Irish Journal of Education, Vol. 33, 2002

Preface

All the papers in this issue of The Irish Journal of Education use data which were collected in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) in 2000. PISA, a project of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and participating member countries, is an international assessment of the skills and knowledge of 15-year olds in reading literacy, mathematical literacy, and scientific literacy. In 2000, the main focus was on reading literacy, while mathematical and scientific literacy constituted minor domains. About 265,000 students in 28 OECD member countries (and four other countries) sat pencil and paper assessments, while students and the principal teachers of schools completed questionnaires that sought information on student attitudes and approaches to learning. In Ireland, almost 4,000 students in 139 schools participated in the assessment.
While earlier international assessments had concentrated on ?school? knowledge as represented in the curricula of participating countries, the aim of PISA is to assess how well students can apply their literacy skills in real-life situations beyond the school gates. Its primary focus is on important policy issues such as the extent to which the education system is preparing students for full participation in society; factors that maximize the opportunities of students from disadvantaged backgrounds; and the impact of school resources on student achievement.
As three assessments (in 2000, 2003, and 2006) have been planned, data from PISA will provide information on trends, within and across countries, over time.
In Ireland, PISA is implemented by the Department of Education and Science and the Educational Research Centre. Its work is guided by a national steering committee. For PISA 2000, this consisted of Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh (Deputy Chief Inspector, Department of Education and Science, Chair); Judith Cosgrove (Educational Research Centre, National Project Manager); Gerry Shiel (Educational Research Centre, Irish representative on the PISA Board of Participating Countries); Tom Mullins (Education Department, University College Cork); Elizabeth Oldham (Education Department, Trinity College Dublin); Declan Kennedy (Education Department, University College Cork); Bill Lynch (National Council for Curriculum and Assessment); Nick Sofroniou (Educational Research Centre); and Amy Kelly (Educational Research Centre).
The papers in this issue are based on papers that were presented at the First National PISA Symposium (organized by the Department of Education and Science and the Educational Research Centre) which was held at the Grand Hotel, Malahide, County Dublin, on November 8, 2002.
Gerry Shiel in the first paper describes findings of analyses on PISA 2000 reading literacy which have been carried out since the first reports of the study were published in 2001. He also reviews policy implications outlined in the initial Irish report in light of these analyses. In the second paper, E.E. Oldham considers way in which the findings of PISA 2000 on mathematical literacy can contribute to our understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of mathematics education in Ireland, paying particular attention to the philosophy of mathematics education that underlies the tasks used in PISA. She also documents the evolution of the framework for mathematics in PISA 2003. In the third paper, Judith Cosgrove, Gerry Shiel and Declan Kennedy describe the scientific literacy achievements of Irish students in PISA 2000, identifying student-level and school-level variables associated with performance.
In the fourth paper by Nick Sofroniou, Gerry Shiel and Judith Cosgrove, a model of performance on reading literacy is expanded to include a number of attributes of self-regulated learning, including variables dealing with learning strategies, motivational preferences and volition, and self-concept/self-efficacy. Similarities between the initial and expanded model are discussed, and implications for policy considered. In the final paper, Nick Sofroniou, Judith Cosgrove and Gerry Shiel use data on students and schools collected in PISA 2000 to construct models of achievement on the Junior Certificate Examinations in mathematics and science. The models are compared with models of achievement on the PISA mathematics and science scales.

THE PERFORMANCE OF IRISH STUDENTS IN READING LITERACY IN THE PROGRAMME FOR INTERNATIONAL STUDENT ASSESSMENT (PISA)

Gerry Shiel
Educational Research Centre, St Patrick’s College, Dublin

The results of analyses of the PISA 2000 reading literacy data conducted since publication of the initial national and international reports in December 2001 are reported. In line with its strong overall performance on the assessment, Ireland ranked fourth of 27 OECD countries on comprehension of continuous texts, and sixth on comprehension of non-continuous texts. While female students in Ireland outperformed male students on both continuous and non-continuous texts, the gap was considerably smaller in the case of non-continuous texts. Relative to students in other high-scoring countries, Irish students in general, and male students in particular, reported low engagement in leisure reading. In an analysis of the performance of Irish students in PISA on selected items drawn from the International Adult Literacy Survey (IALS), it was estimated that fewer students would score at Level 1, and more at Level 2, than was the case among Irish adults when IALS was administered in 1994. The results of analyses support policy initiatives designed to address low achievement in reading, especially among boys and students at risk of dropping out of school.
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THE PERFORMANCE OF IRISH STUDENTS IN MATHEMATICAL LITERACY IN THE PROGRAMME FOR INTERNATIONAL STUDENT ASSESSMENT (PISA)

