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Highlights From the TIMSS 1999 Video Study of Eighth-Grade Science Teaching

NCES 2006-017
April 2006

What Are the Major Findings From the TIMSS 1999 Video Study of Eighth-Grade Science Teaching?

Eighth-grade science teaching shares some common general features across all five of the participating countries, including countries that have historically achieved at a variety of levels.

Although the study highlights differences across the countries, all five countries shared some general features of teaching eighth-grade science. Features common in all the countries were observed in three major domains that are used to organize the reporting of these results:

  • instructional organization,
  • science content, and
  • student actions.

Some of these commonalities are features that appeared in most lessons in all of the countries, while others are features that were observed with low frequencies in all of the countries.

Commonalities Regarding Instructional Organization

  • Whole-class seatwork (i.e., presentation and discussion periods) occurred in at least 98 percent of eighth-grade science lessons in all the countries, and at least some time was spent developing new science content in 95 percent or more of the lessons (data not shown).
  • Some form of practical activity (e.g., showing objects to the whole class or students working independently on experiments or model-building activities) occurred in at least 72 percent of lessons across the countries, although there were differences in the amount of time spent on these activities.

Commonalities Regarding Science Content

  • Across all of the countries, 84 percent or more of the eighth-grade science lessons included at least some public attention to science canonical knowledge—the generally accepted facts, ideas, concepts, and theories shared within the scientific community.
  • Knowledge about the nature of science (i.e., its values, dispositions, processes, politics, or history), meta-cognitive strategies (i.e., learning strategies or reflecting on the learning process), and safety accounted for no more than a combined total of 2 percent of public talk time (sections of the lesson when the intended audience of the teacher or student speaking was the whole class) in any of the countries. Science canonical knowledge was more prominent in the science lessons of all five countries than any other type of science knowledge investigated.


Commonalities Regarding Student Actions

  • During whole-class interactions, students participated in some form of discussion in at least 81 percent of the lessons in each of the countries.
  • Although the percentages of science lessons and instruction time allocated for student independent work on practical activities varied across the participating countries, students in all the countries were more likely to observe phenomena during independent practical activities rather than to design and make models, to carry out dissections or classification activities, or to conduct controlled experiments.
  • Students wrote a paragraph or more of text during independent practical activities in no more than 11 percent of lessons in the countries where there were enough observations for reliable estimates (Australia, the Netherlands, and the United States).
  • Students generated their own research questions and designed procedures for practical investigations in no more than 10 percent of lessons in countries with sufficient observations to calculate reliable estimates (Australia, Japan, and the United States).
Though the five countries share some commonalities in the teaching of science, they also implement distinct approaches.