Science Benchmarking Report TIMSS 1999–Eighth Grade




CHAPTER 3: Average Achievement in the Science Content Areas

Chapter 3 presents results by the major content areas in science to provide information about the possible effects of curricular variation on average achievement. Average performance is provided for six content areas: earth science; life science; physics; chemistry; environmental and resource issues; scientific inquiry and the nature of science.


As delineated by the curriculum of the countries around the world and in the Benchmarking entities, science contains a range of content areas (see Chapter 5 on curriculum). For example, almost all TIMSS 1999 countries and Benchmarking participants reported some elements of earth science, life science, physics, and chemistry in the eighth-grade science curriculum. Since these content areas can differ in complexity, enter the curriculum at different times, receive varying degrees of emphasis, or even be taught as separate courses, Chapter 3 presents results by the major content areas in science. For each Benchmarking entity, average achievement is shown for each content area and compared with the international average for that content area, and average achievement in the content areas is profiled in relation to overall science achievement. Results are also provided by gender. These different perspectives are provided to identify the relative strengths and weaknesses of students in the different science content areas as well as the possible effects of curricular variation on average achievement.

The TIMSS 1999 science test for the eighth grade was designed to enable reporting by six content areas in accordance with the TIMSS science framework. These areas, with their main topics, are:

Earth science
Includes earth features, earth processes, and earth in the universe

Life science
Includes diversity, organization and structure of living things; life processes and systems enabling life functions; life spirals, genetic continuity and
diversity; interactions of living things; and human biology and health

Includes physical properties and transformations; energy and physical processes; and forces and motion

Includes classification and structure of matter; chemical properties; and
chemical transformations

Environmental and resource issues
Includes pollution; conservation of land, water, and sea resources; conservation of material and energy resources; world population; food supply and production; and effects of natural disasters

Scientific inquiry and the nature of science
Includes the nature of scientific knowledge; the scientific enterprise; interactions of science, technology, mathematics, and society; and the tools, procedures, and processes used in conducting scientific investigations.

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TIMSS 1999 is a project of the International Study Center
Boston College, Lynch School of Education