E. E. Oldham
Trinity College, Dublin

Ways in which the results of PISA 2000 for mathematics can contribute to our understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of mathematics education in Ireland are considered. Explanations of Ireland?s performance are sought in terms of the study?s distinctive scope and style. Since these reflect ?realistic mathematics education? (RME), a philosophy of mathematics education rather different from that prevailing in Ireland, the origin and features of RME are examined in some detail. Attention is then focused on PISA 2003. The evolution of the framework for the mathematics element of the study is described, and areas of consistency and of change with respect to the framework for PISA 2000 are identified. Finally, implications for mathematics education in Ireland are considered.
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The PERFORMANCE OF IRISH STUDENTS IN SCIENTIFIC LITERACY IN THE PROGRAMME FOR INTERNATIONAL STUDENT ASSESSMENT (PISA)

Judith Cosgrove and Gerry Shiel
Educational Research Centre, St Patrick’s College, Dublin
Declan Kennedy
Education Department, University College, Cork

The OECD Programme for International Student Assessment in 2000, which was administered to representative national samples of 15-year olds in Ireland and in 27 other OECD countries, included an assessment of scientific literacy. The assessment covered both knowledge of scientific concepts and ability to engage in scientific thinking in a range of ?real life? contexts. Irish students achieved a mean score that was higher than the OECD country average but lower than the mean scores of students in six countries including the United Kingdom, Canada, and New Zealand. In Ireland, as in most OECD countries, the performance of male and female students did not differ significantly. Student-level variables associated with performance included socioeconomic status and having studied science at junior-cycle level. School-level variables associated with performance included school type (secondary, community-comprehensive, or vocational) and school designated disadvantaged status. Variation between schools in Ireland was smaller than in most OECD countries.
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PISA READING LITERACY IN IRELAND: AN EXPANDED MODEL EXPLORING ATTRIBUTES OF SELF-REGULATED LEARNING

Nick Sofroniou, Gerry Shiel, and Judith Cosgrove
Educational Research Centre, St Patrick’s College, Dublin

In the national report on the performance of Irish students in the OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), a model of performance on reading literacy was presented. In this paper, the initial model is expanded using measures of a number of attributes of self-regulated learning, including variables dealing with learning strategies, motivational preferences and volition, and self-concept/self-efficacy. The expanded model, which explains 78.2% of between-school variance and 47.1% of within-school variance, includes several school- and student-level variables found in the earlier model, as well as four student-level attributes of self-regulated learning: instrumental motivation, academic self-concept, and preferences for competitive and co-operative learning. Unlike the initial model, there are no significant main effects or interactions involving gender. Similarities and differences between the initial and expanded models are discussed, as is the absence of such variables as cognitive strategies and control strategies in the expanded model. Implications for policy are considered.
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USING PISA VARIABLES TO EXPLAIN PERFORMANCE ON JUNIOR CERTIFICATE EXAMINATIONS IN MATHEMATICS AND SCIENCE

Nick Sofroniou, Judith Cosgrove, and Gerry Shiel
Educational Research Centre, St Patrick’s College, Dublin

Multilevel models of achievement on the Junior Certificate Examination (JCE) taken at the end of junior cycle in second-level schools are presented for mathematics and for science. The response variables are derived from JCE grades in mathematics and science of students who participated in the OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) in 2000. Explanatory variables consist of answers that students and their principal teachers gave on questionnaires administered as part of the PISA survey, as well as school-level variables taken from the database of the Irish Department of Education and Science. The model developed for JCE mathematics contained 10 student-level variables that included indicators of socioeconomic status and parental education, the number of books in the home, absenteeism, completion of homework on time, and intent to leave school prior to completion of the senior cycle (grades 10-12), as well as an interaction between student gender and completion of homework on time. At the school level, the model developed for mathematics contained two variables: school sector (whether vocational, secondary, or community/comprehensive) and designated disadvantaged status. The model for JCE science was similar to that for mathematics, also including socioeconomic status and parental education, books in the home, absenteeism, completion of homework on time, and intent to leave school at the student level. An interaction between books in the home and student gender was observed. The model also included at the school level school sector and designated disadvantaged status as well as school disciplinary climate. These models were compared with those of achievement on the PISA mathematics and science scales. A considerable degree of similarity between the two sets of models was found, confirming the association of a number of student-level and school-level variables with performance on both the JCE and PISA.
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