Why concept-based learning?

Global Citizenship

There are four major ways to develop global citizenship within international schools. Through:

  1. curriculum design which embraces themes of awareness, empathy and a more holistic educational approach;

  2. the use of technology that fosters connections between classrooms and destinations around the world;

  3. social action projects that use service-based learning to create a deeper understanding of global issues;

  4. extra-curricular projects that offer a variety of tools to promote global citizenship. (Carter, 2015)

Concept-based learning is a powerful vehicle for all four routes as we develop young people to be global citizens. After all, what is the purpose of education if it is not for the greater good where we can nurture the development of evidence-minded and open-minded young people who act with social responsibility, celebrate diversity and promote inclusivity?

There are many reasons why a concept-based model can be beneficial to young people.

Carla Marschall, once again summarizes in brief the advantages of concept-based learning in this short video:

Conceptual Understanding and Transfer

Learning needs to be meaningful and concept-based learning provides opportunities for personal meaning-making. A concept-based model supports young people to own their learning, to be able to inquire, look for patterns, make connections, use deep transferable understandings to solve problems and create new ideas, processes or products.

Thinking Cultures - Creative, Critical and Reflective Thinking

Learning is a consequence of thinking, therefore, it is essential that we focus on thinking skills as much as content, as advocated by Ron Ritchart, Senior Research Associate at Harvard University. Concept-based learning helps students to develop the ability to think creatively, critically and reflectively - to think beyond the facts and think conceptually.

Developing Intellect and Dispositions

Ron Ritchhart stresses the need for schools to focus on intellectual dispositions. He frames these under three main areas of thinking:

  • Creative thinking (open minded, curious) – construction of meaning, solutions of problems, cultural expressions

  • Critical thinking (seeking truth, understanding, strategic, skeptical) – asking questions, making connections, evolving explanations, different perspectives, looking closely

  • Reflective thinking (metacognition) – ongoing reflections for clarity, accuracy, precision, relevance, depth, breadth, logic, significance, fairness

Ritchhart states these are essential for students to reach conceptual levels of thinking.

Student Achievement and Learning Outcomes

Concept-based learning develops conceptual structures in the brain to relate new knowledge to prior knowledge, and to enable connections in knowledge. Concept-based learning can improve student cognition of aims and assessment objectives in application and higher level understanding to support mastery, performance and achievement.

Future Society and the Global Good

Consider which of the benefits above resonate with you and why nudging forward your concept-based practice could add value to the learning experiences in your classroom.

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