroom environment were associated with both affective and cognitive mathematics outcomes, which was mediated by students' mathematics beliefs consisting of conceptions of mathematics and academic efficacy in mathematics learning. Specifically, a desirable classroom environment was related to students' cohesive conceptions, enhanced self-efficacy, and higher mathematics achievement. In contrast, students' perceived difficulty of learning mathematics was connected to their fragmented conceptions, reduced self-efficacy and lower mathematics achievement (Yin, Shi, Tam, & Lu, 2020). 2. Student engagement in two types of interactions (face-to-face vs. online) had different effects on their learning and development. The face-to-face synchronous interaction generated more desirable academic learning, perceptions of the learning environment, and higher satisfaction than the online asynchronous interaction in most aspects. However, the asynchronous online interaction fostered student autonomy and contributed to students' completion of an in-depth thesis (Yin & Shi, 2022). 3. University students varied in their types of motivation and engagement in different learning contexts. Before the COVID-19, there were four types of learners among these students: ‘active interactors’, ‘realistic interactors’, ‘digital interactors’, and ‘passive interactor’ (Yin & Shi, 2022). In contrast, another four types of learners emerged in the context of online learning during the COVID-19: ‘adaptive learners’, ‘engaged but maladaptive learners’, ‘moderately maladaptive learners’, and ‘extremely maladaptive learners’ (Yin, 2022). For international students studying in Chinese universities, three types of learners (i.e., actively engaged, insufficiently engaged, and passively engaged) were differentiated (Tian, Lu, Li, & Yin, 2021). 4. Institutional and cultural contexts influenced student engagement. Specifically, students in research-oriented universities held a more favorable views of their efficacy in completing academic tasks (Yin, Lu, & Meng, 2022). Although students from research-oriented universities performed better in motivation engagement, this advantage disappeared in online learning during the COVID-19 (Yin, 2022). In addition, the underlying cultural beliefs held by Chinese students may account for the characteristics of their motivation and engagement in mathematics learning (Yin, 2020, 2021; Yin, Shi, Tam, & Lu, 2020). 5. Teacher matters in students' mathematics learning. Teachers’ perceived stress from organizational inadequacy and new challenges were negatively associated with self-efficacy (Yin, Han, & Perron, 2020). Teachers' self-efficacy mediated the effect of challenge job demands and job resources on work engagement (Han, Yin, Wang, & Bai, 2020). Teachers' technological pedagogical content knowledge contributed to their satisfaction with teaching experiences, which was moderated by faculty members’ work engagement and mediated by their self-efficacy (Huang, Yin, Jin, & Wang, 2022).
Potential for further development of the research
and the proposed course of action:
The project elicits two directions worthy of further research in future: First, our project focuses on student engagement in mathematics learning in universities in mainland China. The findings have endorsed the importance of contextual factor at different levels such as classroom, institution, and sociocultural traditions. Considering the similarities (the dominant proportion of Chinese students, the importance attached to education, and students' outstanding performance in mathematics in schools) and difference between mainland China universities and those in Hong Kong, for example, different teaching languages at the classroom level, different management styles at the institution level, and the fusion of East and West academic traditions in Hong Kong, some comparative research on student engagement in mainland China versus Hong Kong universities will be meaningful and insightful. Second, the COVID-19 pandemic heavily influenced the implementation of this longitudinal study, which made the trace of participants and comparison between individual students difficult. However, it also brought some new ideas in deepening this research topic. Future research on student engagement in mathematics or other disciplines are advised to take into consideration the adoption of educational technologies such as hybrid learning and virtual reality, because our findings have revealed that student engagement in different learning contexts varied.
Layman's Summary of
Completion Report:
To reveal the complexities of student engagement in university learning, the project examined university student engagement in mathematics learning and its transformation from multiple angles, including behavioral, psychological and socio-cultural perspectives. The findings revealed different types of learners who had distinctive characteristics in terms of their motivation and engagement. Students' variation in their motivation and engagement further influenced their cognitive and affective mathematics achievement. Meanwhile, the contextual factors at the classroom, institutional, and sociocultural levels were closed related to university students' engagement in and approaches to mathematics learning which were subject to the changes in the learning contexts and educational stages. This is one of the first group of attempts to investigate university student engagement from multiple perspectives. The findings are meaningful for the development of theoretical understandings of student engagement research and the improvement of mathematics learning in university teaching. Theoretically, the project endorses the importance for adopt a comprehensive, situational, and dynamic perspective of student engagement. Practically, the findings of the project highlight the significance of creating a supportive classroom environment, enhancing teachers? self-efficacy and desirable conceptions of mathematics, and promoting beneficial faculty-student interaction and Chinese cultural beliefs in motivating and sustaining university student engagement in mathematics learning.
