Private Schools: Concept-Based Learning

What is it, why do private schools have it, and why do Ontario public schools need it?

Concept-based learning is offered and endorsed by certified IB World private schools. It is a distinct teaching method within the toolbox of learning styles utilized by private school teachers. Think about a straight line versus a cube. The latter would visually represent the multifaceted teaching method of concept-based learning that elicits a deeper level of learning. In a more traditional and simplified learning method—like a straight line—facts comprise the majority of the subject matter and merely skim the surface, striving only to impart content knowledge and the memorization of information. Take a look at this illustration:

work blog graphhAnother dimension to concept-based learning is context: looking at the big picture and identifying universal themes, and then zeroing in on their small-world application. All of this facilitates the development of critical thinking skills, and brings students to the forefront of twenty-first century learning. Knowledge is ever-changing, so training the mind to be flexible, to seek out and recognize global patterns, to construct a steady framework from which to digest information is an invaluable skill to say the least.

It could be argued that Ontario’s public school educational system relies too heavily on the archaic discovery-based learning model, which has been criticized by leading education researchers like Kirschner, Sweller, and Clark (2006). Certified IB private schools are proud to offer concept-based learning, which they have been motivated to implement because it augments an internationally standardized education (which is what IB schools offer).

Dr. Lynn Erickson is an independent consultant known for assisting schools and with curriculum design. In a 2012 IBO paper, she emphasizes the multitude of benefits that results from an education incorporating concept-based learning. Some of these include children developing synergistic thinking, an awareness of global cultures, a motivation for learning, collaboration and problem-solving skills, as well as facilitating multilingual learning that prepares children for careers in the international workforce.

Erickson, H.L. 2012. Concept-based teaching and learning. IBO Position Paper.
Erickson, H. L. and Lois A. Lanning, Transitioning to Concept-Based Curriculum and Instruction. Corwin Press Publishers, 2014.
These sources have been referenced for scholarship or reporting purposes and so are protected under WordPress’s Fair Use.
A new edition of Dr. Erickson’s 2007 book, Concept-based Curriculum and Instruction for the Thinking Classroom, co-authored with Lois Lanning and Rachel French, will be published in January 2017 by Corwin Press.

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