The audiences for this guide are professional developers, facilitators, higher education faculty, school administrators, and others who lead workshops and/or planning sessions aimed at reflecting on and improving mathematics and science education.

TIMSS does not provide quick solutions for or easy answers to the complex problems of educational improvement. Rather, it offers the benefit of an international perspective from which to view educational practices. It is important, therefore, that the facilitators for the workshops and/or planning sessions described in this guide have strong backgrounds in the TIMSS study and findings and that they read and become thoroughly familiar with the NRC report.1 This will enable the facilitators to explain findings and avoid misinterpretations of data or suggestions that U.S. achievement would improve if only the U.S. would emulate practices used in countries where students scored higher in the TIMSS achievement tests in mathematics and science. Many good resources summarize TIMSS, and these will help facilitators to prepare for their role. Facilitators should review the resources provided in the “Resources” section at the end of this report prior to conducting sessions based on this guide.


The professional development guide includes

  • Modules (Modules 1, 2—composed of three separate workshops—and 3) tailored for different audiences, purposes, lengths of time, and/or levels of engagement;

  • Notes to facilitators;

  • Overhead transparency masters, as well as masters of handouts for the workshop modules;

  • References to relevant TIMSS and other resources; and

  • Vignettes and lessons from educators who have used TIMSS to make educational improvements in their local schools.

Of the three modules in this guide, “Module 1: Framing the Dialogue,” is designed primarily as an information session for administrators, legislative and state education staff, local school board members, and the interested public. It is designed as a 2–2.5 hour overview with the following objectives:


Facilitators will want to keep in mind that the groups of students studied in TIMSS were designated as “populations” that do not necessarily match traditional grade levels in the U.S. In TIMSS, Population 1 was mostly 9-year-olds (grades 3 and 4 in the U.S.); Population 2, 13-year-olds (grades 7 and 8 in the U.S.); and Population 3, students in their final year of secondary school regardless of age (grade 12 in the U.S.).

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