Athena Pitsillis offers an introduction to a programme designed to develop cognition in English based on Vygotsky and Piaget developed by King’s College London:
Let’s Think English (LTE) is a programme developed from the Cognitive Acceleration for Science (CASE) and Mathematics (CAME) programmes and is designed to improve students’ cognitive development and understanding of key concepts in these subjects. Lessons for English, at KS2 and then KS3, were later introduced and developed. The lessons focus on the development of students’ general thinking ability through discussion-based activities, which allow students to debate and challenge one another. The programmes are based on the principles of Vygotsky and Piaget, focusing on social construction, facilitated challenge, feedback and metacognition.
The lessons involve no formal writing and, although students can make notes, these are cathartically thrown away at the end of the lesson. The lessons focus solely on developing ideas and stimulating higher order thinking and the lack of writing takes the pressure off students. The method encourages teachers to avoid the use of praise so that students are encouraged to think more deeply rather than being praised and sticking to a certain response or answer. Teachers are encouraged to continually challenge students through questioning. The style of questioning is interesting (and somewhat difficult at first) in that the focus should only be on three or four students over the course of a lesson. This is to encourage those individuals to work in a ‘zone of discomfort’ so that other students can learn from their answers. The general structure of a lesson is as follows:
- Concrete preparation: introduction of the topic e.g. providing a problem through an experiment, video, written stimulus.
- Social construction: discussion in groups to establish understanding of topic.
- Cognitive conflict: discussion of how to resolve the problem – requires a new way of thinking;understanding of topic altered to accommodate conflict – this is where the feedback and questioning takes place.
- Metacognition: explicit review of the thinking that has taken place.
- Bridging: using the same kind of thinking in other contexts.
Research and evidence from schools which have implemented Let’s Think in English have shown high levels of engagement from students and teachers as well as excellent progress made in reading and writing. For more information: https://www.letsthinkinenglish.org/ and for details of the Maths and Science programmes head to https://www.kcl.ac.uk/ecs/research/research-centres/crestem/research/past-projects/cognaccel