Monitoring creative and critical thinking

Pete is currently researching best practice for encouraging creative and critical thinking. As part of this research paper Pete is looking to devise a tool to help staff evaluate creative and critical thinking skills. Pete is a honorary research fellow at the Graduate School of Education, University of Bristol.

Impact of woodwork

Pete is currently undertaking quantitative research into the impact of woodwork provision in Early Childhood Education around the world. See below for more information and how to participate.

Research: Creative and Critical thinking in Early Years Education

Researching best teaching practice in encouraging creative and critical thinking and researching effective methodology of monitoring creative progression

Outcomes: Developing Creativity in Early Years Education

  • Create a resource for Early Years teachers to clarify the concept of creativity and related thinking processes (and emphasis importance evidenced by latest research)
  • Compile a resource for teachers on how to best encourage creative and critical thinking in pre-school children( based on literature meta-analysis and empirical evidence)
  • Devise a monitoring document for teachers to assess creative progression in pre-school children. Trailed/evaluated/revised/Re-trailed

The purpose of my research has been to explore ways in which early years teaching staff can best be supported to encourage the key thinking components of creativity – Creative thinking and Critical thinking and contributing learning dispositions.

Creativity and critical thinking are both core to the EYFS: highlighted as key characteristics of effective learning that embrace all areas of learning however there is very little guidance on the real meaning and definition of creativity or best ways to encourage or ways of assessing creativity.

I believe monitoring children’s progression in creative and critical thinking is extremely important – and its assessment is currently neglected as it is not incorporated in the 17 EYFS early learning goals. I believe in the narrowing the gap agenda– giving children as equal opportunity in life as possible. It is clear creativity skills have an impact on learning power and outcome/ achievement/ self-actualisation. We need to be able to monitor creative and critical thinking progression to ensure we are developing each child to their full potential and also be particularly aware of children that need additional input.

My research encompasses the follow categories:

  • Detailed and wide ranging literature review/analysis
  • Participation in the most recent developments in creativity thinking at national conferences
  • Developing definitions/explanations of creativity, creative thinking and critical thinking that are accessible, relevant and useful for early year practitioners
  • Researching the best ways to encourage thinking progression to enhance creativity in early years children
  • Collecting empirical evidence of situations that have led to creative flow and extended thinking from teachers at St Werburghs Park Nursery School
  • Developing a monitoring system to evaluate children’s development in their creative and critical thinking skills
  • Trialling monitoring system: This is going to be trailed at St Werburghs Park Nursery School
  • Analysis of data/ evaluation/ reflection – leading to revised monitoring document
  • Revision then re-trialled by a number of selected national teaching schools

The Big Bang Research Project

Researching the Impact of Woodwork Provision in Early Years Education

I am currently undertaking research at the University of Bristol, into the impact woodwork has on children’s learning and development in Early Childhood Education.
I really need your help to get a clear picture of how woodwork provision is looking across the country. This is the first quantitative research study into woodwork provision in Early Years education both in the UK and around the world.
I’m asking if you could please complete the attached research survey – either fill, save and email back or print and post. Details are on the form. Your contribution would be hugely appreciated and is important in order to make a difference by enabling more young children to experience the wonders of woodwork.
The intention is that we can evidence the rich learning and development and promote woodwork to wider audience and also attract funding to enable this. We have established a charity, the Early Years Woodwork Association and this will be developed to promote woodwork to help facilitate this mission.
Please note: All data will be held in accordance to GDPR (2018) and all information is strictly confidential. No judgement will made in any way about your provision. All setting names will be removed from published research papers. Research adheres to BERA’s Ethical Guidelines for Educational Research
The form is pretty simple – lots of check boxes – hopefully it can also be helpful exercise for you to reflect on your current provision. Please allow 10-15 minutes.

Click here to download the questionnaire



The Big Bang Research Project

Researching the Impact of Woodwork Provision in Early Years Education

Purpose: To evaluate the impact of woodwork on young children in order to gain evidence for the promotion of woodwork to enable more children to have this opportunity. All data will be held in accordance to GDPR (2018) and all information is strictly confidential. No judgement will made in any way about your provision. All setting names will be removed from published research papers. Research adheres to BERA’s Ethical Guidelines for Educational Research




Region (county/country):

State maintained nursery☐  Reception☐    PVI preschool/nursery ☐  Childminder☐    KS1☐


☐Check box if you would like to receive a copy of the resulting research paper

What age ranges access your woodwork provision?

2-3 years ☐
3-4 years ☐
4-5 years ☐
5-6 years ☐
6-7 years ☐

Please estimate the number of children per year that experience woodwork in your setting: ………….


How many years has your setting been offering woodwork?


Is woodwork available as continuous provision? ☐


Is woodwork provided as a session activity? ☐


Combination of the above? ☐


How many children do you generally have working at a time?


Curriculum followed: EYFS☐   Foundation Phase(Wales)☐ Curriculum for Excellence(Scotland)☐ Pre-school NI☐   Foundation stage NI☐   Other☐ please specify:




Impact on children:  What do you consider to be the 2 key aspects of woodwork on children’s development?










What areas of learning and development to you observe woodwork provision embracing?

☐Personal, social and emotional development
☐Well-being, contentment

☐Playing and exploring
☐Active learning – intrinsic motivation
☐Creative thinking
☐Critical (analytic) thinking

☐Physical development
☐Communication and language
☐Literacy ( research, creating design plans, related books )
☐Mathematical thinking
☐Understanding the world
☐Scientific knowledge and understanding
☐Expressive arts and design

Any comments on above areas:




Do you observe the learning and development occurring at the woodwork bench impacting on other areas of learning?








