Moving From Concept Based Instruction to Concept Based Inquiry

This past Sunday and Monday I participated in a school-based workshop on the IB Primary Years Program. It was a great opportunity to connect our faculty together and discuss some important issues that are facing our faculty. One of the things that I have been personally reflecting on over since the workshop is how I need to shift from “topic-based instruction” to “concept-based inquiry”.

Traditional curriculum is organized by topics, for example in Grade 4 we study “Medieval Times” as part of the Social Studies curriculum in Ontario. Teachers generally design a wide variety of activities and experience around teaching students specific content around the topic. Typically, some students are interested in the facts, but generally after a few weeks or months of not applying this topic based knowledge they forget it because a lot of it is not relevant to the learners or not required for any further learning.

As part of the PYP, teachers collaboratively plan “concept-based inquiries”. What? A concept-based inquiry takes learning to the next level. Instead, students are engaged in provocations which lead them to question the world around them and search for deeper enduring understandings. Units are planned around a central idea that is an enduring understanding that is universal and timeless. They also can be applied to more than one time, place, or culture. Usually, central ideas are based around two concepts such as change and connection.

In January I would normally “instruct” a science unit based around the topic of “Habitats”. Instead, over the course of the workshop I examined what the enduring understandings that I wanted to have students inquiry into and developed a central idea (Life is sustained by the relationships between living things.) that I hope will lead to a deeper, richer understanding for students.

I have ordered a few books by H. Lynn Erickson to assist me on my road to concept based inquiry. If you have any other authors or titles that you recommend I would love to hear from you.


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