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
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.