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Learning Environ Res (2013) 16:131150

DOI 10.1007/s10984-012-9122-6
ORIGINAL PAPER

Students perceptions of the learning environment


and attitudes in game-based mathematics classrooms
Ernest Afari Jill M. Aldridge Barry J. Fraser Myint Swe Khine

Received: 12 April 2010 / Accepted: 7 January 2011 / Published online: 8 December 2012
Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Abstract We investigated whether the introduction of games into college-level mathematics classes in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) was effective in terms of improving
students perceptions of the learning environment and their attitudes towards of mathematics. A prepost design involved the administration of English and Arabic versions of
two surveys (one to assess students perceptions of the learning environment and the
other to assess their attitudes) after modification to ensure their relevance for collegelevel mathematics students in the UAE. For a sample of 33 classes (352 students), eight
of which (90 students) were exposed to mathematics games, students involved in
mathematics games perceived statistically significantly more teacher support, involvement, personal relevance, enjoyment of mathematics lessons and academic efficacy.
Keywords Academic efficacy Attitudes Learning environment Mathematics games
United Arab Emirates What Is Happening In this Class? (WIHIC)
Introduction
We investigated the effectiveness of using mathematics games in the college setting for
improving students enjoyment of mathematics classes and academic efficacy. There is a

E. Afari J. M. Aldridge B. J. Fraser


Curtin University, GPO Box U1987, Perth, WA 6845, Australia
B. J. Fraser
e-mail: B.Fraser@curtin.edu.au
M. S. Khine
Bahrain Teachers College, Sakhir, Bahrain
E. Afari (&)
The Petroleum Institute, PO Box 2533, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
e-mail: ernest.afari@gmail.com

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significant body of research to support the potential of using games as an educational tool
(Annetta et al. 2010; Paraskeva et al. 2010) and to complement traditional lectures for
enhancing students learning (Kiili 2005; Tan 2007; Tan et al. 2010). Past research
indicates that games have the potential to draw students into the learning process and to
encourage them to participate through a more interactive environment (Gosen and
Washbush 2004; Proserpio and Gioia 2007; Zantow et al. 2005). The use of games can also
provide educators with an interactive means of delivering knowledge that is particularly
useful for teaching cause and effect (Gosen and Washbush 2004; Thompson and Dass
2000). Finally, as an educational tool, games have the capacity to engage and motivate
students (Paraskeva et al. 2010; Prensky 2001) and the learning from games is more likely
to be retained (Annetta et al. 2010).
Kim (1995) argued that it is a common misperception that all learning should be serious
in nature and that, if one is having fun, then it is not really learning. He purports that it is
possible to learn mathematics while enjoying oneself at the same time and that one of the
best ways of doing this is through games. According to Paraskeva et al. (2010, p. 499), the
use of games is a fun, engaging, motivating, interesting and encouraging way of
teaching. They also state that games have potential for teaching complex new information
to students and, in their opinion, both academic performance and interpersonal relationships are likely to be enhanced through the use of games.
Although mathematics games are popular with teachers as alternatives to more traditional forms of repetitive practice, they are more commonly employed in school
classrooms as rewards for early finishers or to enhance students attitudes towards mathematics (Bragg 2007). Although research supports the idea that games can stimulate
students interest and motivation (Gough 1999; Owens 2005), only a handful of studies
have been carried out to investigate the effectiveness of mathematics games at the college
level and none of these in the United Arab Emirates.

Aims of the study


1. To modify and validate a learning environment questionnaire and an attitude questionnaire for use with college-level mathematics students in the United Arab Emirates.
2. To examine the effectiveness of mathematics games in improving students learning
environment and their attitudes towards mathematics.
3. To examine relationship between the nature of the classroom learning environment
and student attitudes (enjoyment of mathematics lessons and academic efficacy).

