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The ascendancy of conceptual learning

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Humera Riyaz, PYP Coordinator at Eastern Public School, India

This article talks about how looking through a conceptual lens allows a learner to integrate thinking between conceptual and factual levels.

“Education, for most people, means trying to lead the child to resemble the typical adult of his society… But for me, education means making creators… You have to make inventors, innovators, not conformists.”
―Jean Piaget

Sharing artifacts and perspectives

Sharing artifacts and perspectives

Much talked about concept-based learning methods for today’s learners have already started making a powerful impact not just on pedagogy but also on thinking styles of 21stcentury learners. One reason is the way a concept-based curriculum model is designed and applied. Unlike traditional approaches towards learning, where students’ understanding is limited to factual and memorized knowledge, applying concepts to the study of any topic shifts learning to a higher level of understanding.

Lynn Erickson, in her position paper, Concept-based teaching and learning (IBO 2012), has outlined the difference between these two approaches through presenting two curriculum models. The 2D traditional model focuses on facts and skills for content coverage whereas the 3D instruction concept-based model focuses on concepts, principles and generalizations using related facts and skills as tools to gain deeper understanding.

Comparing and contrasting

Comparing and contrasting

The question arises: How does the inclusion of concepts in teaching and learning bring about this positive change? This excerpt from Stirring the head, heart and soul – Redefining curriculum, Instruction and Concept-Based Learning by H. Lynn Erikson (2008) sums it up:

“A conceptual structure for curriculum enables students to think about topics and facts in terms of their transferable significance.”

A conceptual structure provides an instruction model that is idea centered, rigorous and engaging for both student and teachers. When students learn to use and discuss conceptual aspects of issues, they also acquire the ability to transfer knowledge. Looking through a conceptual lens allows a learner to integrate thinking between conceptual and factual levels.

History mystery box

History mystery box

For example, while learning about families, students get opportunities to look through different conceptual lenses. They learn about different families, and values and beliefs of families around the world and they explore and identify their own family histories. They investigate the concept of change and perspective while comparing different family histories and differentiate the past from the present. This kind of learning enables them to dig deeper into important related concepts and uncover different disciplines and not just superficial coverage of a particular topic.

Conceptual learning makes a difference to a learner and their learning experiences, as it focuses on skills to be acquired as a part of learning. In applying these skills in different learning situations whether familiar or unfamiliar, we empower students to relate to their prior knowledge and make real world connections.

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‘Gallery walk’ looking for different perspectives

Being a part of this curriculum model, students learn to construct and make meaning of their learning, to inquire and deepen their understanding, paving a path for themselves to become independent lifelong learners – the kind of learner our future world needs.

Humera Riyaz has been a part of IB education since 8 years. Currently she is working as the PYP Coordinator at Eastern Public School. Exploring inquiry strategies,curriculum designing, pedagogical leadership are her main areas of interest. 

6 Responses to The ascendancy of conceptual learning

  1. Shamza 4 June 2017 at 7:25 pm #

    Very nice concept

  2. Veronika Slabyj 6 August 2020 at 10:06 pm #

    It’s as if everything were a type of language that the IB conceptual model is basing their theory upon. By immersion into a different language, all the aspects of learning come into play and the whole being is transported into a much deeper awareness through embodiment learning instead of quick memorization that will be deleted quickly from the brain.

  3. Heidi Farnsworth 15 August 2020 at 9:51 pm #

    Conceptual Learning really allows students to gain understanding of the concepts the teacher is teaching using and applying their background knowledge to the new things being taught by the teacher and learned by the student. It also creates a new “way” of thinking by allowing students to make connections with what they know and what they are learning. Because they are in a classroom setting with other learners (students) it opens up a framework of different perspectives. The teacher should then encourage students to share their different perspectives and this allows the student to think about things they hadn’t thought about before which in-turn creates a “different way” of thinking.

  4. Zenab Khan 8 September 2020 at 4:59 pm #

    From the information provided, I feel it’s the best article on Key Concepts.

    “Concepts Powerful ideas that have relevance within the subject areas but also transcend them and that students must explore and re-explore in order to develop a coherent, in-depth understanding.” you explained this script of MTPYPH beautifully.

    I like the way real examples are shared with clear understandings, as it is beneficial for a new entry in IB too. Kudos to the writer to think differently, and penman something for all levels of learners and educators. I would like to thank you for sharing your writing with the community.

    Your flair has inspired me to understand concepts better.

    Thank a ton,
    Dear writer.

  5. Humera 8 September 2020 at 7:44 pm #

    Yes. Agree Veronika. It is this deeper learning that makes students critical thinkers and life long learners.
    Thanks for sharing your reflection:)

  6. Humera 8 September 2020 at 7:48 pm #

    Thanks Shamza:)

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