EFFECTS OF TEACHER, CURRICULUM AND STUDY HABITS BASED FACTORS ON PERFORMANCE IN FURTHER MATHEMATICS AMONG SECONDARY SCHOOL STUDENTS
EFFECTS OF TEACHER, CURRICULUM AND STUDY HABITS BASED FACTORS ON PERFORMANCE IN FURTHER MATHEMATICS AMONG SECONDARY SCHOOL STUDENTS
Concerns regarding the low math achievements have been an issue with school personnel and have been the subject of many write-ups in journal articles, conference presentations, popular press and reports by official governments. Actions to improve these scores have been put in place by a) writing or rewriting standards, b) “ratcheting up” current standards, c) building accountability systems that include all students, d) developing programmatic interventions, e) extending the school year, and f) implementing effective instructional management systems. Research on teaching has linked instructional environment and achievement. (Spicuzza, Richard et al. 2001)
In a study of the perceptions of students and teachers on the causes of poor academic performance among secondary school students in Ogun State, Nigeria, Responses of teachers showed that teachers’ qualification and students’ environment do not influence students’ poor performance but teachers’ methods of teaching influence poor academic performance. Students’ response on the other hand showed that while teachers’ qualification and students’ environment influence students’ poor performance, teachers’ method of teaching and learning materials do not. (Askihia, O.A. 229.)
Study habit, skill, and attitude inventories and constructs were found to rival standardized tests and previous grades as predictors of academic performance, yielding substantial incremental validity in predicting academic performanc3. Study motivation and study skills exhibit the strongest relationships with both grade point average (GPA) and grades in individual classes. (Crede, Marcus. 2008)
Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) is an international assessment of mathematics and science learning in eight graders, conducted on a 4-year cycle by the International Association for the Evaluation of International Achievement (IEA), in collaboration with Statistics Canada and the Educational Testing Service and participating countries. (Else-Quest, Nicole M. et al. 104.) Curriculum, measurement, and education experts from around the world worked together to create the assessment frameworks, item pools, and questionnaires. TIMSS is based on the curricula of schools around the world, and is organized to investigate how students are provided educational opportunities, and the factors that influence how students make use of these opportunities. Having its basis in the curricula of schools around the world, TIMSS intends to investigate three levels: the intended curriculum; the implemented curriculum; and the achieved curriculum. The intended curriculum is defined as the mathematics and science that societies intend for students to learn and how education systems are organized to meet this demand; the implemented curriculum is what is actually taught in classrooms, who teaches it, and how it is taught; the achieved curriculum is what students have learned. The various questionnaires seek information on the intended and implemented curriculum; the assessment seeks to ascertain what students know. (TIMSS. Wikipedia.)
The next set of TIMSS is being administered between February 2009 and May 2010. The participating countries are as follows for the 2011 testing: More than 60 educational systems participate. These include: Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Belgium (Flemish Community), Botswana, Canada (Alberta, Ontario and Qúebec), Chile, Chinese Taipei, Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, England, Finland, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Honduras, Hong Kong SAR, Hungary, Indonesia, Iran, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Korea, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Lithuania, Malaysia, Malta, Mongolia, Morocco, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Norway, Oman, Palestinian National Authority, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Scotland, Serbia, Singapore, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates (also Abu Dhabi and Dubai as benchmarking systems), United States, Yemen. (TIMMS 2011. Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study 2011.)
From the data collected by the USA on their TIMMS results for 2007, the conclusions were as follows for 4th and 8th grades (Overview and Key Findings Across Grade Levels. National Center for Education Statistics 5):
Achievement- 4th Grade
· Among the 26 participating nations at this grade level, U.S. students scored above the international average in mathematics, and were outperformed by 7 countries.
· In science, U.S. students were outperformed by one country, Korea.
· In mathematics,U.S. students’ performance exceeded the international average in Whole Numbers; Fractions and Proportionality; Data Representation, Analysis and Probability; Geometry; and Patterns, Relations and Functions. Our students were below the international average in Measurement, Estimation, and Number Sense.
· In science,U.S. fourth-grade students were outperformed by one or two other nations in Earth Science; Life Science; and Environmental Issues and the Nature of Science. In Physical Science, U.S. students were outperformed by 5 other nations.
