Piagetian programs: effect size = 1.28

Hattie states that the one meta-analysis for this influence found a very high correlation between Piagetian stage and achievement (more for maths 0.73 than reading  0.40). Quite what is meant by this isn’t clear. I’m guessing that some sort of test was done to determine the Piagetian stage and the correlation is between this and achievement. Piaget’s original theory suggests that the stages are age-related but later work has criticised this part of the theory – he did base his theories a lot on the development of just his own children – so presumably the research behind this meta-analysis was based on the idea that children made the breakthrough to a new stage at different ages, and that those who reached stages earlier, might achieve more highly. If I remember correctly, the CASE and CAME programmes (and Let’s Think! for primary) were designed to accelerate progress through the Piagetian stages – from the concrete to the formal-operational stage in the CASE and CAME programmes) and there is some evidence that all these programmes have a significant effect including a long-lasting influence on achievement not only in science but spilling over into English, and several years later at that. Maybe these would count as Piagetian programmes.

So that’s my starting point but what does the Jordan and Brownlee (1981) meta-analysis actually deal with? Well, at the moment all I can find is the abstract:

The relationship between Piagetian and school achievement tests was examined through a meta-analysis of correlational data between tests in these domains. Highlighted is the extent to which performance on Piagetian tasks was related to achievement in these areas. The average age for the subjects used in the analysis was 88 months, the average IQ was 107. Mathematics and reading tests were administered. Averaged correlations indicated that Piagetian tests account for approximately 29% of variance in mathematics achievement and 16% of variance in reading achievement. Piagetian tests were more highly correlated with achievement than with intelligence tests. One implication might be the use of Piagetian tests as a diagnostic aid for children experiencing difficulties in mathematics or reading.

I have made a few enquiries and will update this post if I get hold of the full text but it seems quite close to my assumption that it’s about a correlation between tests of Piagetian stages and achievement. I don’t think that’s of any direct use since it doesn’t tell us anything about how we accelerate progression through the stages. On the other hand, if we know that there is a good correlation between Piagetian stage and achievement, and if it transpires that it is possible to change the former, and that this does have a casual effect on the latter, then we would perhaps be cooking on gas.

Where does CASE, CAME, and Let’s Think! come into this? Well, these Cognitive Acceleration (CA) programmes cannot be relevant to this influence, as classified by Hattie, because the first paper on CASE was published in 1990 and the meta-analysis used by Hattie for this influence labelled Piagetian programs dates from 1981. However, as well as the evidence for the effectiveness of these CA programmes from those involved in developing them, they were included in a meta-analysis on thinking skills Higgins et al (2005), which Hattie has made use of. Where do you think this is found? Not under Piagetian programs; not under Metacognitive strategies; no, I don’t think you’ll guess – under Creativity programs (Effect Size = 0.65). I would instinctively have though Creativity programs was something in the Ken Robinson mould. Instead Hattie is picking up a collection of specific curriculum programmes based around clearly stated things to be taught, and particular ways to do the teaching, that emphasise the explicit development of thinking strategies. And buried in here are some very high effect sizes.

I actually taught CASE (without proper training, I’m afraid) for a year, whilst doing a maternity cover about ten years ago. I thought it was pretty good at the time but if the effect sizes hold up (the EEF have a Let’s Think Secondary Science effectiveness trial underway that will report in 2016) then we should probably be thinking about making this a pretty integral part of science and maths teaching. If anyone is looking for access to the programmes then it’s organised by Let’s Think.

Probably the final point on all this is that I’ve started this post with a title that includes Piaget, whose theory on cognitive psychology is a primary source of justification for the whole constructivist teaching movement. And I’ve ended up talking about a programme directly drawing on his theory that appears to have an effect size at least comparable to Direct Instruction. Should the new-traditionalists be worried? No more than is justified. CASE has at least as much in common with Direct Instruction as it does with Problem-based Learning, and although it includes significant amounts of peer discussion it is definitely teacher-led. I continue to argue my case that teachers should be in charge of learning, but that we shouldn’t throw the quality learning baby out with the constructivist bath-water.

Next, Self-reported grades (Effect Size = a whopping 1.44)

7 thoughts on “Piagetian programs: effect size = 1.28

  1. You post interesting content here. Your blog deserves much more traffic.
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  2. Thank you for this post. I also find Hattie’s inclusion of “Piagetian Programs” to be vague. Strange how such a large effect size is summarized by such a small paragraph.

  3. it is interesting to read your considerations on this. I agree, it becomes important to develop/ find/ use methods that facilitate learning and development of pre-requisits for changing from pre-operational to operational thinking. This should be an issue for research. We, in Pedverket Kompetanse (Norway) claim that the concept teaching method developed by Magne Nyborg (Norwegian professor, 1929-1996) – in which we train teachers and provide materials has exactly this effect. We welcome research on this, as the current body of research is small – though very promising.
    Hattie also mentions DAS & Piaget (1997) in the text about Piagetian programs. Their PASS theory provides understanding of how children learn and think – operationalized in the CAS2 and CAS2 Rating Scale.

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