patterns. They hypothesize that instructional practice is composed of critical elements of content and discourse and that these cluster in patterns that are characteristic of the culture. They further hypothesize that inter-country variations may well be greater than intra-country variations. These hypotheses merit continued scrutiny and investigation. It will be important to probe the extent to which they seem valid, to attempt to characterize patterns in specific countries, and to consider implications for improving practice.

What Questions Might Be Explored with TIMSS?

The work of SMSO can serve to foreshadow the types of issues that will emerge in TIMSS. The observed patterns of curriculum and instructional practice across the six SMSO countries raise important questions to be explored in depth with the larger TIMSS data sets. This final section poses several such questions.

How much are the differences in mathematics and science curriculum and teaching due to culture and nation and how much are they really just related to individual teacher and student differences?

A cross-national study such as TIMSS or the related SMSO raises many questions about the social, political, economic, and cultural factors that play a role in shaping teaching, learning, curriculum, and schooling in a country. How does culture shape the practice of teaching, the nature and purposes of schooling, societal expectations of and support for education, and the experiences of different students? Questions such as these are crucial to interpreting the student achievement data and to understanding factors that may influence students' opportunities to learn, as well as what they actually do learn. Because one use of the TIMSS analysis might be to identify practices that seem to support worthwhile student learning, it will be critical to continue to understand the multiplicity of factors that combine to produce "practice", both through TIMSS and other research. Moreover, acknowledging the extent to which practices are embedded in culture is crucial to understanding what might be involved in transporting educational practices and ideas internationally.

What is meant by a "national curriculum" and what is its role?

We see from SMSO that some countries specify aspects of the intended curriculum at the national level. It will be useful to know which of the TIMSS participating nations have some form of nationally specified curriculum in mathematics and science and to examine closely various versions of "national curriculum." In what forms are these specified; e.g., curriculum outlines, textbooks, testing? Who has the authority for determining and articulating national goals? How specific are the goals? Do some national curricula specify instructional practice as well as content? How congruent are textbooks and other instructional materials to the goals specified? To what degree are teachers required to adhere to these goals and in what ways are they enabled to do so? How does the role of unofficial national standards, such as those produced by



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--> patterns. They hypothesize that instructional practice is composed of critical elements of content and discourse and that these cluster in patterns that are characteristic of the culture. They further hypothesize that inter-country variations may well be greater than intra-country variations. These hypotheses merit continued scrutiny and investigation. It will be important to probe the extent to which they seem valid, to attempt to characterize patterns in specific countries, and to consider implications for improving practice. What Questions Might Be Explored with TIMSS? The work of SMSO can serve to foreshadow the types of issues that will emerge in TIMSS. The observed patterns of curriculum and instructional practice across the six SMSO countries raise important questions to be explored in depth with the larger TIMSS data sets. This final section poses several such questions. • How much are the differences in mathematics and science curriculum and teaching due to culture and nation and how much are they really just related to individual teacher and student differences? A cross-national study such as TIMSS or the related SMSO raises many questions about the social, political, economic, and cultural factors that play a role in shaping teaching, learning, curriculum, and schooling in a country. How does culture shape the practice of teaching, the nature and purposes of schooling, societal expectations of and support for education, and the experiences of different students? Questions such as these are crucial to interpreting the student achievement data and to understanding factors that may influence students' opportunities to learn, as well as what they actually do learn. Because one use of the TIMSS analysis might be to identify practices that seem to support worthwhile student learning, it will be critical to continue to understand the multiplicity of factors that combine to produce "practice", both through TIMSS and other research. Moreover, acknowledging the extent to which practices are embedded in culture is crucial to understanding what might be involved in transporting educational practices and ideas internationally. • What is meant by a "national curriculum" and what is its role? We see from SMSO that some countries specify aspects of the intended curriculum at the national level. It will be useful to know which of the TIMSS participating nations have some form of nationally specified curriculum in mathematics and science and to examine closely various versions of "national curriculum." In what forms are these specified; e.g., curriculum outlines, textbooks, testing? Who has the authority for determining and articulating national goals? How specific are the goals? Do some national curricula specify instructional practice as well as content? How congruent are textbooks and other instructional materials to the goals specified? To what degree are teachers required to adhere to these goals and in what ways are they enabled to do so? How does the role of unofficial national standards, such as those produced by