· If an international talent search were to select the top 10 percent of all fourth graders, 9 percent of U.S. fourth graders would be included in mathematics, and 16 percent would be included in science.
Achievement- 8th Grade
· U.S. students scored below the
international average of 41 nations in mathematics .
· U.S. students scored above the
international average in science.
· In mathematics, U.S. students
scored at about the international average in Data Representation, Analysis and Probability; Algebra; and Fractions and Number Sense; and below the international average in Geometry; Measurement; and Proportionality.
· In science, U.S. students scored
above the international average in
Earth Science; Life Science; and Environmental Issues and the
Nature of Science. They scored at the international average in Chemistry and in Physics.
· If an international talent search were to select the top 10 percent of all eighth graders, 5 percent of U.S. eighth graders would be included in mathematics, and 13 percent.
Curriculum- 4th Grade
· The number of topics included in U.S. textbooks and curriculum guides was above the international average in fourth-grade mathematics and somewhat below the international average in fourth-grade science.
· The U.S. eighth-grade mathematics curriculum
is less focused than other countries based on an analysis of the intended curriculum in each of the 41 TIMSS countries. The U.S. eighth-grade science curriculum more closely reflects international practices.
· Compared to Germany and Japan, the U.S. eighth-grade mathematics curriculum appears less advanced based on the topics covered and the time devoted to
each topic. The content being taught in U.S. eighth-grade mathematics classrooms is at about a seventh-grade level in comparison to other countries. However, the TIMSS study did not assess the level of advancement in the U.S. eighth-grade science curriculum.
· In the TIMSS videotapes of instructional practices, 40 percent of U.S. eighth-grade mathematics lessons included arithmetic topics such as whole number operations,
fractions, and decimals, whereas
these topics were much less common in Germany and Japan. In contrast, German and Japanese eighth-grade lessons were more likely to cover algebra and geometry.
· Eighth-grade U.S. mathematics teachers' typical goal is to teach students how to do something, while Japanese teachers' goal is to help students learn how to do something and also understand mathematical concepts so that they can solve future problems.
· Ninety-five percent of U.S. teachers stated that they were either "very aware" or "somewhat aware" about current ideas in the teaching and learning of mathematics. However, in the videotape study only a few teachers were observed to apply the key concepts of current reform measures in their classrooms. The TIMSS findings suggest that Japanese rather than U.S. or German lessons more often resembled the recommendations of experts and the U.S. reform movement. U.S. lessons typically focused on acquiring mathematical skills rather than conceptual understanding, and were less coherently presented.
· Developing mathematical concepts – that is proving, deriving, or explaining in some detail – is rare among U.S. teachers in comparison to German and Japanese teachers. U.S. teachers rarely developed mathematical concepts, in contrast to German and Japanese teachers who usually did. The average percentage of topics that were developed was 22 percent in the U.S., whereas the average was 77 percent in Germany and 83 percent in Japan.
· In the judgment of independent mathematics and mathematics education experts, none of the U.S. lessons evaluated in the TIMSS videotape study was considered to contain a high-quality sequence of mathematical ideas, compared to 39 percent of Japanese lessons, and 28 percent of German lessons.
· New teachers in the U.S. receive less on-the job training and mentoring than do new teachers in Japan and Germany.
For further information please refer to the statistics on http://nces.ed.gov/pubs99/1999081.pdf.
One would think that the United States would be leading with top marks on the TIMMS exams with their country’s superior resources and the amount of money spent on education which exceeds many of the other countries who are taking the same tests. The causes for the low scores are attributed to the weak math and science curricula in the US Middle Schools. A more insightful explanation was once proffered by Jean McLaughlin, president of Barry University who said "The public schools lack focus; instead of concentrating on education, they dabble in social re-engineering". That assessment was confirmed by the superintendent of the country's fourth largest school district in Miami-Dade, Florida who said "Half our job is education, and the other half is social work". (International Test Scores.)
The curricula at the middle school level in countries other than the USA shift from basic arithmetic and elementary science towards the subjects of chemistry, physics, algebra and geometry. The poorer nations teach at least half-year of algebra and half-year of geometry to every eighth-grader. In the USA the students continue to review arithmetic and continue to study earth science and life science rather than moving on to chemistry or physics. Hence by the time American students are ready to graduate from high school, they are performing badly in science and are significantly weaker than their peers in other countries. Weaknesses in teaching performance in physical sciences increase over the years.
