Professional Development

"If you want to get ahead, get a theory" - Annette Karmiloff-Smith   Bärbel Inhelder

Stuart Twiss and Alex Black are both members of the Let's Think Forum Council and involved in teacher development. They will invite the audience into a dialogue to explore a variety of ideas about how learning happens.  We hope to evaluate how these ideas can help us in becoming powerful influencers of learning.

In particular, we will consider 9 influential theories of learning, rejecting some of these and giving our reasons from the perspective of classroom practice. Then an attempt will be made, with audience participation,  at justifying the remaining ideas as candidate theories. We hope to achieve a collective understanding of the most influential ways we can prepare the minds of young learners for success.

Event link  (GBP 10 payable by credit card or PayPal)

Practitioner Research in Mathematics (PRiME) Online event by BERA

The aim of this event is to provide a platform for teachers of mathematics in early years, primary, secondary, further education or higher education to share with fellow practitioners their classroom research projects about any aspects of mathematics teaching and learning. The event also aims to develop practitioners’ research skills. There will be a keynote presentation by Professor Barbara Jaworski, a Professor of Mathematics Education at Loughborough University, workshops and presentations by fellow practitioners.

Professor Jaworski's main research focus is the development of mathematics teaching in theory and in practice and communities of inquiry in developmental research. 

Register for the event here. (Free for members of BERA/GBP 10 for non members)

Let's Think, CAME and CASE resources now online

As many of the original CASE and CAME resources are no longer available to buy online, the Let's Think Forum have now taken back the intellectual copywrite for them. This means we can make them available to schools, along with a full range of support materials to help you train colleagues and get familiar with new lessons for your own class.

The following material is available through the online portal:

  • CAME (Let's Think Maths) lessons for students aged 11-14
  • CASE (Let's Think Science) lessons for students aged 11-14
  • PCAME (Let's Think Maths) lessons for students aged 9 to 11
  • a range of interactive online lesson simulations to support teachers working together to learn the CA /Let's Think approach
  • more coming soon, including material for younger pupils

School or individuals can access the portal for a small charge, as detailed below:

  • Individual: £25 per year
  • Small primary (fewer than 300 pupils): £50 per year
  • Large primary (300 pupils or more): £100 per year
  • Secondary: £250 per year

These funds go towards keeping the portal up-to-date and adding new material regularly.  

If you are interested in accessing the portal, visit  

Let's Think in English 

Let's Think in English Doncaster

Two new cohorts of teachers attended their first session of an introductory Let's Think in English course at Richmond Hill Primary in Doncaster. The host school enjoyed LTE training last academic year and were so inspired they promoted the programme to neighbouring schools. The day consisted of an introduction to the Let's Think pedagogy, lesson simulations and opportunities to observe LTE in classrooms. 

Let's Think in English courses

Two new LTE courses launched this term. An online Let's Think in English introductory course led by LTE tutor Leah Crawford commenced in September. This course is open to trained LTE schools and is designed to support new staff to access the pedagogy. Consisting of three twilights and inter-sessionary tasks, participants are supported throughout an academic year. 

A new cohort of Leading Let's Think in English started their course in October. The Leading course is designed to support experienced LTE colleagues in embedding and sustaining the programme in their setting. Interest in the course was high with over 25 participants signed up. The first session provides an in depth exploration of the Let's Think pillars. 

New LTE blog post

Let's Think in English tutor Michael Walsh is teaching LTE fortnightly to a Year 6 class in Islington as part of his own professional development. You can read his thoughts and reflections via his blog posts:

Visits to observe the lessons are welcome. Please contact Michael via:

Research and Reading

What is critical thinking?

Dr Peter Ellerton from the University of Queensland seeks to clarify the concept of critical thinking in a recent article (2021). He contrasts the complex view of critical thinking consisting of  knowledge, skill and dispositions with the idea of it being a generic skill. He argues that how we conceptualise what critical thinking is heavily influences how we organise our pedagogy and curriculum choices.

The major focus of the article is a critique of the now very influential Cognitive Load Theory (CLT) and its formulation of arguments that claim critical thinking is always domain specific and dependent on knowledge in long term memory. Ellerton argues against the validity and coherence of the main claims of CLT and the dependence on controversial distinctions such as some knowledge being biologically primary and some being secondary. 

He also tries to demonstrate that advocates of CLT have only used empirical findings that support their thesis and ignore counter evidence.

This is a valuable contribution to the ongoing discussions about the applicability of this theory and some of the problems related to the agenda of stressing “knowledge first” then thinking can happen.


 Ellerton, Peter. 2021. “On Critical Thinking and Content Knowledge: A Critique of the Assumptions of Cognitive Load Theory.” MindRxiv. June 18. doi:10.31231/


Interview with...

Dr Timothy Smith 

When did you first become engaged with Let’s Think?  What was your initial reaction?

The first lesson I ever taught was The Fair Test: CASE Lesson 4.  And I do mean the first lesson ever.  

After what felt like weeks of observations and theory sessions, my fellow PGCE student, Alastair, and I team-taught CASE 4.  It’s the one with the pipes of varying materials, lengths and diameters.  

Prior to the lesson, I remember pouring over the lesson instructions trying, painstakingly, to figure out how to ensure each ‘pillar’ was meaningfully delivered to the learners.  We spent a considerable time trying to figure out how to present the lesson.  We knew we had to build on an understanding of variables, but just how the ‘magic’ of Cognitive Acceleration occurred was a mystery to us.  In the end, we delivered a fairly well-constructed lesson and the pupils filled in the worksheets but, I don’t think either of us had a true idea of what we were attempting to achieve. 

That was the Michaelmas term of 2001 and the school was St Peter’s in Huntingdon.

The first time I truly engaged with the Let’s Think methodology though, was after that Christmas, during my second PGCE placement at St Ivo School in St Ives (Cambridgeshire).  The PGCE course tutor visited the school to observe a GCSE biology lesson.  The feedback about that lesson was the most critical I have received, even to this day, and I acknowledge that critical feedback can be positive, however, this feedback wasn’t.  It was negative.  I felt, perhaps for the first time in life, that I was failing.  Dismally.  

But nestled within the comments that tore strips from my self-confidence was the veiled advice that would ultimately determine a core focus of my professional life: attempting to understand the Cognitive Acceleration approach. I remember the feedback: “…colouring in diagrams of leaves will not teach these kids anything”, I was informed, as she continued “haven’t you read the Adey and Shayer papers I’ve given you?  This is a CASE school, isn’t it?  If you want to ‘teach’, apply the CASE method in every lesson.  Then, and only then, will you be a teacher”.

I started to learn about CASE.  I’ve been catching up ever since.

How has LT affected the way you approach teaching and learning?  What difference has it made to pupils you teach and what's your evidence for this?

My teaching has been influenced by the Piagetian foundation that is present in the Let’s Think approach. 

I think this Piaget quote summarises my approach, and by inference, the affect that Let’s Think has had on my teaching:

“Each time one prematurely teaches a child something he could have discovered for himself [sic], that child is kept from inventing it and consequently from understanding it completely” 1

One must grapple with the detail here.  What is meant by ‘discovery’, ‘inventing’ and ‘understanding’?  Are we permitted to explicitly teach something that a child could not have discovered for themself?  If understanding can be complete, what is incomplete understanding and what criteria governs the boundary between incomplete and complete? Are we to assume that children should invent, for themselves, Einstein’s general theory of relativity before understanding is complete?  There are many more questions we need to ask, but you get the idea.

The path to understanding is not the same for any two learners, each bringing their own notions and ideas about any concept that a teacher wishes to ‘teach’.  At the heart of the Let’s Think approach is the goal of positioning the teacher as a learning partner who provides the stimulus and situation for children to question, to wonder, and to begin the process of ‘inventing to understand’.  It is this distinction that sets Let’s Think apart and makes it so useful in the cognitive development of children.

On reviewing some of the more pragmatic approaches to teaching and learning, in particular the recent calls for a focus on explicit instruction, one could be forgiven for thinking that the Let’s Think approach is inefficient.  Why spend time thinking and inventing if the goal of education is to pass on the key pieces of knowledge that curriculum writers have so carefully curated and deemed necessary?  If, however, the goal of education is to equip learners with the cognitive capacity to tackle complex problems and apply knowledge to new and challenging situations, then Let’s Think provides a tried and tested way to achieve that goal.  I’m of the opinion that to ignore the long-term, far-transfer effects of Let’s Think is not just the true inefficiency here, it will significantly short-change our learners.

It’s for this reason that my work has turned, in recent years, from the classroom (I’ve not taught since 2014) to providing support around Australia for teachers at the chalk face.  I’ve worked with over 300 teachers and since the Thinking Science Australia project in Perth, Western Australia, we’ve provided training to over 100 schools.  We face some of the well-known problems of sustaining the various Let’s Think programs, and some schools are citing curriculum demands as the reason they are dropping the program.  I’m committed to working on a sustainable model of Let’s Think and I share the view that education needs to hear and listen to the messages about teaching and learning that Let’s Think offers.

What evidence do I have that Let’s Think makes a difference for learners?  Personal anecdotal evidence of improved motivation, better questioning, and better problem solving which I view alongside the research evidence provided by a myriad of studies that have been carried out within the Cognitive Acceleration field.  One such study is my own; I’ll talk about it in the next section. 


Where are you now with Let’s Think and where next?

I recently completed a PhD at the University of Queensland (UQ) in Brisbane, Australia, which I titled: Cognitive Acceleration and the Science of Learning: In Search of the Plasticity of Intelligence.  I set out to see if I could obtain evidence of improved general cognitive ability, brought about by the Thinking Science (CASE) intervention.  I used a small mix of tests to measure general cognitive ability before the intervention, and again after the intervention and, using Rasch analysis, I showed that there were significantly better gains in some (but not all) measures of general ability, brought about by Thinking Science (CASE).  Publications are pending but if you are keen to read more, I’d be delighted to share the thesis with you (or available through the UQ library eSpace).

I continue to offer CPD support for teachers here in Australia, mainly around Thinking Science (CASE) and I am in the process of applying for a post-doctoral fellowship; I hope to carry out research into cognitive development beyond the secondary school, in tertiary education settings.  

I meet regularly with a small group of like-minded individuals (Mundher Adhami, Alex Black, and Ian Mclachlan) to talk about future developments in Cognitive Acceleration and how we can draw on the intellectual wisdom that is contained in the years of work that has gone before us.  We hope that a program of research and development will be born out of this collaboration.

So, my future with Let’s Think is very much assured in terms of a commitment to further research and supporting the network of teachers here in Australia.  It’s a community of educators that I’m proudly associated with.  I’m always keen to hear of stories of how Let’s Think is impacting learners too so, if you’d like to share your story with me, please send me an email.  I’d be delighted to hear from you.

1 Piaget, J. (1970). Piaget’s theory (Cellérier, G., Langer, J., Trans.). In Mussen, P. H. (Ed.), Carmichael’s manual of child psychology (Vol. 1, pp. 703–732). John Wiley & Sons. (Original work published 1968)


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