Background of the study


Field of learning environments
The term learning environment is most often associated with the psychological or
emotional conditions of the classroom as well as the social and cultural influences that are
present. The concept of human environment has existed since Lewins (1936) seminal
work in non-educational settings recognised that both the environment and its interaction
with characteristics of the individual are potent determinants of human behaviour. Results
of studies conducted over the past 40 years have provided convincing evidence that the

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quality of classroom environment in schools is a significant determinant of student learning


(Fraser 2007, 2012). Students learn better when they perceive the classroom environment
more positively (Dorman and Fraser 2009).
Researchers have developed numerous questionnaires designed to measure perceptions
of a range of dimensions pertinent to the learning environment (Fraser 1998), including the
What Is Happening In This Class? (WIHIC; Aldridge et al. 1999) and the Constructivist
Learning Environment Survey (CLES; Taylor et al. 1997). In our study, we used five of the
seven What Is Happening In this Class? (WIHIC) scales, namely, Student Cohesiveness,
Teacher Support, Involvement, Cooperation and Equity, and one scale, from the Constructivist Learning Environment Survey (CLES), namely, Personal Relevance.
Our study drew on past evaluations of educational innovations (Maor and Fraser 1996;
Martin-Dunlop and Fraser 2008; Nix, Fraser and Ledbetter 2005; Wolf and Fraser 2008)
from the field of learning environments to investigate the effectiveness of games in the
mathematics classroom learning environments.
Jeopardy-type games
From the students perspective, there are many advantages in using games in the classroom. Rather than passive regurgitation of concepts, games allow students to engage in an
interesting deviation from the classroom norm (Grabowski and Price 2003). Story (2007), a
mathematics professor at Akron University, USA, recognised the potential of using games
in the classroom and developed a mathematics games that is based on the popular
American television game show Jeopardy!. Our study involved the use of a modified
version of these jeopardy-type games. This is a group contestant game involving teams of
students (usually two) within the class. A computerised jeopardy game board is used with
up to four mathematical concepts, each with a series of point values underneath. In general,
the higher the point value, the more difficult the question or problem. When a point value is
selected by a team of students, a second screen appears with the associated problem or
question. Once the question is revealed, the members of the team work together to answer
it. If the answer is correct, they earn the point-value of that question and, if the answer is
incorrect, the point-value is subtracted from the total. A group that gets the correct answer
is then expected to present the solution to the class.

Research methods
Sample
Our study involved first and second year mathematics students attending three colleges in
the United Arab Emirates. From these three colleges, a sample of 352 students, 121 males
and 231 females, from 33 classes participated in the study. The participants ages ranged
from 18 to 35 years. Details of the sample are summarised in Table 1.
After the initial collection of the data, jeopardy-type games were introduced to students
in eight of the 33 classes over a 6-week period. At the end of the 6 weeks, the same
questionnaires were administered to the eight classes to assess whether there were changes
in students perceptions of the learning environment and their attitudes towards mathematics. Four teachers, one from College 1, two from College 2, and one from College 3,
volunteered to trial the use of jeopardy-type games. This provided a sample of 90 students

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Table 1 Description of whole sample and subsample for our study


College

Whole sample
Number
of classes

Subsample
Number of students
Male

Number
of classes

Female

Total

Number
of teachers

Number
of students

75

75

22

40

25

65

30

17

206

212

38

Total

30

121

231

352

48

90

who were attending classes that included the use of games. Table 1 provides the
description of the whole sample as well as the subsample for the trial of the jeopardy-type
games.
Two instruments were used to gather data for this study, namely, a modified version of
the What Is Happening In this Class? (WIHIC; Aldridge, Fraser and Huang 1999) questionnaire, to assess students perceptions of the learning environment, and an attitude
instrument to assess students enjoyment of mathematics classes and academic efficacy.
What Is Happening In this Class? (WIHIC)
Our study involved modifying the What Is Happening In this Class? (WIHIC) questionnaire for use in college-level mathematics classroom in the United Arab Emirates and then
translating it into Arabic. The WIHIC has 8 items in each of seven scales and was validated
for use in Taiwan and Australia by Aldridge et al. (1999). Modifications were made to the
WIHIC to ensure the suitability of the scales for use in our study. As a first step, the scales
of the WIHIC were examined to make certain that they were suitable for evaluating the
effectiveness of mathematics games in college-level classrooms. Five of the seven WIHIC
scales were selected for use in our study, namely, Student Cohesiveness, Teacher Support,
Involvement, Cooperation and Equity. The two scales of Investigation and Task Orientation were omitted because they were not considered to be relevant to the use of games in
the mathematics classroom. Because it was anticipated that the use of jeopardy-type games
might increase the relevance of mathematics to students, the Personal Relevance scale
from the Constructivist Learning Environment Survey (CLES; Taylor et al. 1997) was
included to assess the extent to which the content taught in the classroom is relevant to
students out-of-school experiences. To ensure that students engage in their learning, it is
necessary for teachers to make the content relevant to the students lives outside school
(Taylor et al. 1997). It was with this in mind that the Personal Relevance scale was
introduced to examine the connectedness of mathematics with students out-of-school
experiences. Also a study by Ogbuehi and Fraser (2007) suggested that more positive
student attitudes are associated with more emphasis on the aspects on constructivism as
assessed by the CLES, especially Personal Relevance, and on dimensions assessed by the
WIHIC, especially Involvement.
As a second step, each item was scrutinised to ensure the suitability of the language and
phrasing for the United Arab Emirates setting. For example, an item in the Teacher Support
scale that states The teacher takes a personal interest in me was changed to The teacher
is interested in my problems to ensure that students did not misinterpret the intent of the

