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Feuerstein's Instrumental Enrichment:Better Learning for Better Students

by Meir Ben-Hur

The Instrumental Enrichment program was developed by Reuven Feuerstein and colleagues and has been disseminated in the United States since 1978. It is currently used in more than eighty countries worldwide and is available in seventeen languages. In the United States thousands of teachers have been trained to use the program, and each year about ten thousand students benefit from it.

What Is FIE?

Feuerstein's Instrumental Enrichment (FIE) is a classroom curriculum designed to enhance the cognitive functions necessary for academic learning and achievement. The fundamental assumption of the program, based on the theory and research pioneered by Professor Reuven Feuerstein (since the 1950s), is that intelligence is dynamic and modifiable, not static or fixed. Thus, the program seeks to correct deficiencies in fundamental thinking skills, provide students with the concepts, skills, strategies, operations, and techniques necessary to function as independent learners, to diagnose and, and to help students learn how to learn.

Designed to be presented as a two- or three-year program in three levels, FIE consists of fourteen instruments and accompanying teacher's guides. The materials used in the program are free of specific subject matter, yet are intended to be bridged to academic school subjects and life skills. FIE is used with a variety of age groups and populations, culturally diverse, gifted students, and the learning disabled, as well as regular students in upper elementary through college levels and beyond.

Much of the value of the FIE program comes from the mediational role of the trained teacher. Feuerstein's theory of Structural Cognitive Modifiability explains deficient learning as a result of a lack of sufficient Mediated Learning Experiences prior to school years. He observed that the resulting deficiencies in cognitive development can be corrected at any later time by providing mediated learning experiences by well-trained teachers in combination with specially designed instruments emphasizing cognitive developments.

When the student is appropriately guided through the exercises in a particular instrument, he or she develops the capacity and ability to apply the principles learned to other problems or situations where it is appropriate. As a result of the cognitive and motivational growth stimulated by Instrumental Enrichment, students change from a passive recipients of information to confident, active learners eager to master increasingly challenging academic tasks.

What Are the Results of Using FIE?
Due to its long history, FIE has been studied extensively by researchers around the world. There are over a thousand related publications, hundreds of which report empirical analyses on the efficacy of FIE in various settings with diverse populations.[1] There have been several attempts to synthesize the results of the many studies (See Savell, Towhig, Douglas, 1986: Burden, 1987: Adams 1989). Several U.S. school systems have documented the evaluation of their systemic attempts with FIE projects including: Hartford, Connecticut; New York City; San Juan, Puerto Rico; Philadelphia; Detroit; Taunton, Massachusetts; and Leander, Texas Evaluation studies are in progress at Fresno, California; Los Angeles; and Chicago schools. Generally, the reports indicate strong positive results in a variety of academic and nonacademic areas.

The significant cognitive developmental effects—of the order of 0.7 of a Standard Deviation (SD), or more—are most commonly reported on standard nonverbal measures of intelligence, such as the Primary Mental Abilities Test, Lodge Thorndike, Cattell, and Ravens. Wherever FIE was combined with regular academic curricula or taught by the same teachers, studies yielded significant gains in academic achievement by the experimental groups. Using standardized tests, gains have thus been reported in reading accuracy and comprehension, (Kaplan 1990, Mulcahy, 1994) mathematics concepts and problem solving, (Mulcahy 1994, Strojny, 1992) science, and social studies (Strojny, 1992).

Observation scales and questionnaires such as the Hartman Scales, the Piers Harris Children's Self-Concept Scale, and measurement of time on task and classroom participation yielded significantly enhanced self-concept, intrinsic motivation, and creativity by FIE groups relative to the control (or comparison) groups (e.g.. Hayood et. Al, 1993; Skuy and Mentis, 1993; Mulcahy, 1994; Strojny, 1992).

Though the program materials are designed so that mere exposure to them may have a positive effect on students, the essence of the program still lies in the combination of the materials and what Feuerstein refers to as "mediation"—that is, the quality of teaching. Studies of teacher improvement as a result of FIE training using various scales and interviews demonstrate significant changes in the teachers' beliefs about the modifiability of students' learning abilities, significant improvement in their sense of autonomy and creative self-perception, and improvement of their teaching skills. Anecdotal data and teacher reports indicate that the FIE experience impacts teacher-student relationships (see Seavell, 1986). Even where the improvement of teaching was not directly studied, reports on the efficacy of FIE have always included critical comments regarding the importance of the quality of teacher preparation for the program to the results.

How Do We Implement FIE?
Headed internationally by the International Center for the Enhancement of Learning Potential (ICELP) in Jerusalem, FIE has five authorized training centers in the United States, with SkyLight Training and Publishing as the lead contact. The authorized training centers train educators in the theory and instruments used for FIE implementation. Additional training to become a trainer can be completed in the United States or Israel. Each Authorized Training Center (ATC) provides technical assistance to schools in planning for peer coaching and continuous professional development throughout the implementation of the program.

