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Methodological Advances in Cross-National Surveys of Educational Achievement 7 Advancements in Conceptualizing and Analyzing Cultural Effects in Cross-National Studies of Educational Achievement1 Gerald K. LeTendre* [T]hose who have conducted the [International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement] IEA studies have been well aware that educational systems, like other aspects of a culture, have characteristics that are unique to a given culture. In order to understand why students in a particular system of education perform as they do, one must often reach deep into the cultural and educational history of that system of education (Purves, 1987, p. 104). The problem of “culture” has engaged researchers of cross-national trends in education and schooling for decades and continues to invigorate a lively theoretical and methodological debate today. Scholars interested in comparative studies of education can still find themselves in a quandary as there is, to date, no single definition of culture or method of cultural analysis that is agreed on by all researchers. Researchers in the field still debate questions such as “How can an understanding of differences in cultures help us to better understand international differences in student achievement?” “How can an analysis of culture help us to understand what are and are not possible lessons to be learned for the U.S. in terms of improving student achievement?” or “When is culture an important factor and when is it not?” Nonetheless, there have been significant advances in how culture has been conceptualized in cross-national studies of educational achievement. * Gerald LeTendre is Chair of the Comparative and International Education Committee and the Harry and Marion Eberly Faculty Fellow at the Pennsylvania State University.
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Methodological Advances in Cross-National Surveys of Educational Achievement Both theoretically and methodologically, the study of educational achievement has been advanced by borrowing from cross-national work in the subfields of sociology of education, anthropology of education, cultural psychology, and qualitative studies in education. The traditional “national case study” model—in which idealized models of the nation’s education system were developed and analyzed—commonly used in the earliest days of the IEA has given way to studies which take into account national and regional diversity as well as studies that try to account for cross-national factors that can affect a range of nations. At both the micro-and macrosocial levels, an analysis of cultural effects has been advanced by better theory, research designs, and data sets and powerful software capable of analyzing huge data sets. The development of iterative, multimethod research designs has allowed researchers to overcome major epistemological problems that previously separated qualitative and quantitative researchers, allowing cultural analyses to inform cross-national studies at all stages of the research. In this chapter, I will review the advances that have been made in conceptualizing and studying culture in cross-national or comparative studies of schools and educational systems. I will show how models of cultural dynamics can be integrated with quantitative data in studies of educational achievement and cultural effects. Already, many researchers in the subfields of anthropology of education, sociology of education, and comparative education now routinely use mixed method designs to account for cultural effects (see Caracelli & Green, 1993; Tashakkori & Teddlie, 1998). I will summarize the most important methodological advances in modeling cultural effects on student achievement in two large recent IEA studies, and propose new models of multimethod research design that can integrate cultural analyses and quantitative analyses in the same study. Finally, I will discuss the problems inherent in trying to create large, qualitative, public databases: the kind of databases that further the integration of cultural analysis in studying many aspects of educational achievement. HOW TO DEFINE “CULTURE”? Virtually every aspect of education can be described as “culture,” depending on how the writer uses the term. In the quote cited at the beginning of this chapter, Purves states that the entire educational system is part of the national culture. Defining just what culture is has been an elusive task (see Hoffman, 1999, for an essay on the various definitions of culture used in comparative education studies). Using the broadest definition, even the most basic patterns of instructional practice are seen as the result of culture. Taking this stance, basic concepts such as “academic
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Methodological Advances in Cross-National Surveys of Educational Achievement achievement” are regarded as socially constructed or “cultural” phenomena by the researcher (see Goldman & McDermott, 1987; Grant & Sleeter, 1996). From this perspective, it is useless to argue what may or may not be a cultural effect because culture permeates and affects all social interactions. The idea that culture or cultural effects can be reduced to a set of variables has, as Hoffman (1999, pp. 472-474) notes, led to a dead end in comparative education. This kind of epistemological impasse has long kept qualitative and quantitative researchers from uniting in a common study of the cross-national causes and correlates of educational achievement. Invested in one mode of investigation, both quantitative and qualitative researchers find themselves bogged down in fruitless epistemological debates, missing a way to bridge qualitative and quantitative approaches to research: incorporating both methods in a larger research project designed to identify and test patterns of causality. While quantitative analysts tend to assume that a universal causal model with discrete variables can be readily identified and implemented in cross-national research, qualitative analysts tend to assume that the first problem to overcome in a cross-national study is how to model causation. Early comparativists frequently used textual descriptions or statistical summaries of nations or national systems of education as the basis for a comparative methodology (Bereday, 1964). This approach was limited because it assumes a pervasive, ill-defined cultural effect. In searching for what Jones termed “a scientific methodology” (Jones, 1971, p. 83) comparativists employed models in which nations as a whole were