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Table 2 Scale description and sample item for each scale in the modified What Is Happening In this Class?
(WIHIC) questionnaire and attitude scales
Scale

Description

Sample item

Learning
Environment

The extent to which

Student
Cohesiveness

Students are friendly and supportive of each other I make friends among students in this
class.

Teacher Support The teacher helps, befriends and is interested in


students

The teacher helps me when I have


trouble with the work.

Involvement

Students have attentive interest, participate in


discussions and enjoy the class

I explain my ideas to other students.

Cooperation

Students cooperate with each other during


activities

When I work in groups in this class,


there is teamwork.

Equity

The teacher gives as much attention


The teacher treats students equally, including
to my questions as to other
distributing praise, questions and opportunities
students questions.
to be included in discussions

Personal
Relevance

There is a link between what is taught and


students out of school experiences

This class is relevant to my life


outside college.

Enjoyment of
Mathematics
Lessons

Students enjoy their mathematics lessons.

Lessons in mathematics are fun.

Academic
efficacy

Students have confidence in their academic


competence

I find it easy to get good grades in


mathematics.

Attitudes

All items used the response alternatives of Almost Always, Often, Sometimes, Seldom and Almost Never

statement. A scale description and sample item for each scale in the modified WIHIC
questionnaire can be found in Table 2.
Attitude questionnaire
Two scales were used to assess students attitudes, namely, Enjoyment of Mathematics
Lessons and Academic Efficacy. The Enjoyment of Mathematics Lessons scale, consisting
of eight items, was adapted from one scale in the test of science-related attitudes (TOSRA;
Fraser 1981) by Spinner and Fraser (2005). The second eight-item Academic Efficacy scale
was based on Jinks and Morgans (1999) Student Efficacy scale (MJSES). A scale
description and a sample item for the Enjoyment of Mathematics Lessons and Academic
Efficacy scales can be found in the Table 2.
Translation into Arabic and back translation
Both of the questionnaires were originally developed in English. Because all of the participants involved in our study spoke English as a second language, an Arabic translation
was created to ensure that they were able to understand the items. The questionnaires were
translated into the Arabic language using a standard research methodology of translation,
back-translation, verification and modification as recommended by Ercikan (1998) and
Warwick and Osherson (1973). Each item was translated into Arabic by a professional
translator from the United Arab Emirates. The next step involved an independent back-

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translation of the Arabic version into English by a different professional translator, who
was not involved in the original translation. Items of the original English version and the
back-translated version were then compared by the authors to ensure that the Arabic
version maintained the meanings and concepts in the original version. Historically, in
studies in which both the English and the translated version of the questionnaire is used,
researchers have administered separate English and the translated versions of the questionnaires (see MacLeod and Fraser 2010). Because the first language of college students in
the United Arab Emirates is Arabic, but they are taught in English, it was felt that having
both languages presented to the students as a dual layout (that has been used successfully in
learning environment research in South Africa by Aldridge et al. 2006) would increase the
reliability of the questionnaire. Therefore, each item in Arabic was placed beneath the
corresponding English item (see Appendices Tables 5, 6).

