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Complete list of publications

An extended bibliography of publications related to IEA studies is online. Many of the publications can be downloaded free of charge.

IEA Compass: Briefs in Education Series

This series address issues of interest to a broad range of educational stakeholders, especially those involved in influencing educational decision and policymaking. Each publication in the series aims to connect study findings to recurrent and emerging questions in education policy debates at the international and national levels. The briefs cover a range of themes in relation to teaching and learning in school subjects addressed by the IEA studies.

Note that the series was initially entitled "Policy briefs" however the name has been updated to reflect the wider readership of these articles.


In TIMSS 2015, while two-thirds of students in grade 4 reported feeling very safe at school, by grade 8, less than half of the students surveyed reported feeling a high level of safety. Overall, girls were more likely to report feeling safe than boys. For both genders, feeling safe at school seemed to be positively related to academic achievement in many countries. This relationship was stronger for grade 8 than grade 4 students and also stronger for girls than boys.

PIRLS 2016 data from eight education systems were used to examine how teachers from three different language groups differed in their teaching of reading literacy. Teaching reading practices differed substantially between the three linguistic/cultural groups. In English-speaking systems, effective practices for establishing reading literacy seem well implemented, but there is still room for more consistent implementation in German-speaking and French-speaking education systems.

September 2018: Preparing the ground: The importance of early learning activities at home for fourth grade student achievement

By Sabine Meinck, Agnes Stancel-Piątak (IEA) & Aimee Verdisco (Inter-American Development Bank)

Analyses of TIMSS and PIRLS data indicate that early learning activities can help to lay the foundation for positive schooling outcomes in the future. Measures that enhance the engagement of parents in early learning activities, or facilitate easy access to adequate complementary provisions, will help to prepare the ground for better school results and may reduce the effect of social background on educational inequality.

Chinese Taipei has used successive cycles of TIMSS data as a guide for formulating educational policies and as an evidence base for evaluating their effects. The After Class Support project and subsequent Just Do Math program are new approaches to mathematics teaching and learning which have been enthusiastically embraced by students and teachers.

Children are bullied in primary schools around the world and those who are bullied tend to do less well in mathematics.The amount of bullying varies widely but, on average, nearly half of all children in the TIMSS 2015 study report being bullied at least once a month. Bullying policies need to begin in the early years and TIMSS provides an important resource for policymakers to monitor both existing and new anti-bullying interventions.



January 2018: PIRLS for Teachers: Making PIRLS results more useful for practitioners

By Therese N. Hopfenbeck and Jenny Lenkeit (Oxford University Centre for Educational Assessment, UK)

Teachers are always looking for new strategies to improve pedagogy in the classroom. In Oxford University's PIRLS for Teachers project, teachers and researchers in England joined forces to develop good guidance and advice for teachers on how to interpret and use PIRLS 2011 data to improve their own teaching of reading in primary schools.

Are teacher education and experience appropriate measures for such a broad concept as “teacher quality,” or are there better alternatives, especially given the great expense in attempting to enhance these qualities in teachers? This brief uses measures of teacher quality based on TIMSS 2015 to identify which factors most strongly influence the instructional core.

August 2017: Too scared to learn? Understanding the importance of school safety for immigrant students

By Tamara Katschnig (University of Vienna, Austria), and Dirk Hastedt (IEA, Hamburg, Germany)

TIMSS shows school safety and climate are highly correlated with educational performance, with immigrant students’ perceptions of school safety even more closely linked to achievement, and thus more strongly related to student well-being and aspirations.  Identifying and addressing the special obstacles faced by immigrant children is crucial to achieving inclusive and equitable quality education for all, and improving national educational outcomes.

May 2017: Reading performance in post-colonial contexts and the effect of instruction in a second language

By Sarah Howie (University of Pretoria, South Africa), and Megan Chamberlain (Ministry of Education, New Zealand)

Do language policies, past and present, help explain achievement differences? Evidence from PIRLS post-colonial countries supports the need to understand and improve language policies. In an increasingly diverse world, where significant migration is becoming the norm, countries are considering a greater range of language-in-education models, varying from full immersion to increasing degrees of additive bilingualism. Independent international studies, like IEA's PIRLS, provide valuable evidence to help support national policymaking.

February 2017: Exploring cross-national changes in instructional practices: evidence from four cycles of TIMSS

By Mojca Rožman, and Eckhard Klieme (German Institute for International Educational Research [DIPF], Germany)

TIMSS trends reveal there is mixed evidence for global “mega-trends” in education. Constructivist pedagogy (working in groups, applying mathematical content to daily life) was boosted on a large scale during the mid-2000s. There is only limited support for a rise in assessment-based instruction and a shift from computational practice to problem-solving in mathematics. Teaching practices seem to be shaped by national educational cultures or policies.

November 2016: Where are the immigrant girls?

By Theophania Chavatzia (UNESCO, France), Laura Engel (George Washington University, USA), and Dirk Hastedt (IEA Hamburg, Germany)

Girls are more likely to be excluded from education than boys. In several countries, TIMSS 2011 data reveals that more than 50% of immigrant girls are not enrolled in school. Unequal access threatens gender equality in educational outcomes within the immigrant population, hindering overall efforts towards the attainment of SDG4. Policymakers need to ask, “Where are the immigrant girls?