identified as culturally homogeneous units, that is, the “national case study” (see Passow, 1984).2 This led the field of comparative and international education to be dominated largely by “area experts” who studied the educational system of specific nations or regions. Content analyses of “comparative” studies of education printed in major academic journals reveal a predominant focus on only one country (Ramirez & Meyer, 1981) and a lack of comparative research design (see also Baker, 1994). Rust, Soumare, Pescador, and Shibuya (1999, p. 107) aptly demonstrate that over the past 20 years, few studies appearing in the major comparative journals cite the major theorists of the field of comparative education, and that “Very little attention has been given to data collection and data analysis strategies.” However, outside of the comparative education journals, there has been significant debate about how to improve data collection and data analysis strategies. The basic strategy of combining cross-national achievement and survey data, widely employed in IEA studies, provoked lively debates, particularly around the Second International Mathematics Study (Baker, 1993; Bradburn, Haertel, Schwille, & Torney-Purta, 1991; Rotberg, 1990; Westbury, 1992, 1993). However, these
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Methodological Advances in Cross-National Surveys of Educational Achievement debates did not address the basic concept of culture.3 The authors generally accepted an implicit model of culture as a historically static set of values (or language) specific to, and homogeneous among, a particular nation that could be readily modeled using discrete variables and linear equations. The problem with attempting to measure culture as a set of discrete variables that function in the same way across nations can be demonstrated by reference to attempts to understand what constitutes effective teaching within any given nation. The creation of ever more detailed national-level data sets has reached a dead end in IEA studies. For example, in 1984, Passow (p. 477) identified “quality of teachers” as one possible “teacher variable” to consider. In the IEA classroom study (Anderson, Ryan, & Shapiro, 1989), “quality of teachers” was measured in many different ways with sets of variables addressing specific areas— including knowledge of the field, instructional practice, and belief systems—any number of which could be construed as “cultural.” In the Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), a host of variables measured a wide range of teacher behaviors, beliefs, and backgrounds. Table 7-1 provides a partial list of variables related to teacher quality in the TIMSS Population 2 teacher questionnaire that many qualitative analysts would consider to measure cultural effects.4 Faced with such an alarming number of variables, researchers have turned to qualitative studies to help orient research and guide analysis and interpretation. The work of cross-cultural psychologists, such as Stevenson and Stigler, attempted to understand how teacher quality affects student achievement by incorporating theories that specific beliefs about teaching and learning were “cultural” and drove more effective instructional practice (see Stevenson & Stigler, 1992; Stigler & Hiebert, 1998). Both Stevenson and Stigler argue that Japanese teachers’ emphasis on persistence rather than innate ability led them to believe they could increase the achievement of all students, thus providing motivation to work harder to ensure that all students make academic progress. The idea that what makes a “good” teacher (or a good classroom) depends on the culturally influenced expectations of students, parents, and the teachers themselves has been expanded by the work of anthropologists and educational researchers (see, e.g., Anderson-Levitt, 1987, 2001; Crossley & Vulliamy, 1997; Daniels & Garner, 1999; Flinn, 1992; LeTendre, 2000; Shimahara, 1998). Scholars in subfields such as anthropology of education or sociology of education who engage in cross-national work now tend to employ a model of culture as a dynamic system. Rather than attempt to create more and more numerous sets of variables, these researchers emphasize the respondent’s perceptions of the social world, individual-level interactions, variation in cultural norms within
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Methodological Advances in Cross-National Surveys of Educational Achievement TABLE 7-1 Teacher Variables in TIMSS, Population 2 Time on Task in Classroom Time Outside of Classroom Implementation Time teaching textbook Preparing/grading exams Ability tracked or detracked Time spent on topics (20 main topics) Planning lessons Use of calculators Time on introduction of topic Updating student records Use of review Time on review Reading/grading student work Use of quizzes Frequency of computer use Professional study Small-group activities Frequency of use of graphs or charts Meetings with other teacher/student/parents Paper-pencil exercises Time on small-group activities Hands-on lab Time on topic development Assign homework Frequency of teacher/ student interaction Oral recitation/drill Ask students to explain reasoning Type of homework assigned SOURCE: TIMSS Population 2 Mathematics/Science Questionnaire. nations and sources of conflict (e.g., historical, regional, linguistic, racial, etc.) around key concepts, roles, and institutions. As early as 1976, IEA scholars called for increased attention to alternative ways to model cultural effects: The most interesting, and perhaps the most useful, approach to cross-national research proceeds not in terms of existing country-wide units, but on the basis of sub-national units. This means that it may be more interesting (for comparative work) to inquire about the correlates of achievement with, say, metropolitan areas across several countries, or among the children of the poor, or among girls, each group taken together across nations, than it is to regard individual countries as the logical, or only, units of analysis. (Passow, Noah, Eckstein, & Mallea, 1976, p. 293)