Analyses and results


Validity and reliability of the modified WIHIC
To examine the validity of the modified WIHIC when translated into Arabic and used at the
college level in the United Arab Emirates, principal axis factoring with oblique rotation
was used. Oblique rotation was selected because one can assume that the scales of the
WIHIC are related (Coakes and Steed 2005). As a first step, factor analysis identified those
items whose removal would improve the factorial validity of the WIHIC scales. Item 6
from the Student Cohesiveness scale and Item 17 from the Involvement scale (whose
loadings were \0.40 on every scale), were removed from further analysis. The factor
loadings for the sample of 352 students for the modified version of the WIHIC are reported
in Appendix Table 7.
The remaining 46 items of the modified WIHIC had a loading of at least 0.40 on their a
priori scale and no other scale, with exception of Item 33 from the Equity scale, which had
a loading [0.40 on the Teacher Support scale as well as its own scale. The percentage of
variance and the eigenvalue associated with each factor are recorded at the bottom of
Appendix Table 7. The percentage of variance for different scales ranged between 3.78 and
28.61 %, with the total percentage of variance accounted for by the 46 items being
56.57 %. The largest contribution to variance was for the Cooperation scale (28.61 %). The
eigenvalues for WIHIC scales ranged from 1.74 to 13.16.
The Cronbach alpha reliability coefficient was used as an index of scale internal
consistency. The bottom of the table in Appendix Table 7 reports the Cronbach alpha
coefficient for the revised 46-item version of the WIHIC, for two unit of analysis
(individual and the class mean). The scale reliability estimates ranged from 0.81 to 0.89
with the individual as the unit of analysis.
To examine the ability of each scale of the modified WIHIC to differentiate between
perceptions of students in different classrooms, an analysis of variance (ANOVA) with
class membership as the main effect was used. The last row of Appendix Table 7 reports
the ANOVA results for whether students in the same class perceive the learning
environment relatively similarly, while mean class perceptions vary from class to class.
The analysis revealed significant differences (p \ 0.05) between students perceptions in
different classes for all six WIHIC scales. The eta2 statistic, which represents the
proportion of variance in a scale score accounted for by class membership, ranged from
0.13 to 0.18 for different scales.

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Validity and reliability of the attitudes scales


To examine the internal structure of the Enjoyment of Mathematics Lessons and the
Academic Efficacy scales, principal axis factoring with varimax rotation was used.
Appendix Table 8 provides the factor loadings for the modified attitudes scales. Factor
analysis revealed that Item 3 from the Enjoyment of Mathematics scale loaded below 0.40
on every scale and was therefore removed to improve factorial validity and internal
consistency reliability. The remaining items all loaded above 0.40 on their own scale and
no other. The total variance accounted for by these two scales was 66.39 %. The eigenvalues for the two scales were 4.92 and 5.04. When the internal consistency reliability
(Cronbach alpha coefficient) for the Enjoyment of Mathematics Lessons and Academic
Efficacy scales for two unit of analysis (individual and the class mean) were calculated,
scale reliability estimates were 0.92 and 0.94 using the individual as the unit of analysis
and 0.94 and 0.97 using the class mean as the unit of analysis. The factor analysis and
reliability results in Appendix Table 8 support the validity of the attitude scales with our
sample of 352 students.

Consistency with past research


The results from our administration of the modified Arabic version of the WIHIC to 352
college students in the United Arab Emirates cross-validated the WIHIC in terms of
factorial validity, internal consistency reliability and ability to differentiate between
classrooms. Therefore our results replicate considerable past research with diverse samples
in numerous countries. For example, our research replicates validation studies involving
translated versions of the WIHIC in:

The Arabic language among 763 female college students in the United Arab Emirates
(MacLeod and Fraser 2010)
The Chinese language among 1,879 junior high school science students in Taiwan
(Aldridge et al. 1999)
The IsiZulu language among 1,077 primary school students in South Africa (Aldridge
et al. 2009)
The Indonesian language among 594 junior high school science students (Fraser et al.
2010)
The Korean language among 543 secondary science students (Kim et al. 2000).

In addition, the present study replicates the validity findings of diverse studies that have
used versions of the WIHIC in the English language in numerous countries, including:

The USA with 665 middle-school science students in California (den Brok et al. 2006),
1,434 middle-school science students in New York (Wolf and Fraser 2008) and 520
elementary science students in Miami (Allen and Fraser 2007)
Australia with samples of junior high school science students consisting of 1,081
student (Aldridge et al. 1999) and 567 students (Fraser et al. 2010)
Singapore with 2,310 grade 10 geography and mathematics students (Chionh and
Fraser 2009) and 250 working adults attending computer application courses (Khoo and
Fraser 2008)
Canada and Australia with 1,404 students in technology-rich classrooms (Zandvliet and
Fraser 2004, 2005)

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Jammu, India among 1,021 middle-school science students (Koul and Fisher 2005)
Australia, the UK and Canada with 3,980 high school students (Dorman 2003).

