Early IEA Studies

 
 
SISS
Second International Science Study

The purpose of SISS was to examine science achievement and to study trends in science achievement since the First International Science Study (FISS). The student tests were developed for three age groups and included a number of different science topics. The science test was complemented by questionnaires for students, teachers, and school principals. In addition, countries participating in the study prepared a case study report on national science education.

Data were collected in 1983–1984, and three target populations were tested: 10-year-old students, 14-year-old students, and students in the final year of secondary school.

In late 1986, IEA called on Neville Postlethwaite at the University of Hamburg, Germany, to raise funding for and to undertake the cleaning and analyses of the science data. He worked closely with John Keeves, the chair of the international project council for the study, and Malcom Rosier of the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER), who was the study’s international coordinator.

Major Publications:

 
 
Classroom Environment Study

The Classroom Environment Study aimed to describe similarities and differences in the nature of teaching in classrooms, and to identify the teaching behaviors associated with better student achievement. Management practices and instructional practices were identified for inclusion in the study.

The study was longitudinal, with student learning outcomes measured at two points in time. Each national center selected one or more learning units that required a specified period of time to teach to students, with a pre-test and post-test administered at the beginning and end of the unit(s), respectively. Both the pre-test and post-test were constructed nationally, according to the specifications prepared by the international study center. Between the two test administrations, each classroom included in the study was observed from six to ten times at regular intervals. The data were collected in 1981–1983.

Probability sampling was not used to select samples of schools and classrooms. Across the participating countries, the number of schools in which the study was conducted ranged from nine to 77, and the number of classrooms ranged from 18 to 87, with three subjects represented (mathematics, science, and history). The grade levels involved ranged from the fifth grade to the eighth grade.

Major Publications

Anderson, L. W. Ryan, D. W. Shapiro, B. J. The IEA Classroom Environment Study
 
 
SIMS
Second International Mathematics Study

SIMS examined mathematics education on three dimensions: curricula, classroom practices, and student achievement. At middle school level, student performance was measured and reported separately in arithmetic, algebra, geometry, measurement, and descriptive statistics. At the final year of secondary school, student performance was assessed in sets, relations and functions, number systems, algebra, geometry, elementary functions and calculus, probability and statistics, finite mathematics, computer science, and logic. The study also administered student, teacher, school, and national context questionnaires. Some features of SIMS replicated features of the First International Mathematics Study (FIMS).

SIMS also incorporated a detailed longitudinal component in eight countries, in order to investigate what mathematics were being taught and learned during the school year. This component employed additional teacher questionnaires and a pretest and a posttest for students.

Data were collected in 1980–1982. The target populations for the study were 13-year-old students and students in the final year of secondary school who were studying mathematics as a substantial part of their academic program.

The Department of Education in Wellington, New Zealand, served as the study’s international study center.

Major Publications

 
 
Civic Education
Six Subject Survey: Civic Education

The IEA Study of Civic Education aimed to investigate how and to what extent objectives of citizenship education were being achieved by education systems and what other influences beside the school (such as family, mass media, or friends) were important.

One of the major issues addressed was whether a single quality, that of the 'good citizen', could be identified—or whether there were several different and independent civic attitudes. The research instruments included a knowledge test and questionnaire to measure the affective and behavioral aspects of student outcomes, as well as background questionnaires for students, teachers, and school principals. The study was carried out as part of the Six Subject Survey, data were collected in 1970–1971.

Target Population

The target populations were 10-year-old students, 14-year-old students, and students in the final year of secondary school.

Participating Education Systems

Finland, Germany (FRG), Ireland, Israel, Italy, Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden, and United States.

England and Iran participated in the initial phase of the project.

Key Findings

Civic knowledge and attitudes

The highest achievement on civic knowledge for primary school students was found in Italy. Middle school students received the highest scores in the Netherlands, Germany, Israel, and the United States. The top performing countries at the secondary school level were New Zealand, Germany, and Sweden.

Students' level of civic knowledge was found to be related to three attitudinal factors: support for democratic values, support for national government, and civic interest and participation. There were differences between countries with respect to students' views on women's rights, with the most supportive attitudes found in Germany, Sweden, and Finland.

Related school and classroom characteristics

Differences between countries in achievement outcomes could not be attributed to differences in curricula. However, the use of rote learning and patriotic ritual had negative effects, while freedom of expression in the classroom was beneficial for higher performance on the achievement test.

Countries differed with respect to the influence of the classroom and home environment on moral reasoning. Classroom climate had a strong impact on moral reasoning in Germany and the Netherlands and also, to a smaller extent, in Ireland. In Finland, the home had the strongest influence on the development of moral reasoning.

