Module 2A: What Does TIMSS Say about Curriculum?

GOALS

  • To explore what TIMSS found in its study of U.S. mathematics and science curricula as compared with curricula from other countries;

  • To understand what makes curriculum focused and coherent;

  • To explore factors that contribute to the lack of focus in U.S. classrooms and the lack of connections between curriculum, instruction, and school supports; and

  • To identify issues for further reflection and dialogue and possible action to improve the mathematics and science curricula in participants’ own schools, districts, and/or higher education institutions.

ACTIVITIES

2A.1 Overview of Goals and Agenda (5 minutes)

2A.2 Making Meaning from TIMSS Data on Curriculum (45 minutes)

2A. 3 Implications and Questions Raised by the Data (20 minutes)

2A.4 Curriculum Focus and Coherence: Brief Lecture with Discussion (20 minutes)

2A. 5 Issues for Further Reflection and Dialogue (30 minutes)

Time: 2 hours

SET UP AND MATERIALS

Room Arrangement and Equipment
  • Tables for groups of four

  • Overhead projector and screen

  • Newsprint and markers



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Global Perspectives for Local Action: Using TIMSS to Improve U.S. Mathematics and Science Education - Professional Development Guide Module 2A: What Does TIMSS Say about Curriculum? GOALS To explore what TIMSS found in its study of U.S. mathematics and science curricula as compared with curricula from other countries; To understand what makes curriculum focused and coherent; To explore factors that contribute to the lack of focus in U.S. classrooms and the lack of connections between curriculum, instruction, and school supports; and To identify issues for further reflection and dialogue and possible action to improve the mathematics and science curricula in participants’ own schools, districts, and/or higher education institutions. ACTIVITIES 2A.1 Overview of Goals and Agenda (5 minutes) 2A.2 Making Meaning from TIMSS Data on Curriculum (45 minutes) 2A. 3 Implications and Questions Raised by the Data (20 minutes) 2A.4 Curriculum Focus and Coherence: Brief Lecture with Discussion (20 minutes) 2A. 5 Issues for Further Reflection and Dialogue (30 minutes) Time: 2 hours SET UP AND MATERIALS Room Arrangement and Equipment Tables for groups of four Overhead projector and screen Newsprint and markers

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Global Perspectives for Local Action: Using TIMSS to Improve U.S. Mathematics and Science Education - Professional Development Guide Paper for note-taking and pens/pencil, plus newsprint or transparencies and markers for recorders/reporters (For Activity 2A.5 you will need markers in seven different colors.) Order in Advance Copies of the Global Perspectives for Local Action: Using TIMSS to Improve U.S. Mathematics and Science Education report for each participant (The report is available from the National Academy Press, 2101 Constitution Ave., NW, Lockbox 285, Washington, D.C. 20055; Phone: (800) 624–6242 [toll free] or (202) 334–3313 [in the Washington Metropolitan area].) Make in Advance Overhead transparencies from masters for Module 2A in this guide (Note that the masters are labeled Slides 2A–1 through 2A–35.) (Also needed are transparencies from the masters of Slides 1–11 through 1–18 from Module 1.)7 Seven stations around the room with one newsprint sheet at each labeled as follows: 1) teachers, 2) administrators, 3) higher education faculty, 4) textbook and curriculum publishers, 5) state and local policy makers, 6) designers of student assessments, and 7) parents (Provide two differently colored markers at each station.) For each table of four, four different packets with five pieces of TIMSS data in each packet (using Slides 2A–8 through 2A–11; 2A–13 through 2A–20; and Slides 1–11 through 1–18 from Module 1) (In each packet, use one slide from slides labeled 2A–8 through 2A–11 plus two slides from 2A–13 through 2A–20 plus two slides from 1–11 through 1–18.) Copies of handouts for this module (see pgs. 227–238) (one set per participant) (Also copy the Module 1 handout on TIMSS Populations 1, 2, and 3 from pg. 144 if needed.) FACILITATOR NOTES 2A.1 Overview of Goals and Agenda (5 minutes) Welcome participants and provide them with copies of the handouts for this module. Then use Slides 2A–1 and 2A–2 to review the session’s goals and agenda. (If people do not know one another have them introduce themselves at their individual tables.) 7   The source of data cited on masters is noted on the bottom of each master by title. For complete citations, see the “Resources” section of this guide.

