Saturday, October 19, 2013

Binge and Purge! That's what Allison had to say about how we test students - at least in NC. Students in SCIE 6020 have been examining international test result of the TIMSS and PISA test and have noted the higher order thinking skills assessed by PISA. Here is one of the sample test items noted by Jacqueline, who teaches in a high-performing school in North Carolina - a school that has also done much to close the achievement gap!

Sample Test Item:


A bus is driving along a straight stretch of road. The bus driver, named Ray, has a cup of water resting on the dashboard:
Suddenly Ray has to slam on the brakes
What is most likely to happen to the water in the cup?
The water will stay horizontal.

The water will spill over side 1.
The water will spill over side 2

I noted to Jacqueline that from personal experience coffee seems to fly out of all sides of the cup when I brake too fast!

Allison, another student in the class constructed these tables to help summarize the PISA results:

Which countries had students who scored significantly higher than average, on the average, and significantly lower than the average (identify 5 higher, 5 average, and 5 lower performing countries) on the PISA assessment of the science literacy of 15 year old students? 

Higher than Average
Shanghai China
Hong Kong China

Czech Republic
Lower than Average

Which countries registered high levels of science literacy as indicated by combining percentages for the Level 5 and Level 6 results?  Which countries had low levels of science literacy as indicated by combining percentages for Level 1 and Level 2 results? 
8.5% of OECD countries students were proficient in science on combined levels five and six, while only 1% could perform the most difficult science tasks at level six. 
Highest Level of Science (level 5 and 6 combined)
New Zealand
Lowest Level of Science literacy (levels 1 &2 combined)

In the U.S., 9% of students scored high science literacy and 18% of students scored low science literacy. 

Something that really stood out to Justin was Australia. It was both one of the best and one of the worst performing nations when we look at it through these metrics. That suggests to me that there is probably a wide range of education in Australia. We know that same condition is very true in NC as well where your zip code really matters when it comes to access to a quality education. 

William and Matthew both are concerned that in NC the end of course test in science seems to reinforce fact-level teaching, so must they teach low for students to test high. But, Margaret noted that Finland and South Korea scored high on both the TIMSS (with more lower level test items) and the  higher order PISA test, so maybe teachers can really teach high and not sacrifice the potential for students to score well - even on test of lower level content knowledge! 

Your comments are welcomed.

Charles Coble

Monday, September 16, 2013

During the first three weeks of the East Carolina University graduate course, SCIE 6020, informally titled World Class Science Education, students enrolled in the class have read the introductory chapter and the first chapter of Marc Tucker's book titled, Surpassing Shanghai. They have also examined NAEP science and math scores in North Carolina as compared to scores from neighboring states - and found that NC students score better than most Southern States, except Virginia. Next, they will soon be examining TIMSS and PISA scores to learn how the United States and North Carolina are doing compared to the other OECD nations. Most everyone reading this blog can anticipate the answers.

What students in the class know already is that compared with, at least, Shanghai and Finland (the chapter they are now reading), teachers are held in high esteem in those two settings. Being selected into teacher preparation, preparing for teaching and being employed as a teacher are rigorous processes in Shanghai and Finland. They will also be learning about becoming a teacher in Japan, Singapore and Canada. Are teachers in these countries held to high esteem as well? Are they rigorously prepared? How well are they supported as beginning teachers? Are they well-compensated? How different are the conditions for teaching? These are some of the questions that students in SCIE 6020 are examining.

I invite colleagues who have some direct experiences in these or other nations to share your observations about teachers and teacher preparation as you have witnessed it in other countries.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Welcome, this blog is primarily intended for the benefit of  graduate students enrolled in SCIE 6020 at East Carolina University. I have, however, invited a few professional associates across the state and nation to engage in this discussion as well. I trust their comments will expand the experience of those enrolled in the course and that they, too, will be enriched by the experience. 

I greatly appreciate the opportunity given to me by the administration and faculty in the Department of Science, Mathematics and Technology Education at East Carolina University to serve as an instructor in this (almost) new course in the revised Masters Degree in Science Education. Professor Emeritus, Dr. Frank Crawley, has done a marvelous job of creating a compelling course. It is likely that few practicing classroom science teachers have been exposed to the range of knowledge and challenging questions that are designed into this course - which focuses on state, national and international standards for teachers, teacher preparation and student achievement in science.

My own interest in international comparisons grew out of a long study comparing Japanese and US (North Carolina) middle grades and elementary students when I was a professor of Science Education at ECU. The differences in how teachers of science were prepared in Japan and how they taught science was an eye-opener for me and others on the research team as we extended our inquiry into China and Hong Kong. I hope this course will be a useful eye-opener for you as well.