So welcome to this video about the international context of Asian mathematics achievement. So why is Asia actually doing so well? In this section I will cover a large-scale assessment called TIMSS. TIMSS stands for Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study and this assessment is used widely to look internationally how countries are doing in their mathematics performance. It’s an international assessment, as I said, of science and mathematics and it’s conducted worldwide every four years in grades four and eight, so primary school but also in secondary school.
And in this video I want to say a little bit more about the origins of TIMSS, what it can and can’t tell us, how Asian countries do on this test, because this MOOC of course is about excellent Asian maths teaching, and finally I want to show some examples of the types of assessment items that are used within the TIMSS context. So what makes TIMSS different from another well-known assessment, PISA? You’ve probably heard of PISA. PISA looks more at more general ability; TIMSS looks more at the mathematics that’s actually in the curriculum. The last version of TIMSS was conducted at the end of 2016 with data collected in 2015, so we call it TIMSS 2015.
Because the data collection methods remain fairly similar over the years it is possible to see how maths and science knowledge develop over time. For example, before 2015 there also were TIMSS assessments in 2011, 2007, 2003 in both grade 4 and grade 8 and we can look at these developments. TIMSS is administered by an organisation called the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement the IEA. I will show you what 2015 brought us in the 2015 round for grade 4 mathematics by giving some examples of what the performance was in Asian countries. The first thing to note is that the IEA puts a lot of thought in these studies.
It’s not just a test that they give to students and then they look how they’re doing; they utilise a so-called assessment framework and that they make before they actually start collecting all the data. And one thing the IEA determines is what assessment topics they choose from. For grade 4, for example,
they choose from three broad themes: Number, Geometry and they also look at Measurement and Data Display. So things like graphs. And within these content domains there also are various different topics. Another thing the IEA does for every assessment item is determine whether it’s more about knowing stuff, whether it’s more about applying the answer or whether it’s more about reasoning. And that is why I think that the TIMSS assessment is very good to compare countries internationally. The IEA designs a whole battery of questions that are then used in each country. So in the 2015 edition 49 countries participated in grade four.
In the TIMSS performance, performance is standardised which means that there is a mean score for all countries and they set this at 500 and they have a similar spread of scores which is standardised, the so-called standard deviation and this is standardised at 100. That means that you can more easily compare the different countries. Let’s have a look at the grade four performance in 2015. This performance can be indicated by the diagram that you’re shown with all the countries of the top-performing countries.
And you can clearly see, I think, that the Asian countries, for example Singapore completely at the top and then Hong Kong second place, South Korea, Taiwan, Japan; it really is the case that the Asian countries perform, almost 600 points and higher with other countries slightly lower than that. For example, as you can see Ireland and England and this list is much longer and we will give you some activities to look at the International reports that have all the data in there.
But I think this clearly shows that within this TIMSS assessment there is something that the Asian countries seem to do, and this is quite complex it’s quite difficult to explain why they’re doing so well, but in year four, in grade four they are really doing pretty well in the TIMSS international assessment. But also if you look at, for example, the content domains which I explained or the cognitive domains - so this distinction between knowing applying and reasoning - you can also see vast differences. In the diagram on the cognitive domains [here I should have said ‘content domains’] you can clearly see that in specific content domains the Asian countries outperform a lot of other countries too.
And also if you look at the diagram that links to the cognitive domain, so the difference between knowing applying and reasoning you also see this big distinction between different countries. And of course that is interesting to know because some people, and we’ll return to that later on in the course, some people think that because of only focusing on basic skills in Asia they are doing so incredibly well. But actually if you look at all the different levels - knowing, applying and reasoning, Asian countries are doing really well and our take-away message later on in the course will be that is because they are all hand-in-hand, they
go hand-in-hand: if your basic skills are up to par then you will understand mathematics better and if you understand mathematics better your basic skills will improve as well.