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Methodological Advances in Cross-National Surveys of Educational Achievement Many scholars now recognize that the static, national case study approach ultimately masks more important findings regarding the range of cultural variation within national subunits; conflicting educational expectations held by religious, linguistic or ethnic groups; and the degree to which cultural change affects the nation in question. For example, Shimahara (1998, pp. 3-4) squarely places his recent volume as a contribution to cross-national studies of education in that it brings to bear a contextual (i.e., cultural dynamic) perspective on classroom management: Yet the majority of international comparisons tend to be sketchy and cursory, paying scant attention to the national and cultural context of schooling. Such a problem is glaring in a broad array of writings.... Even The Handbook of Research on Teaching, presumably the most authoritative project on teaching of the American Educational Research Association, suffers from the same shortcomings. Authors refer to teaching practices in other countries without offering contextual interpretations. Shimahara, in this and previous works, has attempted to bring anthropological theory and qualitative methods to cross-national studies of education and achievement in the last ten years. The importance of “culture” in explaining the schooling process, or more basically, in identifying the boundaries of school as an institution, has played an increasing role in the IEA’s studies. ADVANCES IN MODELING CULTURE Researchers engaged in cross-national studies of educational systems have begun to use models of culture where culture is seen as a pervasive set of values, habits, and ideals that permeate every social institution and, in fact, construct the boundaries of acceptable or even imaginable behavior (see Douglas, 1986 for a theoretical synthesis), but do not assume that culture is historically static or homogeneous within national boundaries. Researchers conducting comparative studies that use a cultural dynamic approach to study educational achievement, for example, first document the range and variation in respondent’s definitions and knowledge of key concepts (e.g. achievement), social roles (e.g. teacher), and institutions (e.g. school). They then proceed to analyze patterns of consensus or conflict around such concepts, at the same time comparing recorded belief statements with observed behaviors. The same process is carried out in a second country and the patterns of consensus or conflict within each nation are then compared (see Anderson-Levitt, 2001; LeTendre, 2000; Shimahara and Sakai, 1995; Spindler, 1987). Two recent major IEA studies—Civic Education and TIMSS—both attempted to incorporate more dynamic models of culture and made sig-
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Methodological Advances in Cross-National Surveys of Educational Achievement nificant methodological and theoretical advances over previous studies as they incorporated extensive qualitative components. The decision to combine qualitative and quantitative data collection in different research components of the same study indicates an understanding that a combined qualitative/quantitative approach will maximize understanding of educational processes cross-nationally. In the TIMSS-Repeat (TIMSS-R), an expanded video component has been retained with the explicit intent of providing the opportunity for holistic analysis that incorporates a more dynamic model of culture. The intended coding procedures of the TIMSSR video data will include both inductive and deductive components. The researchers stated they will: Develop a holistic interpretive framework for each country to which specific teaching codes can be linked. We refer to this as “conserving” for each country the context or meaning of a given analytic code, for example the meaning of the use of chalkboards and overhead projectors. (TIMSS-R Video Study Web site at www.lessonlab.com/timss-r/videocoding.htm) These advances in integrating qualitative and quantitative methods in cross-national studies of academic achievement parallel the areas of experimentation by scholars in many fields. In demography, family studies, and other fields, whole journal issues recently have been devoted to investigation of qualitative methods. For example, Asay and Hennon (1999) suggest innovations in interviewing for international family research derived from qualitative educational studies. An entire issue of The Professional Geographer is dedicated to qualitative methods, including “Use of Storytelling” and “The Utility of In-Depth Interviews” (The Professional Geographer, Vol. 51, No. 2). Essentially, several fields are converging on a combined analytic strategy that mixes quantitative and qualitative data in order to answer distinct but related questions about a given phenomenon. HOW CULTURAL ANALYSES IMPROVE OUR UNDERSTANDING OF ACHIEVEMENT How can an understanding of differences in national cultural dynamics help us to better understand international differences in student achievement? How can an analysis of culture help us to understand what are and are not possible lessons to be learned for the United States in terms of improving student achievement? The answer lies in the richness of details—the “thick description”—that high quality qualitative studies provide. This kind of data allows researchers to address three major problems in current social science research: how to capture daily life, how to
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Methodological Advances in Cross-National Surveys of Educational Achievement improve interpretation, and how to model dynamic systems. More accurate data on daily life form the basis for more accurate comparisons of national cultural dynamics and improve our knowledge of the implications and problems that need to be faced if programs or reforms are to be transferred from one nation to another. Capturing Daily Life Researchers in a variety of fields are drawn to qualitative methods as a way of more accurately documenting and portraying the social experiences of groups of interest. As Asay and Hennon (1999, p. 409) write: “Qualitative methodologies are often chosen for family research because of their ability in gaining ‘real life’ and more contextualized understanding of the phenomenon of interest.” Researchers from several fields appear to see qualitative methods as a way to capture more accurate portrayals of the social world. Epistemologically, these researchers believe that an analysis of system dynamics will produce results distinct from an analysis of the causal relationships between parts of the system. Stigler and Hiebert (1999) noted that in studying the videotapes of teachers in three nations, it was more important to see how the lessons formed a whole than to count frequencies of coded categories. Simply put, qualitative analyses provide insight into how the cultural dynamic is working at the time of the study. On another level, although surveys, structured