U.S. textbooks treat topics with a "mile-wide, inch-deep" approach, Schmidt said. A typical U.S. eighth-grade math textbook deals with about 35 topics. By comparison, a Japanese or German math textbook for that age would have only five or six topics. Contrasts did elsewhere between French and American math books show more innovative approaches to finding, for instance, the volume of a pyramid. Fractions don't lend themselves to computerization, so they're relegated to an importance slightly above Roman numerals. Calculators are here to stay, so kids breeze through long division. They concentrate on how to use math rather than how to do math, and with less entanglement in social philosophy. (International Test Scores.)
Robert Pondisco of Core Knowledge quoted, “"Suggesting that great schooling is all about teachers is like suggesting that great restaurants are all about waiters. If the food is lousy, the service doesn’t matter. And make no mistake, the food is lousy. We continue to put thin, tasteless gruel on the menu, and blame the waiters when the customers leave hungry." (Smollin, Melanie.) Teacher quality or curriculum? That is the question. It seems that the US education system will not improve without making a difference in one or the other. Susan Engel, a senior lecturer in psychology and the director of the teaching program at Williams College, recommends that elementary schools adopt a more narrow and deeper curriculum focused on helping children develop essential skills "like reading, writing, computation, pattern detection, conversation and collaboration—a curriculum designed to raise children, rather than test scores." If children are able to master these foundational ways of thinking and behaving instead of wasting time on fact memorization and regurgitation, they would then be prepared to learn almost anything in high school and college. (Smollins, Melanie) On the other hand, teachers who are talented and passionate would bring out the children’s passion for learning as well. Teacher quality is very important, but so is curriculum. Hence focus on how teachers teach and also on what they teach will be the key to improving the children’s education. Both need to be tackled at the same time.
Study skills are very important to doing well in school. Getting good grades is a combination of three things: motivation, dedication, and planning. (Inong. 2008.) Motivation is the key to success. Motivation for students usually come in the form of ‘if you do well you will be rewarded with …’ But it is a technique that works. Motivation that comes in this form is usually effective for the short run. Long-term motivation involves more in –depth thinking which focuses on various issues such as have the student ponder on the “what do you want to do in 5 years time” scenarios and help them get motivated to achieve those goals. Dedication is applying yourself to whatever you are doing. One must realize that time must be apportioned so that there is enough time to accomplish everything. Planning your schedule ahead of time is good practice for students on time management skills. Students can learn how to put aside time for everything and how to allot more time for things they have problems with. Revision is the mother of retention after all. Doing a little bit of review every day over what you’ve learned that day is better than trying to cram everything the night before a big test!
Inong (2008) suggestions to some helpful tips to get good grades are the
1.Never study at the last minute. It boggles your mind and memory. Study the night before but not too hard; just enough to give you a basic overview of things. If you've been reading the material for thirty minutes every day, you won't need to study four or five hours the night or day before the test.
2.Get plenty of sleep. Don't rely on coffee and caffeine. Your body will get used to it and trying to kick the addiction later on will leave your body and mind in a slump.
3.Write on your English books. If they're borrowed textbooks from the school, keep a separate notebook for each class handy and write as you read or after every chapter. But, if it's a book you've bought, then write in the margins. Simply underlining or highlighting leaves you with no insight on the text at all. Write your opinions and questions on the margins and you're interacting with the text.
4.Know how you study. Do you study well by yourself, or with a group? If you like to study with a group, then make sure that you're exchanging ideas and information and not just having daily conversations. When you study, do it so that you aren't easily distracted. Set aside a place for yourself as a "study corner." Make sure that there aren't any distractions, and keep a timer on hand. Some people will say they can't study if they don't listen to music or if the TV’s not on. Personally, I'm one of these people, but I can safely say that I always got my work done on time, and managed to sleep before 10 o'clock every night. If you can't do this, keep your study space quiet.
5. Take frequent breaks between study times. Study or read for twenty-five minutes, then take a five minute break. Studying or reading at intervals refreshes your eyes and mind. If you take too much information in too little time, you're more likely to forget the information.
Everyone is special and approaches studying in a different way. Besides studying is not the only contributor to success. Being a well-rounded person is success.
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