Also our results for the sound factorial validity and internal consistency reliability of the
two attitude scales (enjoyment of lessons and academic efficacy), when used with college
students in the United Arab Emirates, replicate past research in Australia and Indonesia
(Aldridge and Fraser 2008; Fraser et al. 2010).
Effectiveness of mathematics games
Previously classroom environment dimensions have been used extensively as a criteria of
effectiveness in evaluating innovative mathematics programs (e.g. Spinner and Fraser
2005), technology integration in the curriculum (Harwell et al. 2001; Zandvliet and Fraser
2005), integrated science learning (Nix et al. 2005), inquiry-based computer-assisted
learning (Maor and Fraser 1996), computer-assisted learning (Teh and Fraser 1994) and a
K5 mathematics program which integrates childrens literature (Mink and Fraser 2005).
Our study explored the effectiveness of jeopardy-type games in terms of students
perceptions of the learning environment and attitudes towards mathematics classes in the
United Arab Emirates. Differences between students pretest and posttest scores on the
modified WIHIC, Enjoyment of Mathematics Lessons and Academic Efficacy scales were
explored using a one-way multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) with repeated
measures (using the student as the unit of analysis). The set of six learning environment
scales and the two attitude scales constituted the dependent variables and the repeated
measures independent variable was the testing occasion (pretest/posttest). Because the
multivariate test (Wilks lambda) revealed significant pretestposttest differences overall,
the ANOVA with repeated measures was interpreted for each individual modified WIHIC
and attitude scale. Table 3 reports the average item mean, average item standard deviation,
effect size and ANOVA results for prepost differences for each of the modified WIHIC

Table 3 Average item mean, average item standard deviation and difference (effect size and MANOVA
with repeated measures) between pretest and posttest scores on each modified WIHIC and Attitude scale
Scale

