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TIMSS 1995-2015

Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study

General aims

TIMSS assesses trends in the performance of students in the fields of mathematics and science in up to three different grade levels.

The goal of the study is to inform public institutions about the effectiveness of curricula and instructional methods and to provide knowledge that will lead to an improvement of teaching and learning in the subjects of mathematics and science.

Alongside the survey of students' achievement in these subjects, the students, their teachers and school administrators, were asked about the learning conditions in mathematics and science in order to establish the effect of the home and school environments on their performance in these areas.

As TIMSS is a cyclic study, the achievement of students in these subjects will be assessed every four years. During the main survey, a minimum of 150 schools with a total of 4,500 to 5,000 students will be tested in each participating educational system. Currently, the study delivers trend information on the eighth grade for the years 1995, 1999, 2003, 2007, and 2011 and on the fourth grade from 1995, 2003, 2007, and 2011.

TIMSS 1995 (first cycle)

TIMSS 1995 was the largest international study about student achievement that had been performed until then. Students in 41 educational systems in five grade levels (third, fourth, seventh, and eighth, along with the final year of secondary school) were tested in mathematics and science. In addition, comprehensive information on teaching and learning methods in these subjects was gathered using surveys, video recordings and analysis of teaching materials. A total of more than half a million students were tested and surveyed, and information was collected from thousands of teachers and school directors.

TIMSS 1999 (second cycle)

TIMSS 1999 assessed the achievement of eighth-grade students in 38 educational systems in mathematics and science. Students, teachers, and school principals provided detailed information about their home environments, curricula, and instructional processes in mathematics and science, as well as about the special conditions and organizational policies of their schools. 26 of the countries participating in TIMSS 1999 had already taken part in 1995 and were therefore able to establish educational trends. In addition, a benchmark study was performed in the USA as part of TIMSS 1999. Thirteen US states and 14 school districts took part in the survey and could thus compare their results against those achieved internationally.

TIMSS 2003 (third cycle)

The third TIMSS cycle tested the achievement of fourth- and eighth-grade students in a total of 49 educational systems in mathematics and science. 48 countries tested the eighth grade, and 26 tested the fourth grade. Furthermore, in TIMSS 2003, an international benchmarking program was initiated, in which four regions or provinces from three countries took part: the Basque country in Spain, the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec, and the US state of Indiana. As they had done in TIMSS 1999, students, teachers, and school management provided detailed information in TIMSS 2003 about home environment, curricula, and their instructional processes in mathematics and science, as well as about the special conditions and organizational policies of their schools.

Thirty-seven of the TIMSS 2003 countries were able to measure trends. Thirty-four countries took part in TIMSS for the eighth grade in both 1999 and 2003. Twenty-three of these countries had already taken part in TIMSS for the eighth grade in 1995. For the fourth grade, 16 countries took part in TIMSS in both 1995 and 2003.

TIMSS 2007 (fourth cycle)

TIMSS 2007 was the fourth cycle of the TIMSS study. TIMSS 2007 assessed achievement in more than 60 participating countries around the world and collected information about the educational contexts for learning mathematics and science. In TIMSS 2007, 37 countries and seven benchmarking participants took part at the fourth grade and 50 countries and seven benchmarking participants at the eighth grade.

The International Database and corresponding documentation was published in the beginning of 2009.

TIMSS 2011 (fifth cycle)

TIMSS 2011 was initiated with the first meeting of the National Research Coordinators in February 2009. Instrument development and field test activities were carried out between February 2009 and May 2010. Data collection for the main survey took place in October to December 2010 (Southern Hemisphere) and April to May 2011 (Northern Hemisphere). The International Reports for the fourth and eighth grade were released in December 2012. The International Database and its User Guide are available since March 2013.

PIRLS 2011 und TIMSS 2011

As the IEA PIRLS and TIMSS international assessments were both conducted in the same year, this cycle provides a unique opportunity for international assessment at the fourth grade. Countries participating in both PIRLS and TIMSS at the fourth grade were able to take advantage of a comprehensive assessment of reading mathematics, and science, with a rich array of contextual background information. This way, TIMSS could benefit for the first time from the household data gathered in the context of the PIRLS study. An international report on the interrelation of the performance of the subjects mentioned, the so-called 'Relationships Report', was published in October 2013.

TIMSS 2015 (sixth cycle)

The sixth TIMSS will be conducted in 2015. The data produced by this cycle will allow analyses along a 20-year trend line. For the first time there will be a parent questionnaire for TIMSS, which will collect data from the family environment of each tested student. For countries in which pupils are still developing their basic mathematical skills and therefore cannot yet fulfil the requirements of the mathematical section of the TIMSS test, the IEA offers TIMSS Numeracy for the fourth, fifth and sixth grades. TIMSS Numeracy is less complicated than TIMSS, yet still builds on the same definition of mathematical skills.

Instrument development and field test activities are being carried out between February 2013 and April 2014. Data collection for the main survey is scheduled to take place in October to December 2014 (Southern Hemisphere) and March to June 2015 (Northern Hemisphere). The International Reports for the fourth and eighth grade will be released in December 2016. The International Database and its User Guide will be published in February 2017.

Tasks of the IEA DPC in conducting the study

The IEA DPC is commissioned to perform the following tasks for TIMSS:

  • Sample collection and analysis in cooperation with Statistics Canada
    (Sampling Unit)
  • Development of software for sampling, entry and quality control of the data
  • Quality control of the software
  • Creation of codebooks for the international data structure
  • Conducting seminars on within-school sampling and data entry procedures, and assistance for participating countries in the areas of sampling and data entry
  • Documentation of the national adaptation of questionnaires
  • Data cleaning and production of provisional data sets
  • Conducting seminars on data analysis
    (International Studies Unit)

Data and documentation

All previously published international databases and information on the international results can be found in the IEA Study Data Repository or downloaded for free from the website of the International Study Center at Boston College.

Cooperation partners

TIMSS is a study of the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement. It is carried out by the TIMSS and PIRLS International Study Center at the Lynch School of Education at Boston College (Boston, Massachusetts, USA).

As well as the DPC the following centers play an important role for TIMSS 2015 and form an international consortium that is nearly identical in its composition to the one that coordinates the PIRLS study:

  • IEA Headquarters (Amsterdam, The Netherlands)
    The IEA Secretariat works closely with the IEA member countries and verifies all elements of the proposed study. In addition, it is responsible for coordinating the verification of translations of the TIMSS test instruments and for recruiting the persons responsible for quality control.
  • TIMSS and PIRLS International Study Center at Boston College (Boston/Massachusetts, USA)
    Boston College is home to the International Study Center (ISC) for IEA studies in the areas of mathematics, the sciences, and reading ability. It is responsible for the conceptual development and implementation of the TIMSS study.
  • Statistics Canada (Ottawa/Ontario, Canada)
    Statistics Canada is responsible for the weighting of data and, in cooperation with the IEA DPC, for the representative school samples in the surveyed countries. This includes the development of sampling procedures and their documentation as well as the support for participants in the adjustment of selection criteria for TIMSS to local conditions.
  • Educational Testing Service (Princeton/New Jersey, USA)
    The largest private organization in the world in the area of educational research, ETS offers technical support in scaling the test data from the TIMSS study.

In each participating educational system, National Research Coordinators are responsible for administering the study.

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