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Introduction of TIMSS Project

The purpose of TIMSS

The Trends in International Mathematics and Science Education Achievement Survey (TIMSS) aims to monitor both the trends in student achievement in mathematics and science at fourth and eighth grades, investigate context factors relating to student achievement in mathematics and science, and to further conduct cross-national comparative analysis.

History of TIMSS

As a cross-national survey, TIMSS was first administered by the International Association for the Evaluation of Education Achievement (IEA) in 1995. A precursor to TIMSS was the First International Mathematics Study (FIMS) in 1964. And it was followed in 1970-71 by the First International Science Study (FISS). In the 1990s, these early studies were combined by the IEA to create the Third International Mathematics and Science Study, which was administered in 1994-1995. IEA continued to hold the second administration of the Third International Mathematics and Science Study, also known as TIMSS-Repeat. As countries around the world have been enthusiastic about TIMSS- Repeat, the IEA decided to conduct it every four years since then. Also, the survey was renamed as “the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Education Achievement Survey” to emphasize the feature of trend survey.
Taiwan informally participated in TIMSS in 1987 and applied to join the IEA as a full member in 1992. Then, Taiwan participated in TIMSS 1999 formally. It was the first time for Taiwan to formally participate in a large-scale international study for student achievement. So far, Taiwan has participated in the survey seven times including the ongoing cycle, TIMSS 2023. The previous and current TIMSS cycle in Taiwan are all conducted by the Science Education Center, National Taiwan Normal University.

Target population

The target population was defined by grade in TIMSS 1999. At first, the target population was set for the eighth-grade students. Since TIMSS 2003, the fourth-grade students have been included in the target population along with the eighth-grade students.

TIMSS Assessment Framework

Both math and science achievement assessments in TIMSS can be categorized by two dimensions: content and cognition.  In the aspect of content dimension, mathematics assessment consists of Number, Measurement and Geometry, and Data at grade four, and Number, Algebra, Geometry, and Data and Probability at grade eight. The content dimension in science consists of Life Science, Physical Science, Earth Science at grade four, and Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Earth Science at grade eight.
In terms of cognitive dimensions, there are three domains including Knowing, Applying, and Reasoning for mathematics and science assessment at both grades.  A newly developed dimension is problem solving and inquiry tasks, known as PSIs, which is formally implemented in TIMSS 2019.  The PSIs specifically aim to evaluate students’ abilities of solving mathematics problems and conducting scientific investigations.

The Procedure of TIMSS

TIMSS is carried out every four years, and each cycle consists of two stagesField Test and Main Survey. The implementation of the two stages is basically the same except for the sample size and the number of test booklets. The process of implementation for both stages contain sampling, making assessment tools, collecting data, scoring, data entry, data cleaning, and publishing the report.

The Impact of TIMSS in Taiwan

The benefit of participating in TIMSS is to be able to monitor the current education policy and provide prime indicators for education policy makers. Specifically, through comparing the collaboration of international researchers and comparing with students’ achievements in each country, we can rigorously investigate not only the advantages and disadvantages of mathematics and science education but also the crucial factors which are related to learning mathematics and science.  In addition, teachers and researchers in Taiwan can also learn the international trend of evaluating students’ achievement and the latest innovations in assessment in mathematics and science.
Overall, students in Taiwan have been steadily outperforming in mathematics and science achievement compared to other countries in the previous TIMSS cycle. However, the results from the previous TIMSS cycles show that there is still room for improvement in mathematics and science education in Taiwan. Therefore, the Ministry of Education has implemented a number of corresponding reform programs, and those programs still need to be constantly monitored and evaluated. For instance, the Ministry of Education has implemented multiple programs to promote the achievements of underprivileged students. Through examining the previous cycle of TIMSS, we can learn if the achievement of underprivileged students shows an upward trend. Then, we could further investigate if the education policy toward students with low SES has been effective.  We can utilize the results of TIMSS to provide scientific evidence for evaluating and improving the policy.
If you are interested in TIMSS or the International Large-scale Evaluation Study, please refer to the following website:
  1. Taiwan official site for TIMSS 2023: https://cirn.moe.edu.tw/WebNews/index.aspx?sid=1202&mid=13863
  2. TIMSS & PIRLS International Study Center: https://timssandpirls.bc.edu/
  3. The International Association for the Evaluation of Education (IEA): https://www.iea.nl/
  4. Taiwan International Large-Scale Study Center: https://tilssc.naer.edu.tw/