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International context: Why is Asia doing well ?

A second video that:

* Demonstrates some TIMSS assessment items.
* Highlights possible reasons for excellent Asian performance
The achievement scores for a country are calculated through a statistical procedure, and and of course within this MOOC, within this course will be impossible to actually explain the intricacies of these statistical methods if you are interested you can look up the so-called technical manual and it tells you all about the sampling; how do they get the schools? how do they get the actual classrooms? What do they do if a school doesn’t want to participate? So I advice you to then, and recommend to actually look at these, if you are interested to know a little bit more about that.
One particular thing to note is that it won’t surprise you that students can not do all the assessment items within TIMSS and they actually make a selection of them. Let’s have a look at some examples of typical assessment items from the TIMSS 2011 released items. TIMSS does not release all the assessment items Maybe this is understandable because of course they want to make sure that people don’t start training these assessments to score higher in a typical new TIMSS round. These are not the exact items that I’m showing now but they are similar things. There are 3 examples that I want to show from three different content domains so you get some kind of idea what the assessment items look like.
For each example we have chosen a different cognitive domain. The first question you see here is about Number and Knowing. So the item asks you to recall, how to execute a certain procedure. You can do this sum yourself; you can see how the relevant countries actually scored on this item and you can also see that Asian countries typically seem to do much better in the basic skills sector. Of course there is a slight
disclaimer I have to make: this is very much related to the curriculum. Of course if you ask year four students to do a certain procedure and it hasn’t been taught yet; well they’re probably going to score pretty low. Nevertheless, it’s interesting to note these differences. We don’t mean it as a certain judgement on these different countries, but we are just curious on how it is, how it comes about that Asian countries are doing so well.
You will be given the opportunity in a later task to explore a little bit more how your country or a country in neighbourhood actually performed on these items, and we will also cover some more Asian principles in the remainder of the course of course that will actually tell you a little bit more about this. In short, we will see in this knowing section that being able to swiftly use procedures and algorithms is very important and algorithms are important as well as Professor Fan and I already wrote in our journal article on algorithms. You also will get an opportunity to study that a little bit more. The second questions is about Geometry and Applying.
Apart from being able to able to apply basic skills, an increasingly more important skills next to it, is applying these skills in concrete new situations. So perhaps maybe a realistic context, that you then have to apply the mathematics to. And to the right you can see another example of one of these items. And again you can see that Asian countries did rather better on this particular assessment item. And actually, if you go through all of the items, on the whole on average they seem to perform much better yet again. The last example, the third example, is about Data Display and Reasoning.
Some people might think: well, yeah, but in Western countries we have more about graphs and interpreting figures perhaps from newspapers and understanding them. And actually, reasoning, because students need to be able to solve, larger more complex problems as well. And again in this example you see that Asian performance is actually pretty high. I also want to stress that I am not saying that one is necessarily better than the other. Actually, throughout this course we will emphasise more and more that knowing, applying and reasoning, so basical skills AND the understanding they are not mutually exclusive. They actually go hand-in-hand, and that will permeate throughout the module.
We’ll make sure that you see what type of research has been done to actually emphasise this aspect. So I think, in sum, we have seen that Asian countries performed rather well on the last TIMSS assessment and also some assessment items from 2011. And of course that is interesting to see, but it would be even more interesting if we could actually hypothesise, we could think about the reasons why this actually is the case. Maybe we can provide some tentative answers as to why they are doing better. For example, as is stated in the TIMSS report itself, could it be that mathematics teachers are just better prepared and have more experience?
You can see, we can scrutinise, experience and preparation a bit more as can be seen in this diagram. Or perhaps it is something different altogether. Maybe it is the case that the instructional time is is just much more; they too much more of a certain instructional time, curriculum is different, they do more geometry in Asian countries. Yes there are differences, but can they actually explain the big differences? Or maybe it is something else altogether? And maybe it’s actually the students’ attitudes towards mathematics? Maybe they just like mathematics much more in Asia rather than in other countries. Or maybe they are more confident in actually doing mathematics.
And I can already tell you it’s actually quite strange if you look at these results. It’s not the case that they particularly like mathematics more or that they are more confident in Asia. So we’ve got a whole, complex situation that we would like to unpick a little bit more. Teaching is a very complex activity and learning as well, so all these things might perhaps contribute to Asia’s performance. However, one considerable factor is probably at least, what the teacher is doing in the classroom. All these examples that I’ve given just now, they might be different in different countries but they all have to do with classroom culture and the actual curriculum.
And this is what our starting point is in this course as well. We want to cover, we want to describe several features of Asian mathematics
pedagogy: what are teachers actually doing in Asian classrooms? Because we are thinking that that certainly has something to do with this superior, or very good, performance. In the following task you can see how YOU would actually do on a quiz with some of these assessment items and that can be very revealing of course. And this quiz will be marked on-the-fly and you will also get some feedback on how you did on those assessments. It is not to test you and to compare you, but it it’s rather to get insight into the large-scale assessment that TIMSS is and also
give you some insight in: what does it mean if we say that Asian countries are much better on the TIMSS segment

Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) is a series of assessments in maths and science for pupils in Grades 4 and 8, that many countries take part in.

Now that we have established that Asian countries do indeed perform better, we can look at what they are doing better and perhaps think about why they might be doing better. In this second video, Dr. Bokhove will expand on these points, and other relevant aspects of the TIMSS study.

He will:

  • demonstrate some assessment items.
  • mention some possible factors for international differences.
  • introduce a quiz with TIMSS assessment items, that you can take in step 1.9.
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World Class Maths: Asian Teaching Methods

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