Why is learning so hard? Alex Black gives us some clues…

Alex Black has been a science teacher for over 30 years; for many of those he has been using the CASE teaching tools developed using Piaget’s theories.

His presentation described how researchers Shayer and Adey identified the difficulties that children learning sciences experienced, particularly 11 to 16-year-olds. The researchers wanted to develop an evidenced-based theory of science learning and teaching using Piaget’s model of developmental stages. This involved really getting to grips with students’ thinking and their understanding of the formal operational schemata essential for learning abstract scientific principles in the curriculum. The researchers developed and validated instruments for testing students’ understanding with a huge nationwide survey of 11,000 school students and were alarmed by the low proportion who had reached formal operational thinking by the age of 16. This led them to explore two strategies:

The first was to develop the CAT (Curriculum Analysis Taxonomy) to allow sequencing and matching of curriculum objectives to the cognitive readiness of the students. The second was to develop and validate a programme to accelerate the movement of students from concrete to formal thinking. The ideas of Piaget, Vygotsky and Feuerstein were incorporated into the teaching methodology and teacher training which led to the Cognitive Acceleration through Science Education (CASE) and later CAME in Mathematics with students in Year 7 and 8.

These programmes have since been extended across wider age ranges and put into practice in Finland, Pakistan, Israel, USA, Ireland, Australia, and Tonga. Further, the pedagogy has been extended to English as well as to more generic programmes such as Learn to Think in China.

Find out more about the resources available for teachers in English, Maths and Science on the group’s website letsthink.org.uk/

You can also follow Alex as well as Let’s think on Twitter

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