Major Publications

 
 
Literature Education
Six Subject Survey: Literature Education

The major objective of the IEA Study of Literature Education was to assess the influence of schools and teachers of literature on the achievement of their students.

The test included measures of students' responses to specific literary texts and their level of comprehension. Attitudes and interests in relation to literature were also investigated. Student, teacher, and school questionnaires collected data about factors associated with student achievement. The study was carried out as part of the Six Subject Survey, data were collected in 1970–1971.

Target Population

The target populations were 14-year-old students and students in the final year of secondary school.

Participating Education Systems

Belgium (Flemish), Belgium (French), Chile, England, Finland, Iran, Italy, New Zealand, Sweden, and United States.

Key Findings

Students' responses to literature

The patterns of students' responses to literature varied between countries on two dimensions. One dimension involved personal (Iran, Finland, New Zealand, England, Chile) versus impersonal interpretations (Belgium (Flemish), Italy, Belgium (French), United States, Sweden). The second dimension involved content (Chile, Belgium (French), England, Iran, United States) versus form (Italy, Belgium (Flemish), Finland, New Zealand, Sweden).

The patterns of students' responses to literature were influenced by the literary nature of the selections that students were given to read. Different literary samples elicited different responses from students, with some consistency across cultures and school systems.

Related factors

The major factor associated with student achievement in literature in all countries except Sweden was the home background of students. However, this factor did not act in isolation from the interests, attitudes, and verbal abilities of students. The students who expressed interests in literature were those who read frequently, who read a variety of selections, and who came from homes that were oriented towards books.

In most countries and at both age levels, the gender of students was consistently an important factor in accounting for differences in literature achievement, with girls outperforming boys. These differences were consistent with gender differences in students' literary interests.

Major Publications

 
 
Reading Comprehension
Six Subject Survey: Reading Comprehension

The IEA Study of Reading Comprehension adopted, as measures of verbal ability, a test of reading comprehension, a brief test of reading speed, and a brief test of word knowledge.

Areas of inquiry for possible predictors of achievement in reading included:

  • out-of-school environment (including home environment, language in home, and exposure to mass media);
  • availability of reading materials;
  • educational practices and school background (including instructional practices, resources and procedures for individualization of instruction, and size and type of school);
  • interests and attitudes of students;
  • acquired study and reading habits;
  • presence of eye, hearing, and speech deficits.

The instruments included a reading comprehension test for students, and questionnaires for students, teachers, and school principals. The study was carried out as part of the Six Subject Survey, data were collected in 1970–1971.

Target Population

The target populations for the study were 10-year-old students, 14-year-old students, and students in the final year of secondary school.

Participating Education Systems

Belgium (Flemish), Belgium (French), Chile, England, Finland, Hungary, India, Iran, Israel, Italy, Netherlands, New Zealand, Scotland, Sweden, and United States.

Key Findings

Student achievement

Among 10-year-old students, the countries that showed the highest level of reading comprehension were Sweden and Italy. Among 14-years-olds, New Zealand and Italy had the highest performance. By the final year of secondary school, there were much larger differences between countries with the highest performance level—New Zealand, Scotland, and England—and those with the lowest.

There were also very substantial differences in reading achievement between students in economically developed countries and those in developing countries. Within the developed countries, the differences were small at all school levels.

Gender differences

There were only small differences between boys and girls in their average levels of reading achievement, with girls performing marginally better than boys. Girls and boys differed in their reading attitudes, with girls expressing greater interest in reading books for pleasure, and boys showing greater interest in reading magazines for information.

Home and school factors

The differences in reading achievement between students and schools within countries were largely related to students' home background. Where the population of the school was drawn from homes in which the parents were well educated, economically advantaged, and able to provide an environment with reading materials and communication media, the school showed a generally superior level of reading achievement.

School-based factors such as teaching methods played only a minor part in accounting for differences in reading achievement. There were few signs that schools provided instruction in reading beyond the initial school grades.

Major Publications

 
 
English as a Foreign Language
Six Subject Survey: English as a Foreign Language

The IEA Study of English as a Foreign Language mirrored a similar IEA study of French as a Foreign Language. The study employed a similar test of reading, listening, writing, and speaking.

The study objectives included:

  • an examination of the place of English in the education systems of participating countries;
  • an examination of the relationship between level of achievement and student, teacher, school, and country characteristics;
  • an analysis of errors made by students in responding to the test in order to obtain a better understanding of how students learn English.

The student test was complemented by questionnaires for students, teachers, and school principals. The study was carried out as part of the Six Subject Survey, data collection occurred in 1970–1971.

