CoRT Thinking Lessons:
Excerpts from "Research and Realities in Teaching and Learning" by Dr John Edwards, Associate Professor of Education, James Cook University of North Queensland
.....This brings me to my research on teaching thinking in schools. Cognitive process training has a long history, dating at least from Ancient Greeks (Mann:1979). Despite this there are masses of research studies from around the world to show that even our best students master little more than the art of regurgitation of knowledge. As Perkins (1992, p.7) recently stated:
The bottom line is that we are not getting the retention, understanding, and active use of knowledge that we want.
I began directly teaching children to think in my classroom in 1977. This was through using de Bono's (1987) CoRT (Cognitive Research Trust) Thinking Skills program in our science curriculum. Practical results in the school were very positive, with strong supporting anecdotal evidence from teachers, parents and students. Research data (reported in Edwards and Baldauf:1983) also revealed strong benefits from the direct teaching of the CoRT Thinking.
Edwards: 1991a, 1991b, 1994b and 1995 review most of my research on CoRT. This series of studies indicates that student thinking can be improved in a range of respects through the direct teaching of the CoRT program. Improvements in scholastic aptitude scores, scores on the [?] tests or Creative Thinking, scores on self-perceptions of use of CoRT thinking approaches, and often improvements on heavily content-based school exams, were found for students taught the ten lessons of the CoRT-1 program when compared with control groups. However the effects were often short term. Eriksson (1990) reported similarly promising results in South Africa from a comparative study of CoRT. The study used mixed-race gifted upper primary school children at an after-school centre, [?] and showed significant improvements in creativity and locus of control.
A major study began in North Queensland in 1987 looked at teaching a group of 12 year olds, in their last year of primary school, all sixty lessons of the CoRT program - two lessons a week for thirty weeks. The teacher was helped to infuse the CoRT thinking skills, once learned by the students, through all disciplines of the curriculum. Once again students showed improved scores on a range of quantitative measures. In addition, the teacher showed growth on a range of measures (Clayton and Edwards: 1989). Both the teacher and the headmaster, who also regularly took the class, reported impressive benefits. The teacher noted that her teaching style had become much more interactive; she now used group work more; she knew her students and their thinking at a much deeper level than ever before in thirteen years of teaching; the students had achieved outstanding and unexpected results on a set of standardised national tests; and the students now contributed many more ideas of a far higher quality than they had done before CoRT instruction.
The teacher who taught them the year before reported: "there are a couple of good workers, the rest you have to really push hard .. to get anything out of them." The headmaster agreed they had been like this, but now they were responsive and more confident in their thinking than any group he had taught. He referred to 9 lower ability students in the class who had seldom contributed in class during their six years in the school;
It's marvellous. Not just a minor miracle to change that sort of behaviour, six years or more of habit forming and then in eight months to change it to: 'I have something to contribute'
When the results on the standardised national test arrived near the end of the school year he reported: "I was thrilled ... they were certainly startling and outstanding". The test (ACER-TOLA) consisted of five sub-tests, each designed to produce a standard distribution. This meant that 31% of the students tested would normally fall one or two standard deviations above the mean. The rsults of the CoRT trained group, and for the mean scores from the six years of grade 7's at this school were, in relation to proportion of the students above the mean as follows:
Proportion of Students Above the Mean
National Norm School Norm CoRT Group
Test A 31% 39.5% 52%
Test B 31% 31.2% 48%
Test C 31% 24.8% 52%
Test D 31% 42.8% 62.4%
Test E 31% 35.8% 50%
(Test A - Test of learning abilities, Test B - Study skills, Test C - Mathematics skills, Test D - Language vocabulary, Test E - Language comprehension)
Feedback from the children was also positive, with the majority reporting big improvements in their thinking and self-confidence, and many reporting wide use of CoRT skills across the curriculum and in their everyday life. These students completed their secondary education in 1992. In the state of Queensland all students are given an overall level of achievement, based on school ratings moderated through a state-wide set of standardised tests. The scores allocated to students range from a high of 1 to a low of 25. The CoRT trained group had a mean score of 10, compared with a mean of 15 for the other students in the school. A score of 15 would not get you into university, a 12 would get you into education. Most parents in the state would kill for a one point jump in Overall Performance score. These results reinforce the obvious potential of programs such as CoRT for improving the thinking of students, particularly if the skills are infused broadly through the curriculum and reinforced once learnt......
We have recently been involved in a major study to infuse the CoRT program through the curriculum of a large secondary school in Brisbane...