interviews, or observation instruments can capture a myriad of codeable behaviors or characteristics (such as the desire to go to college), they largely fail to capture the assumed meanings that people make in every social interaction. For example, in my own work, I found that all adolescents said they wanted to go on to college (LeTendre, 2000). Yet what was meant by college differed dramatically. One young U.S. adolescent boy said to me: “I’d like to go to college, like an electrician’s program like my uncle went to, but if not that I’d like to be a lawyer.” Survey questions about future academic aspirations generally fail to capture the complexity, and confusion, that characterizes adolescent educational decision making (see LeTendre, 1996; Okano, 1995). This student (and many others I interviewed) saw all forms of post-high school training as “college.” The fact that an adolescent thinks there is essentially no difference between the kind of training needed to be a journeyman electrician and a lawyer suggests that his or her educational trajectory will be affected adversely by a lack of knowledge of the basic educational opportunity structure (see also Gambetta, 1987; Gamoran & Mare, 1989; Hallinan, 1992; Kilgore, 1991; Lareau, 1989). Similarly, Stigler and Hiebert (1999) note that in studying teacher practice in classrooms, coding and analyzing
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Methodological Advances in Cross-National Surveys of Educational Achievement discrete variables fails to accurately model the effect of specific actions in context. Such contextualized knowledge opens new lines of inquiry for the researcher, and presents the possibility of identifying what features of the system are likely to be linked with areas of interest and what are not. That is, holistic analysis of the dynamic system can highlight pertinent cultural features or subsystems that can be targeted for more intense study. Qualitative data allow researchers to document the extent to which behaviors vary and to which disagreement is raised, and the kinds of behaviors about which people argue. This kind of highly detailed, descriptive data allows for a more accurate interpretation of the entire body of data we have about a given country. Improving Interpretation By analyzing culture as a dynamic system, researchers increase the accuracy of interpretation of the results of qualitative or combined qualitative/quantitative studies in terms of bringing them closer to how the respondents themselves see things. This was made dramatically clear to me in my own work. I found that certain academically competent Japanese students were highly worried and concerned about the upcoming high school examination—a fact that would not be predicted from either a conflict or sponsorship model of educational selection (LeTendre, 1996). A reanalysis of field notes and interview transcriptions, however, revealed the role that strong emotions played in the decision-making process and suggested a new theoretical interpretation: Students who have high test scores are perceived by their teachers to need less counseling about high school placement, but this lack of counseling makes the students feel that their choices are less “safe” or “good” than lower achieving students who receive more counseling. High-achieving Japanese students were not able to reassure themselves emotionally, via contact with teachers, that their choices were sound choices, creating anxiety. Too often, highly statistical analyses of educational achievement fail to record accurately how teachers, students, parents, and administrators interpret the world around them, thus preventing accurate causal modeling of the social system in question. For example, one could theorize that a culture of competition in Japan (Dore, 1976) drives high-stakes testing and the large cram-school system (see also Rohlen, 1980; Zeng, 1996). Yet ethnographic studies of U.S. schooling (Eckert, 1989; Goldman & McDermott, 1987; Grant & Sleeter, 1996) also document a culture of competition, yet there has been little high-stakes testing or cram-school development in the United States. The expression of academic competition is affected by patterns of relationships between key concepts, roles, and institutions, and these patterns differ between the United States and Japan.
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Methodological Advances in Cross-National Surveys of Educational Achievement In the United States, competition pervades all aspects of student life in schools, particularly social life, and adolescents spend considerable energy in vying for social popularity or athletic supremacy. In U.S. schools, there are distinct and separate social status hierarchies that split arenas of competition, “jocks” opposed to “nerds” (see Eckert, 1989). In Japan, there is less differentiation of social status hierarchies, and all social status hierarchies are affected by academic performance (Fukuzawa & LeTendre, 2001). Even in working-class high schools, there is a comparative lack of a strong countercultural movement (compare Kinney, 1994; Okano, 1993; Trelfa, 1994, with Grant & Sleeter, 1996; Jenkins, 1983; or MacLeod, 1987). Without understanding the cultural context of competition—the ways in which adolescents (and teachers) make sense of academic competition and how it affects their lives—we could not model accurately the role of academic competition in either the United States or Japan, much less conduct a systematic comparison of the effect of competition on student achievement and socialization. Nonetheless, ethnographic studies by themselves provide limited data for national policy decisions. National survey and testing data are needed if researchers wish to formulate and test hypotheses at a national level. A combination of qualitative and quantitative data has gained wide support as a way to increase accuracy of interpretation. In summarizing the future strategy of IEA basic school subjects, Plomp (1990, p. 9) writes, “[I]ncreased attention will be paid to ways of combining quantitative and ‘narrative’ methodologies in order to provide potential for rich interpretations for the statistical data, and in this way providing decision makers which [sic] more comprehensive information.” Plomp (then IEA chairman), like researchers in other fields, believed that some form of qualitative data was needed to accurately interpret survey results. Modeling Dynamic Systems Attempts to model cultural effects by using an increasingly large array of variables in cross-national studies failed because the potential number of variables that can be considered cultural is so large. Identifying what a cultural variable is (as well as measuring its impact) tends to devolve into arguments about how to define culture. This strategy also has another limitation. Defining cultural variables assumes that any given variable will have the same effect across time and place: that the cultural dynamic will function in the same way over time and across regions. The prevailing understanding of cultures is that they are systems in flux that cannot be studied in some state of equilibrium or against some initial steady state. There are no steady states or states of equilibrium for nations. The cultural dynamic