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Global Perspectives for Local Action: Using TIMSS to Improve U.S. Mathematics and Science Education - Professional Development Guide 2A.2 Making Meaning from TIMSS Data on Curriculum (45 minutes) Let participants know that this session is designed around a report prepared by the National Research Council (NRC) on the findings of the Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS). Tell them this portion of the session focuses on Chapter 3 of the report—“What Does TIMSS Say about the Mathematics and Science Curriculum?” (Show Slide 2A–3.) The chapter draws on data from the analysis of 491 curriculum guides and 628 textbooks from around the world collected as part of TIMSS. It also presents detailed information on teachers’ curriculum practices in the U.S., Japan, and Germany from video and case studies and surveys. The study documented the state of U.S. mathematics and science curricula, textbooks, and teaching practices in a cross-national context. TIMSS researchers concluded that the lack of a single coherent vision of how to educate children in the U.S. today produces unfocused curricula and textbooks that influence teachers to implement diffuse learning goals (Schmidt, McKnight, and Raizen, 1997d). Using Slide 2A–4, tell participants that the NRC report’s section on curriculum looks at the content that is intended to be taught and the organization of that content. Showing Slide 2A–5, say that TIMSS provides insights into major issues surrounding curriculum, such as “Time and Tracking.” TIMSS provides data on the amount of time that U.S. students spend studying mathematics and science and on expectations for courses and programs of study. (See background in Chapter 3 of the NRC report.) TIMSS also provides data on the “Structure of the Curriculum” along two dimensions—focus and coherence (show Slide 2A–6). Focus means the attention given to single topics either within single class sessions or across class sessions. (See background in Chapter 3.) Coherence means the connectedness of the mathematics and science ideas and skills presented to students within a lesson and over an extended period of time within the curriculum. (See background in Chapter 3.) Tell participants they will explore these and other issues about U.S. mathematics and science curricula. Ask participants to jot down their predictions of the differences between U.S. curriculum and curriculum from other countries (Slide 2A–7). Ask them to report their predictions at their tables and ask for two to three of these to be shared with the whole group. As participants are doing this, place four different packets of TIMSS information on achievement and curriculum at each table of four participants. Each packet should include two sheets (copies of slides) from the “TIMSS Achievement Results,” which are displayed in Module 1 of this guide—Slides 1–11 through 1–18—and three different data displays from the slides for this module (2A), numbers 2A–8 through

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Global Perspectives for Local Action: Using TIMSS to Improve U.S. Mathematics and Science Education - Professional Development Guide 2A–11 and 2A–13 through 2A–20. Most groups will need some help interpreting Slides 2A–14 through 2A–17. Point out that the TIMSS researchers picked the five longest topics in the textbooks and determined what percentage of the total book they represented. It is one measure of the degree to which a book treats a few topics in depth. Tell participants that they will be spending some time making sense of TIMSS data. They now each have a packet with several pieces of data. They should examine their data, noting any patterns, what interests or surprises them, and their preliminary conclusions. As each participant finishes with one set of data, he or she should switch packets with the next person. Each person should review all four packets at the table if time allows. 2A.3 Implications and Questions Raised by the Data (20 minutes) Give participants a chance to examine the data, allowing enough time so that everyone has examined at least two of the packets of TIMSS information. Then have each group discuss what the data suggest to them and any insights gained from looking at the curriculum data. Ask them to note questions that the data raised for them. Ask each group to have a recorder make a list of their findings and questions. Have the groups report out their findings. List questions on a blank transparency or on newsprint. Ask groups what was surprising and how their findings relate to their predictions. (As the groups report out, show the slides of the data.) 2A.4 Curriculum Focus and Coherence: Brief Lecture with Discussion (20 minutes) Picking up on the conclusions the groups came to from their analysis, go back to the two primary curriculum areas of the report that you pointed out earlier (Sides 2A–5 and 2A–6). Beginning with time and tracking, briefly summarize findings the group came up with and add points that were not raised, using Slides 2A–12, 2A–17, and 2A–19. (Refer to Chapter 3 of the report for background information.) Points to bring out in summary, using Slide 2A–21: Time to teach mathematics and science is not the problem. The U.S. tracks students through ability grouping starting in elementary school. Because of the different patterns for tracking students in both high-and low-performing countries, it is not possible to make a connection between tracking and performance.

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Global Perspectives for Local Action: Using TIMSS to Improve U.S. Mathematics and Science Education - Professional Development Guide Stop after each topic and have participants discuss in table groups how these findings compare with their findings. Ask participants to reflect on practices related to time and tracking (Slide 2A–22). How much time do students spend on mathematics and science in your schools? Are there different expectations for mathematics and science learning for different groups of students? If so, are they justified? What are they based on? How early in a student’s study of mathematics and science do these expectations appear? How does your school measure the extent to which students are meeting expectations for mathematics and science learning? How can expectations be increased? What is the anticipated outcome of increased expectations? Ask participants to think about the implications for action on time and tracking (Slide 2A–23). Some examples are Document and compare the expectations that teachers, students, and parents have for the learning of mathematics and science. Measure differences in opportunity to learn (time and participation in elective courses) in your schools and district. Then turn to focus and coherence. Using Slides 2A–24 and 2A–25, remind participants what is meant by focus. Summarize key findings about focus using Slide 2A–26. Points to bring out about focus: The curriculum to which students are exposed is considered to be one important factor associated with what students learn. Data: U.S. 8th grade students performed well in environmental and life sciences, subjects emphasized in the middle-school curriculum. (Caution participants that they must be careful not to jump to quick answers or fixes since the design of the TIMSS research does not allow us to reach unambiguous conclusions about the cause-and-effect relationships between different parts of the data, such as the achievement data and the curriculum data. Nevertheless, several of the U.S. TIMSS researchers [Schmidt et al.] have reached their own conclusions about the connection between the number of topics in the curriculum and student achievement. [In Module 3 individual schools and systems will have the opportunity to investigate this issue in their own context.].) Other countries teach fewer content areas in any given year than does the U.S. U.S. textbooks cover more mathematics and science topic areas than textbooks in other nations. The typical U.S. 8th- grade mathematics textbook covers 35 topics, while the typical Japanese eighth-grade (or Population 2) textbook covers 7.

