Making Concepts Visible

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For a long time I thought that concept-based learning was an idea that was too vague to implement, until I participated in an IB “Concept based Learning” in-school workshop back in 2013. The workshop itself didn’t answer all of my questions but it brought me to my own conclusions related to my queries about inquiry based learning. Here is some of what I’ve learned. To make an inquiry model work in your classroom you need to focus on concepts rather than outcomes within teaching and learning and in order to engage students you must make these concepts visible in your classroom.

One strategy that I use is to create a concept chart. On the chart I put the concept of the day (micro concept) and the key question.  This becomes the focus for my lessons rather than a single objective.

“Tune in the learner into a concept, not a topic”. Kath Murdoch

This is one of my favorite quotes which inspires me to ensure that I start every lesson, by introducing the concept and saying, “Today we’re going to learn about this concept…”  I usually show them the concept on the chart and then I continue by stating the key question.  “So by the end of today we’re able to answer this question….”sc 1

By using this routine, students are more focused on the targeted concept to understand and to explore during the lesson. By making it visible, we can always refer to it anytime. Since it’s only one word, it’s easier for everyone to stick to this idea.  Of course, in order for students to do this, they must be familiar with the key concept in relation to this related/micro concept.

A follow-up strategy is to list all the related concepts under the key concepts, again for the purpose of always referring back to it and showing that we’ve learnt about it.

By using this simple strategy to make the concept more explicit and visible in the classroom, I think the teaching learning in my classroom is improving. We’re no longer trapped within routines focused on knowledge and skills. Instead the exploration of concepts becomes wider and students’ understandings are becoming deeper.

I’m currently teaching Visual Arts and this approach is still relevant in my art lessons. I hope it’s useful for you too.

Yan Yulius – PYP Coordinator at Sekolah Ciputra Surabaya.


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