Deepening conceptual understanding… teachers in response

Teacher Plus would like to thank its readers who have been writing in to share their views on the article Deepening conceptual understanding, which was published in its April 2017 edition. We give here in detail some of the responses we received.

Asiya Arshi, Oakridge International School
Can you recall instances of teaching a concept and feeling satisfied that the students seem to have grasped it well – then, after a worksheet or test, being puzzled at their obvious gaps in understanding?
Yes

If yes, can you recall stopping at the point where the concept has become clear to the student – but not going beyond to have the student think it through in an unfamiliar context?
When I was teaching potential and kinetic energy, the concept was understood by the students as was evident by their answers in class. But when they wrote their assessment there seemed gaps in their understanding. In the assessment we had given an unfamiliar situation which some students could not comprehend.

If you can recall such instances, can you now think of ways of extending the lesson so as to carry out the omitted step above?
Yes, I could have taught the lesson differently where more examples on real life application would have made the concept clearer.

What are the ways in which you can hook your students into the next lesson that you are planning to take
Will plan a good tuning in activity which will kindle the student’s inquisitiveness.

How can you ‘chunk’ information so as to render the chunks easy for students to inter-connect?
Will take them for a field trip and have guest lectures to be able make connections with the topic.

What can you do to allow students’ existing ideas [about the concept that you are going to teach] to (a) surface and then (b) be examined in a non-threatening ambiance?
Will have a pre-assessment on the topic and then take it from there. Or will allow the student to express his views on the topic and provide resources for him to take it further.

How can you help them see the inconsistency (if any) between their currently held beliefs and the actuality?
Will let them explore the topic more so that they can reflect on their own inconsistency.

Can you provide your students with a new context or situation in which they can apply this learning so that they now have to think through the problem on their own?
Yes there are many situations where students connect to their own lives and try to bring a change in their lives and others. This is called taking action in PYP.

Navitha Boda, Oakridge International School, Hyderabad.
Can you recall instances of teaching a concept and feeling satisfied that the students seem to have grasped it well – then, after a worksheet or test, being puzzled at their obvious gaps in understanding?
Yes. When I introduce a new concept I some time use a strategy “what I understand, What I don’t understand”. Looking at student’s responses I do get puzzled when I see gaps in their understanding because I know their how capable they are of learning.

If yes, can you recall stopping at the point where the concept has become clear to the student – but not going beyond to have the student think it through in an unfamiliar context?
When I was teaching momentum to my Grade 8 students they took time to understand the concepts. They could understand the meaning and connect with the given example but could not think of examples.

If you can recall such instances, can you now think of ways of extending the lesson so as to carry out the omitted step above?
Giving more examples and making them visualize using experiments or demonstrations.

What are the ways in which you can hook your students into the next lesson that you are planning to take
In science class artefacts work wonderfully to grab students’ attention, demonstrations where students can be involved, produce videos, stories, puzzles. (artefacts in general, videos.)

How can you ‘chunk’ information so as to render the chunks easy for students to inter-connect?
When planning the unit and the lesson plan carefully. Connect the lesson to real life situations, check for students understanding immediately after the class, recollect students understanding in the next class and repeat or reiterate the important information. Give an extended task where students can deepen their understanding about the concept. (Task which deepen students understand about the topic or give more information about the topic.)

What can you do to allow students’ existing ideas [about the concept that you are going to teach] to (a) surface and then (b) be examined in a non-threatening ambiance?
Use visible thinking strategies like compass point reflection, Tug of War, explanation game which make us visualize students thinking. Planning for differentiated based on MI class also works very well. (These are visible thinking strategies which we use students to reflect.)

How can you help them see the inconsistency (if any) between their currently held beliefs and the actuality?
Building relationships with all students in the class is very important. When the teacher spends time listening to everyone and encourages them to ask questions, appreciate the questions, students open up more, show more interest in the class and learning process consistently. Connecting to real life situation helps.

Sunanda Lakshman, Oakridge International School, Hyderabad.
Can you recall instances of teaching a concept and feeling satisfied that the students seem to have grasped it well – then, after a worksheet or test, being puzzled at their obvious gaps in understanding?
Yes, students seemed to have understood concepts but were unable to translate that understanding during an assessment. They seemed to have misunderstood terminology explained as part of learning.

If yes, can you recall stopping at the point where the concept has become clear to the student – but not going beyond to have the student think it through in an unfamiliar context?
Yes, especially in lower grades. We as teachers believe that it is important to teach as much as a student can understand. In mixed classroom it is important to address the understanding of the class.

If you can recall such instances, can you now think of ways of extending the lesson so as to carry out the omitted step above?
Yes

What are the ways in which you can hook your students into the next lesson that you are planning to take?
Design lessons and activities that will help students improve their understanding of concepts. Flash cards, quiz fishbone method can be used to enhance their understanding.

How can you ‘chunk’ information so as to render the chunks easy for students to inter-connect?
‘Chunk’ information can be used by breaking down information – teachers can provide some part of the information and encourage students to research either in pairs or individually and gather information.

What can you do to allow students’ existing ideas [about the concept that you are going to teach] to (a) surface and then (b) be examined in a non-threatening ambiance?
Assessing the students’ prior knowledge and then asking conceptual and factual questions will help student understanding.

How can you help them see the inconsistency (if any) between their currently held beliefs and the actuality?
Yes by providing them with stimuli that will help students’ enhance their understanding.