Faculty Buy-In
The most gains are accomplished where the implementation is systemic and applied to all school populations. Training and information sessions for the entire staff and joint planning time is essential. Academic growth can also be found in implementations of selected school populations if communication among all educators involved in the student-support network is present.

Initial Training
The preparation of FIE teachers includes fifteen days of training covering the theory and student instruments completed over two years. Training can be accommodated according to the schools schedule.

Follow-up Coaching
ATC consultants offer classroom consultation to teachers and the school (or district) leadership. In the process, the internal peer coaches are identified and trained to replace external help. Weekly sessions coupled with professional portfolios, action research tasks, and common lesson plans are required.

In addition to teaming and the facilitation of local leadership, ATCs offer in-person consultation. SkyLight offers technical assistance through a web site, a toll-free telephone number, newsletters, video conferences, an annual national conference, and periodic mailings.

Implementation Reviews
We encourage schools and districts to evaluate their project from its inception and offer assistance in the development of an assessment and evaluation plan. School successes are shared with participating schools.

Training cost for a group of thirty teachers for fifteen training days and five follow-up days is $30,000 for consultant time and travel, plus teacher's guides. The cost per student is $30 per level (3 x $30 = $90) for consumable materials. Costs may be spread over a two- or three-year period, depending on the implementation plan.

Student Population
The FIE program has been used successfully with students in grades four through twelve in gifted, heterogeneous, physically challenged, and special education classrooms. The availability of FIE materials in various languages (including Spanish) allows for its use with non-English and bilingual speakers.

Special Considerations
The FIE intervention requires at least a two-year commitment with three hours of instruction every week. Arrangements must be made to ensure that students complete the program. For transient populations, we recommend five hours of intervention each week.

Research Studies on the Effects of FIE on Academic Achievement

Reports of Success across North America

Feuerstein's Instrumental Enrichment (FIE) targets the enhancement of students' cognitive abilities. It is not domain specific.[2] Its effect on academic achievement must be studied with caution. Measures that presuppose content knowledge, disregard student motivation—especially in academic areas where students have had a long history of failure prior to their exposure to FIE—and/or ignore the quality of teaching mask gains and underestimate the program's effects. If FIE studies show academic gains despite such negative conditions, one must extrapolate the greater potency of this program.

This section summarizes some of the research studies attempting to answer four specific questions: (1) Which areas of academic achievement have been reported to be affected by student exposure to the FIE program? (2) Which populations benefit academically from this program? (3) What have studies discovered about the mechanism of "transfer of FIE learning"? (4) How do the benefits of FIE compare to other cognitive-based programs in terms of academic achievement?

The following seven studies vary in their duration, measures, and the academic areas examined and/or reported to be affected by FIE. They were conducted in urban, suburban, or rural areas, and with regular and various special student populations. The studies collectively used six different standardized measures and reported results in one or more areas (e.g., mathematics, social studies, language and reading skills, and general academic performance). These studies may include dependent variables that are not relevant to this document and therefore are not reported here.

Alberta, Canada-- In Alberta, Canada, a two-year FIE project involved a population of nine hundred students that started the program in the fourth or seventh grade. This population was divided into three treatment groups: (1) FIE; (2) the Strategies Program for Effective Learning/Thinking (developed by one of the evaluators); and (3) the traditional curriculum and instruction (control). The first two treatment groups received two hours of intervention per week, and all three groups were pre- and post tested by the same measures. The report indicates that the fourth grade FIE students' achievement surpassed the achievement of the controls on the Mathematics Concepts and Applications subtest of the Canadian Achievement Test (CAT). The seventh (initial) grade FIE students outperformed the control group significantly on the Mathematics computation and Mathematics Concepts and Applications subtests. The differences in reading achievement as measured by CAT in this study were not reported to be significant (Mulcahy, 1994).

Nashville, Tennessee-- In one of the four Nashville studies, Carl Haywood and his colleagues at Vanderbilt University followed two comparable groups (by pretest academic achievement and two IQ measures) of seventh grade low academic achievers over two years (to the end of eighth grade). The pretest scores were also used as covariates in the analysis of the results. One class, of whom only ten students remained after two years, received a total of 143 hours of FIE (eight of the fourteen FIE instruments) as part of the curriculum. The other received the regular curriculum. The researchers reported achievement differences favoring the FIE group on all seven subtests of the Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills (CTBS, 1975). However, due to a small sample size, they reported statistical significance (p < .05) in the Social Studies and Language Expression subtests' mean differences (Arbitman-Smith, Haywood, & Bransford, 1994).
Leander, Texas-- Since September 1996 the Leander, Texas (rural), school district has been involved in a pilot study of FIE. Sixty-six pairs of students, matched by academic performance (by the Texas Learning Index) and age were assigned either to FIE or a control group. The experimental group received 90 minutes of FIE per week during the first year (fourth grade) and 135 minutes per week in the second year (fifth grade). FIE was conducted in place of social studies and science classes. The control group received the traditional curriculum. The students' academic achievement was measured by the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills (TAAS) battery at the end of each academic year and by district measures based on local curriculum at the beginning, middle, and end of each academic year. By the end of the second year, only fifty pairs of students remained. The results have been strong. The evaluators indicate a growing advantage of the FIE group over the controls on all measures of academic achievement over the two years of the pilot project.

