I recently enrolled in a leadership course with Maxine Driscoll and Think Strategic to continue developing my own understandings about leadership and how to approach the changes needed in education today for learners in the 21st century. I haven't made it past module 1 as the reading list is long and rigorous. Currently, I'm making may way through Five Minds for the Future by Howard Gardner. This book addresses the need for schools to develop the cognitive abilities in our students for the needs of the future.
The minds he addresses are: disciplinary, synthesizing, creating, respectful and ethical minds.
As I read the chapter on the the disciplined mind, I saw the direct correlation to the work of Erickson and Lanning with concept-based curriculum and instruction as well as the framework of the Primary Years' Program. Howard Gardner defines the disciplined mind as: "the mastery of major schools of thought, including science, mathematics, and history, and of at least one professional craft." He addresses the issues that arise when our students lack a disciplined mind as they are unable to think conceptually, or apply the knowledge in more than one scenario. They may memorize facts about a particular discipline but are unable to demonstrate deep understandings as their teachers have not enabled them to have sufficient experience with the discipline from a variety of entry points, have not enabled them to make connections to concepts or enabled them to demonstrate understandings in a variety of settings or using a scenario that is entirely new to the students (formative as well as summative). I like how Howard Gardner referred to his theory of multiple intelligences in this context. If you approach a discipline with his theory in mind then there will be a variety of entry points and ways to learn about the discipline that enable students to experience it differently and develop understandings. Students don't need to just memorize the facts in mathematics, history or science. They need to understand how things work, generalize about process and apply theory to new scenarios.
Concept-based curriculum and instruction addresses the disciplined mind as the teachers plans for conceptual understandings before beginning the unit, scaffold the thinking through questioning and facilitates inquiry that connects to concepts. Tools are provided for organizing knowledge in order to facilitate connections to concepts so that students are able to generalize and make transdisciplinary connections.
Our education system depends heavily on standards/outcomes to identify the knowledge our students must learn and know. But simply filling our students with knowledge without facilitating rich discussions through conceptual questions and tools for recording and organizing information will not suffice. It has to be intentional, both thoughtfully and deliberately planned. Do not assume your students will move beyond the facts independently. Understandings are constructed through a variety of experiences working with the knowledge and considering different contexts. It really is essential for educators to continue to learn new ways to prepare for and facilitate concept-based inquiry for the development of deep conceptual understandings.
Howard Gardner offers 5 tips for improving your teaching:
As an international educator, I work with colleagues in my local and global network regularly to implement concept-based inquiry. It is a journey of discovery, learning and growing our own understandings about the ways children learn.
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