Average mean
item

Average item standard


deviation

Difference

Pretest

Pretest

Effect size F

Posttest

Posttest

Learning environment
Student Cohesiveness

4.20

4.23

0.66

0.68

0.02

0.46

Teacher Support

4.00

4.19

0.78

0.73

0.12

2.51*

Involvement

3.73

3.93

0.67

0.66

0.15

2.88**

Cooperation

3.97

4.04

0.78

0.75

0.05

0.82

Equity

4.28

4.35

0.62

0.66

0.05

1.07

Personal Relevance

3.59

3.86

0.78

0.70

0.18

2.68**

Attitudes
Enjoyment of Mathematics Lessons 3.60

3.86

0.99

1.00

0.13

2.87**

Academic Efficacy

3.97

0.89

0.88

0.13

2.81**

3.74

N = 90 student in 8 classes present for both the pretest and posttest


* p \ 0.05; ** p \ 0.01

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and attitude scales. The average item means indicate that, for all six WIHIC scales,
students scores increased after the games had been introduced.
The results in Table 3 indicate that there were statistically significant prepost differences (p \ 0.05) in learning environment scores for three of the six WIHIC scales
(namely, Teacher Support, Involvement and Personal Relevance) and for both attitude
scales (Enjoyment of Mathematics and Academic Efficacy). To examine the magnitudes of
these pretestposttest differences, as well as their statistical significance (as recommended
by Thompson 1998, 2001), effect sizes were calculated in terms of the differences in means
divided by the pooled standard deviation. According to Table 3, the effect sizes, for those
scales with statistically significant differences, ranged between 0.12 and 0.18 standard
deviations, which are considered to be small according to Cohens (1992) criteria.
Associations between students attitudes and learning environment
Within the field of learning environments, there has been a strong tradition of investigating
associations between various components of the environment and other areas of the educational system and operations (Fraser 2012), especially students attitudes (Aldridge and
Fraser 2008; Fraser 2012). In our study, associations between the learning environment
perceptions of college students in Abu Dhabi and their attitudes towards mathematics
(enjoyment and academic efficacy) were investigated.
Simple correlation analysis was used to examine the bivariate relationship between each
learning environment scale and each attitude measure. Also multiple regression analyses
were carried out to determine the joint influence of the set of modified WIHIC scales on
each attitude scale. We used both the individual and class mean as the units of analysis.
Multiple regression analysis provided a more parsimonious picture of the joint influence of
correlated learning environment scales on each attitude outcome. To identify which
learning environment scales contributed uniquely and significantly to the explanation of
the variance in students attitudes, standardised regression coefficients () were examined.
For the simple correlations reported in Table 4, with the individual student as the unit of
analysis, all six WIHIC scales were positively and statistically significantly correlated with
both Enjoyment of Mathematics Lessons and Academic Efficacy. With the class mean as
the unit of analysis, however, none of the WIHIC scales were statistically significantly
correlated to either students Enjoyment of Mathematics or Academic Efficacy.
The multiple correlation between Enjoyment of Mathematics Lessons and the six
classroom environment scales of the modified WIHIC, reported in Table 4, was 0.43 with
the individual as the unit of analysis and 0.57 with the class mean as the unit of analysis and
was statistically significant for both units of analysis. The results for the multiple regression
analysis (), using the individual as the unit of analysis (reported in Table 4), indicate that
two of the six learning environment scales (Teacher Support and Personal Relevance)
uniquely accounted for a significant amount of variance in student Enjoyment of Mathematics. Using the class mean as the unit of analysis, two of the six learning environment
scales accounted for significant amounts of variance in students academic efficacy beyond
that attributable to other environment scales; these were Teacher Support and Cooperation.
Table 4 also shows that the multiple correlation for Academic Efficacy and the set of the
learning environment scales was statistically significant with the individual as the unit of
analysis but not for class means. Inspection of the standardised regression coefficients
indicates that one of the six WIHIC scales, Personal Relevance, was statistically significantly and independently related to Academic Efficacy. Importantly, every statistically

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Table 4 Simple correlation and multiple regression analyses for associations between attitudes and
classroom environment using the individual and class mean as the units of analysis
Scale

Unit of analysis

Attitude-environment associations
Enjoyment

Student Cohesiveness
Teacher Support
Involvement
Cooperation
Equity
Personal Relevance
Multiple Correlation

Academic efficacy

Individual

0.14**

0.04

Class mean

0.06

0.08

0.17**

0.08

0.15

0.07

Individual

0.31**

0.23**

0.19**

0.07

Class mean

0.28

0.48*

0.26

0.31

Individual

0.21**

0.08

0.18**

0.06

Class mean

0.19

0.21

0.27

0.22

Individual

0.17**

0.11*

0.11

Class mean

0.07

0.07
0.68*

0.20

0.33

Individual

0.22**

0.02

0.19**

0.07

Class mean

0.23

0.01

0.23

0.04

Individual

0.36**

0.31**

0.25**

0.21**

Class mean

0.35

0.54

0.31

0.34

Individual

0.43**

0.30**

Class mean

0.57**

0.41

The sample consisted of 352 students in 33 classes in the UAE


* p \ 0.05; ** p \ 0.01

significant simple correlation and regression coefficient in Table 4 is positive, thus


replicating considerable past research which has consistently reported positive associations
between the classroom environment and students attitudes (Fraser 2007, 2012).

Summary
A major contribution of this study is that the What Is Happening In this Class? (WIHIC),
Enjoyment of Mathematics Lessons and Academic Efficacy scales were translated into the
Arabic language and validated. The modified WIHIC questionnaire has 48 items that assess
six dimensions that are important in mathematics classrooms, namely, Student Cohesiveness, Teacher Support, Involvement, Cooperation, Equity and Personal Relevance (see
Appendix Table 6). For our sample of 352 college students in the United Arab Emirates, the
WIHIC and Enjoyment of Mathematics Lessons and Academic Efficacy scales displayed
satisfactory factorial validity and internal consistency reliability. Further analyses supported
the ability of each scale of the modified WIHIC to differentiate between classrooms.
A comparison of pretest and posttest scores on the WIHIC and attitude scales suggested
that students who had been involved in games had significantly higher Teacher Support,
Involvement and Personal Relevance, Enjoyment and Academic Efficacy score than before
they were exposed to the games. However, effect sizes for these five scales ranged from
between 0.12 and 0.18 standard deviations, suggesting that prepost changes in scores
were small in magnitude and therefore of somewhat limited educational importance.
Simple correlation and multiple regression analyses were conducted to determine the
strength and direction of associations between the six scales of the modified WIHIC and

