Instrumental Enrichment is a cognitive programme designed by Professor Feuerstein, whose main purpose is, through mediation, to correct deficient cognitive functions and thus enhance people's capacity and propensity to learn.

It consists of fourteen instruments (paper and pencil exercises) each of which has the explicit aim of developing specific cognitive functions. These exercises are supported by teacher's guides and are graded with later learning based on mastery of earlier tasks. There is nevertheless some degree of flexibility in the order of presentation.

Consistent with the aims of the programme, the exercises are designed purely as vehicles for improving thinking and learning. They are thus 'content- free' in the sense that they do not teach specific academic or technical subjects.

Depending on individual need, the programme may extend over periods ranging from 80 hours (e.g., a young person who is gifted but is unorganised) to 300 or more hours (for someone who has a range of learning difficulties of a moderate to severe nature).

A minimum of two hours weekly in two separate hourly sessions is needed with personal but guided reinforcement by parents and/or teachers.

In its unadapted form, the programme requires a basic ability to read and write words and sentences (even in the absence of effective comprehension). It also needs a basic understanding of numbers and of simple arithmetic; and it needs basic visual and motor skills. However, through sensitive mediation, and through applying practical criteria for instrument adaptation defined by Professor Feuerstein, a significant part of the programme can be made accessible to those who have limited visual and motor functioning and who, on entry into the programme, can neither speak, read nor write. Even within this relatively restricted application of the programme, substantial development in thinking, learning and work skills can take place.

There are preconditions for the successful delivery of the programme, which must be taken seriously. IE has failed on more than one occasion and independent research demonstrates clearly that, wherever this has happened, one or more of the conditions given below have been by-passed:

A) To be confident of securing stable change in learners, the programme must be continuous, with sessions delivered at least twice weekly.
B) Those delivering it need to be accredited trainers who have gone through basic training themselves and become skilled in the process of mediation.
C) The programme must be delivered over the appropriate range of instruments.
D) To secure effective transfer of learning, the learning principles surfacing in IE sessions must be tested by the mediator and the learner and shown to have direct application to the learner's day to day life and schooling.
E) Finally, as with any development programme, it greatly helps if at least the immediate environment (e.g. parents, schoolteachers) is actively supportive to the programme.

Finally, the purpose of the programme is not solely to develop the cognitive functions but also to develop:

* An awareness within pupils of how they are thinking as they work- how they are approaching problems and tasks - how to learn from their mistakes and successes, thereby improving their underlying ability to learn and solve problems. Professor Feuerstein calls this capacity 'metacognition'.

* A perception within pupils of themselves as both generators and shapers of information.

* An intrinsic state of curiosity and motivation, facilitating the transfer of learning from one situation or context to the next.

A brief description of some instruments and the cognitive functions they serve (functions are given in italics).

1) Organization of Dots:
This requires identification of geometric shapes embedded within an apparently random array of dots. To achieve this, cognitive functions such as comparative and exploratory behaviour are required. Similarly, there is a need to identify relationships and test hypotheses. Overall there must be a controlled and considered approach based on conscious, thought through strategies.

2) Spatial Orientation:
On the surface, this develops the ability to maintain an effective orientation despite changes in one's own position in relation to the environment and changes in the relative position of others in that same environment. Underlying this is development of a sense of relativity and empathy, combating egocentrism: learners explore differing points of view and ultimately learn how to relate better to opinions different from their own.

3) Categorization:
Categorization helps improve people's ability to organise complex arrays of information, breaking data down into simpler groups and categories. This is done, for example, through extending the ability to scan data carefully, to identify relationships and to apply concepts of differing degrees of generality, which are then used as the bases of classification. This process leads to deeper understanding, better retention and more perceptive use of information.

4) Numerical Progression:
This uses numbers as a medium for practice in deducing implicit rules from patterned data. It develops the ability to anticipate the future through enhanced sensitivity to stable relationships within data and within events. In doing this, it calls for such functions as precision, discrimination and a willingness to defer judgement until all key elements have been explored.

5) Instructions:
Instructions offers practice in de-coding and en-coding information, developing control over impulsivity and sweeping or blurred perception. People gain insight into the reasons for their success or failure in interpreting complex instructions, becoming therefore more able to transmit instructions with clarity and precision.

6) Syllogisms:
This develops the capacity for critical thinking, enhancing the ability to discriminate between valid and invalid conclusions and inferences; between possible, impossible and inevitable outcomes. Teachers/ trainers mediate the students' need to consider the implications of given propositions and to support conclusions with logical evidence.




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Thinking and Learning

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