27 SES 05 A, Methodological Issues in International and Comparative Mathematics Education Research
Joint Session with NW 24
Large-scale comparative studies, such as the Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), have always ‘startled’ politicians and policy makers, researchers and practitioners, and the public. However, one of the most remarkable ‘results’ of TIMSS, probably more than the mountain of statistics and league tables, were the video tapes showing mathematics teachers in the US, Japan and Germany of the 1995. All three teachers were teaching the same topic, but in very different ways. Alongside TIMSS 95, a series of smaller accompanying studies drew upon additional sources of data, amongst them the videotape classroom study (Stigler et al., 1999). Clarke highlights what he regards as one of the most important result of conducting the video studies.
“One of the most powerful outcomes of large-scale video studies such as this has been the demonstrated potential of the video data to sustain multiple analyses.” (Clarke, 2003, p.165)
Since then, there have been numerous international studies, and comparisons of attainment, in mathematics education over the past twenty years, both quantitative and qualitative, and including video studies (e.g. Learners Perspective Study).
Keitel and Kilpatrick (1999) give probably one of the most condemning verdicts of large-scale comparative international studies, and TIMSS 95 in particular, when they criticise the ‘rationality and irrationality of international comparative studies’. They state that
“… the treatment of school mathematics curricula in international comparative investigations is a story of increased efforts to take aspects of curriculum complexity into account. It is also, however, a story of persistent failure to probe sufficiently below the surface of, and to challenge assumptions about, what is to be understood as curriculum.” (Keitel & Kilpatrick, 1999, p.242)
They argue that internationally equivalent instruments need to be developed, that is instruments that had ‘internationally-comparable’ relations to the national curricula. Otherwise, international studies would continue, in the words of Torsten Husén ‘compare the incomparable’ (Husén, 1983, p.243).
In collaboration with the Didactics network (network 27), and to follow up the theme of the common symposium on "Research Design and Analytical Categories as Lenses for Constructing and Concealing Differences in Classroom studies" (submitted by Kirsti Klette), this Roundtable’s aim is to develop deeper understandings of particular methodological issues in comparative mathematics education research, such as developing analytical categories and common constructs. Four presenters from three countries will present their insights based on selected international research studies. This is followed by the discussant (Pauline Vos) who will address the main issues raised by this Roundtable (5-10 minutes each). The subsequent discussion with the audience will bring together the main insights from both (commonly held) sessions.
Clarke, D. (2003) International Comparative Research in Mathematics Education. In A.J. Bishop, M.A. Clements, C. Keitel, J. Kilpatrick, & F.K.S. Leung (eds.), Second International handbook of Mathematics Education (p.143-184), Dordrecht, The NL: Kluwer Academic Publ. Husén, T. (1983). Are standards in US schools really lagging behind those of other countries? Phi Delta Kappan, 455-461. Keitel, C. & Kilpatrick, J. (1999). The Rationality and Irrationality of International Comparative Studies. In G. Kaiser, E. Luna and I. Huntley (eds.), International Comparisons in Mathematics Education (p.241-256) London: Falmer Press. Warwick, D. & Osherson, S. (1973). Comparative research methods: an overview. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice- Hall.
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