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January 22, 2013

Thinking More About Concept Based Teaching and Learning

by Diane Twait Nelsen

As I was reviewing my materials from our fall training on Concept Based Teaching and Learning, I asked myself what big ideas have remained with me since the training?  One of my personal “big  ideas”  was understanding the actual definition of Concept Based Teaching and Learning.  According to Lynn Erickson (2012), one of the instructors of the training that I went to,  it is a three-dimensional curriculum design model that frames the factual and skill content of subject areas with disciplinary concepts and generalizations.  Concept-based curriculum is contrasted with the traditional two-dimensional model of topic and skill-based curriculum design.  So what is the real difference between the two?  Two-dimensional models focus on facts and skills while three dimensional models focus on concepts, facts, and skills to gain deeper conceptual understanding of disciplinary content.  Whoa… does that even relate at all to what we do in the transition field?  I believe that the many different transition skills that students need for success in their future living, learning, and working environments would benefit from a concept based approach to instruction.  Students and their teachers would use facts as a tool to help students reach deeper and possibly clearer understanding of the skills they need for adulthood.  If students had to help figure out the strategies that needed to be successful in the future rather than being told what strategies work and why they should use them, students may become more involved in the whole transition process.  Additionally they may be able to use those same type concept based teaching and learning strategies in multiple situations in their future because they were part of the development of the strategies they needed.  It’s fuel for thought……if we want our students to develop higher levels of thinking skills we too as educators must continue to challenge ourselves, and I believe that Concept-based Curriculum and Instruction may be one of those ways.

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