Examining Computer-based Assessment and Gender issues - what constitutes the large Gender difference?
Large scale studies play an increasing role in educational politics and results from surveys such as TIMSS and PISA are extensively used in medial debates about students' knowledge in science and mathematics. Although this debate does not usually shed light on the more extensive quantitative analyses, there is a lack of investigations which aim at exploring what is possible to conclude or not to conclude from these analyses. There is also a need for more detailed discussions about what trends could be discern concerning students' knowledge in science and mathematics. The aim of this symposium is therefore to highlight and discuss different approaches to how data from large scale studies could be used for additional analyses in order to increase our understanding of students' knowledge in science and mathematics, but also to explore possible longitudinal trends, hidden in the data material. This is done from different examples, which all use additional analysis in order to sort out complex issues behind, maybe at first glance, simple relationships. These examples could constitute possible approaches for qualitative analysis on quantitative data. For example, the relationship between low performers in grade 9 and school completion could be questioned as this image seems to be more complex. One group of Australian students, belonging to the low performers on the PISA 2003 test in mathematics, complete university studies and go to stable employments. By identifying underlying causes of the more successive low-performers this could improve the targeting of resources in schools. Another example of a complex issue, emanating from the results of large scale studies, concerns computer-based assessment in science (CBAS) and gender issues. Both PISA and CBAS aim to assess scientific literacy, but the results of CBAS show a large gender difference in all three participating countries although none or smaller differences on the PISA paper and pencil-test. An analysis of the CBAS questions reveals gendered contexts where males were acting doing boys' activities. There were also an overrepresentation of physics and technology, which girls often refer to as more difficult subjects. Yet another example concerns the significant decline of Swedish students' performances on both the PISA and the TIMSS studies between 1995 and 2006. A more thorough analysis of reoccurring PISA questions shows a great variance in to what extent the Swedish students succeed to solve specific problems. Furthermore, it seems as the students' ability to argue scientifically has significantly decreased.
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Australian Association for Research in Education 2009