At the beginning of this pilot, there were no differences in academic achievement between the groups. By the end of the first year, the FIE group had outperformed the controls on all measures. A comparison of the 1997–98 academic growth, as measured by the district tests, indicate that the FIE group gains in language arts were almost twice as much as the control group's, and in mathematics about one-half. The Texas Learning Index for Mathematics revealed a four-point difference in favor of the FIE group, but no mean difference for reading.

Norman, Oklahoma-- In a stable, low socioeconomic section of Norman, Oklahoma, Sally Church tracked the academic performance over three years of forty-six students (in fourth through seventh grade), who were divided equally between experimental and control groups. For three hours every week, the experimental group received FIE instead of the traditional curriculum. The control group received only the traditional curriculum. The comparison between the group academic achievement composite means, as measured by the Iowa Test of Basic Skills, indicates a growing gap in favor of the experimental group (no analysis was done in any specific academic area). Church reports that by the seventh grade, seven of the twenty-three control subjects had been moved to special education, as compared to none in the experimental group (Church, 1994).

Prieto Sanches (1994) conducted a three-year study with eight-year-old rural public school students with poor language skills (oral, written, vocabulary, and grammar) as measured by the Test of Language (Pozar, 1983). His study compared twenty-five FIE students (experimental group) to twenty-five students in a non-FIE control group. FIE was taught by teachers who were trained to emphasize the transfer to language skills. A comparison of pre- and posttest scores indicates significant differences between the group means favoring FIE in all the four subtests. Performance in other academic areas was not measured.

Taunton, Massachusetts-- The three-year pilot study (1988–91) in Taunton, Massachusetts, attempted to measure the effect of FIE on reading comprehension. All sixth grade classes in one school were randomly assigned to experimental groups (n = 107) that received three forty-five-minute sessions of FIE per week, taken from the regular curriculum, and control groups that received the regular curriculum. The Stanford Achievement Test for Reading (SAT-R) was administered to the two groups at the beginning of the study and at the end of every year of the program. The report indicates that the SAT-R Total and the Comprehension subtest mean scores showed an increasing gap between the groups, favoring FIE (William and Kopp, 1994). At the end of the first year the FIE mean Comprehension subset score improved by 28 percent, while the control group improved by only 8 percent. By the end of the second year, scores increased by 20 percent, as compared to 10 percent by the control group. At the end of the third year, scores increased by 42 percent, as compared to only 2 percent for the control group.

Model Secondary School for the Deaf-- David Martin studied the FIE program with forty-one matched pairs of hearing impaired students at the Model Secondary School for the Deaf. The pairs were matched by sex, age, and level of class placement (remedial, regular, or advanced). The experimental group received FIE twice a week as part of the time allocated for their mathematics and English classes. The scores on the Math-Concepts, Math-Applications, and Reading-Comprehension subtests of the Stanford Achievement Test for the Hearing-Impaired (SAT-HI) were used to measure the dependent variables. The report indicates that after two years of FIE, the experimental group achievement gains were significantly in favor of the FIE group in all three SAT-HI subtests (Martin, 1984).
Westchester County, New York-- In a study conducted in the Westchester County (rural) of New York school, Sema Bainin randomly assigned sixth grade underachieving students (reading two years below grade level) in remedial classes to experimental (n = 27) and control (n = 22) groups. The experimental group received fifty-nine hours of FIE over one school year, while the control group received an equivalent number of hours in a reading remedial program. Reading was measured pre- and post-intervention by the Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills. She reported significant differences in Total Reading gain scores favoring the FIE group. The study reported no significant differences on other academic achievements (Brainin, 1982).

ADD Students

Kreiger and Kaplan (1990) studied nine- and ten-year-old ADD students using an experimental-control (ten subjects per group), pre- and posttest procedure with twenty-four hours of FIE over twelve weeks. Ten students were assigned randomly to the experimental group and ten to the control group. The covariance analysis yielded statistically significant gains in favor of the FIE group in reading accuracy and comprehension, as measured by Neale Analysis of Reading Ability (1973).

While FIE has been reported to enhance middle school students' academic achievement, reports on the effects of the program in specific academic areas have not been consistent. Sometimes FIE appears to result in enhanced achievement in reading but not in mathematics, or in mathematics but not in reading, or in social studies but not in other subjects, in several but not in all areas, or, in rare cases, in all academic areas.

