Date of Award


Document Type



Edith Cowan University

Degree Name

Bachelor of Education Honours


School of Education

First Supervisor

Tony Edwards


The autonomous learning behaviour model proposed by Fennema and Peterson (1985a, 1985b) hypothesises that sex- related differences in mathematics are a result of sex-related differences in autonomous learning behaviours. Autonomous learning behaviours include choosing to engage in high-level tasks, preferring to work independently on such tasks and persisting at them. The purpose of this study was to investigate sex-related differences in autonomous learning behaviours and to determine any relationship between the presence of these behaviours and achievement in mathematics. Twelve students studying the Year 1 unit "Foundations of Mathematics" were selected for the study, including two males and two females from each of the achievement levels; low, medium and high. They were given a number of mathematics problems and asked to think aloud while solving them. Scales were developed to identify the extent to which the students exhibited each of the autonomous learning behaviours while working on the mathematics problems. The students were also interviewed about their usual behaviours and preferences regarding mathematics. It was observed that the males in this study chase to engage in more high-level tasks than the females. Sex-related differences in independence were observed only between the medium-achieving males and females. No sex-related differences were found in the degree of persistence exhibited by the students. Differences between achievement levels were observed on the measure of persistence, but not on the other autonomous learning behaviours. The most autonomous students in this study were found to be medium-achieving males. The results of this study revealed some consistencies and some inconsistencies with both the autonomous learning behaviour model and previous research in the field