Target Population

The target populations were 14-year-old students and students in the final year of secondary school.

Participating Education Systems

Belgium (French), Chile, Finland, Germany (FRG), Hungary, Israel, Italy, Netherlands, Sweden, and Thailand.

Key Findings

Factors associated with student achievement

Both the number of hours of English instruction and the number of years of studying English were substantially related to student achievement. The grade level at which the learning of English as a foreign language normally commenced was positively and moderately correlated with achievement. Countries that began teaching English earlier had, in general, higher standards of achievement at the 14-year-old level.

Conducting classes in English was moderately associated with student achievement at the upper secondary school level and weakly associated with achievement at the 14-year-old level.

There was a strong relationship between students' verbal ability (measured by word knowledge in their mother tongue) and their achievement in English. Many errors in responding to the test arose not from an absence of linguistic competence but from a lack of general ability.

Other aspects of language education

Across the participating countries, the teaching of English as a foreign language was more for business purposes than for the cultural value of the language. More than 80% of students studied English in seven of the ten countries participating in the survey.

Students studying English in Germany, Finland, Israel, Italy, and Sweden tended to be more representative of the total school population than were the students studying French as a foreign language in the Netherlands and the English-speaking countries. These students came from higher status and more educative homes.

Major Publications

 
 
French as a Foreign Language
Six Subject Survey: French as a Foreign Language

The IEA Study of French as a Foreign Language assessed performance in reading, listening, speaking, and writing. The study also investigated factors associated with the learning of French as a foreign language.

Two types of writing tests were used. The first could be reliably scored, being of an objective or quasi-objective nature. The second involved directed composition. Background information was collected through student, teacher, and school questionnaires. The study was carried out as part of the Six Subject Survey, data were collected in 1970–1971.

Target Population

The target populations were 14-year-old students and students in the final year of secondary school.

Participating Education Systems

Chile, England, Netherlands, New Zealand, Romania, Scotland, Sweden, and United States.

Key Findings

In all four fields of performance (reading, listening, speaking, and writing), there was a strong relationship between a country's level of achievement and the average number of years its students had studied French. Students' aspiration to understand spoken French contributed more to their listening achievement than to their reading achievement. Aspiration to learn to read French contributed more to reading scores than to listening scores.

Time spent on homework had an influence on reading scores, but much less effect on listening scores, which were only indirectly influenced by the amount of homework given. Classroom activities were much more important for listening. Students achieved higher scores when French was used for a substantial part of the time in the classroom, and when the use of the mother tongue was reduced but not eliminated.

Neither the amount of university training nor the amount of travel or residence in a French-speaking country by the teacher led to any differences in students' French achievement.

General proficiency in learning French was strongly related to performance on a word knowledge test in the student's mother tongue, which was used as a measure of verbal ability.

Major Publications

 
 
FISS
Six Subject Survey: First International Science Study

The IEA First International Science Study (FISS) focused on three fields of science: biology, chemistry, and physics.

The data were collected shortly after the introduction in many countries of reforms in science education. Thus, the study was concerned not only with student achievement across the domain of science, but also with methods of teaching, students' attitudes, and the development of students' practical skills and understanding of the nature of science. Instruments included student tests in all three fields and student, teacher, and school questionnaires. The study was conducted as part of the Six Subject Survey, data collection occurred in 1970–1971.

Target Population

The target populations were 10-year-old students, 14-year-old students, and students in the final year of secondary school. Additionally, students specializing in a particular science subject were tested.

Participating Education Systems

Australia, Belgium (Flemish), Belgium (French), Chile, England, Finland, France, Germany (FRG), Hungary, India, Iran, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, Scotland, Sweden, Thailand, and United States.

Key Findings

Student achievement and opportunity to learn

Schools had an effect on learning science. At both secondary school levels, a clear linear relationship was observed between opportunity to learn and student achievement, especially in the case of practical skills. However more open methods of inquiry did not lead to higher achievement.

No clear and consistent relationships were found between opportunity to learn in specific content areas and achievement for 10-year-olds. Controlled practical work of students led to better performance in science than did more informal investigation.

At both secondary school levels, students of teachers who were specialist science teachers, who had received more post-secondary education, who had participated in science curriculum reform, who had spent more time on preparation, or who were members of a subject association tended to perform better on the science achievement test.

Gender differences

Boys outperformed girls in all branches of science covered by the test. However, gender differences in achievement were considerably smaller in biology than in physics and the practical aspects of the subject.

Boys showed more favorable attitudes to science than girls but these attitudes were not clearly related to whether boys and girls were taught together in co-educational schools or whether they were taught separately.