Analysis of the studies suggests that because of the nonacademic appearance of the program, a number of independent variables determine the specific effects of FIE on academic achievement. In the following discussion, additional research identifies these variables.
Which Populations Benefit from FIE?

FIE was developed for use with low-performing Israeli adolescents (middle high school students) (Feuerstein et al., 1980, 69). Most of the early FIE studies involving populations similar to the Israeli target population show that the program is indeed effective (Savell et al., 1994; Adams, 1989; Burden, 1987). In subsequent years, the program has been attempted and studied with a more diverse population that includes immigrants and culturally different students (e.g., Kozulin, 1997; Hannel et al., 1983), regular education students, gifted students (e.g., Wakesman et al., 1984), blind (using specially designed FIE material--several Hebrew University studies by Gouzman in progress), and deaf students (e.g., Keane, 1987; Martin, 1987). An adult version of the program has also been developed and used with college students (e.g., DePaul University, Dartmouth College, Lesley College), factory employees (Ben-Hur, in press), neurological rehabilitation programs (Mendelowitsch, 1994), and the elderly (Lifshitz, 1995). The cumulative lesson from these developments is that the program works best to ameliorate learning difficulties that arise from environmental maladjustment, specific learning disabilities, or related problems. The age and level of initial performance are not limiting, and the instructional pace of the program and didactic must vary in accordance with different students' learning needs.

A Case for Heterogeneous FIE Classes
Considering the variations in student needs and outcomes, the investigation of the efficacy of FIE in heterogeneous classrooms is of great importance. The Mulcahy study (1994) reports differential effects of FIE on low academic achievers (normal IQ), average achievers, and high academic achievers (gifted). He found the best academic outcomes are surprisingly not evident in the case of the average students, but in the case of low achievers and, to a lesser degree, gifted students. Considering the contextual independence of FIE from the academic curriculum, if these results may be generalized, then within some reasonable limits, heterogeneous FIE classes, as with mainstream, or inclusion classrooms, may be of an advantage.

The heterogeneous FIE classroom hypothesis has never been tested. However, it may be supported by the concurrence of the consistent and strong impact of FIE on Taunton's academic achievements with the progressive increase in the number of inclusive classrooms and decrease in the number of self-contained special education classrooms (see analysis of the Taunton FIE program)

Studies on Transfer from FIE Learning
A number of studies compared the cognitive abilities determining performance in specific academic areas to the cognitive behaviors enhanced by FIE. The compatibility between general academic achievement and performance in FIE tasks was studied by Carl Haywood of Vanderbilt University. He compared two groups of fifth grade Nashville public school students on tasks extracted from the FIE program: one group had academic achievement above the fifth stanine and the other was in the third to fourth stanines. He reported that the academically successful students performed significantly and largely better (Arbitman-Smith, Haywood, Bransford, 1994). The conclusion was that a significant factor in low academic performance, namely, cognitive prerequisites, is indeed being addressed by FIE. Why, then, do students who complete FIE not necessarily show better academic achievements?

First, the degree of transfer of the acquired abilities to the academic frontier depends on the duration of the intervention. Many of the published studies report the results of less than eighty hours of FIE. Morgen Jensen's Yale study of the FIE Hartford/New Haven project compared the performance of middle school students from experimental groups (n = 43) to students from control groups (n = 30) after one and two years of the program. They were evaluated for "acquisition," "near transfer," and "far transfer" tasks. Jensen reports that after one year the experimental subjects outperformed the controls on measures of "acquisition and near transfer," but not on the measure of "far transfer." After two years, they outperformed them significantly on all three measures. Furthermore, the differences between the groups increased with time from about 0.5SD to nearly a full SD after two years. Other studies on transfer from FIE report similar results.

Difference in Performance between Experimental and
Control Groups at Midpoints in Terms of Standard Deviation.

Second, the transfer of learning across the curriculum depends on a number of ecological factors. Transfer is reported more often in studies where the measured academic areas that show achievement gains are taught by the FIE teacher. Furthermore, if FIE teachers are trained to understand the connection between the target cognitive functions and their representation in the academic areas, the transfer is more predictable (Skuy, 1994; Brainin 1982; Wood, 1989; Haywood, 1982; Jensen, 1989). Transfer has been consistently reported in the case of a systemic FIE implementation. When systematically applied, the program functioned as a catalyst in a reform process.


Studies indicate the following effects of FIE on academic achievement. First, FIE may be effective in the enhancement of academic achievement in every academic area. Second, FIE produces statistically significant effects with various student populations. Third, FIE produces larger academic gains than those resulting from remedial classes. Fourth, the longer and more complete the intervention, the more general the effects of FIE. Fifth, the best results in academic achievement are reported when teachers are trained to see the connection of specific academic curricula with FIE.

