"The paradigm shift, to shape the conceptual mind, requires teaching inductively to the concepts...using the topics and facts as a supporting tool rather than a final destination. There are two important points to this statement. 1) Teaching inductively means that students are guided to understanding concepts.... The (concepts) are not generally taught directly as facts because this robs the student of the opportunity to think things through to deeper levels of understanding." (p. 34)
I like to think of it this way. When I receive a news headline update on my phone, I begin down the road towards understanding the story. When I read an article about the story, I understand the story a little more. When I watch a tv segment about the story, I understand the story even more. When I read editorial pieces sharing broader perspectives about the event, my understanding continues to expand. Over time, my understanding of the story continues to grow, each experience (news headline, article, tv segment, and editorials) allow me to slowly uncover a richer understanding of the story.
When considering the desired results within curriculum, we might begin by looking at the conceptual ideas that we want students to understand. To complement these understandings, teachers are given essential questions, which are written for students and can be used to guide the inquiry and thinking of students. Essential questions are not answered after one classroom experience, their complexity is revealed over time and we might consider how planning a unit of study incorporates the opportunity for students to revisit an essential questions.
1. Essential Questions: "How do people make thoughtful decisions?" and "How do you know when you've made a good decision? How do you know when you've made a bad decision?" (When students answer these questions at the start of the unit, they'll bring their background knowledge and reveal what they understand about these ideas. This gives good information to the teacher to inform instruction.)
2. Learning Activites: Teacher engage students in learning about choices (daily and financial choices). Students also learn about opportunity cost. When students have a variety of choices about what to do with their free time, they make a choice. The next best alternative that is given up is the opportunity cost.
3. Revisit the essential questions. A teacher might say, "Based on what you've learned about opportunity cost, what other thinking can you include in your answer to the essential questions?"
4. Learning Activities: Teachers engage students in learning about risks associated with choices (daily and financial choices). As people make choices, adding the variable of risk helps students sense that this can also influence a decision.
5. Revisit the essential questions. A teacher might say, "Based on what you've learned about risk, what other thinking can you include in your answer to the essential questions?"
6. Learning Activities: Teachers engage students in learning about positive and negative incentives associated with daily choices and financial choices.
7. Revisit the essential questions. A teacher might say, "Based on what you've learned about positive and negative incentives, what other thinking can you include in your answer to the essential questions?"
In this example, student learning does not stop with facts. Student learning goes deeper as students continue to connect facts back to broader conceptual ideas. In doing so, students revisit essential questions to uncover a concept over time, just as a news story reveals its depth and complexity over time. To me, this is one way to take the philosophy of concept-based instruction and implement its ideas into instructional practice.
How do you see concept-based instruction playing out in your classroom?