Planning for Conceptual Learning:
The planning process, should be dynamic, flexible, ongoing and encourage reflection. Schools and teachers should view planning as being responsive to student learning and interests. The planning process continues throughout the life of the unit and is developed according to the experiences and wonderings that occur during the learning process. There must be space for students to engage in meaningful conceptual inquiry and teachers need to create that space. Without space for student inquiry, wonderings and curiosity it would need to be questioned if the presence of authentic student inquiry existed within the unit.
We advocate that effective conceptual planning is based on the following principles and understandings:
1. Conceptual planning is a dynamic process that requires teachers to be reflective and flexible
Teachers begin the planning process prior to the start of the unit, however, it is important to note that the planner is not completed until the end of the unit. Teachers are encouraged to regularly collaborate, reflect and develop the planner in light of the experiences with and understanding of their students. Planning is not a list of activities to tick off, but a process that is ongoing, responsive and organic. We co-construct the learning with students as they begin to make sense of the unit, we include their wonderings, responses, interests, ideas and questions into our planning. Flexibility is key.
2. Conceptual planning requires clarity of the knowledge and skills that will support the Understanding Goals (conceptual learning): What you want them to know, do and understand?
Teachers begin the unit mindful of the skills (e.g. Approaches to Learning), knowledge (generally derived from the scope and sequence documents or mandated curriculum) that support conceptual understandings. These are documented at the beginning of the unit; however as the unit progresses it will be clear that additional knowledge, skills and understanding will emerge from student’s interests, wonderings and own inquiries.
3. Conceptual planning requires annotation of learning and assessment that provides evidence of conceptual understanding.
Teachers consider what evidence of understanding will look like through the Levels of Understanding (see Taking the Complexity Out of Concepts p.48) Effective formative assessment ensures that the teacher is informed throughout the unit of the level of understanding of the students and co-construct the next steps in the planning for learning. Teachers differentiate the learning engagements as required based on student’s current understanding level. Through ongoing formative assessments teachers and students are able to guide the learning to ensure a level of success in the unit and clarify misconceptions. Formative assessments can vary and do not always need to be a formal checkpoint. Questioning, conversations, observations, student reflections and learning engagements provide teachers and students with a picture of a student's current level of understanding. Teachers and students scaffold, plan and refine learning engagements around these levels to ensure that all students are developing their understanding of the Understanding Goals.
4. Conceptual planning involves the design of a variety of learning engagements and resources that promote conceptual understanding
Teachers plan to use a range of strategies and resources to engage students throughout a unit of work, that also addresses the differentiated needs of the students. The learning engagements and resources should engage and motivate students, enabling them to co-construct learning in meaningful ways. Through utilizing a variety of learning engagements teachers are able to better cater to the learning needs and styles of students. Resources should be varied, local as well as global, and where appropriate, include technology as a tool for learning. Resources should also include, as often as possible, real people, real experiences and real objects to ensure a connection to the real world.
5. Conceptual planning is built from the ‘Inquiry as Provocation’ and ‘Inquiry as Connection’ phases. These take place throughout the unit.
The significance of these two phases in the inquiry process is key to developing and fostering student curiosity around the conceptual focus of the unit. We encourage teachers to plan diverse and engaging ways to connect their students with the concepts driving the unit. Without this connection, the students will be searching for the point of inquiry and may find it difficult to make a personal connection to the unit. Through making a personal connection the students are able to further understand the concepts driving the unit as well see connections to their own lives. Once students understand the concept at a personal level it is transferable to the contexts within the unit of learning.
The provocations provide students with a sense of wonderment, curiosity and a connection to the unit of learning. For students to inquire we need to set the scene for what might they WANT to inquire into; for what may be of interest. This promotes the opportunity for learning to be personalised for the student by pursuing their own interests and questions. Often this becomes a shared inquiry - a collaboration of ideas. It is important to note that not all students will be ready for their own wonderings at the same time. That is why questioning and wonderment needs to be a focus and revisited throughout the unit, not just at the provocation stage.
6. Conceptual planning involves students in co-designing learning through their active involvement in the conceptual inquiry process.
When planning units, being attentive to the voice of students is crucial. Without student voice, which includes students co-designing the unit, the process remains teacher led and directed. Student inquiry demands that students have a role in identifying their inquiries, and, each of the phases of inquiry require teachers and students to take an active role. In our work we encourage teachers to see and acknowledge the capabilities of students which can at times be underestimated. Children are capable of directing their learning and for teachers to appreciate that listening to students engaged in the inquiry process is the starting point for negotiating the learning. This requires that teachers trust their students and have the openness to ensure that planners are developed to reflect student interest and that they remain flexible adaptive documents that become a true reflection of the teaching and learning.
7. Conceptual planning involves planning and learning around the Understanding Goals.
Planning is authentically documented to reflect the conceptual focus for the teaching and learning. Teachers and students should plan experiences that promote and support the unpacking of concepts within the Understanding Goals. This ensures that planning and learning will focus on depth rather than breadth and keep the conceptual focus of the unit at the forefront. Elements of the planning are mapped to guide the inquiry but it is also a document that reflects how students respond throughout the process which means it cannot all be planned in advance. It tells the story of the inquiry and respects that the process can look and sound different from classroom to classroom. It is an accurate record of what actually took place in the teaching and learning. This is built through the ongoing reflection by teachers and students.
8. Conceptual planning should be collaborative so that teachers can share and respond to the inquiry process that unfolds in their classrooms in their planning.
Collaborative planning is essential to authentic conceptual inquiry. Regular planning meetings with the team responsible for teaching the unit, will ensure that the teaching and learning are responsive and capitalize on the student’s wonderings that emerge throughout the unit. It also enables teachers to share what is working and what is not. We have seen powerful learning, both for the teachers and the students, involving, in primary schools, classroom teachers and single subject teachers planning and teaching together. Similarly, subject teachers can work collaboratively to develop units. No two classrooms would look the same!
Copyright: Innovative Global Education