Trends in Mathematics and Science Study
TIMSS (Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study) is a project of the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA). It assesses the mathematics and science achievement of pupils in the Fourth and/or Eighth grades (equivalent to Fourth Class and Second Year in Ireland). First conducted in 1995, TIMSS takes place every four years. The 2011 cycle – when Ireland participated in the Fourth grade component only – was the first time that Ireland had taken part since 1995. Ireland also took part in 2015, at both grade levels.
TIMSS is managed at an international level by the International Study Center in Boston College. Within each participating country, a National Research Centre manages the study. In Ireland, this role is filled by the Educational Research Centre. The Centre is supported in this work by a National Advisory Committee at each grade level, chaired by the Department of Education and Skills, and with representatives from the main education stakeholders.
A major purpose of TIMSS is to provide background information that can be used to improve teaching and learning. For example, the study collects detailed information about curriculum and curriculum implementation, instructional practices, and school resources. The assessment is based on comprehensive assessment frameworks developed collaboratively with the participating countries. The frameworks specify in some detail the knowledge, skills, and understandings to be assessed.
The IEA is also responsible for PIRLS (Progress in International Reading Literacy Study). In 2011, the cycles for TIMSS and PIRLS coincided for the first time, giving countries the opportunity to take part in one or both assessments. Of the 63 countries that took part in TIMSS (at either Fourth or Eighth grade, or both) in 2011, 34 – including Ireland – also took part in PIRLS.
The initial Irish report on PIRLS and TIMSS 2011 was published in December 2012 (Eivers & Clerkin – PIRLS and TIMSS 2011: Reading, mathematics and science outcomes for Ireland) and a set of thematic analyses of the Irish data were published in 2013 (Eivers & Clerkin – National Schools, international contexts). The International Study Center also publishes international reports on the main results for mathematics and science. The main international results for TIMSS 2011 were published in December 2012. As some countries assessed the same pupils in PIRLS and TIMSS 2011, an additional international report, analysing the relationship between performance across the three domains of reading, mathematics and science, was published in October 2013.
The most recent TIMSS assessment took place in 2015. An initial Irish national report summarising Irish students’ mathematics and science performance (at both Fourth Class and Second Year) will be published by the ERC on November 29th 2016, to coincide with the publication of the international mathematics and science reports by the IEA. A series of more detailed analyses, discussing factors associated with achievement and the broader educational context in Ireland, will be published by the ERC in 2017.