New research reveals striking improvements in schools which adopt ‘map-reading’ model of learning 

Attending a Thinking School can improve pupils’ GCSE results by as much as a grade, according to new research.

And under the new Progress 8 accountability measure, which aims to capture the progress a pupil makes from the end of primary school to the end of key stage 4, schools can expect to see their scores increase by a grade.

Thinking Schools teach students to visualise their ideas with ‘maps’ which help children to create, understand, problem-solve and persist with tasks rather than merely regurgitate answers.

Research author Dr Dave Walters of the Cognitive Education Development Unit at Exeter University, believes the research establishes Thinking Schools as game-changers in school improvement. 

Dr Walters, who is also Deputy Head of a secondary school in South West England, says his findings demonstrate that in secondaries that have adopted a Thinking School approach over a three-year period, growth equates to a whole grade’s progress for students at GCSE. This is relative to what they were expected to get, compared with those with the same starting point attending schools that haven’t adopted the same approach. Working on the same principle, this equates to a grade’s worth of progress in SATs tests which pupils take in their final year at primary school.

On average, a school with a Progress 8 score of zero (the national average) would, by adopting this approach, move up to a score of 1, which puts them firmly in Ofsted’s ‘outstanding’ category for student outcomes, points out Dr Walters.

He added: ‘This study shows that the Thinking School model isn’t a finger-in-the-wind approach, but is firmly rooted in evidence supporting the impact of meta-cognitive approaches on student achievement. But it has to be a whole-school approach, not one adopted by some departments or a few teacher enthusiasts.’

There are Thinking Schools all over the world, including US, Dubai, Lithuania, Norway, New Zealand, Egypt, Nigeria and Thailand. In Malaysia, the Government has looked to introduce the Thinking Schools model in 10,000 public schools.

Richard Cummins of training providers and consultancy Thinking Matters consultancy, which supported the research, said: ‘These findings our are remarkable, but in fact our purpose is not driving grade attainment - that’s a byproduct of the approach.

‘What everyone in education should want is to equip young people with the skills they need to succeed in the world of the robots and AI. 

‘Thinking Schools drive the type of unique thinking skills and intelligent learning behaviours that we all need in an increasingly technological world.  Much of education has shifted too far towards pure recall and regurgitation of fact.’

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