Skip Navigation
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?

Differences in Student Actions

Among the major activity types examined in this study, independent practical activities (observing and manipulating objects), independent seatwork activities (reading, writing, and small group discussions), and whole-class discussions engage students most actively in doing science work.

  • Independent practical activities: Across-country differences, described and presented previously in figure 2, indicated that Australian and Japanese science lessons focused more time on independent practical activities than did Czech and Dutch lessons.
  • Independent seatwork activities: Dutch lessons focused more time on independent seatwork activities compared to Czech and Japanese lessons (figure 2).
  • Whole-class discussion: Whole-class discussions accounted for 10 to 33 percent of the instruction time (figure 9), and they occurred in at least 81 percent of the lessons in all of the countries (data not shown). Lessons in the Czech Republic allocated a larger percentage of science instruction time, on average, to public discussions (33 percent) compared to all the other countries (figure 9).

Figure 9. Average percentage distribution of science instruction time per eighth-grade science lesson devoted to public presentations and discussions during whole-class work, by country: 1999

Average percentage distribution of science instruction time per eighth-grade science lesson devoted to public presentations and discussions during whole-class work, by country: 1999
1AUS=Australia; CZE=Czech Republic; JPN=Japan; NLD=Netherlands; and USA=United States.
2Public discussions: CZE>AUS, JPN, NLD, USA; AUS, USA>JPN.
3Public presentations: CZE>AUS, JPN, NLD, USA.
NOTE: Percentage of science instruction time devoted to public talk during independent work and to demonstrations is not reported. See figure 3.6, chapter 3 in Roth et al. (2006) for the distribution of instruction time between whole-class and independent work.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Third International
Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), Video Study, 1999.

Top

More detailed analysis within these three major activity types assessed studentsí opportunities to use textbooks and read about science, to write about science, to engage in a variety of science inquiry processes, to participate in potentially motivating activities, and to take responsibility for their own learning (through working independently on lesson-opening tasks without any direction from the teacher, organizing their own science notebooks, being prepared to work or be graded publicly in front of the class, monitoring their own pace on long-term homework assignments, and checking their own work as they proceeded on long-term assignments).

  • Using textbooks and reading about science: Students used textbooks and/or workbooks in more Dutch science lessons compared to lessons in the other countries (data not shown). In addition, Dutch students spent 20 percent of instructional time reading about science while students in Australia, the Czech Republic, and Japan spent no more than 8 percent of instructional time reading (data not shown).
  • Writing about science: Writing tasks included taking notes during whole-class work, selecting answers during independent work, and generating phrases, sentences, or paragraphs, such as a lab report or essay writing. Students in the Czech Republic were expected to write about science for less instructional time (15 percent) than students in all of the other countries (34 to 44 percent; data not shown). Within Dutch and U.S. science lessons, students were given more time to generate written responses than to provide labels or one-word answers. Within the Netherlands, for example, students spent 36 percent of instructional time Play Video Clip - Netherlands (Flash) generating written responses and only 6 percent of the time providing labels or one-word responses (data not shown).

  • Scientific inquiry practices: Teachers sometimes provide opportunities for students to engage in different types of inquiry practices, that is, scientific actions that students are asked to do before, during, and after independent practical activities. Before independent practical work, students may be expected to generate research questions, design procedures to investigate the research question, or make predictions about the outcomes. During independent practical work, students may collect and record data. After the investigation, students may be expected to manipulate the data collected, or to interpret the data. Students engaged in using a variety of scientific inquiry practices related to their work on independent practical activities (table 3). Students in Japan made Play Video Clip - Japan (Flash) predictions in 23 percent of the eighth-grade science lessons. Students had opportunities to collect and record first-hand data or phenomena related to independent practical activities in more Australian and Japanese science lessons than in Czech, Dutch, and U.S. science lessons. In addition, Australian and Japanese students were guided by the teacher or textbook to organize or manipulate data in more science lessons than in the Netherlands. Students in Australian science lessons were more likely to interpret results of independent practical activities than students in both Czech and Dutch Play Video Clip - Australia (Flash) lessons. Within Czech science lessons, students were more likely to be asked to interpret results than collect and record data.
View Table View Table 3. Percentage of eighth-grade science lessons in which students engaged in different inquiry activities before, during, and after independent practical work, by country: 1999
  • Motivating activities: Although many kinds of activities may motivate students (e.g., practical activities, reading and writing activities), some teachers included activities in the science lessons that had the potential to be of high interest to students and motivate them to engage in the learning process. These activities included such things as games, puzzles, surprising Play Video Clip - United States (Flash) and dramatic demonstrations, competitive activities, and role plays. More eighth-grade science lessons in the United States (63 percent) included potentially motivating activities (data not shown) and more instructional Play Video Clip - United States (Flash) time was allocated for these motivating activities (23 percent; figure 10) than science lessons in all of the other countries except Australia.


Figure 10. Average percentage of science instruction time in eighth-grade science lessons allocated to motivating activities, by country: 1999

Average percentage of science instruction time in eighth-grade science lessons allocated to motivating activities, by country: 1999
1AUS=Australia; CZE=Czech Republic; JPN=Japan; NLD=Netherlands; and USA=United States.
NOTE: USA>CZE, JPN, NLD; AUS>CZE.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), Video Study, 1999.

Top

  • Taking responsibility for learning: Students were expected to take responsibility for their own learning in a variety of ways, and these varied by country. Strategies included expecting students to start working independently, without any direction from the teacher, on a lesson-opening task that is posted on the board or overhead projector, to organize their notes and other science work in a special science notebook, to be prepared to work or be graded publicly in front of the class, to work on assigned homework outside the classroom, to monitor their own pace on long-term homework assignments, and to check their own work as they proceeded on long-term assignments. In the United States, students independently started their science lesson by working on posted lesson openers in 26 percent of the lessons. Students kept organized science notebooks in at least 50 percent of the lessons in all of the countries except the United States. Public Play Video Clip - Czech Republic (Flash) work by students and public assessment of student learning was a more common practice in the Czech Republic compared to most of the other countries. Assignment of homework occurred in 66 percent of Dutch lessons, more than in the Czech Republic and Japan. Dutch students frequently were expected to pace themselves on long-term assignments and to check their own work as they progressed on these assignments. In addition, Dutch students spent more time in class Play Video Clip - Netherlands (Flash) reviewing homework than students in all the other countries where reliable estimates could be made (data not shown).

Top