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The TIMSS 1995 Videotape Classroom Study

In 1995, the Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) included a Videotape Classroom Study.  This video study was an international videotape survey of eighth-grade mathematics lessons in Germany, Japan, and the United States. Funded by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) and the National Science Foundation, the 1995 video study was the first attempt to collect videotaped records of classroom instruction from nationally representative samples of teachers.  The study was conducted in a total of 231 classrooms in Germany, Japan, and the United States and used multimedia database technology to manage and analyze the videos.

The Videotape Classroom Study had four goals:

  • To provide a rich source of information regarding what goes on inside eighth-grade mathematics classes in the three countries;
  • To develop objective observational measures of classroom instruction to serve as quantitative indicators, at a national level, of teaching practices in the three countries;
  • To compare actual mathematics teaching methods in the United States and the other countries with those recommended in current reform documents and with teachers’ perceptions of those recommendations;
  • To assess the feasibility of applying videotape methodology in future wider-scale national and international surveys of classroom instructional practices.

For the report on the methods and findings of the Videotape Classroom Study, click here.

Example lessons from the TIMSS 1995 Video Study were made available in the form of video vignettes of six eighth-grade lessons, two each from Germany, Japan, and the United States. These example lessons were taught by teachers who volunteered to be videotaped for the project. The video vignettes were originally made available on a CD-ROM: Video Examples from the TIMSS Videotape Classroom Study: Eighth Grade Mathematics in Germany, Japan, and the United States (NCES 98092). Now they are all available for viewing through the links below.

German Lesson 1: Volume and Density

After reviewing the homework, students and teacher together work through several problems involving the relationship between volume and density.

Part 1 video
Sharing Homework
[Begin: 00:48]
The lesson begins with the teacher asking a student to present her homework results. The student uses an overhead projector to show her results and explain what she did. There are three problems; one of them is, "A rectangular bowl of glass with a width of 14.6 cm and a length of 8.4 cm is filled with 17 mm of quicksilver (density 13.6 g/cm3). What is the mass of the quicksilver?" After the student explains her solutions, the teacher leads the class in a discussion of the results. The teacher says, "Who confirms this result?" and "Does anybody else have any other suggestions for an alternative?" When mistakes are pointed out, the presenter makes corrections on the transparency. Reviewing the homework in this way continues for about 10 minutes.
Part 2 video
Revisiting Previous Materials
[Begin: 11:44]
The teacher asks, "Yesterday, you put together what you know about calculation. Who can remember what we said?" The students say, when nominated, that they can calculate the surface, volume, and mass of a rectangular solid. The teacher asks for the formulas, and the students provide them. The teacher says that they will develop a fourth calculation during today's lesson.
Part 3 video
Posing a Problem
[Begin: 14:19]
To begin development of the fourth kind of calculation, the teacher presents a problem using the overhead projector. The problem reads, "An iron sheet with a length of 0.5m and a width of 20cm weighs 3.9kg. Calculate the height (thickness) of the sheet (7.8g/cm3)." The teacher leads a brief introductory discussion of the problem, reminding students to think about "our three step [method]: given, wanted, and calculation path."
Part 4 video
Working on the Problem Together
[Begin: 15:49]
The teacher asks for a volunteer to work the problem on the chalkboard. The volunteer begins working the problem by recording the given information. The teacher monitors the ensuing 20 minute discussion on how to solve the problem. The student at the board tries to solve the problem while taking suggestions and corrections from the students at their desks. One student says "I would convert that into centimeters." The volunteer responds "I wouldn't." The teacher says, "Would you give him a reason" and the student says, "Well, then the numbers are a little bigger and the density would be easier to calculate." During this activity, several other students take their turn at the board. The activity concludes when the students agree on the answer.
Part 5 video
Summarizing the Result
[Begin: 35:10]
Following the completion of the problem solving activity, the teacher says "Is anyone able to say what we just did, what you learned?" Students volunteer that they have learned to calculate the length, width, and height of a rectangular solid. The teacher fills in the statement of this calculation into the table she reviewed at the beginning of the lesson.
Part 6 video
Assigning Seatwork
[Begin: 36:55]
The teacher lays out three types of problems that differ in their level of difficulty and asks the students to choose those they would like to do. She reminds them of an important point about units that they had discussed previously and then lets them choose the problems and begin working individually. During part of this worktime, the teacher meets with four students at the board who are having specific difficulties with the earlier problem. The class ends while students are working, and the teacher suggests they save their unfinished problems until class tomorrow and work at home on their home exercise book.

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