© 2001 International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA)
What Science Topics Are Included in the Intended Curriculum?
In the course of their meetings on planning and implementation of TIMSS 1999, the National Research Coordinators developed a list of science topics that they agreed covered most of the content in the intended science curriculum in their respective countries. These topics, presented in Exhibit 5.18, built on the topics covered in the TIMSS 1995 science test and included in the teacher questionnaire. They represent all topics likely to have been included in the curricula of the 38 participating countries up to and including eighth grade. From the following choices, the coordinators from the participating entities indicated the percentages of students in their own countries or jurisdictions expected to have been taught each topic up to and including eighth grade:
Exhibit 5.19 summarizes the data according to the percentage of topics intended to be taught to all or almost all students (at least 90 percent) in each entity, across the entire list of topics and for each content area. Information on specific topics in the intended curricula for each content area is presented in Exhibits R2.2 through Exhibit R2.7 in the reference section of this report.
Internationally on average, curricular guidelines up to and including eighth grade called for nearly all students to have been taught about two-thirds of the topics overall. There was, however, marked variation between countries and between content areas in intended curricular coverage. The greatest percentages of topics intended to be taught to 90 percent or more of the students were in biology (77 percent, on average across countries), earth science (72 percent), and environmental and resource issues (69 percent). Next came physics (64 percent) and scientific inquiry and the nature of science (60 percent), with chemistry having the lowest percentage (52 percent). In six of the comparison countries, it was intended that all or nearly all students be taught all of the earth science topics. All environmental and resource issues topics were intended to be taught to practically all students in seven comparison countries, while in Hong Kong, Japan, and Korea, none of these topics were in the intended curriculum for most students.
In the United States overall, 86 percent of the science topics compared with the international average of 63 percent were intended to be taught to 90 percent or more of the students. This relatively high level of coverage resulted from the inclusion of 100 percent of the topics in each of the content areas except chemistry.
Benchmarking participants generally resembled the United States in topic coverage in the intended curriculum, although there were differences, particularly among the districts and consortia. Earth science, biology, environmental and resource issues, and scientific inquiry and the nature of science were included in the curriculum for almost all students in almost all Benchmarking jurisdictions, but the coverage of physics and particularly chemistry was more variable. Among states the percentage of physics topics intended for almost all students ranged from 60 percent in Idaho and Oregon to 100 percent in Illinois, Massachusetts, and North Carolina, and among districts and consortia from 50 percent in the Delaware Science Coalition to 100 percent in the First in the World Consortium, Guilford County, Jersey City, and Montgomery County. The percentage of chemistry topics ranged from just eight percent in Oregon to 100 percent in Texas, and from zero in the Michigan Invitational Group to 100 percent in First in the World, Jersey City, and Montgomery County.
It should be noted that some countries reported having different curricula or different levels of curriculum for different groups of students, as detailed in Exhibit 5.15. Not surprisingly, then, these countries often reported that about half, only the more able (25 percent), or the top 10 percent of students were expected to have been taught substantial percentages of the topics. Surprisingly, the Benchmarking jurisdictions that reported having different levels of curriculum for different groups, First in the World, Miami-Dade, and Montgomery County, indicated that at least 90 percent of the topics in each content area were intended to be taught to 90 percent or more of the students. It should also be noted that if content within a topic area required different responses, coordinators from participating entities chose the response that best represented the entire topic area and noted the discrepancy (see Exhibits A.8 and Exhibit A.9 in the appendix for details).
TIMSS 1999 Benchmarking is a project of the
International Study Center
Boston College, Lynch School of Education