Concept-based Teaching and Learning
Educators at UWCSEA are implementing innovative teaching and learning approaches to deliver a concept-based K–12 curriculum that is uniquely aligned with our mission.
Every international school wants to educate their students to meet the challenges of the century they will live and work in. The UWCSEA difference is embedded in its mission: to educate individuals to embrace challenge and take responsibility for shaping a better world. But what models of teaching and learning can help students reach these goals?
In 2011. we began writing a K–12 concept-based curriculum (we called this curriculum articulation) in four of the five elements of our learning programme: Academics, Outdoor Education, Personal and Social Education, and Service.
At the same time, have transformed classroom practice to support students in thinking at both the factual and the conceptual level. By embedding a concept-based approach to curriculum development over the period of curriculum articulation, and by continuing that work through an extensive College-wide commitment to developing professional practice for all teachers at the College, educators at UWCSEA are implementing innovative strategies for concept-based teaching and learning.
Learning knowledge and skill in a concept-based approach
Knowledge and skill learning plays an important role in the UWCSEA concept-based curriculum. By purposefully introducing knowledge and skill, students can reach the conceptual level of thinking and form their own understandings. Sometimes, memorisation is required so students can engage in higher-order thinking, such as looking for patterns or generalising. For example, by learning the multiplication tables, a child is able to form conceptual understandings about how to compute larger numbers efficiently.
Ellie Alchin, Director of Teaching and Learning at UWCSEA Dover explains, "Knowledge and skills are very important in a concept-based curriculum. Students require a factual or a skills-based grounding in order to form understandings that are going to be accurate and transferable. If they lack this grounding because they haven’t learned enough content, or they haven’t acquired enough skills, then students will produce understandings which are inaccurate or overgeneralised."
"The key difference is in the purpose of the learning: instead of engaging in repetition and memorisation for its own sake, students use knowledge and skill learning to develop transferable conceptual understandings.
ELLIE ALCHIN, DIRECTOR OF TEACHING AND LEARNING, UWCSEA DOVER
Let's take a look at this further within UWCSEA's Mathematics curriculum.
Ted Cowen, High School Vice Principal and Mathematics teacher on East Campus points out, "Mathematics is already a conceptual language made up of myriad concepts. Examples include the concept of function, or the notion of inputs and outputs."
However, teaching in Mathematics has traditionally focused on facts and algorithms, and on the procedural knowledge required to work out similar problems. Such traditional teaching has assumed that students understand mathematical concepts implicitly, rather than teaching them explicitly. Instead, we help students draw concepts from this knowledge and skill teaching and form transferable understandings. This allows them to engage in mathematics with intention and meaningfully problem solve in new contexts.
Education for Peace and a Sustainable Future
If we want to educate individuals to embrace challenge and take responsibility for shaping a better world, then we need a flexible curriculum that teaches students to think deeply and to engage with the world beyond the classroom. The UWCSEA concept-based curriculum is helping students develop as changemakers who use their understanding to make a difference now and in the future.