Major Publications

 
 
FIMS
First International Mathematics Study

The IEA First International Mathematics Study (FIMS) was conducted to investigate the outcomes of various school systems in a field of schooling that was, at the time, undergoing reforms in many countries. A so-called 'new mathematics' had been introduced in some education systems, resulting from international agreement on what essential new material should be included in the curriculum.

The research questions of FIMS related to the organization of the education systems in participating countries, their curricula, and the methods of instruction. The study also examined how mathematics teaching and learning might be influenced by societal, scientific, and technological change. The research instruments included a student test, a "student opinion booklet" (to measure some affective outcomes of education), and background questionnaires (for students, teachers, school principals, and experts on education in the participating countries). The data were collected in 1964.

Target Population

The target populations for FIMS were 13-year-old students and pre-university students.

Participating Education Systems

Australia, Belgium, England, Finland, France, Germany (FRG), Israel, Japan, Netherlands, Scotland, Sweden, and United States.

Key Findings

Student achievement and attitudes

Students who had taken courses in 'new mathematics' achieved higher scores on items in traditional mathematics than students who had not taken such courses.

In most countries at the lower-secondary level, achievement in mathematics was positively correlated with students' views of mathematics learning as an open and inquiry-centered process. Conversely, the highest level of achievement among pre-university students specializing in mathematics was accompanied with a view of mathematics learning as a process of memorization and following rules.

At all levels of schooling and across countries, students' levels of expressed interest in mathematics was positively correlated with achievement. In co-educational schools, boys expressed significantly more interest in mathematics than girls, but there was no significant gender difference in single-sex schools.

Gender differences

Boys outperformed girls at all grade levels to a greater extent in single-sex than in co-educational schools. The lowest gender-related differences were identified in the United States and Sweden; the highest were in Belgium, England, Japan, and the Netherlands.

Social environment and family

There was evidence of differences in mathematics achievement between urban and rural communities in only two countries, Japan and the United States. In Japan, students in urban schools outperformed students in rural schools in the case of the younger group. In the United States, this was true for all tested levels of schooling.

The correlation between parents' education and student achievement in mathematics varied considerably across countries. For the grade containing the majority of 13-year-olds, Japan and England displayed the highest correlations between achievement and both parents' education and father's occupational status. At the pre-university level, a significant correlation was found only for the United States. On average, parents of students at the pre-university level had 1.7 more years of formal schooling. The difference varied from 0.5 years in the United States to 3.6 years in Germany.

Major Publications

 
 
Pilot Twelve-Country Study

The IEA Pilot Twelve-Country Study was conducted in order to investigate the feasibility of undertaking more extensive assessments of educational achievement.

Testing was carried out in five areas: mathematics, reading comprehension, geography, science, and non-verbal ability. The tests were originally prepared in either English, French, or German, and had to be translated into five other languages (Finnish, Hebrew, Polish, Serbo-Croatian, and Swedish) or adapted for different versions of the three source languages. Background information, such as students' gender and parents' occupational status, was also gathered. The data were collected in participating countries in 1960.

Target Population

The assessment was conducted on 13-year-old students. In some countries, the national sample was only partially representative.

Participating Education Systems

Belgium, England, Finland, France, Germany (FRG), Israel, Poland, Scotland, Sweden, Switzerland, United States, and Yugoslavia.

Key Findings

Student achievement and its measures

Results from the study were presented as a set of "national profiles" for the participating countries, showing points of relative strength or weakness across the five subject areas. The students from French-speaking countries (Belgium, France, and Switzerland) and Poland performed better in mathematics than students from English-speaking countries (England, Scotland, and United States). In reading comprehension, Yugoslavia, Scotland, and Finland showed higher average performance, whereas in geography, Germany, Israel, and Poland were the top performers. In science, the United States and Germany scored well; England and Scotland performed well in non-verbal ability.

Overall, the variation between national means was small compared to the variability of scores within each of the participating countries; nevertheless, they were large enough to justify further studies to investigate the differences between countries. The smallest variation in achievement between countries occurred for reading comprehension and science, and the largest for geography and mathematics.

Gender differences

The gender differences were smallest in Sweden and Scotland and largest in Poland, Germany, and Belgium. In the United States, girls performed better than boys in all areas. In other countries, girls outperformed boys in reading comprehension, non-verbal ability, and mathematics. In science and geography, boys showed higher average achievement than girls.

Major Publications

Foshay, Arthur W. Thorndike, Robert L. Hotyat, Fernand Pidgeon, Douglas A. Walker, David A. Educational Achievements of Thirteen-Year-Olds in Twelve Countries