Cognitive Acceleration through Science Education (CASE)

There are certainly many researchers and programs that have shaped Thinking in Physics, but Philip Adey's CASE probably has been the most influential. The CASE program was designed for middle school children. One hour lessons are inserted into the regular science curriculum once every two weeks for two years. These lessons all involve some kind of science content, but their purpose is to teach thinking. Specifically, the program seeks to teach identification and control of variables, proportional reasoning, probability and correlation, and use of abstract models.

One of the activities is a study of floating and sinking. Students observe jars of various sizes and weights that either float or sink. Then they are shown a jar that is the same size as one of the other floating jars and is the same weight as another of the floating jars. They are asked to make a prediction about this new jar. After the prediction, they observe that the jar in question sinks. For most students this is a surprising result that creates cognitive conflict. The resolution of that conflict through discussion eventually leads to a formal level of understanding involving ratios and several variables. That is, one must compare the mass to volume ratio of the jar with the mass to volume ratio of the liquid in which it is immersed.

Professor Adey has abundant data demonstrating the dramatic long term success of CASE at dozens of schools in the UK. On average, students who participated in CASE, three years later averaged one full grade higher in science, mathematics, and even English than did students in control