Teachers and teaching in maths and science: what we know from New Zealand’s TIMSS 2014/15 results for Year 5 and Year 9

Publication Details

This flyer briefly summarises findings about teachers and teaching from New Zealand’s participation in TIMSS 2014/15. It includes teacher qualifications and confidence, professional development, and teaching activities.

Author(s): Robyn Caygill, Vafa Hanlar and Charlotte Harris-Miller, Comparative Education Research Unit, Ministry of Education

Date Published: November 2016

Introduction

What we know from New Zealand's TIMSS 2014/151 results for Year 5 and Year 9.

Teacher qualifications

  • In 2014/15 New Zealand students were more likely to have teachers with postgraduate and higher degrees than students in TIMSS 2010/11.
  • 19% of Year 5 students had teachers who had specialised in maths, and 15% had teachers who had specialised in science. The international average was 43% for maths and 38% for science.
  • As expected, more Year 9 students had mathematics teachers who had specialised in maths (66%). Nearly all Year 9 students had science teachers who specialised in science (93%). New Zealand had fewer teachers with maths specialisations than the international average, but a similar proportion in science.

Confidence

  • TIMSS 2014/15 asked teachers about their confidence to teach, and how prepared they felt to teach different subjects and topics.
  • New Zealand Year 5 teachers:
    • Overall more felt prepared and confident to teach maths than science.
    • Since TIMSS 2010/11, the proportion of teachers who felt very well prepared to teach science increased. However, about half still did not feel this way, and New Zealand teachers had less confidence in science teaching than teachers from many other countries.
    • They felt better prepared to teach data display topics than number and geometric shapes and measures.
    • They felt slightly less prepared to teach physical science than life and Earth science topics
  • New Zealand Year 9 teachers:
    • Maths teachers felt well prepared to teach most topics, though science teachers felt less prepared to teach Earth science than other topics.
    • Most were confident in their ability to teach their subject, however, science teachers were less confident to do some teaching activities than others, for example using inquiry methods in science teaching and providing challenging tasks for the highest achieving students.
    • Across both years and subjects, many teachers lacked confidence in developing students' higher-order thinking skills.

Professional development (PD)

  • Compared to most of the participating countries, more New Zealand Year 5 teachers participated in maths-related PD, and fewer participated in science-related PD.
  • About 60% of New Zealand Year 5 students were taught by teachers who hadn't had science PD in the previous 2 years.
  • The proportion of Year 9 maths teachers who had participated in PD was similar to the international average. For science, a slightly higher proportion of Year 9 teachers had PD than the international average.
  • However, fewer New Zealand Year 9 teachers had had more than 35 hours of PD in the last 2 years, compared to their international counterparts.

Teaching and learning

  • According to teachers, New Zealand students spent about 4 hours on maths per week, which was about the same as the international average. Year 9 students spent more time studying science than the international average, and Year 5 students spent far less time.
  • At the primary level, our teachers were more likely to often have students look up ideas and information in science than teachers in many other countries.
  • TIMSS collects information from teachers about how often they use different teaching strategies.
    • Year 5 teachers made less use of whole class teaching in maths, compared to other countries, and used group activities more often.
    • They had high use of same ability grouping, and relatively high use of having students work on problems (individually or with peers) while the teacher was occupied by other tasks.
    • In their science lessons, Year 5 students were more likely to work in mixed ability groups than in same ability groups.
    • Year 9 students were more likely to work in mixed ability groups in both mathematics and science lessons.
    • Activities where teachers explained new maths content, explained how to solve problems, or asked students to memorise rules, facts and procedures were less likely to be used in almost every lesson in New Zealand primary classrooms, compared with other countries.
  • There was an increase in the emphasis on science experiments or investigations for Year 5 students in 2014/15, compared to 2010/11.
  • New Zealand Year 9 teachers emphasised science investigation less often than many other countries. This emphasis appeared to have no relationship with achievement for New Zealand, though internationally students who were in classes with more frequent emphasis on science investigation had higher achievement.
  • Compared to most other countries, we had a higher proportion of students with computers available for use during lessons.

References:

Caygill, R., Singh, S., & Hanlar, V. (2016). Mathematics Year 5: Trends over 20 years in TIMSS – Findings from TIMSS 2014/15. Wellington: Ministry of Education.

Caygill, R., Hanlar, V., & Singh, S. (2016). Mathematics Year 9: Trends over 20 years in TIMSS – Findings from TIMSS 2014/15. Wellington: Ministry of Education.

Caygill, R., Singh, S., & Hanlar, V. (2016). Science Year 5: Trends over 20 years in TIMSS – Findings from TIMSS 2014/15. Wellington: Ministry of Education.

Caygill, R., Hanlar, V., & Singh, S. (2016). Science Year 9: Trends over 20 years in TIMSS – Findings from TIMSS 2014/15. Wellington: Ministry of Education.

Footnote

  1. TIMSS 2014/2015 was conducted in New Zealand and other southern hemisphere countries in 2014, and in northern hemisphere countries in 2015.

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