Moving towards Concept-Based Curriculum and Instruction

Many of us may be aware that change is for improvement, development, progress, achievement or perhaps moving with times to develop and challenge minds and change mindsets. We know change may not be easy. Yet, if we can not change our own mindsets, then what are we capable of changing? Change must be clearly communicated to those involved in the change process. This is particularly more effective if the context or climate has been created to deal with change (Hickman, 2010, p58).

I remember when I began my new job ambitiously at an IB School in the Middle East, throwing myself into the international circuit. Leaving my home and previous job in the United Kingdom meant adapting to an unfamiliar work environment, which also meant understanding the culture and norms of a new school environment as well as the culture of the city, country and its people. This meant change in self, learning and adapting to a different work culture and being aware of cultural sensitivities.

My experiences of working in the United Kingdom teaching the British National Curriculum exposed me to a one or perhaps two-dimensional approach to teaching and learning in some ways. I understand that this approach may not apply to all teachers or schools following a National Curriculum and experiences will vary.

  • Teaching students to GCSE or A-Level exams following a structured or rigid approach
  • Teaching an ‘off the shelf curricula’
  • A curriculum or approach, which provides quick pedagogical knowledge and content that you can just pick up and deliver through an automaton method.

Working at an IB school definitely means some or a lot of changes for many practitioners. The IB is grounded through its inquiry-based approach to teaching and learning which also consists of concept-based curriculum and instruction.

It is not enough to teach just the facts relating to a topic but teaching thinking to a level of conceptual understanding, which allows students to transfer their constructed knowledge beyond the classroom (Erickson, 2002, p93). This three-dimensional curriculum model emphasises on factual and skill content of subjects with disciplinary concepts and generalisations (statement of inquiry or a central idea) to create personal relevance to what students may know when constructing new knowledge which is transferrable and not locked in a specific subject, time or place. Is this not beautiful?

To make any curriculum or ideology work, you must breathe, believe and embrace the philosophy which is in place for teaching and learning.

-Ali Hassan


Hickman, G (2010) ‘Leading Change in Multiple Contexts: Concepts and Practices in Organizational, Community , Political, Social and Global Change Settings’, chapter 3 in Hickman, G. Leading Change in Multiple Contexts, Thousand Oaks, California, Sage Publications Inc.

Erickson, L (2002). ‘Concept-Based Curriculum and Instruction: Teaching Beyond the Facts’. 1st Edition. Corwin.

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