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How To Apply Concept-Driven Learning In Today’s Education Landscape

Concept-driven learning is a new approach to education that is being used more and more frequently in classrooms worldwide. 

In order to understand what exactly this approach to learning involves let us imagine ourselves looking at an impressionist artist's painting. If you are standing too close to the painting it is very difficult to see the bigger picture, i.e. the concept of the piece of art. In order to understand what the artist had in mind, you have to “zoom out ".

Concept-driven learning is based on the same principle. The focus of the content your child is studying is widened and they are able to see the "big picture".

And the reason this type of approach to education is becoming more and more popular stems from the reality of our age.

The world around us is changing at a very rapid pace. The ideas and approaches we thought to be foolproof are being questioned today, and our approach to teaching and learning is no exception.

The way children are taught at schools nowadays is changing and the traditional method of instruction is giving way to concept-driven learning.

Concept-driven learning is based on the concept-based curriculum.

This type of curriculum is designed to highlight big ideas that are transferable and can span multiple disciplines and subject areas. So, to put it simply cognitive skills children will acquire from concept-driven teaching will benefit them when dealing with many different subjects.

For example in a concept-based curriculum students may focus on the idea of "change". They may apply this concept of change to observe the changes in mathematical patterns, or track the changes in history, changes in the life cycle of a living organism, and so on. "Change" in this case is the concept they learn about and it can be applied to almost anything.

Concept-driven learning has many advantages compared to the traditional ways of conveying information.

Not only are children taking the new information in more effortlessly, but they are also able to use their knowledge in real-life situations.

Children who are being taught in this manner are not just required to blindly memorize facts; they understand the concepts and ideas behind those facts.

Let's have a look at another example to see how this approach benefits a child. Let's say a small child knows how to count to 100, but if this child is asked to say how many pieces of candy there are in a glass jar they might not be able to do so even if they know how to count up to that number. 

Even though the child is familiar with the counting process (they have memorized the numbers in order) they are unable to use their knowledge in real life.

Only when they are able to use a piece of that information for the purposes of reasoning, estimating, and drawing conclusions can we say that they have truly learned math.

Similarly, it would be no use for a child to know all the letters of the alphabet by heart but being able to read a word comprised of these letters. This is where concept-driven learning comes into play and teaches your child how to use their skills in a way that truly matters.

Comparing concept-driven and knowledge-driven instruction approaches.

Unfortunately too many classrooms today still rely on the traditional practice of knowledge-driven instruction. Meaning that children are required to simply memorize facts and regurgitate them when asked.

Students have to spend hours upon hours memorizing facts by heart with the hope of getting a high grade on their quizzes and tests. But is this type of learning beneficial in the long run? Do you remember all the facts you memorized at school? The fact is that most adults don't. And it is not your fault; it is hard to remember something after decades that you haven't really understood and simply memorized by heart for the sake of the test.

Simply memorizing will not do the trick. After you have memorized a piece of information you need to apply it to real-world situations to test if it works or not. This is what makes you realize how the principle works in real life and helps you remember the information forever.

Further advantages of concept-driven learning.

Now that we have established that concept-driven learning is a superior form of instruction compared to the traditional knowledge-driven approach let us go deeper and have a look at some more of the benefits this approach brings.

First and foremost, students who are instructed in this manner are more engaged in the learning process (which is not surprising). Which lesson would you rather attend, the one where you're simply asked to memorize a bunch of facts many of which you don't truly understand or the one where you can learn to use your knowledge in a practical and fun way?

In addition, concept-based learning develops a range of cognitive skills. Students learn how to examine the information presented to them, investigate further if necessary, question the facts and not just accept them blindly, and put together the pieces of information to see the cohesive whole.

Also, a concept-driven approach to education makes the student more confident, since they understand the underlying idea of the fact.

Students also develop their critical thinking skills which will undoubtedly be beneficial for them no matter where they end up later in life.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of all the benefits a concept-driven approach to learning brings to a child. All of these and many other advantages help a child become better prepared to face future challenges.

Students who have benefited from concept-driven learning are able to adapt to new situations better. They think quickly and are comparatively better at solving problems in the real world. Also, their brains have been trained to look at the big picture and not get caught up in minor details which enables them to accomplish their goals more efficiently.

 Applying Concepts to Dreaming learning to the IB (International Baccalaureate) programme.

The international curriculum of the International Baccalaureate programme has been meticulously designed to develop students both personally and academically.

It is crucial that IB students learn how to think critically in a multicultural environment so it is not surprising that the International Baccalaureate programme uses a concept-driven approach to achieve these goals.

The IB program focuses on student-led learning and encourages inquiry, exemplified in the subject called Theory of Knowledge.

Although there is some memorization involved in the IB curriculum the bulk of studying is still done using the concept-driven approach.

The International Baccalaureate students are highly encouraged to apply their knowledge to real-life situations in their communities. All IB students are challenged in a way that hones their cognitive skills and makes them into top performers in the contemporary world.

IB students take the lead when it comes to their education and subsequently take full responsibility for their performance.

Teachers in the IB classroom do not engage in direct instruction. They merely act as facilitators of learning and guides who keep a watchful eye on students to make sure that they stay on the right track.

By assuming the leading role and taking responsibility for their own education IB students develop crucial life skills. They learn how to collaborate with one another, question the information provided to them, and conduct their own research to arrive at the right conclusion, they learn how to form theories, etc.

Students who benefit from the concept-driven approach also learn how to manage their time efficiently, how to discipline themselves, how to be a leader, as well as how to function efficiently as a part of the team.

Most IB students also have to study in a multicultural environment so taking into consideration the point of view of different cultures is yet another crucial skill to master.

OWIS (One World International School).

OWIS in Singapore is an excellent example of a school that provides education to students of many different nationalities. In fact, there are students of more than 70 nationalities enrolled in this school so needless to say each student is exposed to a multitude of cultural values they have to negotiate with on a daily basis.

The students are encouraged to become self-sufficient and to take a lead when it comes to ensuring the quality of their education.

To conclude, a concept-driven approach to education is the future of education, since it will give the students all the necessary tools they need to tackle the upcoming changes in the 21st century and beyond.

Simply memorizing the facts is no longer enough to be considered educated (we have computers that can do that now) so it is necessary to understand the underlying concepts and know how to use them in everyday situations to achieve our goals.

Eventually, the concept-driven approach will be adopted by all educational institutions and all students will be able to accrue the benefits of this approach.

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About Author

Tutor City's blog focuses on balancing informative and relevant content, never at the expense of providing an enriching read. 

We want our readers to expand their horizons by learning more and find meaning to what they learn.

Resident author - Mr Wee Ben Sen, has a wealth of experience in crafting articles to provide valuable insights in the field of private education.

Ben Sen has also been running Tutor City, a leading home tuition agency in Singapore since 2010.