Which teaching approaches can support concept-based learning?

An Inductive Teaching Approach

In your classroom everyday, your expertise as a teacher will determine which teaching approach you choose to use, when you use it and what strategies you use to scaffold learning to support students to make connections.You will be making intentional choices to curate and choreograph learning to meet your student needs.

Different teaching approaches can support the development of a concept-based learning experience. However, it is an inductive approach that lends itself to students actively constructing meaning for themselves. In this approach, students first look at examples, then search for patterns through active inquiry, and then search for connections and relationships to build understandings. This is opposite to a deductive approach where students are told what to understand and then find examples to support the understanding, followed by the opportunity to validate.

The Role of Inquiry

An inquiry-based approach supports inductive teaching practice, and can be structured, guided or open, and is advocated by French and Marschall as ‘it enables students to take an active role in posing and answering questions in order to construct meaning’ (2018).

Teachers can develop whole units of inquiry or use strategies that can support moments for inquiry where students think and pose questions. Teachers can embed mini-lessons of direct instruction to support learning outcomes as needed.

Consider the diagram below. You can see different inquiry approaches on a continuum with teacher direction, student choice and student agency varying along the continuum.

You will notice how the role of the teacher flexibly adjusts depending on the teaching approach.

  • In a direct instruction approach, the teacher takes the more traditional role, perhaps telling information, lecturing or giving demonstrations.

  • In a structured inquiry and guided inquiry approach learning is through a process of co-construction of content and structure for inquiry is provided by the teacher as a conductor or facilitator of learning.

  • In an open inquiry, students create their own questions, with scaffolds for thinking and learning provided by the teacher as an essential part of learning. In this approach the teacher acts as more of a mentor.

  • It is important to note as research informed practitioners, that we are advised to leave aside discovery as this approach has been widely criticized as leading to errors and misconceptions.

Using the image above, consider how you might organize access to case studies to support student learning through an inductive approach. You will notice how the different inquiry approaches, structured, guided and open, sit below and correspond to how you can organize the case studies to support student learning.

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