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the two attitudes scales. There was a statistically significant simple correlation between
each attitude scale (Enjoyment of Mathematics Lessons and Academic Efficacy) and each
of the six WIHIC scales with the individual as the unit of analysis, but not with the class
mean as the unit of analysis. Multiple regression analysis suggested that students enjoyment of their mathematics lessons was greater in classrooms with more Teacher Support,
Cooperation and Personal Relevance, and that academic efficacy was higher in classes with
more Personal Relevance. These results reflect past studies in which students enjoyment
and self efficacy and their perceptions of the learning environment have been found to be
positively related (Fraser 2012; Lorsbach and Jinks 1999).

Implications of the study


This research is significant because it is one of the first learning environment studies to be
conducted in the United Arab Emirates and because a carefully modified and translated
version of the WIHIC has been made available for researchers and educators in Arabicspeaking countries. As well, our research represents one of the few learning environment
studies anywhere in the world that has focused on the effectiveness of mathematical games
in terms the classroom environment perceived by students.
For many teachers, finding time to implement different strategies, such as mathematics
games can be problematic. In some cases, teachers resort to traditional review activities
such as paper-and-pencil worksheets because they perceive the inflexibility of the curriculum and time pressures as major obstacles (McDonald and Hannafin 2003). The results
of our study, however, suggest that it could be beneficial for mathematics teachers to use
more creative pedagogical practices such as games in order to improve the classroom
environment and students attitudes towards mathematics.
Given that a students attitude, shaped by school experiences, is likely to impact on his
or her achievement (Lumsden 1994; Reynolds and Walberg 1992), it is important to
consider the types of learning environments and teaching approaches that are used. In our
study, after the introduction of jeopardy-type games, students perceptions of the learning
environment and their attitudes improved, suggesting that policy makers and curriculum
developers wishing to improve students attitudes should consider incorporating the use of
mathematical games into the curriculum.
Our findings provide a starting point from which practical attempts, involving the use of
mathematics games, can be used to enhance students attitudes towards mathematics. In
many classrooms, the teachers willingness to incorporate games or different pedagogies in
their lessons could be a key to success in improving the classroom environment and
students attitudes towards mathematics.
However, because our study involved only teachers and students in the United Arab
Emirates, the generalisability of the findings could be limited. It is recommended, therefore, that further similar research be carried out to investigate the benefits of using
mathematics games at the college level in other countries in terms of the learning
environment and a variety of student outcomes.

Appendix
See Appendix Tables 5, 6, 7 and 8.

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Table 5 English and Arabic versions of What is Happening In this Class? (WIHIC) questionnaire
Almost Seldom Some- Often Almost
never
times
always

Student Cohesiveness

1.

I make friends among students in this class.


2.

I know other students in this class.


3.

I am friendly to members of this class.


4.

Members of the class are my friends.


5.

I work well with other class members.


6.

I help other class members who are


having trouble with their work.

7.

Students in this class like me.


8.

In this class, I get help from other students.


Teacher Support

9.

The teacher is interested in my problems.


10. The teacher goes out of his/her way to help me.



11. The teacher considers my feelings.

12. The teacher helps me when I have
trouble with the work.

13. The teacher talks with me.

14. The teacher takes an interest in my progress.

15. The teacher moves about the class to talk with me.

16. The teachers questions help me to understand.

Involvement

17. I discuss ideas in class.


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143

Table 5 continued
Almost Seldom Some- Often Almost
never
times
always


18. I give my opinions during class discussions.

26. I share my books and resources with other students when doing 1
assignments.

33. The teacher gives as much attention to my questions as to other 1


students questions.


19. Other students listen carefully to my ideas.

20. My ideas and suggestions are used during
classroom discussions.

21. I ask other students to explain their ideas.

22. I explain my ideas to other students.

23. Students discuss with me how to go about
solving problems.

24. I am asked to explain how I solve problems.

Cooperation

25. I cooperate with other students when doing


assignment work.