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Methodological Advances in Cross-National Surveys of Educational Achievement is essentially a “moving target” that constantly changes and does not have a readily identifiable trajectory. Grand cultural theories of early anthropology (regarding progressive evolution from sociocultural states of savagery through barbarism to civilization) have been abandoned and criticized for their inherent racial and/or cultural prejudice. Scholars of national educational systems and cross-national education studies must try to understand the workings of a system with limited knowledge of what states the system has passed through (i.e., historical context) and no knowledge of what states the system is likely to go through (developmental trajectory). Modeling culture as a dynamic system offers a way to understand the overall patterns of interactions that occur in the culture at the time it is observed. Modeling culture as a dynamic system shifts the analytic focus from identifying discrete, quantifiable cultural variables (and their statistical relation to other variables) to a focus on recording and documenting participants’ understandings and social interactions. Modeling culture as a dynamic system also implies that individuals are trying to make sense out of their world, and that there will be significant individual variation in terms of what kinds of classes of things or people affect individual perceptions and behavior. Modeling culture as a dynamic system generates sets of questions about the overall functioning of the system. In discussing the limitations of observational instruments to capture classroom environments Anderson and colleagues (1989, p. 299) noted that “Differences among studies appear to exist in the categories of questions that are formed (whether a priori or post hoc). Furthermore, and both as expected and as appropriate, the categories formed seemed to depend on the purpose or purposes of the study.” An analysis of cultural effects, in which culture is modeled as a dynamic system, is designed to ask different questions from studies that try to identify causal relationships (defined a priori) between specific variables in the system. Integrating Qualitative Analyses Some combination of qualitative and quantitative data is necessary if we are to understand, model, and compare national educational systems. The problem remains in determining what the best way is to integrate an analysis of cultural effects or qualitative studies with quantitative studies in order to improve cross-national studies of achievement. Because the basic research designs and rationales of qualitative and quantitative studies “ask very different questions of the data,” an overarching strategy of combined analysis seems most appropriate (see Tashakkori & Teddlie, 1998). Qualitative studies, on their own, offer ways to capture daily life,
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Methodological Advances in Cross-National Surveys of Educational Achievement phenomenon. For example, teacher surveys, teacher logs, structured observations, and videos of classroom practice all can be used to measure instructional practice such as the assignment of homework. Each method will record the instructional practice in slightly different ways, but these measures can be related to one another to provide a more accurate assessment of homework assignment. Triangulation also provides researchers with the opportunity to revise their instruments and fine tune their overall research design (see U.S. Department of Education, 1999). Such triangulation can occur between study components or within components if the component is large enough. For example, in the TIMSSR video study (which sampled about 100 schools in eight nations), the videotape data were complemented by a student questionnaire, a teacher questionnaire, samples of student work, samples of materials used in the lesson, and samples of tests given (http://www.lessonlab.com/timss-r/instruments.htm). These multiple measures of classroom practices can be used to enhance the measurement of instructional practices deemed of interest. Triangulation is costly both in terms of time and analytic effort. In very large projects like TIMSS, future research designs would do well to identify a specific phenomenon or areas of related phenomena (e.g., how teachers achieve equity of opportunity to learn within classrooms) and design components to allow triangulation of measures around these phenomena of interest. When the study includes a wide range of grade levels, like TIMSS, it is important to take into account the fact that there may be different organizational environments and/or cultural expectations for different levels of schooling in a given nation. For example, widespread “no homework” policies at the elementary level in Japan give way to significant homework assignment in the middle school years. Triangulation of measures would need to be performed on more than one age level in multilevel studies, increasing the risk of data overload. The TIMSS data offer the possibility of triangulation among teacher surveys, student surveys, case study observations, and the video studies at the Population 2 level for three nations. However, to engage in extensive triangulation of measures even at this level has been daunting. To use triangulation at every level of a multigrade level study like TIMSS likely would be cost prohibitive in terms of collection and unlikely to result in data that could be used by researchers in a timely manner. Rather than triangulating methods at each level, maximizing complementarity of components in early stages of the research would be a more effective way to identify the cultural aspects of a phenomenon (such as opportunity to learn) in different nations and/or regions, providing a path for more specific and limited triangulation of measures in subsequent components.
