Science Benchmarking Report TIMSS 1999–Eighth Grade




CHAPTER 2: Performance at International Benchmarks

What Issues Emerge from the Benchmark Descriptions?

The benchmark descriptions and example items reveal a gradation in achievement, from the top-performing students’ ability to grasp complex and abstract science concepts, apply knowledge to solve problems, and understand the fundamentals of scientific investigation to the lower-performing students’ recognition of basic facts and familiarity with everyday physical phenomena. The fact that even at the Median Benchmark students had only a very limited knowledge of chemical concepts suggests a need to reevaluate the attention paid to chemistry in eighth-grade science curricula. In addition, knowledge of systems and cycles in the life and physical sciences was demonstrated mainly by students scoring at the upper benchmarks, indicating that more emphasis in these areas may be needed. Basic scientific inquiry skills also were more in evidence among students scoring at the upper benchmarks, indicating that science curricula in many countries may not be stressing scientific investigation by grade 8.

In reviewing the item-level results, it is also important to note the variation in performance across the topics covered. On the 20 items presented in this chapter, there was a substantial range in performance for many Benchmarking participants. In some cases, differences in performance may reflect intended differences in emphasis in the curriculum. It is likely, however, that such results may be unintended, and the findings will provide important information about strengths and weaknesses in the intended or implemented curricula. At the very least, an in-depth examination of the TIMSS 1999 results may reveal aspects of curricula that merit further investigation.

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TIMSS 1999 Benchmarking is a project of the International Study Center
Boston College, Lynch School of Education