Curriculum change : the introduction of a thinking skills course into an upper secondary school
The thesis commences by considering the changes in the concept of intelligence over the last thirty years and the rise of programmes such as those of Lipman, de Bono, Sternberg and Feuerstein that make claims of improving the intellectual skills of school students. The Somerset Thinking Skills Course (STSC) is an example of such a programme based on Feuerstein's theory. The author seeks to evaluate the course to establish if it is a practical and effective medium for students across the full ability range of an upper school. The research takes as its core a traditional experimental quantitative paradigm, but with an additional action research methodology enabling qualitative questions to be answered by students self-reporting during and imediately after the course, and again approximately twelve moths later. A review format and structured staff interviews provide additional inputs. The qualitative methods are set within the evaluative report framework of Stufflebeam's (CIPP) model. The pilot study and the changes in the full study as it was carried out within a modular framework with different groups thus enabling an action reflection spiral is described. For a sample of 322 pupils aged 13+ allocated to four ability bands and to either a control or experimental group, three hypotheses are developed: (i) that exposure to the first module of the STSC will have the effect of increasing the scores of non-verbal IQ tests administered before and after the intervention; (ii) that there will be positive qualitative reports to suggest that the STSC is helpful in developing a heuristic approach to problem solving and learning as reported by pupils; (iii) and that the effects are sufficiently robust for the change to happen within the milieu of an upper secondary school given the common major constraints on time and resources, with staff of different academic backgrounds, lacking experience and detailed training in this general area The hypotheses are sll substantiated by the research described. The results show that the STSC is of diffential benefit to groups in lower ability bands, whereas pupils in the higher ability bands reported that they had already developed the metacognitive skills of clear mental label, analysing and synthesising, following instructions, comparing and considering alternative possibilities. There were differences, by gender, to specific parts of the course. The conclusions lead to critical consideration of improving the results by a more longitudinal approach and the difficulties of measuring changes in learning of a large number of students organised traditionally.