Concept Formation Strategies
“Thinking is how people learn. Therefore, always be aware of who is doing most of the thinking/learning in your classroom.”
This week’s reading was on concept formation and different ideas for introducing or reviewing concepts in social studies courses. The quote above was used in Larson and Kieper and I personally think it’s an excellent idea to think about when reviewing concepts. The main thing I liked about concept formation and the use of the concept diagram is that it sort of dabbles in areas that all learners would be good at. Completing a concept diagram, like the ones we discussed on Friday, requires the use of brainstorming techniques, identifying qualities, coming up with examples/nonexamples, and formulating a definition. Students may have a strength in either recalling information or formulating new info, and this exercise helps the students to use the knowledge they already know or have learned to do both.
While I really liked the examples of concept diagrams we used in class on Friday, I think the book points out some important tips when creating these exercises as a teacher. One thing that is helpful is dividing the activity up into the eight steps. One of the problems with forming concept diagrams is that the teacher knows the content and may assume the students will have the same ease with completing these diagrams. However, the students may have trouble recalling information or thinking along the lines that we expect them to. This is why it’s important to complete these steps when creating an activity.
I also like the suggestions that Larson and Kieper give for assessment of concept formation. A lot of them had to do with examples, which is interesting. I also like that they point out the relevance to the content being taught. For example, they state that using Mesopotamia as an example of civilization for sixth graders would be inappropriate because they have not learned enough about Mesopotamia yet. This would be a better example in a 9th grade world history classroom.
It is also important to remember that the students may come up with important and relevant information, but it may not go in the direction that you wanted it to. A way to fix that would be to scaffold the examples, and provide your own info to enhance what they came up with. That way, you are not disregarding their independent thinking as the teacher, but also helping them to answer with critical thinking and complex examples. Overall, I really liked this activity and can definitely see its practical use in any social studies content area. It was helpful to read some of the tips in Larson and Kieper so that I can keep these in mind when I use this activity in the future.