Profiles and what to expect

The strategies presented in this document form part of the provision of effectively applying learning strategies for different CAT4 profiles and feedback to students, rather than an expectation that teachers adopt an approach to teaching students that reflects a student’s personal learning style. It is now acknowledged that the concept of individual student learning styles – for example, visual, auditory and kinaesthetic – is invalid. A significant amount of research since the early 2000s (including that undertaken by Coffield at both the University of Newcastle and the Institute of Education in the UK) has demonstrated that there is no good scientific evidence that learning styles actually exist, even though the theory has been enthusiastically adopted in many countries and states around the world. Indeed, a study from 2014 indicated that more than 90% of teachers in various countries believed it.

Likewise, CAT4 results should not be used to restrict the range of educational possibilities that a student will receive. Our cognitive abilities and preferences are not fixed at birth and we all have a degree of ‘neural plasticity’ that allows us to achieve a level of expertise in a wider range of knowledge, skills and understanding than we may have thought. Although a group of CAT4 results has rank stability over time, it still allows a range of movement of an individual’s developmental trajectory. For example, GL’s indicators for CAT4 show that a range of students with a single CAT4 score will achieve a range of outcomes since nothing is determined purely from cognitive ability

Students’ reasoning skills can be further improved by encouraging them to find ways of communicating accurately and imaginatively to describe more precisely the relationships among concepts or the rules that sequence them.

For example, in writing, teachers should encourage students to be as clear or as imaginative as possible in their use of words, phrases and sentences, and challenge them to explain their choices. Students could also be encouraged to monitor their own thinking and problem-solving by recording the processes that they have gone through using a written record, concept or memory map. Many of these ideas will be returned to in later sections.

This does not diminish the importance of identifying a student’s cognitive strengths through the CAT4 test programme. In fact, the introduction of the Spatial Ability Battery in CAT4 provides a new way for teachers to help students realise their potential in the classroom. This document recognises the value of using all the batteries in an  integrated way to offer insights into how a range of different strategies can be used to support learning. The identification of a particular cognitive strength can be used effectively to promote learning development in other areas.

It is important to consider the level of the CAT4 scores as well as the specific area of strength or weakness. A significantly lower score on the Verbal Battery than on the Spatial Battery may have different implications if the level of the verbal score is low (say, 85) or if it is high (say, 115). For example, the former might suggest a focus on core aspects of literacy, while the latter might suggest a wider focus on extending verbal concepts and higher-order verbal thinking. Nevertheless, teachers should consider how the relative spatial and non-verbal strengths of both students could be used to support their learning in the verbal area.