FIE Project Evaluations Report: Positive Results in Schools
Since 1978 about twenty U.S. school districts have implemented the FIE program system wide and generally report positive results. Many evaluations studies of the program have also been reported where FIE was used with a select group of subjects within or across districts. The program has mostly been used in middle schools, and in junior high schools with different student populations. It has been used in urban, suburban, and rural areas with students who perform academically at different levels (i.e., gifted achievers and gifted underachievers, regular education students, students with learning disabilities and behavior problems, physically handicapped students, and mentally challenged students).

It is not always clear how much of the program was taught, how the teachers were trained, how the time was allocated, what factors were involved in the experimental attrition, and how attrition was treated in the analysis. Also, while there are reported gains on psychometric measures of cognitive and affective functions by such instruments as IQ tests and measures of self-esteem and self-concept, not all of the studies evaluated the impact of the program on academic achievement. The evaluation studies reported here compare or rank the FIE groups' performance relative to untreated group means, state or district norms or means, or performance in previous years. We will summarize the evaluation reports of gains in academic achievement using the most complete available literature. The Taunton, Massachusetts, FIE project is probably the most extensive district wide implementation in the United States and will be our main focus.

Taunton-- The Taunton FIE project started in September 1988 with a group of 107 students and 20 teachers in one school. Twenty additional teachers were every year, and the number of FIE classes receiving the program increased gradually. Currently, all 1,800 students in the forty-seven fourth, fifth, and sixth grade bilingual, Chapter I, and gifted and talented classrooms in the district receive FIE by 103 well-trained teachers supported by fifteen psychologists and guidance counselors. A comparison of the average performance of Taunton's fourth, eighth, and tenth grade students on the Massachusetts Educational Assessment Program (MEAP) is reported for 1988, 1990, 1992, and 1994 (March 21 to April 8 of each year). Also available is a comparison of the district cohorts to comparison score bands and to the state means in math, science, reading, and social studies.[3]

The data for 269 tenth grade students and 416 eighth grade transfer students indicate significant advantages over the comparison score band and no significant difference from the state average in all academic areas. The achievement data on the previous years' eighth grade cohorts indicate a progression consistent with the increased portion of eighth grade students who completed the program and the academic achievement means. However, while the number of students in these grades received FIE increased, the data involves a large number of students who did not.

The data for the fourth grade cohorts, on the other hand is most revealing. It clearly shows the impact of the first year of FIE on Taunton student learning. A comparison of the achievement of the fourth grade 1988 and 1990 cohorts (where not all the students had been exposed to FIE) with the 1992 and 1994 cohorts (where all the students completed one year of FIE) shows a clear advantage of the later over the earlier cohorts. While the earlier data shows all four achievement measures significantly below the state average but within the comparison score bands, the later performance of fourth graders is consistently at or above the state average and above the comparison score band, with the exception of reading.

The relative improvement is also reflected in the decreased percentage of students who performed below "level I" with an increased percentage of students who perform above "level IV." Again, the best results are evident in the cohorts where all students were exposed to FIE.

The data from 1996 and 1998 were not available at the time this document was completed, but it appears (personal communication with the district) that the results are similar to the 1994 data, which indicate that the systemic reform generated by this project is now complete.[4]
Additional Evaluation Studies

Other available reports on the academic benefits include two from New York City; one from Phoenix; one from the Nashville and Louisville studies; two from Canada; one from Leander, Texas; and two progress reports from Los Angeles and Fresno, California.
New York-- A New York City two-year FIE project evaluation (1982–83) with 203 fourth through eighth grade Chapter I students in four nonpublic schools indicates gains in mathematics achievement (CAT and SAT) of 13.3 normal curve equivalents at the end of the first-year intervention and 14.3 normal curve equivalents at the end of the second year. It also indicates gains of 10.4 in reading after the first year and 17.8 after the second year. The second New York City FIE project in Public School District 9 (1986) reports that their 413 students who received FIE during their fifth and sixth grades outperformed their peers significantly in the CAT Total Math and Total Reading mean scores (Walker and Meier, 1984).

Phoenix-- The FIE program in Phoenix involved seventh grade bilingual low-achieving students, children of Mexican-American farm workers. The effects of the program were compared to the effect of academic tutoring and a no-treatment group. The academic achievement of an experimental group of seventy (thirty-six completed the program) students was compared to approximately equal size, nonequivalent groups (pretest scores were used as covariates in an ANCOVA analysis). The pertinent dependent variables were measured by the California Test of Basic Skills (CTBS), as well as ordinary school tests. The report indicates that the experimental group outperformed the control group on all seven CTBS subtests and is statistically significant in six. Similar results are reported about students' performance on school tests (Hannel and Hannel, 1983).