Involvement and enjoyment

What are the children levels of involvement, engagement and concentration?
(refer to The Leuven scale for involvement for more detail of categories if needed)

☐1 Extremely low   (The child seems absent and displays no energy)
☐2 Low   (Frequently interrupted activity, distracted by what is going on around them)
☐3 Moderate  (Mainly continuous activity but little concentration and can be easily distracted)
☐4 High   (Activity has intense moments and at all times they seem involved and not distracted)
☐5 Extremely high (Continuous and intense activity, concentrated, creative and persistent)


What would you consider to be an average length of involvement?

Less than 30mins☐  30-60mins☐ 1-2 hrs☐ 2hrs plus☐


What is the longest time some children remain engaged in your woodwork area?

1hour☐    2 hours☐     2 hours plus☐      until has to be put away☐

Do you regularly observe children using creative thinking skills? Yes☐   No☐
Do you regularly observe children using critical (analytical) thinking skills? Yes☐   No☐
Do you observe perseverance with problem solving? High☐   Average☐   Low☐
Do you observe high levels of enjoyment?   Yes☐   No☐



Do you observe children feeling proud of their achievements? Yes☐   No☐
Do you regularly observe children becoming frustrated and leaving the woodwork area?
Yes☐   No☐
How popular is woodwork? Please estimate a percentage uptake.

10%☐   25%☐   50%☐   75%☐   90%☐   100%☐


Do you notice a gender difference? In uptake, ability, persistence….   Yes☐   No☐

In what way?

Do you manage to include children with SEND?   Yes☐   No☐

What adjustments do you make?

How do children with little use of language respond to woodwork?


How do children with EAL respond to woodwork?





Children experiencing significant disadvantage

(Encompassing many situations but essentially children with less adult interaction, some negative life experiences and fewer positive experiences at home, hence lower level of language and communication, poorer concentration, low self-esteem, confidence, poorer self-regulation etc.)

Thinking specifically about disadvantaged children:

Do you observe woodwork as an activity that draws in children’s natural curiosity and fascination? Yes☐ No☐


Do you observe significant engagement from children from disadvantaged backgrounds compared to their engagement in other activities?  Lower☐   Same☐   Higher☐


Do you observe significant engagement from children that are often distracted and unfocussed?

Yes☐ No☐


Do you observe significant impact on self-esteem and confidence with children from disadvantaged backgrounds? Yes☐ No☐


What is your experience of children’s behaviour at the woodwork bench? Is disruptive antisocial behaviour…Increased☐    same☐     decreased☐


Do you observe any increase in communication and language?  Yes☐ No☐


Do you observe an increase in social skills: collaborative working, sharing tools, assisting each other, sharing problem solving ideas? Yes☐ No☐


Training/ Resources

Why did you decide to introduce woodwork?


Have you had specific Woodwork CPD training?  Yes☐   No☐


If so delivered by?


Have you attended woodwork conference presentations/ workshops?  Yes☐   No☐


If so delivered by?


Have you accessed other training material: books☐   handouts☐   websites☐




Do all your staff feel confident with woodwork provision?  Yes☐   No☐


Do you have a woodwork coordinator – lead person with overview of provision and resources?

Yes☐   No☐


What tools do you provide?


☐Workbench with vice
☐Do you use short stubby hammers?
☐Do you use a saw that cuts on ‘pull’ stroke?
☐Hand drill
☐Brace and bit style drill
Other equipment regularly used?


Health and Safety

(please remember no judgement is made about your answers!)


Do all children get instruction on how to use tools safely?   Yes☐   No☐
Is instruction only for those who decide to choose woodwork?    Yes☐   No☐


Do you use a workbench with a vice?   Yes☐   No☐


Is wood always held in a vice when sawn?   Yes☐   No☐


Is sawing monitored closely?  Yes☐   No☐


Do your children wear safety glasses?  Yes☐   No☐


Do you have a specific risk assessment for your woodwork provision?  Yes☐   No☐


Are all staff familiar with your safety rules?  Yes☐   No☐


Have you had any significant accidents?   Yes☐   No☐



Do you initially start with a soft materials to gain confidence such as balsa wood or cardboard/ insulation/cork board etc. before going on to work with wood such as pine?  Yes☐   No☐









How have you financed your equipment?
School budget☐  Pupil premium☐   Parents Association☐    Other funding☐
Other funding details: 


Are ongoing costs an issue? (such as budget for nails screws, balsa wood)



Have you asked parents for a voluntary contribution to costs?  Yes☐   No☐




Have you had issues with parents concerns? Or parents not wanting their children to do woodwork?  Yes☐   No☐


Have you been able to source enough materials – scrap wood and accessories – (corks, buttons, bottle tops etc)   Yes☐   No☐


Do you have support from SLT/ manager?  Yes☐   No☐


Have you had any opposition for OFSTED inspectors or LA advisors?   Yes☐   No☐



Other challenges:






Thank you so much!         To return:

Fill, save and email to:
Subject: The Big Bang Research Project


Print and post:

Pete Moorhouse, The Big Bang Research Project, 18 Bedford Crescent, BRISTOL, BS79PP


Thank you for being part of the bigger picture and supporting
The Big Bang Research Project
Your help is very much appreciated and the results will have a direct impact on more children experiencing woodwork