Tuesday, March 19, 2013

After reviewing the articles by Erickson, “Concept-Based Teaching and Learning,” and Wiggins and McTighle, “Understanding by Design”, explicit connections can be made to the backward design (BD) process. Both practices of concept-based instruction (CBI) can transform our planning and instruction.

1.    BD starts by asking an essential based question before designing a unit. CBI starts by developing a concept based unit around the central question.

2.    BD stresses that students understand what they are learning by encouraging student led questions, not just teaching facts.  CBI treats the learner with principles and compliments the thinking of the individual by bringing understanding out from the student rather than telling them what to understand.

3.    BD deeps in mind the child’s point of view when formulating questions, rather than the teacher’s point of view.  CBI supports the need for unit instruction that is designed for deeper conceptual understanding. 

4.    BD encourages, through higher level questioning, the potential for engaging students by allowing the students the freedom to justify the ideas through inquiry and construction.  CBI also uses higher level questioning from Bloom’s Taxonomy, which promotes motivation for learning.  Students who engage emotionally as well as intellectually are likely to be engaged in the concept.

5.    BD promotes developing the understanding of a concept or unit.  Curriculum in not just pulling together random activities that the students are involved in, but demonstrating intellectual scaffolding.  CBI focuses on the curriculum being concept-based in order to foster a transfer of knowledge, deep conceptual understanding, synergistic thinking, intercultural understanding and personal intellectual engagement.  (Erickson, 2012)

Clearly, there were explicitly connections between the two articles on backward design and concept-based instruction.  In our district, our content specialists design curriculum maps starting with essential questions.  The mapping is rooted in the form of backward design.  In our classrooms, we need to make the process of teaching the units fit our student’s understanding about the concept.  We need to keep in mind their prior knowledge and move into questioning that will engage and motivate them to dig deeper into learning.

Reflections by Lisa Tax and Beth Nord

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