IEA Compass: Briefs in Education Series

This series addresses issues of interest to a broad range of educational stakeholders, especially those involved in influencing educational decision and policymaking. Each publication in the series aims to connect study findings to recurrent and emerging questions in education policy debates at the international and national levels. The briefs cover a range of themes in relation to teaching and learning in school subjects addressed by the IEA studies. The series is edited by Dr. David Rutkowski.

If you are interested in producing translations of the articles, please contact Laura Cheeseman at IEA Amsterdam. Find download links below to access Spanish translations of each Brief, or you can find all Spanish translated briefs here

Note that the series was initially entitled 'Policy Briefs' however the name has been updated to reflect the wider readership of these articles.


Salles, Franck, La Croix, Aurélie
This Compass Brief analyzes the process data associated with the Robot Item from the eTIMSS 2019 PSI mathematics assessment to highlight how educational stakeholders can better understand students’ cognitive processes when solving tasks in technology-enhanced environments.
Teig, Nani, Nilsen, Trude, Hansen Yang, Kajsa
Findings from the Northern Lights book project and TIMSS show that classrooms reported as having limitations and disruptions are associated with lower learning outcomes. This brief highlights the importance of teacher support of students, and supporting teachers so they are empowered to deliver engaging classes.
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Canbolat, Yusuf, Rutkowski, Leslie
Student hunger can impact their ability to learn. Using data from TIMSS this Compass Brief looks into the effects hunger can have on learning while highlighting the importance of high-quality nutrition programs.
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Hencke, Juliane, Eck, Matthias, Sass, Justine, Hastedt, Dirk, Meinck, Sabine, Kennedy, Alec I., Liu, Tianyi
Engaging children in home learning activities, such as singing songs, writing numbers, etc., is associated with increased students' fourth-grade mathematics and science achievement. This brief examines the potential policy implications using data from TIMSS 2019.
Brese, Falk, Twele, Nadine
The frequency with which teachers used computer activities to teach a class varied across education systems. This brief examines schools’ and teachers’ readiness for remote teaching, learning, and opportunities available to improve the online delivery of remote learning experiences.
Wagemaker, Hans, Mirazchiyski, Plamen
With advances in technology, cyberbullying poses a significant obstacle to education. Achievement scores in maths are negatively impacted when a student is cyberbullied, according to data from IEA's TIMSS. This Compass Brief illustrates the impacts of cyberbullying on achievement scores and highlights legislative ways to prevent cyberbullying.


Mejia-Rodriguez, Ana Maria, Strello, Andrés, Strietholt, Rolf, Christiansen, Andrés
Data from IEA's International Computer and Information Literacy Study (ICILS) Teacher Panel present an increase in the use of ICT. This brief examines how changes in the availability of school ICT resources and recent participation in ICT-related professional development relate to increases in teachers' use of ICT.
Hencke, Juliane, Eck, Matthias, Sass, Justine, Hastedt, Dirk, Mejia-Rodriguez, Ana Maria
Using IEA’s Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) 2019 data, this brief explores the relationship between students’ gender, their confidence and achievement in mathematics and science, and their aspirations to pursue careers in these fields.
Wagner, Jan-Philipp, Hastedt, Dirk
Most national assessments in education focus on the curriculum to identify the knowledge and skills students should have acquired. This Compass Brief addresses the advantages and challenges of a curriculum-based approach in International Large-scale Assessments and outlines solutions implemented in IEA studies.


Fernández-Villà, Guillem, Musu, Lauren
IEA's International Civic and Citizenship Education Study 2016 shows that young students use social media to engage with political and social issues.
Axelsson, Maria, Tallberg, Christian
International large-scale assessments (ILSAs) have become an important part of the Swedish evaluation system. It is therefore crucial to validate national measures of Swedish students’ achievement with their ILSA test scores. We find there is high consistency between what is measured in TIMSS and the Swedish national assessment system.

Hastedt, Dirk, Eck, Matthias, Kim, Eunsong, Sass, Justine
Using IEA’s Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) 2015 data, this brief explores the relationship between teachers’ gender and students’ mathematics and science achievement and gender differences in science and mathematics teachers’ self-efficacy.
Karpiński, Zbigniew, Di Pietro, Giorgio, Biagi, Federico
IEA ICILS 2018 data is used to compare the socioeconomic gap in computer and information literacy (CIL) with the corresponding one in computational thinking (CT). The results consistently show students from less advantaged backgrounds have lower levels of skills than those from more advantaged backgrounds in both areas, but especially in CT.