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Global Perspectives for Local Action: Using TIMSS to Improve U.S. Mathematics and Science Education - Professional Development Guide Data: The Number of Topics and Topic Segments graph (on Slide 2A–18) and other data show that U.S. lessons contain more topics (with less time and emphasis given for each topic) than lessons in Germany and Japan. Finally, look at the issue of coherence. Using Slide 2A–27, define coherence and summarize any of the groups’ findings around coherence. While showing Slides 2A–27 and 2A–28, make the following points about coherence: “Coherence is a measure of the connectedness of the mathematics and science ideas and skills presented to students over an extended period of time.” (Global Perspectives for Local Action, 1999) Data: Overall, the videotape study found that “of 30 lessons analyzed from each country, 45% of the U.S. lessons, 76% of the German lessons, and 92% of the Japanese lessons fit this criterion of coherence.” (Global Perspectives for Local Action, 1999) Other countries appear to teach subjects with greater depth and, as students progress through school, with greater rigor. Data: Eighth-grade mathematics and science curricula in the U.S. provided more repetitive and less challenging material than other countries. Most other nations included topics from algebra, geometry, physics, and chemistry. U.S. 8th- graders engaged in less high-level mathematical reasoning than do students in Germany and Japan. Data: In their final year of school, the proportion of graduating students taking mathematics was lower in the U.S. (66 percent) than the average in all the countries participating in the general knowledge assessments (79 percent). The same was also true for science (53 percent for the U.S. and 67 percent for all the TIMSS countries). Ask participants to reflect on their practice with respect to focus and coherence (Slide 2A–29). How many mathematics and science topics are covered each year in your schools? What connections among topics exist within the curriculum? How are those connections made explicit to students from year to year, over the year, from topic to topic, from lesson to lesson, and within a single lesson? Should the connections be made more explicit, and, if so, how? What might be the unintended negative consequences of a more focused and coherent curriculum? Ask participants to consider the implications of actions to increase focus and coherence. Possible examples: Explicitly point out to students the connections among curricular ideas by making concrete statements that connect current ideas or activities with those in other parts of the lesson or in previous lessons. Engage in the development of a K–12 curriculum framework. Identify the curriculum’s big ideas and where they are addressed.

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Global Perspectives for Local Action: Using TIMSS to Improve U.S. Mathematics and Science Education - Professional Development Guide Assess the quality of the curriculum. How rigorous is it? To what extent does it encourage students to study topics in depth? 2A.5 Issues for Further Reflection and Dialogue (30 minutes) Make the connection between focus, coherence, and quality by describing the judgments made in TIMSS about mathematics content (Slide 2A–30). (See Chapter 3 for background.) Show Slide 2A–31. Is this the picture of mathematics and science education we want for U.S. children? What can be done? Some possibilities are (Slide 2A–32): Examine the focus of your curriculum. Increase curriculum depth in some areas. Look for new opportunities to link new learning to what children already know. Check alignment of curriculum with national or state standards. How do we get there? (Slide 2A–33) That involves many people—teachers, parents, administrators, textbook publishers, higher education faculty, test developers… Post the seven labeled sheets of newsprint on the walls around the room. There should be one for each of the role groups that needs to be involved in making improvements in U.S. education—teachers, administrators, higher education faculty, textbook and curriculum publishers, state and local policymakers, designers of student assessments, and parents. Pose the question, “What actions are possible?” In their groups of four, ask participants to walk to their first newsprint and brainstorm a list of the actions this audience can take to improve the mathematics and science curricula. Ask one person for each group of four to be a recorder. Give each recorder a different colored marker so they can keep track of their own group’s ideas. After 3–5 minutes, have groups move to the next newsprint, reading what is there and adding to it. When the groups reach their last stations, ask them to read the list, add to it, and then identify one to three high priority actions for this audience to take. Report out the priority actions by audience group and/ or have the participants walk around the room reading the lists and noting ideas for their own next steps. (A starting list of action implications is included on Slide 2A–34.) Wrap up (Slide 2A–35). Ask participants to write down an insight they gained and an action they intend to take drawing on the ideas generated in the carousel brainstorm. Ask participants to share a few insights and ideas with the whole group. Point out that although this module concluded with a consideration of action

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Global Perspectives for Local Action: Using TIMSS to Improve U.S. Mathematics and Science Education - Professional Development Guide that can be taken, Module 3 contains a process for developing an action plan that should be completed before improvement efforts can begin. Are any members of the group interested in moving to Module 3 after completing Modules 2B and 2C?