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--> professional organizations in the U.S.,22 compare with the role of those produced by official government agencies in other countries? The TIMSS data offer an unparalleled opportunity to learn how curriculum is directed and organized in a wide variety of countries. Analyses of these data also will allow probing of the concept of "national curriculum," its essential elements, and factors that influence its nature and functions in different cultural and political contexts. • What is the role of the teacher, and how do teachers learn to do what they do? Looking at instructional practice across such a wide diversity of cultural contexts raises questions about teachers and the work of teaching. It will important to probe beneath the surface similarities and differences in teachers' roles in different contexts, to find out who teachers are, and to examine how they learn and develop their practice. What are the opportunities and conditions that contribute to what teachers do? In what ways do teachers' opportunities and conditions need to be considered when we look at instructional practices in other countries? How might these issues inform teacher preparation and professional development programs? Understanding of these issues is crucial in considering adaptation of practices across cultural settings. • How do differences in educational practice among countries affect students? On one hand, examining variations in intended and instructional practice is interesting. Much can be learned about the multiple forms that education can take across countries. On the other hand, the critical questions center on how these different approaches to curriculum and instruction affect educational outcomes, specifically student performance. For example, the six SMSO countries allocate substantially different amounts of time to particular topics, and their curricula reflect great variation in the number of topics intended for students to learn at each grade. These findings lead to questions about whether and how such practices may affect student achievement. How do students fare in systems that cover fewer topics per year? How does this curricular stance affect the thinking and practice of teachers? The TIMSS data not only have the potential to provide portraits of topic coverage across countries but also may afford an important opportunity to analyze the relations between the depth or breadth of the curriculum and what students learn. What patterns or relationships can be unearthed in these vast data sets that offer insights into what affects what students learn? The SMSO report underscores the fact that what can be learned from TIMSS will depend on developing methods of analysis that maintain a serious respect for the complexity of ideas such as "curriculum," "instruction," and "culture" and that do not seek simplistic relationships among what are complicated elements and interconnections. 22   National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. (1989). Curriculum and evaluation standards for school mathematics. Reston, VA: Author, and National Research Council. (1996). National science education standards. Washington, DC: Author.

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--> In addition to core questions of teaching, learning, and international comparisons, there are also crucial questions about the American educational system that the TIMSS data allow us to examine. In the following paragraphs, we illustrate two such questions. • How coherent is the U.S. system? The American system is sometimes criticized for its decentralization and fragmentation. The SMSO portrait seems to confirm that image, with goals being set at different levels of the system and neither teachers nor textbooks required to adhere to the goals. Is the American system as incoherent as the portrait seems to suggest? How much variation actually exists within the U.S. curriculum—in goals, textbooks, and teaching? Do U.S. teachers feel less compelled to adhere to goals than teachers in other countries? Are teachers in other countries reporting or exercising more autonomy than expected? Are U.S. teachers more uniformly directed—by textbooks or tests—than is commonly assumed? Do nationally marketed tests and textbooks, as well as dominant cultural beliefs and images of teaching, have a homogenizing effect on practice? The TIMSS data may offer opportunities to scrutinize what local control means and how it is enacted in the U.S. • Have the recent mathematics and science education reforms influenced curriculum and instructional practices in the U.S.? With the publication of several documents in the last decade,23 the U.S. has been focused on reforming mathematics and science education. Many will look to TIMSS for evidence about the extent to which the reform ideas have affected practice, in the hope of learning about the effects of reform on student achievement. To do this, it will be important to look closely at the different dates of different parts of TIMSS and to learn what data was gathered when relative to the significant dates in the reform activities. The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Curriculum and Evaluation Standards for School Mathematics were released in 1989; the American Association for the Advancement of Science's Benchmarks for Science Literacy in 1993; and the National Research Council National Science Education Standards in 1996. The dates of the teacher questionnaire data from TIMSS precede the release of the National Science Education Standards , for example. Because instructional materials require several years for development and production, the TIMSS curriculum study includes materials produced well before the publication of mathematics and science content standards. Data reported on curriculum coverage, topic inclusion, and pacing do not reflect standards-influenced textbooks and curriculum materials that have come on to the 23   National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. (1989). Curriculum and evaluation standards for school mathematics. Reston, VA: Author. National Research Council. (1996). National science education standards. Washington, DC: Author.; American Association for the Advancement of Science. (1993). Benchmarks for science literacy. New York: Oxford University Press.; American Association for the Advancement of Science. (1989). Science literacy. New York: Oxford University Press.; and National Science Teachers Association. (1992). Scope, sequence, and coordination of secondary school science. Vol 1. Washington, DC: Author.