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Modeling of large-scale assessment data: Science and mathematics literacy

Principal investigators

John O. Anderson, University of Victoria

Dr. John Anderson has been with the University of Victoria since 1987. His main area of research interest is educational measurement with a particular focus on large-scale assessment of student achievement. His teaching responsibilities include educational measurement and statistics. He is the current Chair of the department.

Dr. John Anderson has been the principal investigator on a number of research projects. He received grants for his Correlates of Learning Outcomes research project, which (among other things) has led him to explore Trinidad and Tobago's learning outcomes.

He also participated in scoring, analysis, and reporting of the Pan-Canadian Assessment Program's 2007 results. PCAP is the national assessment program administered by the Council of Ministers of Education Canada. Additionally, John is co-directing a NSERC-funded CRYSTAL project titled Analysis and Modeling of Large-scale Assessment Data for Science and Math Literacy.

Research Assistants

  • Anita Ram, A multilevel analysis of mathematics literacy in Canada and Japan: The effects of sex differences, teacher support, and the school learning environment. (2007). Master of Arts thesis, University of Victoria, Victoria, BC.
  • Jui-ChenHsu, Comparing the relationships between mathematics achievement and student characteristics in Canada and Hong Kong through HLM. (2007). Master of Arts thesis, University of Victoria, Victoria, BC.
  • Ming-Sze Goh, A multilevel analysis of mathematics literacy: The effects of intrinsic M motivation, teacher support and student-teacher relations. (2006). Master of Arts thesis, University of Victoria, Victoria, BC.
  • Jiesu Lou, School characteristics and family environment on student’s academic achievement: Results from PISA. (in progress). Doctoral dissertation, University of Victoria, Victoria, BC.
  • Shelley P. Ross, Motivation correlates of academic achievement: Exploring how motivation influences academic achievement in the PISA 2003 dataset. (2008). Doctor of Philosophy dissertation, University of Victoria, Victoria, BC.
  • Todd M Milford, An investigation of international science achievement using the OECD’s PISA 2006 data set. (2009). Doctor of Philosophy dissertation, University of Victoria, Victoria, BC.
  • Zhimei Gu, Comparison of Canada and Hong Kong-China through hierarchical linear models: the relations among students' self-beliefs in math, learning environment at school, and math performance. (2006). Master of Arts thesis, University of Victoria, Victoria, BC.


The basic thrust of this research was to investigate relationships and patterns associated with student performance in the literacies of mathematics, science and reading, and student, school, home and community characteristics. The Programme of International Student Assessment (PISA) datasets were the central foci of our investigations using Hierarchical Linear Modeling. The main findings went well beyond the simple rankings of participating nations in terms of average performance score scores. The relationships between the measures of science, mathematics and reading literacy is strong and positive (~0.80+). The proportion of variance in achievement that can be attributed to schools at the international level is approximately 35% and varies widely one country to another. Some of the more complex results included the finding that student motivation and self-concept are positively related to literacy achievement – students with higher levels of motivation and self-concept do tend to achieve higher scores than students with low levels of these attributes. The research shows that although the relationship to achievement is positive for students in all countries, the level of self-concept in particular is lower in some Asian countries and the level of achievement is higher than in North America.  Furthermore, variables that make up the cultural and social capital constructs account for more variance in scientific literacy on their own than does the composite ESCS. A stark conclusion from the many resulting models is that there is no common model relating student, home and school traits to achievement – the model vary from one country to another.



  • Anderson, J.O., Lin, H.S., Treagust, D.F., Ross, S.P. & Yore, L.D. (2007). Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) Results: Implications for Science and Mathematics Educators and Researchers.  The International Journal of Sciences & Mathematics Education, 5: 591-614.
  • Anderson, J.O., Chui, M-H., & Yore, L.D. (2010). First cycle of PISA (2000-2006)—International perspectives on successes and challenges: Research and policy directions. International Journal of Science and Mathematics Education, 8(3), 373-388.
  • Yore, L.D., Anderson, J.O., & Chui, M-H. (2010) Moving PISA results into the policy arena: Perspectives on knowledge transfer for future considerations and preparations. International Journal of Science and Mathematics Education, 8(3), 593-609.
  • Anderson, J.O., Milford, T., & Ross, S.P. (2009).  Multilevel modeling with HLM: Taking a second look at PISA.  In M. C. Shelley II, L. D. Yore, & B. Hand (Eds.), Quality research in literacy and science education: International perspectives and gold standards (pp. 263-286). Dordrecht, The Netherlands, Springer. ISBN: 978-1-4020-8426-3
  • Milford, T. M., Ross, S. P., & Anderson, J. O. (2010). An opportunity to better understand schooling: The growing presence of PISA in the Americas. International Journal of Mathematics and Science Education, 8(3), 453–476.
  • Milford, T. M., Jagger, S., Yore, L. D., & Anderson, J. O. (2010). National Influences on science education reform in Canada. Canadian Journal of Science, Mathematics and Technology Education, 10(4), 370–381.



  • Milford, T., Ross, S., & Anderson, J. (2010). School traits related to inequity: An analysis of PISA 2003. CSSE Annual Conference, Montreal, QE.
  • Milford, T., & Ross, S. (2010). Home language, immigrant status, socio-economic status, and academic achievement: Exploring relationships using PISA 2006. AERA Annual Conference, Denver, CO.
  • Milford, T., & Ross, S. (2009). Examining the relationships between immigrant status and language spoken in the home and student academic achievement. CSSE Annual Conference. Ottawa, ON.
  • Ross, S. & Milford, T. (2009). Measuring motivation in the PISA 2003 dataset. CSSE Annual Conference. Ottawa, ON.
  • Milford, T., Ram, A., Ross, S., Huang, J., Hsu, J., & Go, M. (2007). Using large scale datasets to enhance and extend knowledge: The value of PISA to educational research. CSSE Annual Conference. Saskatoon, SK.
  • Anderson, J.O., Ross, S.P., & Milford, T. (2007). HLM with the PISA dataset. National Pacific Crystal Conference. Edmonton, AB.
  • Anderson, J.O., Ross, S.P., & Milford, T. (2007). Schools and student achievement: Investigating relationships in science and mathematics education. CRYSTAL-Alberta Speakers Series 2007-2008. Edmonton, AB.
  • Anderson, J.O., Ross, S., Goh, M., Gu, Z., Hsu, J., Huang, J., Ram, A., & Milford, T. (2007). Hierarchical linear models of student and school indices of writing, numeracy, and reading in Grades 4 and 7. Hawaii International Education Conference. Honolulu, HI.


Dr. John Anderson, Professor and Chair, Department of Education Psychology and Leadership Studies (




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