EXPERIMENTAL RESULTS 5 AND FEEDBACK
In CoRT 1-4 this section was devoted to experimental results. These experiments were of the "hard data" type.
A measurement of the number of different aspects of a situation that had been considered by a CoRT trained group would be compared to the number generated by an untrained group.
Experimental results of this type are useful and particularly relevant to the CoRT l series of lessons which aims to broaden the perception of the thinker.
Such experiments, however, give no indication of the reaction of teachers or students to the CoRT Thinking Lessons. By way of contrast this section is devoted to direct comments from teachers who have been using the lessons.
These comments do not have an experimental value inasmuch as each opinion is only the opinion of a single person who was probably biased in a positive fashion (otherwise he/she would not have taken up the teaching of the CoRT Thinking Lessons). Nevertheless the comments serve to illustrate the experience of some teachers with the lessons.
"The students found CoRT a bit puzzling at first. They did not quite know what we were doing, what it was all about. That is a case of conditioning. They expect a certain sort of lesson. They must see the immediate usefulness of the lesson. They wondered whether they were going to be assessed or questioned on it."
"The atmosphere is that of children who enjoy the work. The worst that happens is that occasionally some child will opt out, then obviously there is nothing in it for him."
"In my group it is definitely becoming a business where you have one or two in each group who do it. They have a discussion of sorts, but I think, watching them, that it is the half dozen in the class who are doing the lessons and the others following on."
"Now strangely enough in my group - and you know what my group is like - it is totally different. I get better responses right across the board - from all the children."
"The youngsters enjoy it and the more intelligent get the point very quickly."
"The more able children tend to give the greater number of responses and perhaps the more interesting, less obvious, ones. But that is not always so. One of the little bonuses that comes out of this work is that some children who have to struggle with the usual work that goes on in school surprise you with the quality of the ideas they give to their group."
"CoRT has given the backward children new confidence, in the sense that they may not be able to produce the number of factors that someone else may produce, but they can still produce factors that no one else has thought of that are as good. This has literally given them the confidence to think. They can make a valid contribution and you can see them grow in status."
"Johnny has always been behind the others in his schoolwork. In the CoRT Thinking Lessons he blossomed as a thinker. He kept on coming up with ideas - and good ones. He certainly surprised me. But what is even more interesting, he surprised the other children in his class who developed a new respect for Johnny"
"They don't work so well in friendship groups so you have to split them up. I have to work through the lessons myself beforehand. I have to spend time on the items even though the course suggests a strict time. I find that if you rush them it is no good."
"During a CoRT lesson the pupils were working in informal groupings and the interchange between the sexes was equal and openly friendly. The visitor, an experienced teacher, said he had never seen such a naturally co-operative effort between girls and boys before."
"In my class the girls are very much better at CoRT than the boys."
"In the CoRT lessons they are not handicapped by having to express things in writing."
"One child was amazed to find that he was permitted to just sit and talk about something."
"They found the student’s notes very useful. I don't think the thing would have worked without the notes."
"The youngest children found some of the words in the notes difficult to read and to understand."
"The pattern is very much the same in each lesson. At first this is a comfort because the students know what is going to happen - but after ten lessons it can become repetitive unless you have a piece of work into which you can introduce these processes when relevant."
"Sometimes they will discuss a practice item that is really silly, like the badges to show your mood. It is not relevant to anything but they liked it."
"I was diffident about using the terminology I feel it as a criticism of myself rather than the CoRT system. I was concerned about overplaying the hand."
"The CoRT expressions come out on formal occasions, in debates and in their written work and in discussions. They come out as well when they bring a dispute for me to settle. I can use the terms and they accept them. The terms seem to clarify a whole area of thought in a student's mind."
"The CoRT trained pupils were more ready to discuss the problem (what would happen if the police went on strike) in their groups and they came up with more varied approaches. They looked at what the government would say, sort of OPV, they looked at all the factors, the consequences, etc. The boys in the untrained group were stuck in the rut of saying there would be more crime, more murders, more breaking in, more robberies and just endless variations of that ...
Until this experiment with the science group I was not terribly impressed. I thought it was just due to their being more cohesive as a group and learning to discuss things rather than the effect of the CoRT lessons."
"CoRT Thinking provides a disciplined enough format to avoid unproductive gossip sessions, while at the same time its subjects for discussion are flexible enough and wide enough to include the whole class."
"I wouldn't say it has given them precise structures in thinking but I am pretty sure it has given them the ability to think abstractly about things a little more than they could before. I think it has pushed them on in that development. For instance seeing other people's point of view.”
"The most important thing they got from the CoRT lessons was that the more people affected by a decision the more carefully you had to think."
"As the weeks went by thinking did improve - more ideas. And more people were thinking. "
"This course slightly modifies both the processes and terminology but provides a useful aid in achieving what we were trying to achieve anyway. I don’t think it greatly modifies - it clarifies. provides useful examples and interesting terminology."
"The teacher motivation is very important."
"I think the problem is that teachers in other subjects don't know about it."
"It does depend on the teacher's enthusiasm. They are just beginning to feel their way through it. As Mr. G. says, until he has gone through the whole thing himself he won't feel he is really getting his teeth into it."
"I have got very good reaction with CoRT all the time. One class loved CoRT so much that they have asked if they could have more lessons instead of just once a week."
"In spite of these criticisms I am going to go on using it because after all nothing is perfect. I think it offers a great deal. We should be careful though in making claims for it. It's an area that needs exploring - we're in very early days yet."
"I am quite convinced there is value in this course."
The above quotations are not meant to give a comprehensive picture of CoRT and CoRT users. Quotations could never do that since each quote is the opinion of one person and there is always a subjective element in selecting quotes.
The quotations used here are intended to give flavour of the different aspects of CoRT Thinking Lessons and their use.
For each favourable quote it would probably be possible to elicit an unfavourable quote that said almost exactly the opposite. We must, however, be very careful indeed here.
If teachers claim that CoRT Thinking Lessons do not work, this does not imply that the lessons are unworkable but simply that they do not seem to work for those teachers. with their own expectations, teaching style, students etc.
This follows from the fact that a large number of teachers find that the lessons are workable and sometimes even excellent in such cases their own contribution as exceptional teachers might, indeed, have made all the difference but, nevertheless, it does mean the lessons are workable.
A person who happens to be looking the other way can claim that the sun does not rise in the mornings. Quite a lot of people may claim this. But it only needs one person to say that he has indeed seen the sun rise to suggest that the fault lies not in the sun's performance but in the performance of the observers.
If teachers know that other teachers have been successful with the CoRT Thinking Lessons they are more inclined to make the necessary effort and adjustment than if they believed - from their own initial inspection and personal expectations - that the lessons were intrinsically unworkable. It is for this reason that the quotations used have tended to come from teachers who are indeed using the CoRT Thinking Lessons rather than from those who have not been able to use them.