Nashville and Louisville-- Several evaluation studies were conducted with the Nashville and the Louisville FIE projects, but most of them did not use standardized academic achievement tests. One study used the Peabody Individual Achievement Tests (PIAT) to compare the academic achievement gains by seventh grade special education students in three conditions: FIE (n = 33); social learning curriculum (n = 55); and, for comparison, the traditional curriculum (n = 55). The intervention involved four hours of instruction every week for one year. With pretest scores as covariates, the analysis indicates significant gains on the General Information subtest of the PIAT favoring the FIE group. The differences on the other four subtests (in favor of the FIE group) were not statistically significant (Hall, 1981).
Toronto In the Toronto FIE project, most of the evaluation studies did not use academic achievement as dependent variables. One experimental study that measured significant academic gains is reported elsewhere in this document (see Muttart, 1984).

Collectively, the research literature on FIE is much larger and much more comprehensive than this document permits us to summarize. The published reviews of FIE research consistently conclude that it enhances students' ability to learn. A growing number of studies done by independent evaluators and researchers indicate the enhancement of students' academic performance as a result of FIE. The magnitude of such academic gains appears to depend on ecological factors. Positive impact on the students' academic performance has been consistently reported where schools center FIE in the curriculum and use it to guide a systemic reform. The best example is the FIE project in Taunton, Massachusetts. Studies on systemic implementation projects show that FIE helps shape an educational environment that stimulates student learning. [5]

Impact on Nonacademic Indicators
While most of the research and evaluation of FIE projects consider intellective/academic achievements as dependent variables, several studies specifically focused on affective changes. Of those, the Taunton FIE project is of special interest because its evaluation of affective change is conducted in the context of a comprehensive view of the program's effects.

Due to the fact that between 1991 and 1996 the percentage of students in the district who received FIE during their third to fifth grades increased gradually (to include all students by 1994), and since FIE has been the only systemic change in the district during this period, a year-by-year comparison of district statistics provides a unique opportunity to evaluate the contribution of the program where it is applied systemically to school climate. During that period the enrollment increased by 13 percent, but the student dropout rate at Taunton decreased from 42 percent to 13 percent and attendance increased to 98.5 percent. Since the district staff felt competent to deal successfully with exceptional children, out-of-district placement costs decreased by 33 percent and counseling costs dropped by 90 percent.

The staff's collective feeling of competence is also reflected in the students' self-concept. A pre/post comparison of responses by a randomly selected group of forty-eight students to the Pier Harris Children's Self-Concept Scale yielded significant improvement on all dimensions of the scale over only one year of FIE intervention. Post-test data indicates that 94 percent of the participants evaluated themselves as "average" or "above average," and no one rated him or herself as low.

Other studies on non-intellective indicators of FIE effects are not always consistent with the Taunton data. However, they always report positive changes on some measures. Such indicators include, in addition to the above, gains in intrinsic motivation and task-persistence, reduced impulsive behavior, self-confidence, acceptance of alternative points of view, student participation in classroom discussions and student questions.

In his synthesis of the literature on FIE, Robert Sternberg listed seven consistent positive results: students become more active classroom participants; they become more inclined to listen to others; they are more likely to defend their opinions on the basis of logical evidence; students are better able to explain how they solve problems; they become more likely to spontaneously read and follow written directions; they become better able to handle several sources of information simultaneously; and they more effectively link between ideas and principles in different curriculum areas (Sternberg, 1986).

Evaluation studies generally suggest that all student gains, academic or nonacademic, are more meaningful and significant where the school environment becomes compatible with the philosophy of FIE. The Taunton experience seems to confirm this hypothesis.
The Difference FIE Makes: Testimonials from Parents, Students, and Teachers

We acknowledge that flaws may be identified in any one of the many existing FIE studies. Any educational research and evaluation study would be relatively easy to conduct and defend if educational interventions produced dramatic and unambiguous effects in a short period of time. The history of two decades of FIE in this country shows that skeptical minds change not so easily by favorable research reports, but by direct communication with parents, students, and teachers who tell their FIE stories. Therefore, as a final part of this document, we are including their remarks.

Student Observations

"Now I'm more organized I do first things first so I don't get confused."

"FIE helps kids get organized in a way it helps you learn things and I enjoy it."

"One thing I like about FIE is the challenge to do it on my own and find out what is the pattern and my plan."

"IE has taught me how to make things work, how to keep things in order, and that I can always ask for help."

"I don't think there is anything I don't like about IE. I think FIE is a great program and it helps me learn better."

"I have learned in FIE how to think and make plans."

"One of the strategies that I use to make a decision is to identify the problem. Then I recall the strategies I used before that worked for me. Then I visualize in my mind the solution to the problem. Finally I hypothesize on the right strategy."

"The mistakes we make on the dot pages are not just limited to these pages, but they show up in other things we do as well. I used to make mistakes in math in the area of division by bringing down the number. But now I organize. First I divide then I multiply then I subtract, then I bring down just like in dots. First I survey the model. Then I count the dots. Then I look for the cues. I'm doing the same thing with my life."

