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A meta-analysis of the impact of the implementation of thinking skills approaches on pupils

What do we want to know?

Thinking skills approaches are important for the promotion of effective questioning and extending pupils’ oral responses in classrooms, as well as the potential contribution to assessment for learning. They are also an important part of the developing Primary National Strategy aims. They are approaches or programmes which identify translatable mental processes for learners and/or which require learners to plan, describe and evaluate their thinking and learning. This review aims to determine the impact of thinking skills interventions and to compare them with other researched educational interventions.

Who wants to know?

Policy-makers; teachers

What did we find?  

  • When thinking skills programmes and approaches are used in schools, they are effective in improving pupils’ performance on a range of tested outcomes (relative to those who did not receive thinking skills interventions).
  • Metacognitive interventions have a relatively greater impact.
  • The impact of thinking skills programmes and approaches may vary according to subject. There was relatively greater impact on tests of mathematics and science, compared with reading.

What are the implications?

  • Thinking skills approaches are likely to improve pupils’ learning. Their use in schools should therefore be supported. However, there is some variation in their impact according to subject, age and gender. This suggests that their use needs to be matched to the particular teaching context and monitored critically to ensure potential benefits.

  • It is not clear to what extent the benefits are due to specific aspects of the content of the programmes and their implementation or to the changes in teaching and learning which ensue, so more research is needed.

How did we get these results?

Twenty-nine studies were included in a meta-analysis.  They come from a range of countries, with half set in the US or UK.

This summary was prepared by the EPPI Centre

This report should be cited as: Higgins S, Hall E, Baumfield V, Moseley D (2005) A meta-analysis of the impact of the implementation of thinking skills approaches on pupils. In: Research Evidence in Education Library. London: EPPI Centre, Social Science Research Unit, Institute of Education, University of London.

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