September 2016: Are teacher characteristics and teaching practices associated with student performance?

José G. Clavel and Ildefonso Méndez, University of Murcia, Spain, and Francisco Javier G. Crespo, National Institute for Educational Assessment (INEE), Spain

In this brief, data from TIMSS 2011 was used to construct indexes to analyze whether different strategies and methodologies used by 8th grade mathematics and science teachers in their day-to-day activities had an impact on the academic performance of their students. Although countries showed differing results, usually related with their economic development level, collegial practices generally exhibited positive associations with student performance. Meanwhile, passive teaching and active assessment strategies were more often negatively than positively associated with student achievement.

April 2016: Are school characteristics related to equity? The answer may depend on a country’s developmental level

Trude Nilsen and Sigrid Blömeke, University of Oslo, Norway, and Kajsa Yang Hansen and Jan-Eric Gustafsson, University of Gothenburg, Sweden

This policy brief examines how school characteristics may be associated with educational equity in terms of the relationship between students’ socioeconomic status and achievement. The findings have implications for both highly-developed and developing countries interested in supporting educational equity.

December 2015: Is reading contagious? Examining parents’ and children’s reading attitudes and behaviors

Maria Stephens, Ebru Erberber, Yemurai Tsokodayi, Teresa Kroeger and Sharlyn Ferguson, The American Institutes for Research, Washington DC, USA

This brief explores whether parents’ positive reading attitudes and behaviors are “contagious,” providing a valuable descriptive picture across numerous and diverse education systems, of the extent to which children’s reading attitudes and behaviors mirror those of their parents. Such understanding can inform efforts by policymakers to craft interventions designed to motivate children to read.

Research clearly demonstrates the importance of students’ reading behaviors for predicting students’ short- and long-term outcomes. While teachers’ instruction might affect these reading behaviors (and therefore indirectly affect achievement), little is known about the association of in-school teacher practices with students’ out-of-school behaviors. This report analyses PIRLS data, and addresses implications for policymakers, teachers, parents, and researchers.

While every country strives for its students to have advanced achievement in some form, competence is often a higher policy priority than excellence, and shrinking minimum competency gaps is a higher priority than closing excellence gaps. In this brief, educational excellence is defined as the percent of students who meet or exceed the TIMSS advanced benchmark. Policy implications are highlighted, along with recommendations for further research into excellence gaps.


Digital information and communication technologies (ICT) have made the acquisition of computer and information literacy (CIL) a leading factor in creating an engaged and employable citizenry. Are young people developing the necessary CIL skills?

March 2015: Socioeconomically disadvantaged students who are academically successful: examining academic resilience cross-nationally

Ebru Erberber, Maria Stephens, Saida Mamedova, Sharlyn Ferguson & Teresa Kroeger, American Institutes for Research


This brief uses 2011 eighth-grade data from TIMSS to explore (1) how prevalent academically resilient students are across education systems and (2) what factors are associated with academic resilience.

January 2015: Is teacher experience associated with mathematics achievement?

Andrés Sandoval-Hernández & Katrin Jaschinski, IEA Hamburg, Germany, & Pablo Fraser & Sakiko Ikoma, Pennsylvania State University, USA


Teacher experience is thought to exert a key role in student achievement. International comparative data is used to assess: (1) is teacher experience associated with the mathematics achievement of 4th graders; and (2) do other teacher characteristics have an influence?

Many countries promote reforms to improve access to and the quality of early childhood education. Data from eight Arab education systems that participated in PIRLS 2011 showed a positive relationship between participation in preprimary education, its duration, and student-reading achievement at primary school.

Emphasis on the use of computer software for instruction may influence student achievement in mathematics and science. This brief examines whether associations can be made between computer training, support and professional development for teachers, and student outcomes.

March 2014: Parental involvement in school activities and reading literacy: findings and implications from PIRLS 2011 data

Plamen Mirazchiyski, IEA Hamburg, Germany & Eva Klemenčič, Educational Research Institute, Slovenia


Students in schools with higher parental involvement tend to have higher reading achievement. Analysis also showed a positive association between level of parental involvement in school and level of parental education. Promoting parental involvement may be an effective strategy for increasing reading achievement; this could be particularly relevant for schools with students whose parents have lower levels of education.

December 2013: Is participation in preschool education associated with higher student achievement?

Andres Sandoval-Hernandez & Parisa Aghakasiri, IEA Hamburg, Germany, & Kyoko Taniguchi, Hiroshima University, Japan


Countries and supranational organizations have promoted reforms aimed at preparing children for school entry, and preschool coverage rates have steadily increased in recent decades. This policy brief examines the relationship between preschool education and mathematics achievement at Grade 4. 

September 2013: Does increasing hours of schooling lead to improvements in student learning?

Andres Sandoval-Hernandez & Parisa Aghakasiri, IEA Hamburg, Germany, & Justin Wild & David Rutkowski, Indiana University, USA


The time students spend in the classroom is not always positively related to their academic achievement. Effective teaching time is most likely to have a positive impact on student achievement. Policies influencing how time at school is allocated can be a good way to improve educational outcomes.

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