Unconvinced by result-boosting conclusions

13th December 1996 at 00:00
Like many secondary science teachers, I have been impressed by the ability of Michael Shayer and Philip Adey's Cognitive Advancement through Science Education project to boost exam results in science, English and maths, as described in Susan Young's article "Cognitive course boosts exam results" (TES, November 22). Having read Adey and Shayer's 1994 book, Really Raising Standards: cognitive intervention and academic achievement (Routledge), I am less than convinced about Adey and Shayer's conclusions.

They draw eight comparisons between the skills which are the focus of the CASE project and the work of Lauren Resnick on higher-order thinking in English and mathematics. Yet they dismiss the possibility that the skills taught during the course of the CASE project might simply be common to all three subjects. The preferred conclusion is that the project removes a common and fundamental development block.

But, if development is so rigidly constrained and co-ordinated, doesn't this mean a pupil scoring a given level in science should be achieving at the same level in other core subjects? How is achievement in the three subjects linked?

A developmental interpretation of the CASE project also results in the conclusion that teaching methods used by the project are only likely to be effective at key stage 3. And that once cognition has been accelerated, it doesn't matter how you teach at key stage 4.

But the CASE methodology includes a number of elements. Its success is difficult to explain, and does not necessarily demonstrate what blocks many pupils' progress.

KADDY BECK 31A Priory Avenue, High Wycombe, Bucks

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