What Can We Learn from Student Attitudes or International Achievement Tests?

Melbourne Institute Working Paper No. 22/16

Date: 2016


Kyle Peyton
Chris Ryan
Justin van de Ven


This study looks at whether differences in student attitudes towards mathematics and science between Victorian students and those in selected other countries can explain differences in student achievement between them. We find that they cannot. In general, in the 2011 Trends in Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) data used here, Victorian school students have more positive attitudes towards mathematics and science than students in high achievement countries. These results also hold where we remove any language effects from the way people respond to attitudinal questions, or any cultural or social-desirability induced elements of the responses. Further, the most reliable estimates of the relationship between attitudes and achievement point to quite small effects, suggesting any increase in achievement associated with improved student attitudes could only be small.

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