"What I learned form Orientation of Space—I learned what left and right, front and back mean in space. I learned that when you change your position, the relationship with the object changes. This helps me with math. I am working on decimals. When you add decimals you have to line up the numbers in a certain position in relationship to the decimals. When you subtract decimals you have to do the same thing. When you multiply decimals you have to know the position of the other numbers in order to determine the decimal in the answer. When I first started doing decimals, I didn't like it. Now because I think of it like the arrows and dots in space, it's more fun."

Teacher Perceptions

Recently I noticed that students in this particular I.E. group seemed unresponsive and lacked enthusiasm during discussions during lessons. I confronted them and asked them why. I said, "You seem uninterested or bored. Why?" This was one response: "Well, you know, previously we have had some intense discussion about certain pages and ideas-- and in the past few days we have not had the opportunity to do that, so that is why I am looking bored."

One or two other students recalled incidents in a comparison page (9) when there were differences among the class in the way they view some of the comparison tasks. The issue was looking at a picture with a "gestalt view" as opposed to looking at it as an analytically.

The students seemed to experience very strongly the psychological differentiation among themselves in this lesson. They tried to understand each other and tolerate each other's views and approach to task without changing their views on that particular issue.
It was a unique occasion in which they stood behind their opinions and were not willing to change their views for another person. In my observation, they seemed to understand the exhilaration of this experience with each other.

Recently, my first year class experienced feelings of lack of competence. They were depending on each other for cues in finishing the dot pages (1B). I tried to explain to them that it was best to try to finish the page independently using strategies we have before. Helping each other too much was robbing the other students of the opportunity to learn. They didn't seem to comprehend this. So I asked them if they all knew how to ride a bike by themselves. Most of them said they knew how. I asked them to recall how they learned—first with Mom or Dad holding the back of the bike and running with them or with training wheels. Then I asked them to recall how proud they felt when they finally learned to ride on their own without Mom's or Dad's assistance. Their faces beamed with recalled memories and the thrill of doing something independently though use of their own skills was realized.
Denise has always been very quiet and shy. She rarely asks a question or asks for help. She said: "Ms. Baker, I don't understand this." Denise normally sits in the back of the room. Since we have been involved in I.E., she voluntarily sits in front. Last year Denise could barely get through the model of "Dots." Tuesday, Denise completed the 1st two rolls, or p.2. I ask her what was she doing differently. She said, "I'm taking my time and thinking about the square. I find the four dots and the two triangles are left." Denise did better than everyone in the class.

Edguardo and Edward were in I.E. last year. They seem to be more excited about learning. They never asked questions and barely participated orally. Now I can't keep them quiet. They actually mastered 1-digit division. (Since I am not using I.E. with this particular group, I'm going to use the "Cognet" program.)

Owen and Tyrone and I.E. students. They now read the directions before they begin an assignment. Overall I find that my I.E. students come to class better prepared. Some of the teachers in my department suggest that my (good) I.E. students are a pleasure to have in class. (They comment on their level of maturity). These students were in my "infamous" sixth hour last year. They drove me crazy. When the teachers ask them who their teacher was last year, they say, "Mrs. Jackson [now Baker]. She taught us Instrumental Enrichment."
Parent Comments

"He never used to pay much attention to books but, now, he has a book all the time, because he can read, not a lot, but more than he ever could. He's learned a lot of new words, also, his attitude when he's working or doing homework is very different, also. He gets upset to be interrupted while he's learning. To me, that's a prayer come true, he's more independent now. He's taking control of things now, wherein he was afraid to do it. He wants to learn. I pray this program will expand, so that other special children can benefit from it, like my son Ali was. I hope you can understand how happy and proud I am to see my son learn a new word, to see his face light up to solve a math problem, to do his homework, and tell me, 'mother, I know how to do it'; being able to look in a book and find the page he's told to find without any help. In our home, Ali never used to question about words, TV programs or doing things around the house I thought he could not do. Now he's paying attention to everything that goes on around him. He's really craving more knowledge. . . . Please don't let my son go back behind a brick wall again that has been broken down. Let the light of knowledge continue to shine through. Thank you," --Mrs. Halimal S. Shahid

"My son Jeff has really improved in school. I'm so proud of him. His grades have also improved from E's and D's, his way of thinking, his attitude. He even grew up a lot more. He used to be baby acting as if he was two years old or younger. He's never more helpful around the house. He's very sweet, considerate and kind to people. I have faith in him. I'm just so happy the class and the teachers helped him so. He brings all kinds of awards home now. Even my sister is really proud. I'm going to try and keep working with him at home too. I would just like to thank the I.E. programs and the teachers." --Unsigned

