Deeper Thinking aims to improve outcomes in GCSE science by teaching pupils to use a variety of metacognitive strategies, including the Structure of Observed Learning Outcomes (SOLO) Taxonomy, quick concept mapping and several revision techniques. Carmel Education Trust developed this approach, which specifically targets two types of GCSE science question: those that require an extended answer, and those relating to the ‘required’ practicals. They had previously used this approach within their schools and identified positive early findings. Teachers are trained to encourage pupils to use the strategies.
In this pilot study, they implemented the strategies with their Year 10 pupils (ages 14 to 15), every 2-4 weeks, in a condensed version of the programme, which would ordinarily be delivered for 2 years across Year 10 and 11.
Teaching students SOLO taxonomy and metacognitive approaches in order to improve revision practices and exam technique.
Developing effective learners
There is evidence – highlighted in the EEF’s Improving Secondary Science guidance report – to suggest that metacognitive strategies and self-regulation can improve attainment in science, particularly for lower attaining students.
The aim of this pilot was to determine whether Deeper Thinking is feasible to deliver across schools; whether it shows evidence of promise; and whether it is ready to be evaluated as a randomised controlled trial. It was funded as part of joint initiative by the EEF and Wellcome Trust to generate new evidence about science teaching, with the particular aim of closing the science attainment and progression gaps that exist between disadvantaged pupils and their peers.
The findings of the pilot were mixed. Some teachers reported positive changes in their practice, such as allowing them to identify pupils’ misconceptions more quickly or encouraging them to identify more links between different scientific content. Some teachers also reported that the strategies may have supported pupils to better communicate their scientific knowledge. However, although some teachers suggested that certain strategies (such as quick concept mapping) may suit lower attaining pupils, several teachers reported that it was a challenge to deliver the programme to, and to elicit outcomes from, lower attaining pupils and those lacking the skills and capacity to work independently.
The pilot also identified challenges related to the feasibility of the programme. Although training was highly regarded, and the programme is low cost, the evaluation found that a substantial proportion of teachers did not consistently deliver the programme as intended. Teachers may have selected different strategies from the programme, rather than delivering the suite of techniques together. The delivery team have stated that this may still improve practice, and did still represent intended delivery, so further development is required to more clearly define in training what teachers are expected to deliver.
Given these challenges, the EEF is not taking the programme forward at this stage.
Full project description
The Deeper Thinking programme aims to improve outcomes in GCSE science by encouraging pupils to use a variety of metacognitive strategies including the Structure of Observed Learning Outcomes (SOLO) Taxonomy and concept-mapping and revision strategies. SOLO Taxonomy provides pupils with a five-stage, visual model that aims to change how they think about scientific understanding. It encourages learners to link scientific knowledge together and apply it to different contexts. Concept-mapping is also deployed and provides pupils with blank laminated hexagons to populate with scientific concepts before discussing how they link together. Alongside these strategies, Deeper Thinking also encourages the use of revision techniques, including practice testing and distributed practice.
Carmel Education Trust developed this approach, which specifically targets two types of GCSE science question: those that require an extended answer and those relating to the ‘required’ practicals. Schools involved receive four CPD sessions comprising one day of leadership training for senior leaders followed by three twilight training sessions for science teachers. Teachers are also provided with resource packs and an online portal to support delivery.
Twelve schools in the North East and North Yorkshire took part in this pilot, which ran from January to June 2019. They implemented the strategies with their Year 10 pupils in a condensed version of the programme (which would ordinarily be delivered for two years across Year 10 and 11).
The pilot was funded by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) as part of a joint initiative with the Wellcome Trust which aims to generate new evidence about science teaching, with the particular aim of closing the science attainment and progression gap that exists between disadvantaged pupils and their more affluent peers.