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Methodological Advances in Cross-National Surveys of Educational Achievement Complementarity Survey studies, case studies, and other field-based observational studies can be used either in a confirmatory or exploratory way (Tashakkori & Teddlie, 1998, p. 37). However, survey research typically is used in a confirmatory manner (i.e., to test formal hypotheses), while case studies and other field-based observational studies generally are used to explore given social situations in depth. In multiage level, multinational studies like TIMSS, survey questionnaires offer the potential to generate data that can be used to test hypotheses about the impacts of belief structures on a cross-national level. The TIMSS survey data at the student, teacher, and school levels can be combined with the achievement data to allow researchers to test what factors, cross-nationally, are associated with academic achievement, although they do not allow causal modeling. Cross-sectional survey data of the kind presented in TIMSS are less useful to the overall analysis process than longitudinal survey data, especially surveys that have been developed with input from ongoing qualitative research. In TIMSS, the case study data complement the survey data (in three nations) by providing researchers with highly detailed descriptions ideal for exploratory (i.e., hypothesis generating) work. These case studies also provide a global description of the public educational systems in these three nations that allows researchers to see how different organizations (i.e., Japanese cram schools and public schools) or groups (e.g., teachers and parents) interact at different levels. However, if survey questions had been derived with input from analysis of the case study data, it is likely that such questions would have provided more insight into how intranational variation in belief structures compared with international variation (for a preliminary attempt to achieve this comparison, see LeTendre, Baker, Akiba, Goesling, and Wiseman, 2001). To maximize the complementarity within the overall research design, however, more interaction between the exploratory components (case studies or other field studies) and the development of survey instruments is needed. One of the problems in trying to use both the TIMSS case study and survey databases is that sometimes there is good overlap (e.g., in the coverage of homework) and sometimes poor overlap (e.g., in the coverage of family background) between the two components. Initiating exploratory, qualitative components first, and overlapping the analysis of these components with the development of survey, test, or observation instruments, would maximize the overall complementarity of the components. Finally, as Adam Gamoran pointed out in a review of this paper, a more sophisticated overarching analysis design might have improved the purely quantitative components of TIMSS. A pretest/posttest design combined with longitudinal or time-series surveys of practices and beliefs
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Methodological Advances in Cross-National Surveys of Educational Achievement would have allowed analysts of TIMSS to test more complex causal models. In planning such large cross-national studies, the temporal relationship of key components is crucial to the overarching design. Temporal Relationship of Components The IEA Civic Education project provides a good model for the ideal temporal relationship of components: researchers involved in each stage of research should be integrated into the planning and initial analysis of subsequent stages (an analytic “pass the baton” metaphor, if you will). In this way, important knowledge about the problems and limitations of each component is conserved. Such temporal sequencing also increases the complementarity of the components, as key questions that arise in early stages of the research can then drive the development of research focus and instrument creation in subsequent stages. In large projects such as TIMSS, temporal sequencing may create substantial costs if all components are given equal weight. In most multimethod research designs, not all components are given the same emphasis or have the same analytic weight as other components. In smaller studies with only two components (a survey and a case study), researchers may place more emphasis on data collection and analysis on one component versus another. In cross-national studies like TIMSS, the complexity of the research design suggests that temporal sequencing and relative emphasis on components must be manipulated as part of the overall research design. Relative Emphasis of Components Tashakkori and Teddlie (1998), for example, note that most multimethod research designs assign more or less emphasis to the component studies. The use of a small, “pilot” qualitative study with a subsequent “main” quantitative study is common in much social science research. A small pilot study, perhaps involving focus groups and some limited open-ended interviews, typically is used to generate a first draft of a survey. Future cross-national studies, which must address multiple levels of schooling, could benefit from a research design that systematically manipulates both the emphasis and temporal sequence of the components. For example, a study using multiple components with three stages of data collection might be conducted on the quality of teacher classroom practice. Simultaneous observational or video studies of a limited number of classrooms could be conducted along with a study based on teacher records or journals. Analysis of these data might highlight one aspect of classroom practice (such as classroom management styles) as being a key
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Methodological Advances in Cross-National Surveys of Educational Achievement factor affecting instructional quality. This material then could be used to generate a survey or an observation instrument that would be pilot tested. This pilot study would be likely to raise further questions or reveal other areas of interest that then would be incorporated into the final research design, where revised quantitative instruments and more focused qualitative study (perhaps a case study) would be used to gather the main body of data. AN INTEGRATED ANALYSIS STRATEGY FOR COMPONENTS Finally, in very large studies like TIMSS, more than one line of research could occur simultaneously, with links across lines increasing the analytic power of each component. Qualitative and quantitative components should be organized in iterative stages, culminating in a final database that could be collected on a larger scale. For example, in a study of student academic achievement, components such as video studies of classrooms, like those conducted in TIMSS and TIMSS-R, could be integrated by having fewer classrooms, but recording each classroom for longer periods of time. Ideally, the beginning, middle, and end of similar units (such as electricity) should be taped at the same grade level to provide information about patterns of unit flow. In addition, keeping teacher and student logs in videotaped classrooms would provide more accurate