Meinck, Sabine, Brese, Falk
IEA’s TIMSS data from the late 1990s onwards, show that an increasing number of countries are achieving gender equity in students’ science achievement in grade four and eight. Although there is a persisting trend of an overrepresentation of male students in the group of high achievers in science, female students are catching up.
Hastedt, Dirk, Rocher, Thierry
ILSAs are one of the most important tools policymakers and educational stakeholders have to inform evidence based decision making for educational reform. Here, we offer a brief guide to ILSAs, illuminating important differences and commonalities within and across studies, limitations, and why they remain one of our most significant tools.
Claes, Ellen, Isac, Maria Magdalena
Results from ICCS 2016 show that, on average, European young people tend to be tolerant, but their attitudes towards equal rights for immigrants vary across European educational systems.
Hooper, Martin
Trend results from the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) show a decline from 2001 through 2016 in most countries in fourth graders’ and their parents’ reading attitudes, as measured by students like reading and parents like reading scale scores. Average students like reading scale scores, as reported by the students themselves, decreased between 2001 and 2016 in 13 of the 18 countries that participated in all cycles of PIRLS.


Sandoval-Hernandez, Andres, Miranda, Daniel, Treviño, Ernesto, Schmelkes, Sylvia
Results from ICCS 2016 show that more than two-thirds of the students in the participating Latin American countries reported that they would support a dictatorship as a form of government if it brought order and security, or if it brought economic benefits. This brief looks closer at these findings in order to identify possible explanations and potential policy implications.
Benavot, Aaron, Romero-Celis, Treisy
TIMSS data reveal that setting high standards for the overall mathematics curriculum and ensuring teachers adhere to these standards may not necessarily lead to better learning outcomes for students. There are significant gaps between the intended and implemented grade 8 mathematics curricula in many TIMSS education systems, regardless of performance.
Prusinski, Ellen, Hastedt, Dirk, Dohr, Sandra
In TIMSS 2015, while two-thirds of students in grade 4 reported feeling very safe at school, by grade 8, less than half of the students surveyed reported feeling a high level of safety. Overall, girls were more likely to report feeling safe than boys. For both genders, feeling safe at school seemed to be positively related to academic achievement in many countries. This relationship was stronger for grade 8 than grade 4 students and also stronger for girls than boys.


Lafontaine, Dominique, Dupont, Virginie, Schillings, Patricia
PIRLS 2016 data from eight education systems were used to examine how teachers from three different language groups differed in their teaching of reading literacy. Teaching reading practices differed substantially between the three linguistic/cultural groups. In English-speaking systems, effective practices for establishing reading literacy seem well implemented, but there is still room for more consistent implementation in German-speaking and French-speaking education systems.
Meinck, Sabine, Stancel-Piatak, Agnes, Verdisco, Aimee
Analyses of TIMSS and PIRLS data indicate that early learning activities can help to lay the foundation for positive schooling outcomes in the future. Measures that enhance the engagement of parents in early learning activities, or facilitate easy access to adequate complementary provisions, will help to prepare the ground for better school results and may reduce the effect of social background on educational inequality.
Lin, Fou-Lai
Chinese Taipei has used successive cycles of TIMSS data as a guide for formulating educational policies and as an evidence base for evaluating their effects. The After Class Support project and subsequent Just Do Math program are new approaches to mathematics teaching and learning which have been enthusiastically embraced by students and teachers.
Rutkowski, David, Rutkowski, Leslie
Children are bullied in primary schools around the world and those who are bullied tend to do less well in mathematics.The amount of bullying varies widely but, on average, nearly half of all children in the TIMSS 2015 study report being bullied at least once a month. Bullying policies need to begin in the early years and TIMSS provides an important resource for policymakers to monitor both existing and new anti-bullying interventions.
Hopfenbeck, Therese N., Lenkeit, Jenny
Teachers are always looking for new strategies to improve pedagogy in the classroom. In Oxford University's PIRLS for Teachers project, teachers and researchers in England joined forces to develop good guidance and advice for teachers on how to interpret and use PIRLS 2011 data to improve their own teaching of reading in primary schools.
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Burroughs, Nathan, Chudgar, Amita
Are teacher education and experience appropriate measures for such a broad concept as “teacher quality,” or are there better alternatives, especially given the great expense in attempting to enhance these qualities in teachers? This brief uses measures of teacher quality based on TIMSS 2015 to identify which factors most strongly influence the instructional core.
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Katschnig, Tamara, Hastedt, Dirk
TIMSS shows school safety and climate are highly correlated with educational performance, with immigrant students’ perceptions of school safety even more closely linked to achievement, and thus more strongly related to student well-being and aspirations. Identifying and addressing the special obstacles faced by immigrant children is crucial to achieving inclusive and equitable quality education for all, and improving national educational outcomes.
Howie, Sarah J., Chamberlain, Megan
Do language policies, past and present, help explain achievement differences? Evidence from PIRLS post-colonial countries supports the need to understand and improve language policies. In an increasingly diverse world, where significant migration is becoming the norm, countries are considering a greater range of language-in-education models, varying from full immersion to increasing degrees of additive bilingualism. Independent international studies, like IEA's PIRLS, provide valuable evidence to help support national policymaking.
Rožman, Mojca, Klieme, Eckhard
TIMSS trends reveal there is mixed evidence for global “mega-trends” in education. Constructivist pedagogy (working in groups, applying mathematical content to daily life) was boosted on a large scale during the mid-2000s. There is only limited support for a rise in assessment-based instruction and a shift from computational practice to problem-solving in mathematics. Teaching practices seem to be shaped by national educational cultures or policies.


