Stop and Think: Learning Counterintuitive Concepts (regrant)

This project and its evaluation were affected by the 2020 and 2021 partial school closures caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. As a result, the delivery has been delayed and the evaluation will be completed later than planned.

This page covers the second (effectiveness) trial of Stop and Think. The effectiveness trial is aimed at testing a scalable model under everyday conditions in a larger number of schools. To read about the first (efficacy) trial - testing whether it could work in schools under best possible conditions - click here.

Stop and Think was developed at the Centre for Educational Neuroscience, by a team from Birkbeck University of London and the UCL Institute of Education.

The 10-week programme aims to improve maths and science attainment for Year 3 and Year 5 pupils and consists of a computer-assisted 12 minute ‘game’ that teachers use at the beginning of maths or science lessons.

Stop and Think is based on neuroscience research, which suggests that children’s ability to learn science and maths concepts is limited by their tendency to answer with an intuitive response. For example, children might make the mistake of thinking that -5 is larger than –1 - this is a counterintuitive concept.

The programme, through the interactive, whole-class game trains children in a cognitive strategy meant to make them reflect, or ‘stop and think’, about counterintuitive science and maths problems before answering.

Why are we funding it?

The EEF and Wellcome Trust funded an efficacy trial in 89 primary schools with pupils in Year 3 and 5. Children in the intervention group made, on average, the equivalent of one additional month’s progress in maths and two additional months’ progress in science compared to children in the control group.

There were also some promising results for children eligible for free school meals (FSM). For Year 3 and Year 5 maths, and Year 5 science, FSM pupils made additional progress, on average, compared to the control group. With the impact on Year 3 FSM pupils being larger than for non-FSM pupils in Year 3. This project aims to specifically test the intervention’s impact on children eligible for FSM, as the first study only provided tentative conclusions. 

How are we evaluating it?

This project is an effectiveness study, led by NatCen. Effectiveness trials aim to test whether an intervention can work at scale in a large number of schools.

The study will consist of a two-arm randomised controlled trial with pupils in Year 3 and Year 5 in 175 schools. Within school randomisation will be used, with one-year group randomly allocated to receive Stop and Think and the other to act as business as usual control.

The primary outcome measure will be science (using GL Assessment’s Progress Test in Science), whilst maths will be the secondary outcome (using GL Progress Test in maths). The programme’s impact on both year 3 and year 5 students will be assessed. The project will also look at maths and science attainment when the pupils reach the end of KS2 (in 2024 for Year 5 and 2026 for Year 3 pupils).

When will the evaluation report be due?

The evaluation report will be published in Spring 2023.