Findings from the TIMSS 2019 Problem Solving and Inquiry Tasks

Ina V.S. Mullis, Michael O. Martin, Bethany Fishbein, Pierre Foy, and Sebastian Moncaleano

Chapter 2: Science Grade 4

Farm Investigation

Conclusion and Reflections

As an inquiry task that provided fourth grade students with an engaging problem of appropriate difficulty to investigate, the Farm Investigation worked very well.

  • Students mostly were able to persevere until the end of the task, even when the task was later in the assessment session and students may have been becoming fatigued.
  • As a new departure for the TIMSS science assessment, the Farm Investigation aimed to capitalize on the ability of the computer to provide a more authentic science inquiry experience than is possible using paper and pencil. Accordingly, although items addressed students’ science knowledge and reasoning skills where possible, there was an emphasis on data collection and measurement skills, such as measuring the length of the animal footprints, working through the Animal Finder App to summarize their observations, and using the microscope to examine the animals’ hairs.
  • Students generally performed well on the items involving the data collection and measurement skills. In fact, they often performed better on these items than on items requiring science knowledge or especially science reasoning skills. However, perhaps because these items did not require any science content knowledge, performance generally showed lower correlations with overall science achievement than more conventional items.
  • While future inquiry tasks certainly should include data collection/measurement activities, both for authenticity and for their capacity to engage and motivate, they also should be careful not to neglect items addressing solid science content, to ensure that the task as a whole sufficiently represents the TIMSS Science Assessment Framework.