assessment (U.S. Department of Education, 1999). The videotapes and logs would be collected in the first stage of research and used as stimuli for focus groups of teachers or parents in subsequent qualitative components designed to highlight cultural effects on teaching.8 The results of these focus group interviews, along with the original videos and/or logs, would serve as the basis for creating instruments or video strategies for the final phase that would address identified patterns. That is, more attention might be directed at comparing veteran and novice teachers, area specialists and nonspecialists, classes of heterogeneous ability, and classes of homogeneous ability if these groups or interactions appear to be especially relevant in the nations in question. DATA RELEASE AND ANALYSIS The timely release of data and the incorporation of a large group of secondary analysts also should be considered as part of the overall research strategy. The release of TIMSS data via the World Wide Web by the Boston University team was a major breakthrough in the dissemination of cross-national data. The high quality of the technical reports and data packaging has allowed scholars around the world to use the TIMSS survey and achievement data to engage in significant debates about effects
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Methodological Advances in Cross-National Surveys of Educational Achievement and methods and what areas need future studies. Largely because of confidentiality issues, neither the TIMSS case study nor the video study data have been released or analyzed in the way that the survey and achievement data have. Future studies should consider ways to disseminate qualitative data that would allow a larger pool of researchers to access the data and link the analysis of qualitative data with the analysis of quantitative data. Several strategies for data release are possible. First, to address the issue of maintaining subject confidentiality, transcripts of the classroom dialogue in video studies could be edited to delete identifying information and be released along with the corresponding surveys and coded observations. Although this kind of qualitative data would not provide the rich analytic possibilities of the visual data, it would allow access to the data by a larger range of scholars, increasing the possibility of new insights. Researchers who use such textual data might then seek to work with the original video data, following protocols for maintaining confidentiality that the National Center for Education Statistics already has in place. With case study data, the problem of maintaining confidentiality is slightly different. In the TIMSS case study, even after deleting distinguishing remarks and inserting pseudonyms, reviewers familiar with the school systems studied could readily identify field sites. The power of qualitative data to capture the gestalt or cultural dynamic of a given place means that it is impossible to protect subject anonymity without substantially lessening the analytic capacity of the data. However, releasing portions of the data collected might be feasible. Logs or diaries kept by teachers could be edited to delete identifying remarks, then released. Verbatim transcripts, with identifying text deleted, also might be released. Scholars who analyzed these initial data sets then might seek to work with the original data under specified guidelines. CONCLUSION: PROBLEMS THAT REQUIRE FURTHER ATTENTION AND EXPERIMENTATION The major challenge in incorporating cultural analyses in studies of student achievement is that most research in either qualitative sociology or cultural anthropology is exploratory and is thus designed specifically to raise questions, not test hypotheses formally derived from an existing body of theory. For some researchers trained in quantitative methods, the basic techniques of qualitative research violate what they perceive as the basic requirements of “good science.” For example, using snowball sampling, where informants lead the research on to other informants, is a classic technique in qualitative research, especially among “hidden” (e.g.,
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Methodological Advances in Cross-National Surveys of Educational Achievement drug users, runaways, gay teenagers in schools) populations. Yet many quantitative researchers regard a “random sample” as the sine qua non of good research. Framing qualitative research as a type of “pilot study” does not readily work to bridge this gap as it reduces the qualitative research to such an extent as to make it worthless to pursue and quantitative researchers are likely to voice the same objections to the quality of the pilot study. Cultural analyses should be incorporated as methodologically distinct, but integrated, components in cross-national studies of schooling so that the effects of beliefs, values, ideological conflicts, or habitual practices can be incorporated into the analysis. Patterns, both within nations and across nations, can be compared and contrasted to improve our understanding of what values, beliefs, or practices are accentuated, legitimized, or even institutionalized. Such analyses, when joined with various types of national quantitative assessments, would more clearly identify the overall similarity or dissimilarity of basic cultural patterns around schooling and would increase understanding of what kinds of reforms or innovations would or would not transfer from one nation to another. Documenting the range of cultural variation within nation states is perhaps the most important role for cultural analysis in cross-national studies of educational achievement. A wide range of scholars (both quantitative and qualitative) have argued that the unit of the nation state is an inadequate analytic unit because it misses crucial regional variation as well as variation in subpopulations (such as racial, ethnic, linguistic, religious, or other minority groups). Detailed description of cultural variation with regard to core beliefs would greatly inform both quantitative research and policy creation. Documenting cultural change is crucial to understanding how current beliefs or values may or may not hold for the future and thus may or may not be relevant in subsequent assessments or policy recommendations. Large cross-national studies of educational achievement that attempt to incorporate significant qualitative components in order to analyze cultural effects on learning are a relatively new type of study. TIMSS, with its large number of components and enormous databases, was a groundbreaking study and offers future researchers important lessons. The study of mixed methods is itself relatively new in social sciences, and promises to yield substantial breakthroughs in the future. Advances in computer or software technology (such as programs that allow visual and textual data to be analyzed simultaneously) have radically changed the nature of qualitative research and likely will continue to affect possibilities for research. Within qualitative research, specific forms of research (e.g., case studies or focus group research) have seen substantial methodological debate and evolution in the past 15 years.
