Concepts are the driving force behind the pedagogy of inquiry. For this reason, they are fundamental in teaching languages as they allow striking a balance between meaningful learning experiences, quality learning over the quantity of content demands.
The era when grammar is all that mattered in language learning is long gone. Besides teaching learners what is behind grammatical structures and within the culture where the language is spoken, concept-based language teaching and learning involves experiencing learning via situations that cause students to become engaged with different views and perspectives, so that they can contrast them with their own, and so that they can participate in the co-construction of new knowledge which will further facilitate conceptual transfer through time, across cultures and across situations
H Lynn Erickson, an authority in the field of conceptual instruction, mentions the following benefits to a concept-based model.
- Thinking—It requires thinking students who draw on critical, creative, reflective and conceptual thinking abilities.
- – Facilitates “synergistic thinking”—the cognitive interplay between the factual and conceptual levels of thinking.
- – Requires deeper intellectual processing as students relate the facts to key concepts and principles.
- – Develops conceptual structures in the brain (brain schemata) to relate new knowledge to prior knowledge, and to illuminate the patterns and connections of knowledge.
- – Facilitates the transfer of knowledge at the conceptual level.
- – Provides opportunities for personal meaning-making through processes of thinking, creating and reflecting.
This teaching model involves the learning of specific concepts, the nature of concepts, and the development of logical reasoning & critical thinking. I have developed profound fondness for it, and have developed a wide array of resources that have become paramount in my instruction whether it happens in presence, online or blended environments, and that I would like to share with now.
I have summarized my take on conceptual teaching in the following 7 steps:
- Select Big Idea concepts (change, diversity, aesthetics, revolution) instead of topics (French Revolution, Countable pronouns, Present tense), determine the best approach and locate meaningful resources.
- Your approach can be inductive through direct presentation of the concept first, or deductive (Concept Attainment) through examples/nonexamples & guided discovery.
- Clarify aims/establish a “hook” to engage students. Give them a reason to express their thoughts.
- Expose learners to all kinds of stimuli using examples & nonexamples; encourage them to elaborate, to re-design thoughts, to collaborate to others’ opinion, to find meaning in the unknown, to explore, and to create novel ideas.
- Everyone involved in the learning experience should always wonder: ‘what is missing?’ and try to find and share a response for that.
- Get students to demonstrate their understanding
- Employ higher-level questioning & discussion strategies — help students analyze their own thinking processes.
Web Links to Concept Teaching (taken from http://www.csus.edu)
Here are some of the concept-based resources that I have designed for teaching Spanish as a foreign language, as well as theory of knowledge (TOK).
Communities: Urban and rural environments
Aesthetics: The marriage of art and technology
Perspective: Learning about history and truth through color
Communication: future of interaction
Global Interaction: Reasons for migrating
Systems: Ethics and citizen rights
Development: Ecotourism and sustainability
Connections: Maps- more than geography
Connections: Chichen Itza- collaboration of areas of knowledge
Relationships: Social interaction and bullying
Time, place and space: The future of jobs
Time, place and space: the future of food
Relationships: The future role of emotions in education
And this list threatens to keep on growing.