Education Endowment Foundation:Deeper Thinking

Deeper Thinking

Carmel Education Trust
Implementation cost 
Evidence strengthNot given for this trial
Impact (months)Not given for this trial
Project info

Independent Evaluator

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Alpha Plus
Teaching students SOLO taxonomy and metacognitive approaches in order to improve revision practices and exam technique.
Pupils: 2160 Schools: 12 Grant: £62,755
Key Stage: 4 Duration: 9 month(s) Type of Trial: Pilot Study
Completed August 2019

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.


Is there evidence to support the Theory of Change?


There is some evidence of positive changes to teaching practice and perceptions of an impact on pupils, but some teachers were already using similar techniques.

Was the approach feasible?


The programme has low costs, is easy to set up, and does not require access to IT. Fidelity to the programme implementation and delivery may have been a cause for concern as a substantial proportion of teachers reported that they were not consistently using the SOLO Taxonomy placement and quick concept-mapping hexagons together. Some teachers reported that strategies may support lower-ability learners, but others reported that it was a challenge to apply the Deeper Thinking intervention to lower-attaining pupils and those lacking the skills/capacity to work independently.

Is the approach ready to be evaluated in a trial?


The delivery partner would need to adapt the Deeper Thinking classroom packs and training materials to better prepare teachers of lower-attaining and disruptive classes.