27. When I work in groups in this class, there is teamwork.

28. I work with other students on projects in this class.

29. I learn from other students in this class.

30. I work with other students in this class.

31. I cooperate with other students on class activities.

32. Students work with me to achieve class goals.

Equity
( )

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Table 5 continued
Almost Seldom Some- Often Almost
never
times
always

38. I get the same opportunity to contribute to class discussions as 1


other students.

34. I get the same amount of help from the teacher as do other
students.

35. I have the same amount of say in this class as other students.

36. I am treated the same as other students in this class.

37. I receive the same encouragement from the teacher as other
students do.


39. My work receives as much praise as other students work.

40. I get the same opportunity to answer questions as other
students.

Personal Relevance

41. I relate what I learn in this class to life outside college.

42. I draw on past experiences to help me in this class.

43. What I learn in this class is relevant to my everyday life.

44. I apply my everyday experiences in this class.

45. This class is relevant to my life outside of college.

46. I link my class work to my life outside of this class.

47. In this class, I get an understanding of life outside college.

48. I apply my past experience to the work in this class.

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145

Table 6 English and Arabic versions of attitude scales


Almost
never

Seldom Some
times

Often Almost

always

I enjoy the activities that we do in mathematics. 1

I nd it easy to get good grades in mathematics. 1

Enjoyment of Mathematics Lessons



1.

I look forward to lessons in mathematics.


2.

Lessons in mathematics are fun.


3.

Mathematics is one of my favourite college


subjects.

4.

Lessons in mathematics interest me.



5.

There should be more lessons in mathematics.


6.

I enjoy lessons in mathematics.


7.


8.

These lessons make me interested in


mathematics.

Academic Efficacy

9.


10. I am good at mathematics.

11. My friends ask me for help in mathematics.

12. I nd mathematics easy.

13. I outdo most of my classmates in mathematics.

14. I feel that I will pass mathematics with ease.

15. I feel that I am an intelligent student.

16. I help my friends with their homework in
mathematics.

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Table 7 Factor loadings, percentage of variance, eigenvalues, internal consistency reliability (alpha
coefficient) and ability to differentiate between classrooms (ANOVA results) for the modified WIHIC
Item number

Factor loadings
Student
cohesiveness

0.62

0.60

0.70

0.75

0.52

0.62

0.49

Teacher
support

0.71

10

0.66

11

0.74

12

0.72

13

0.75

14

0.79

15

0.69

16

0.69

Involvement

18

0.60

19

0.67

20

0.78

21

0.60

22

0.65

23

0.60

24

0.53

Cooperation

25

0.67

26

0.68

27

0.66

28

0.71

29

0.69

30

0.73

31

0.71

32
33

Equity

Personal
relevance

0.58
0.46

0.41

34

0.75

35

0.68

36

0.76

37

0.75

38

0.67

39

0.64

40

0.68

41

0.69

42

0.56

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147

Table 7 continued
Item number

Factor loadings
Student
cohesiveness

Teacher
support

Involvement

Cooperation

Equity

Personal
relevance

43

0.80

44

0.81

45

0.80

46

0.75

47

0.65

48

0.66

% Variance

3.78

6.83

3.91

28.61

5.32

8.12

Eigenvalue

1.74

3.14

1.80

13.16

2.45

3.73

Alpha reliability

0.81

0.89

0.85

0.89

0.89

0.89

ANOVA (eta2)

0.15*

0.15*

0.16**

0.18**

0.13*

0.18**

Factor loadings smaller than 0.40 have been omitted


N = 352 students in 33 classes
Items 6 and 17 were removed from all further analysis
The eta2 statistic (which is the ratio of between to total sums of squares) represents the proportion of
variance explained by class membership
* p \ 0.05; ** p \ 0.01

Table 8 Factor loadings,


percentage of variance,
eigenvalues and internal
consistency reliability (alpha
coefficient) for Enjoyment of
Mathematics Lessons and
Academic Efficacy scales

Item number

Factor loadings
Enjoyment of
Mathematics Lessons

0.79

0.79

0.76

0.63

0.88

0.83

0.86

Academic
Efficacy

0.70

10

0.83

11

0.75

12

0.81

13

0.69

14

0.81

15

0.58

Factor loadings smaller than 0.40


have been omitted

16
% Variance

33.61

32.78

0.70

N = 352 students in 33 classes.


Item 3 was removed from the
analysis

Eigenvalue

5.04

4.92

Alpha reliability

0.94

0.92

123

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