An Illuminative Study of the
Attitudinal and Behavioural Changes
in Teachers as a Result of their Involvement with
the Somerset Thinking Skills Course

By Marjorie Ballinger
Master of Philosophy in Education Degree Dissertation
University of Exeter (November 1990)



This study provides details of the introduction of the Somerset Thinking Skills Course (STSC) into two secondary schools and its effects on teacher attitude and behaviour as a result of their involvement with the Course. It also offers some insights into the introduction and development of cognitive skills in British mainstream education.

The study on STSC teacher change parallels certain aspects of the methodology employed by Blagg (1990) in the Somerset evaluation of Feuerstein's Instrumental Enrichments Programme (FIE). It utilises the teacher evaluation design, recommended by Burden (1987) and used in Blagg's FIE study. In particular, this study has adopted Stufflebeam's (1971) 'Context, Input, Process and Product' Model (CIPP) as an evaluation framework. Within this framework, the same input and output measures as used by Blagg (ibid) have been adapted and applied to the STSC study. There were contrasts, however, between the contexts, schools and teachers involved in the FIE study and those featured in the STSC study.

The present study has centred around two groups of STSC trained teachers; one group was drawn from a secondary school in Somerset, the other from a secondary school in Avon. Three areas have been explored regarding teacher changes over time with respect to:

· attitudes towards STSC

· perceptions of themselves as teachers;

· attitudes towards low achieving adolescents.

The study is set within the context of a detailed description of the history and development of the Somerset Course, with which the author has been personally involved as a member of the STSC development team.

The findings justify predicted outcomes of the study: significant, positive attitudinal shifts emerging from analyses of pre and post measures indicated clearly that the STSC teachers involved in the study considered the Course offers numerous benefits in helping to meet the needs of their own and their pupil's needs. There is good evidence to suggest that, compared with the controls, STSC teachers became more confident about the value of the Course in helping them overcome their own cognitive weaknesses and in helping to improve professional confidence and competence. Findings also indicated that STSC teachers became equally more confident about pupil benefits from STSC. In particular, they became more optimistic about the value of the Course in helping to reduce pupil impulsiveness, helping to improve pupils' ability to think for themselves and take on more responsibility for their own learning. There were no significant, negative attitudinal shifts in the STSC group and no significant, positive attitudinal shifts emerged in the control group.

The final chapter presents some reflections on the main findings of the evaluation and explores their wider implications for teacher training, 'good' teaching and learning. It concludes by considering possible contributions that the STSC experience may have to offer to curriculum innovation.

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