Chavatzia, Theophania, Hastedt, Dirk
Girls are more likely to be excluded from education than boys. In several countries, TIMSS 2011 data reveals that more than 50% of immigrant girls are not enrolled in school. Unequal access threatens gender equality in educational outcomes within the immigrant population, hindering overall efforts towards the attainment of SDG4. Policymakers need to ask, “Where are the immigrant girls?
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Clavel, José G., Méndez, Ildefonso, Crespo, Francisco Javier G.
In this brief, data from TIMSS 2011 was used to construct indexes to analyze whether different strategies and methodologies used by 8th grade mathematics and science teachers in their day-to-day activities had an impact on the academic performance of their students. Although countries showed differing results, usually related with their economic development level, collegial practices generally exhibited positive associations with student performance.
Nilsen, Trude, Blömeke, Sigrid, Hansen, Kajsa Yang, Gustafsson, Jan-Eric
This policy brief examines how school characteristics may be associated with educational equity in terms of the relationship between students’ socioeconomic status and achievement. The findings have implications for both highly-developed and developing countries interested in supporting educational equity.


Stephens, Maria, Erberber, Ebru, Tsokodayi,Yemurai, Kroeger, Teresa, Ferguson, Sharlyn
This brief explores whether parents’ positive reading attitudes and behaviors are “contagious,” providing a valuable descriptive picture across numerous and diverse education systems, of the extent to which children’s reading attitudes and behaviors mirror those of their parents. Such understanding can inform efforts by policymakers to craft interventions designed to motivate children to read.
Plucker, Jonathan, A.
While every country strives for its students to have advanced achievement in some form, competence is often a higher policy priority than excellence, and shrinking minimum competency gaps is a higher priority than closing excellence gaps. In this brief, educational excellence is defined as the percent of students who meet or exceed the TIMSS advanced benchmark. Policy implications are highlighted, along with recommendations for further research into excellence gaps.
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Watkins, Ryan, Engel, Laura C., Hastedt, Dirk
Digital information and communication technologies (ICT) have made the acquisition of computer and information literacy (CIL) a leading factor in creating an engaged and employable citizenry. Are young people developing the necessary CIL skills?
Erberber, Ebru, Stephens, Maria, Mamedova, Saida, Ferguson, Sharlyn, Kroeger, Teresa
Academically resilient students are those students who are academically successful, despite coming from the socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds that have typically predicted poorer educational outcomes. These students are an important group to study because if policymakers can understand what factors may have contributed to their succeeding against the odds, then they may be better able to support similar students in improving their academic performance.
S. Polikoff, Morgan, Zhou, Nan
Research clearly demonstrates the importance of students’ reading behaviors for predicting students’ short- and long-term outcomes. While teachers’ instruction might affect these reading behaviors (and therefore indirectly affect achievement), we know little about the association of in-school teacher practices with students’ out-of-school behaviors. In this brief, we draw on data from IEA’s 2011 Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) to examine the relationships of several instructional practices with multiple measures of students’ out-of-school reading.
Sandoval-Hernandez, Andres, Jaschinski, Katrin, Fraser, Pablo, Ikoma, Sakiko
Teacher experience is thought to exert a key role in student achievement. International comparative data is used to assess: (1) is teacher experience associated with the mathematics achievement of 4th graders; and (2) do other teacher characteristics have an influence?


Mirazchiyski, Plamen
Emphasis on the use of computer software for instruction may influence student achievement in mathematics and science. This brief examines whether associations can be made between computer training, support and professional development for teachers, and student outcomes.
Stancel-Piatak, Agnes, Hencke, Juliane
Many countries promote reforms to improve access to and the quality of early childhood education. Data from eight Arab education systems that participated in PIRLS 2011 showed a positive relationship between participation in preprimary education, its duration, and student-reading achievement at primary school.
Mirazchiyski, Plamen, Klemenčič Mirazchiyski, Eva
Students in schools with higher parental involvement tend to have higher reading achievement. Analysis also showed a positive association between level of parental involvement in school and level of parental education. Promoting parental involvement may be an effective strategy for increasing reading achievement; this could be particularly relevant for schools with students whose parents have lower levels of education.


Sandoval-Hernandez, Andres, Aghakasiri, Parisa, Taniguchi, Kyoko
Countries and supranational organizations have promoted reforms aimed at preparing children for school entry, and preschool coverage rates have steadily increased in recent decades. This policy brief examines the relationship between preschool education and mathematics achievement at Grade 4.

Sandoval-Hernandez, Andres, Aghakasiri, Parisa, Wild, Justin, Rutkowski, David
The time students spend in the classroom is not always positively related to their academic achievement. Effective teaching time is most likely to have a positive impact on student achievement. Policies influencing how time at school is allocated can be a good way to improve educational outcomes.