CASE (Cognitive Acceleration through Science Education) is an intervention strategy which is a combination of curriculum and teaching method. The curriculum is designed to challenge children's present concepts of Science and present them with problems that they are unable to solve using their current strategies. The teaching method involves specific management of classes so that every child participates in constructing ideas while working on task in small groups, and then listens while these ideas are shared in whole-class discussion. There are opportunities for the teacher to challenge children's present concepts. As one teacher says "you're a teacher again".
Cognitive Acceleration through Science Education was a project funded by the British Economic and Social Research Council from September 1984 until August 1987. The project director was Michael Shayer and the full-time researchers were Philip Adey and Carolyn Yates. It was originally based at the Chelsea College Centre for Science and Mathematics Education in London. In 1985 Chelsea College and King's College merged and the work is now based at the Centre for Educational Studies, the School of Education at King's College. As part of the research a number of activities were devised and taught through science aimed at enhancing the pupils' thinking skills and so assist their learning as they progress through the school.
The project was designed to produce long term gains in academic achievement by attempting to raise children's intellectual performance so that they would be more likely to succeed. Pupils in a number of Dudley schools are taking part in the project. A set of tests are administered to the pupils. Analysis of these results allows the school to relate their levels to national norms. The first Science Reasoning Test (SRT II) is administered to the pupils before the CASE lessons start (probably in September of year 7). This enables the 'added value' to be monitored.
Pupils taking part in the earlier trials showed a significant increase in understanding at the end of the programme and analysis showed that the CASE classes showed greater gains in reasoning ability at the end of the two years. Further the progress of the pupils was monitored as they carried on through the school towards GCSE examinations and the results of an analysis of these results showed that the pupils who had received CASE lessons obtained significantly higher grades than the pupils in the control group. This occurred not only in science but in maths and English.
In the current educational climate the educational standards achieved in schools has a high priority, indeed in the '1995 OFSTED Framework for the inspection of schools' the first paragraph states -
'The purpose of inspection is to identify strengths and weaknesses so that schools may improve the quality of education they provide and raise the educational standards achieved by their pupils.'
Further, the Parents' Charter and school league tables all increase the pressure on schools to be seen to be performing well. Clearly schools are looking closely at ways in which educational standards can be raised and CASE is seen as one route which may help to achieve this.
The theoretical bases behind CASE are developed from the work of Piaget and Vygotsky. The CASE intervention lessons are designed to encourage the development of thinking from concrete to formal operations. Some of the types of reasoning (called Schemata by Piaget) which characterise formal operations are:-
The 'Thinking Science' activities are designed to provide examples of these in 32 lessons over 2 years.
The CASE activities are designed to familiarise pupils with the language and apparatus, (concrete preparation); provide 'events' which cause the pupils to pause, wonder and think again, (cognitive conflict); encourage the pupils to reflect on their own thinking processes, (metacognition); and show how this thinking can be applied in many contexts, (bridging). These features are described in detail by Adey P and Shayer M (1994) and are referred to as the 'Five Pillars of CASE wisdom'.
The CASE project would claim that it is not what the pupils learn (NC lists of learning outcomes etc.) but how they learn it that matters. The number of schools looking at Thinking Science is increasing as teachers see it as a possible way of raising standards. However it is not a universal panacea which can be taken off the shelf and administered when convenient. It needs to be delivered through a carefully planned curriculum approach, by teachers who are versed in the methodology and are confident in implementing it.
Adey P.S. (1993) The King's - BP CASE INSET Pack. London: BP Educational Services.
Adey P.S., Shayer M., and Yates C., (1995) Thinking Science: The Curriculum Materials of the CASE Project, London: Thomas Nelson and Sons.
Adey P.S., and Shayer M., (1994) Really Raising Standards: London: Routledge.
Shayer M., Adey P.S. (1981). Towards a Science of Science Teaching: London: Heinemann Educational
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