Research Output
Peer-reviewed journal publication(s)
arising directly from this research project :
(* denotes the corresponding author)
Year of
Publication
Author(s) Title and Journal/Book Accessible from Institution Repository
2020 Hongbiao Yin, Jiying Han*, Brian E. Perron  Why are Chinese university teachers (not) confident in their competence to teach? The relationships between faculty-perceived stress and self-efficacy.  No 
2020 Hongbiao Yin*, Lian Shi, Winnie Wing Yi Tam, Genshu Lu  Linking university mathematics classroom environment to student achievement: The mediation of mathematics beliefs  No 
2020 Jiying Han, Hongbiao Yin*, Junju Wang, Yun Bai  Challenge job demands and job resources to university teacher well-being: the mediation of teacher efficacy  No 
2020 Wei Lin, Hongbiao Yin, Ching-Sing Chai, Wenlan Wang*  Teacher Conceptions Matter: Exploring the Relationships Between Mathematics Teachers' Conceptions and Commitment in China  No 
2020 Wei Lin, Hongbiao Yin, Jiwei Han*, Jiying Han  Teacher–Student Interaction and Chinese Students' Mathematics Learning Outcomes: The Mediation of Mathematics Achievement Emotions  No 
2021 Mei Tian*, Genshu Lu*, Lijie Li, Hongbiao Yin  International Undergraduate Students in Chinese Higher Education: An Engagement Typology and Associated Factors  No 
2022 Shenghua Huang, Hongbiao Yin, Yule Jin, Wenlan Wang*  More Knowledge, More Satisfaction with Online Teaching? Examining the Mediation of Teacher Efficacy and Moderation of Engagement during COVID-19  No 
2022 Wei Lin, Hongbiao Yin, Zhijun Liu*  The Roles of Transformational Leadership and Growth Mindset in Teacher Professional Development: The Mediation of Teacher Self-Efficacy  No 
2022 Hongbiao Yin*  Empowering Student Learning in Higher Education: Pathways to Possibility  No 
2022 Hongbiao Yin*, Lian Shi  Which Type of Interpersonal Interaction Better Facilitates College Student Learning and Development in China: Face-to-Face or Online?  No 
2022 Hongbiao Yin*, Genshu Lu, Xuanyi Meng  Online course experiences matter: Adapting and applying the CEQ to the online teaching context during COVID-19 in China  No 
2022 Hongbiao Yin*  A mixed blessing: Student engagement in emergency online learning during COVID-19 in China  No 
Hongbiao Yin*, Lian Shi  Undergraduate Research in China: Toward Disciplinary Balance  No 
2020 Hongbiao Yin*  The Behavioral, Psychological and Socio-cultural Perspectives of Student Engagement Research: Perspective Shift and its Implications for Improving the Quality of Teaching and Learning in Chinese Universities  No 
2020 Wei Lin, Hongbiao Yin*  Academic Achievement Emotions: Research Developments and Implications for Practice  No 
2020 Hongbiao Yin*, Lian Shi, Liu Yang  The Empirical Research into College Students' Learning and Development in China (2015—2019): Themes, Methods and Commentary  No 
2021 Hongbiao Yin*, Liu Yang, Wenkai Lin  Students' Receptivity to Online Teaching and Its Influencing Factors in Chinese Higher Education Institutions  No 
2021 Hongbiao Yin*  Student Engagement: The Key for the Quality Development of Undergraduate Teaching  No 
2021 Wei Lin, Hongbiao Yin*  The Mathematics Problem Solving of "Chickens and Rabbits in the Same Cage" Following Multiple Learning Theories  No 
2021 Wandi Fu, Hongbiao Yin*  Senior High School Students’ Affects in Their Mathematics Problem-Solving  No 
2022 Xiaoqing Wang, Hongbiao Yin*  On Undergraduate Education Quality Impact Dynamics Mechanism of Learning Assessment Program: Grounded Theory Analysis of China Mingde Program  No 
Recognized international conference(s)
in which paper(s) related to this research
project was/were delivered :
Month/Year/City Title Conference Name
San Francisco, USA Linking university mathematics classroom environment to student achievement: The mediation of mathematics beliefs  The 2020 Annual Meeting of American Educational Research Association 
San Francisco, USA Teacher-Student Interaction and Chinese Students' Mathematics Learning Outcomes: The Mediation of Mathematics Achievement Emotions  The 2020 Annual Meeting of American Educational Research Association 
USA Which type of interpersonal interaction better facilitates college student learning in China: On-campus or online?  The 2021 Annual Meeting of American Educational Research Association (Virtual) 
USA Online course experience matters: Examining Chinese undergraduates’ evaluation of the quality of online teaching  The 2021 Annual Meeting of American Educational Research Association (Virtual) 
Other impact
(e.g. award of patents or prizes,
collaboration with other research institutions,
technology transfer, etc.):

  SCREEN ID: SCRRM00542