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Methodological Advances in Cross-National Surveys of Educational Achievement In summary, my assessment of the current state of research is that we, as a community of scholars, have only begun to investigate ways to collect, analyze, and apply (to policy formation) these rich data sets. Further methodological improvements are certain to occur. We are currently in a period where many possibilities exist for combining data and creating new methods for analyzing data. Some problems, like data overload, remain but such problems are not new—historians have dealt with them for centuries. New analytic tools promise the ability to analyze larger data sets with more consistency. Effectively utilizing large qualitative data sets will require continued support for innovation and experimentation in analysis. Funding specifically for research on how to analyze these large data sets would increase the ability of the academic community in general to access the potential of the data. Just as hierarchical linear model (HLM) analysis has transformed research on school effects, so too, do new programs or strategies for integrating large qualitative and quantitative databases offer the potential to transform cross-national research. Such innovation will require time, money, and patience as dead ends and temporary failures are inevitable in any scientific undertaking, but the potential advances make this area one that deserves continued support and emphasis within the broader scientific community. NOTES 1. I would like to thank Lynn Paine, Andy Porter, and Adam Gamoran for their insightful feedback and comments on previous drafts of this chapter. 2. Within the past 15 years, the major journals in the field of comparative education have seen more and more articles that draw on critical or postmodern theories to analyze the “culture” of schooling (Taylor, 1996). The 1998 theme of the Comparative and International Education Society (CIES) was “Bringing Culture Back In.” Clearly, many scholars who would identify themselves as comparativists are interested in issues of culture, yet the fact that the CIES organizers agreed that culture was something that needed to be “brought back in” suggests that significant problems remain in integrating studies that focus on a cultural analysis with more traditional “national case studies” of education and educational achievement. 3. Even studies of the global spread of institutional forms of schooling—which tend to be highly influenced by a social construction of meaning perspective—often focus on society-level variables and ignore the cultural implications of institutional theory (e.g., Boli & Ramirez, 1992; Meyer, Ramirez, & Soysal, 1992). 4. Some readers initially may review this list and question why “time on small group activities” might be related to culture. In the case of Japan, previous research has shown that small groups are associated with cultural ideals and play a special role in Japanese education (Hendry, 1986; Lewis, 1995; Peak, 1991; Tobin, Wu, & Davidson, 1989). Small groups play a key role in Japanese society, and teacher beliefs and attitudes about group functioning have been linked to a shared set of beliefs (culture) that drive student-teacher interactions (Fujita, 1989).
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Methodological Advances in Cross-National Surveys of Educational Achievement 5. The director, Dr. Harold Stevenson, was a leading expert in cross-cultural studies in psychology and had conducted numerous cross-national psychological studies of the effects of schooling (Stevenson, Azuma, & Hakuta, 1986; Stevenson, Lummis, Lee, & Stigler, 1990; Stevenson, Parker, Wilkinson, Bonnevaux, & Gonzalez, 1978). Also, one of the more influential advisors on the case study component, Dr. Robert Levine, had worked on the original six-culture study. 6. The edited series of ethnographic case studies produced by Waveland Press has many volumes dealing explicitly with cultural impacts on education (e.g., Rosenfeld, 1971; Wolcott, 1967). 7. NUD*IST is one of several qualitative data analysis packages used by qualitative researchers. These packages allow the researcher to create coding schema and index large textual databases. See Miles and Huberman (1994). 8. This method has been used by Tobin, Wu, and Davidson (1989) as well as Fujita and Sano (1988) to generate powerful insights into how implicit (i.e., cultural) expectations for classroom practices affect teacher work roles and child development. REFERENCES Altbach, P., & Kelly, G. (Eds.). (1986). New approaches to comparative education. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Anderson, L., Ryan, D., & Shapiro, B. (1989). The IEA Classroom Environment Study. New York: Pergamon Press. Anderson-Levitt, K. (1987). National culture and teaching culture. Anthropology and Education Quarterly, 18, 33-38. Anderson-Levitt, K. (2001). Teaching culture. Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press. Asay, S., & Hennon, C. (1999). The challenge of conducting qualitative family research in international settings. Family and Consumer Sciences Research Journal, 27(4), 409-427. Baker, D. (1993). Compared to Japan, the U.S. is a low achiever . . . really: New evidence and comment on Westbury. Educational Researcher, 22(3), 18-20. Baker, D. (1994). In comparative isolation: Why comparative research has so little influence on American sociology of education. Research in Sociology of Education and Socialization, 10, 53-70. Bereday, G. (1964). Comparative method in education. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston. Boli, J., & Ramirez, F. (1992). Compulsory schooling in the Western cultural context: Essence and variation. In R. Arnove, P. Altbach, & G. Kelly (Eds.), Emergent issues in education: Comparative perspectives (pp. 15-38). Albany, NY: State University of New York Press. Bradburn, N., Haertel, E., Schwille, J., & Torney-Purta, J. (1991). A rejoinder to “I never promised you first place.” Phi Delta Kappan, June, 774-777. Brewer, J., & Hunter, A. (1989). Multimethod research: A synthesis of styles. Newbury Park, CA: Sage. Caracelli, V., & Greene, J. (1993). Data analysis strategies for mixed-method evaluation designs. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 15(2), 195-207. Crossley, M., & Vulliamy, G. (Eds.). (1997). Qualitative educational research in developing countries. New York: Garland. Daniels, H., & Garner, P. (Eds.). (1999). World yearbook of education 1999: Inclusive education. London: Kogan Page. Dore, R. P. (1976). The diploma disease. Berkeley: University of California Press. Douglas, M. (1986). How institutions think. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press. Eckert, P. (1989). Jocks and burnouts: Social categories and identity in the high school. New York: Teachers College Press.
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Representative terms from entire chapter: