Making a "CASE" for Our "CAFE" Program

The design of our training methods and program is aimed at more than just learning how to fly an aircraft. Learning how to fly just makes the real goal - Cognitive Acceleration- more fun. Here are the neuropsychological principles behind our "CAFE" program.

The Flight School 4 Kids (FS4K) was created by a psychologist (who is also a licensed pilot) to provide an environment for a unique cognitive enrichment experience for children ages 8 and older, their parents and adults. FS4K is appropriate for a diverse population of students who are at varied levels of cognitive development from special needs to gifted.

So what is the science behind this program, and what does CASE stand for?

Mediated Learning Experience (MLE)

The conceptual framework behind the FS4K teaching methods has roots anchored in the methods developed by psychologist Reuven Feuerstein that are known as Mediated Learning Experience (MLE) and Feuerstein Instrumental Enrichment (FIE).

Reuven Feuerstein (August 21, 1921 – April 29, 2014) was an Israeli clinical, developmental, and cognitive psychologist, known for his theory of intelligence which states "it is not 'fixed', but rather modifiable". Feuerstein is recognized for his work in developing the theories and applied systems of: structural cognitive modifiability, mediated learning experience, cognitive map, deficient cognitive functions, learning propensity assessment device, instrumental enrichment programs, and shaping modifying environments. These interlocked practices provide educators with the skills and tools to systematically develop students’ cognitive functions and operations to build meta-cognition.

For more than 50 years, Feuerstein’s theories and applied systems have been implemented in both clinical and classroom settings internationally, with more than 80 countries applying his work. Feuerstein’s theory on the malleability of intelligence has led to more than 2,000 scientific research studies and countless case studies with various learning populations.

Researchers in cognitive education have argued that by teaching fundamental principles of thought, perception, learning and problem-solving, children can become effective learners. This perspective is based on three assumptions. First cognitive processing can be substantially modified through effective intervention changing the expected course and outcome of development. Secondly, the learning of effective cognitive processes occurs through mediated learning experiences (MLE) and lastly, more efficient cognitive functioning can be taught through systematically providing mediated learning experiences.

Mediated learning is the process by which a mediator organizes and interprets the world to a student. When an individual gives meaning to events, helps students select relevant from irrelevant variables, assists in abstracting rules for regularly occurring phenomena, and generally attempts to develop a student's abilities to think, that individual is engaged in mediated learning. MLE begins within the family context with parents and significant others passing on cultural norms, values, and modes of thought from one generation to another. A lack of MLE, due to a variety of reasons inherent in the mediator or the student, leads to deficient cognitive functioning and low levels of modifiability. The student is not able to adapt to and learn from interactions in his/her environment.

CASE/CAME – Cognitive Acceleration

Cognitive acceleration or CA is an approach to teaching designed to develop students' thinking ability, developed by Michael Shayer and Philip Adey from 1981 at King's College London. The approach builds on work by Jean Piaget and Lev Vygotsky.

The first teaching materials, written for ages 11–13 science lessons, were called Cognitive Acceleration through Science Education (CASE). After three years the results of intervening in science teaching in a dozen classes were compared with control classes which were taught in the usual way. The CASE learners not only scored about one grade better in their GCSE science, but Math and English GCSE grades were improved by about the same amount. It is rare to see such ‘transfer’ of learning to other subjects in educational research.

Using the CA approach in teaching primary and secondary math, known as CAME, produced similar results. Currently under development are activities for English Several articles highlighting the effectiveness of CASE and CAME have appeared in the literature.

CASE/CAME Critique

CASE was not successful with all students who entered the science based program. Initial CASE studies showed that enhanced cognitive development and science achievement was demonstrated for between 25% and 50% of children involved. Other children showed less or no improvement when compared with control groups.

For students failing to respond to CASE techniques, no adequate theoretical explanation was provided. Further understanding of the underlying psychological processes involved in learning might help teachers to utilize CASE techniques for the benefit of a greater success population. The theoretical model of motivational style illuminates CASE findings and provides a missing theoretical framework which helps to explain them.

The CAFE Experiment

One of the tools developed by Reuven Feuerstein to implement MLE was Feuerstein Instrumental Enrichment (FIE). It has been successfully used as a tool for the enhancement of learning potential. It is a systematic program to provide mediation and remediation of a complete range of cognitive strategies which apply to all areas of learning as well as to outside-school areas such as family life, career choice, and general problem-solving. FIE is aimed at enhancing students’ cognitive functions necessary for academic learning and achievement. The fundamental assumption of the program is that intelligence is dynamic and modifiable, not static or fixed. The FIE program seeks to correct the deficiencies in fundamental thinking skills, and provides students with the concepts, skills, strategies, operations and techniques necessary to function as independent learners, increase their motivation, and develop metacognition – in short, to “learn how to learn."

FIE was designed to be academic content free. It does not seek to teach any particular academic subject such as reading, writing, arithmetic, science or social science. Instead, the program uses a variety of color-based - content neutral - manipulative and paper-and-pencil activities to enable the learner to concentrate on acquiring such critical strategies as comparing, categorizing, sequencing, and much more, in order to then apply these to all areas of the regular school curriculum. Important in the instructional process, to be carried out by especially trained teaching staff, is metacognition—the regular reflection by students on the mental processes that they use in problem-solving so that they can eventually become autonomous problem-solvers who are consciously aware of the mental tools which they can bring to bear on any academic or other situation. The program has been successfully implemented in more than 70 countries as a tool for enhancing learning potential for a wide range of student needs.

It is theorized that FIE exercises are more fun for a student as opposed to using a content based platform such as CASE or CAME. All three approaches seek the same outcome. Two of the three face student motivational issues if they are “bored” with the given academic area.

Extending this theory gave rise to the concept of CAFE, or Cognitive Acceleration through Flight Experiences. CAFE flight school will be centered with the same methods developed for MLE, FIE, CASE and CAME. CAFE will however be based upon a relatively academically neutral subject area, flying a drone, other RC aircraft, or full scale "real" aircraft, whichever direction the student’s enthusiasm might wander. Flying as a goal will not be the focus, and thus the program will proceed slowly. Fast enough to maintain enthusiasm, but slow enough to encourage the student to learn how to learn, reflect upon what leads to success and failure, and bridge that lesson to other activities of life.

CAFE is thus an experimental program. With parental and student consent, cognitive skills will be measured in a pre-test/post-test format. The program authors are hopeful to scientifically prove the concept and contribute to the growing literature on these educational technologies.