EDU 6526: Concept Attainment

“Do your students need greater opportunity to work with others but require monitoring as they do so? Do your students need practice and flexibility in using familiar concepts? Do you notice that students are having difficulty “thinking out loud” as they solve problems or explaining their reasons for making decisions?” (Dell’Olio & Donk, 2007, p. 141). Concept Attainment lessons are geared towards addressing these questions and include Marzano’s high impact strategies. Students identify similarities and differences by comparing and classifying exemplars and non-exemplars. Students summarize concepts, use non-linguistic representations to represent relationships, engage in cooperative learning, generate and test hypothesis, and ask questions (Dean, Hubble, Pitler, & Stone, 2012, p.xviii). Concept Attainment develops students’ critical thinking and helps teachers connect students’ prior knowledge to new learning. Shulman and Keislar state, “It is this kind of binding, this kind of exercise, that helps solve the compatibility problem, the problem of how to get a new piece of knowledge connected with an established domain so that the new knowledge can help retrieve what is likely to be appropriate to it as needed” (para.6). Brain Matters, by Pat Wolfe, reinforces this important aspect of learning. Wolfe (2001) states, “Being able to see how information fits together in chunks is a hallmark of learning. One of the problems we have when attempting to teach something to another person is that we have connections that the other person does not yet see. Rather than telling students what the connections are, the students need to make the connections themselves” (p. 100). Concept Attainment lessons allow students to experience the learning and construct their own knowledge.

My next steps for instruction are to include Concept Attainment lessons as a part of vocabulary instruction across content areas. Currently, students identify similar attributes of non-linguistic images to construct the meaning of each word. I also want to include non-examples to help students make comparisons and identify attributes of similar images. I will extend this activity further by having students identify what the vocabulary words have in common and how they connect to the new learning. I also want to include Concept Attainment in math. Students are taught multiple strategies for learning addition, subtraction, and multiplication facts and stories. Concept Attainment lessons would help students identify attributes of each story type or strategy. Examples and non-examples would allow students to differentiate between the strategies so they know when to use them. Hopefully this will improve the student’s ability to solve multi-step problems in new contexts because they will have developed a deeper understanding of what each strategy or story looks like.

Shulman and Keislar (1966) state, “It seems to be imperative for the child to develop an approach to further learning that is more effective in nature—an approach to learning that allows the child not only to learn the material that is presented in a school setting, but to learn it in such a way that he can use the information in problem-solving” (para. 1). I think including opportunities for students to engage in critical thinking will help students across multiple content areas. Shulman and Keislar (1966) state, “Discovery teaching involves not so much the process of leading students to discover what is ‘out there,’ but, rather, their discovering what is in their own heads. It involves encouraging them to say, Let me stop and think about that; Let me use my head; Let me have some vicarious trial-and-error. It is a good practice to use their heads to solve a problem by reflecting on what they already know or have already learned” (para. 4). I think this will be a great opportunity for students to listen to each other think aloud and process information, which will hopefully help students develop their own problem solving skills. It will also meet the learning needs of all students because each student takes as much time as they need to develop the concept while gaining insight from their peers. Students who identify the concept quickly can extend their knowledge by providing their own examples that match the concept.

Ceri B., D., Hubbell, E.R., Pitler, H., & Stone, B. (2012). Classroom Instruction that Works: Research-Based Strategies for Increasing Student Achievement (2nd ed.). Denver: Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning.

From Lee S. Shulman and Evan R. Keislar, editors. Learning By Discovery: A Critical Appraisal (1966).

Jeanine M., D., & Donk, T. (2007). Models of Teaching: Connection Student Learning With Standards. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, Inc.

Patricia, W. (2001). Brain Matters: Translating Research into Classroom Practice. Alexandria: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

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