"Since Marcus has been in the Special Education Program, I've noticed a big difference in his ability to want to learn. Also, in his reading and writing skills. Thanks to Mrs. Green; she's wonderful. The I.E. Program is interesting. I enjoy being introduced to it. If there is in anyway something that I can do to contribute as a parent other than supporting my child in learning, please let me know." -- Pam Webster

"I think that this program has really helped Damien in more than one way. His basic grades have come from E & D to B, C and even an occasional A. It has given my child some self-esteem. He realizes that he can do this work, the techniques are a little different but the results are the same." -- Ms. Collins

"This program has made all the difference in how my child perceives himself. He's never [been] confident, his self-esteem has vastly improved. Hopefully, when my child's evaluation comes up in two years, he will be returned to regular education." -- Unsigned


Adams, M.J., "Thinking Skills Curricula: Their Promises and Progress," Educational Psychologist 24 (1989) 25–77.

Burden, R.L., "FIE Programme: Important Issues in Research and Evaluation," European Journal of Psychology of Education 11 (1987): 3–16.

Alvarez, V., J. Santos. Santiago, S, and Lebron, F. 1992.Effecto del programa de Enriquemiento Instrumental de Feuerstein en las habilidades cognoscitivas de una muestra de estudiantes puertoriquenos. San Juan, Puerto Rico: Instituto de Investigacion Cientifica, Centro Caribeno de Estudios Postgraduados.
Arbitman-Smith, Haywood, Bransford, "Assessing Cognitive Change," in Learning and Cognition in the Mentally Retarded, ed. Brooks, P. H., Sperber, R., and McCauley, C. (Hillsdale, N. J.: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1994), 453–63.

Detroit Public Schools. 1989. Evaluation of the Instrumental Enrichment Project 1988–89. Department of Research and Evaluation.
Feuerstein, R., R. Miller, M. B. Hoffman, Y. Minzker, and M. R. Jensen. 1981. "Cognitive Modifiability in Adolescence: Cognitive Structure and the Effects of Intervention." Journal of Special Education 15 (2).

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Haywood, C. H., S. Burns, R. Arbitman-Smith, and Delclos. 1983. "Forward to Fundamentals: Learning and the 4th R." Peabody Journal of Education.
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Kreiger, S. M. , Kaplan, M. E. "Improving Inattention and Reading in Inattentive Children through MLE: A Pilot Study," International Journal of Cognitive Education and Mediation Learning 1, no. 3 (1990): 185–92. In physics, see M. C. Mehl, The Cognitive Difficulties of First Year Physics Students at the University of Western Cape and Various Compensatory Programmes (Capetown, South Africa: University of Capetown, 1985).

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Strojny, M. 1992. "A Development of the Instrumental Enrichment Curriculum in Grades 4–7 in Taunton, Massachusetts." Master's thesis, Bridgewater State College.

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[1] FIE has been tried in public and private residential and nonresidential schools, as part of our after (out of) school programs, and in therapeutic settings. The learner populations include regular education students, students with learning disabilities, students with specific academic difficulties (e.g., reading, mathematics), culturally different and minority students, blind and deaf students, neurological and psychiatric patients, and gifted students. The ages of FIE learners range from fourth grade to adults (there are different versions of FIE to meet the needs of this wide range of ages and conditions).

[2] For an explanation, refer to Feuerstein's discussion of the issue in L. Idol and Jones B. Fly, eds., Educational Values and Cognitive Instruction: Implications for Reform (Hinsdale N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1991), 164–66.

[3] A comparison scoreband is based on performance of other schools with similar characteristics (i.e., parental education, English fluency, preschool attendance, and economic factors) which are beyond the control of a school and may affect students' academic performance.

[4] According to personal communication with the district FIE coordinator Dr. William Kopp

[5] See discussion on modifying environments in J. Becker and R. Feuerstein, "The Modifying Environment and Other Environmental Perspectives in Group Care: A Conceptual Contrast and Integrating," Residential Treatment for Children and Youth 8, no. 3 (1991).

About the author

Meir Ben-Hur, Ph.D. is a student, teacher, researcher, and leader of cognitive based education. He has studied for 25 years with world renown psychologist Dr. Reuven Feuerstein. For twenty-seven years he has been a teacher of high school mathematics and physics, university graduate courses in psychology and mathematics education. He conducted and participated in a number of studies on cognitive correlates of middle-school mathematics.

In recent years he joined the leaders of innovative teacher enhancement initiatives related to middle school mathematics and cognitive education, and worked closely with many school districts in the United States, and around the world. In addition, Meir has been involved in performance enhancement initiatives with employees of leading corporations including Motorola. Meir is currently the Director of Learning Applications at Virtual Learning Systems and an International Lead Consultant for Feuerstein's Instrumental Enrichment.

For more information, contact: Mary Jane Bloethner at or Meir Ben Hur at Website URL is

Copyright © April 2000

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