Concept-Based Curriculum Models and Efficacy

Why a Concept-Based Curriculum in US Classrooms?

How does a concept-based curriculum development model differ from more traditional approaches in curriculum, instruction and assessment? Unlike other models of curriculum, a concept-based curriculum model is structured around themes and ideas rather than isolated subjects or process skills, providing opportunities for students to make interdisciplinary connections (Erickson, 2012; VanTassel-Baska, 1986). The overarching concepts provide a basis for organising knowledge and comparing facts and ideas, which would otherwise be unrelated. The organisation around concepts allows students to study the relationships between ideas and facts from multiple disciplines and in the same disciplines. If topics and issues associated with a content area are chosen skillfully, the learning is also integrated to life applications for the learner (Taba, 1962). For example, within a concept-based curriculum framework, students can make connections to the concept generalisation “power as the ability to influence” by examining rhetorical arguments in political speeches, catalyst variables within science experiments, factors that influence trends in mathematical data sets and character motives and decisions within fictional stories. Students can personally integrate this knowledge by reflecting upon how their choices in life have the power to influence their future. This contrasts sharply with isolated lessons about rhetoric, chemistry, statistical analysis and characterisation with little or no self-reflection applied in learning. The concept-based curriculum approach permits an integrated thread to connect factual content to abstract ideas that result in enduring understanding rather than rote learning (see Wiggins & McTighe, 2005).

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