Tools for Teaching Conceptual Understanding, Secondary: Designing Lessons and Assessments for Deep Learning

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Julie Stern, Krista Ferraro & Juliet Mohnkern

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    Acknowledgements

    Praise for Tools for Teaching Conceptual Understanding, Secondary

    “Stern, Ferraro, and Mohnkern tear down the false dichotomy of traditional versus innovative education and provides the clarion call and practical tool kit for developing creativity by building and applying knowledge through Concept-Based learning. Every practitioner needs this book to juxtapose what worked well in the 20th century with what is essential in the 21st century and beyond.”

    —Michael McDowell

    Superintendent

    Ross School District, Ross, CA

    “If you are ready to have students really learn, get ready to be amazed. Here is the complete guide to creating your very own Concept-Based classroom. I have never read a book filled with so many great ideas that can be used in any classroom.”

    —Amanda McKee

    Secondary Mathematics Instructor

    Johnsonville High School, SC

    “This book is as essential to a teacher utilizing Concept-Based teaching as the approach of Concept-Based learning is essential to teaching.”

    —Ayo Magwood

    Social Studies Teacher

    Maret Private School, Washington, DC

    “I can’t recommend this book enough! Exceptionally practical pedagogical techniques that are steeped in bags of authentic research. Addressing how children learn, how teachers can plan lessons within a conceptual framework, specific and useful differentiation techniques and feedback methods—so many meaningful and highly effective ways to move learners forward, preparing them for the future in a meaningful way.”

    —Julia Briggs

    Certified Concept-Based trainer, IB Science Teacher and Chemistry Coordinator

    Colegio Anglo-Colombiano, Bogotá, Colombia

    “This book addresses the need for students to learn critical dispositions and skills which go beyond traditional discipline knowledge and are essential for student success as innovators in the 21st century.”

    —Brenda Booth

    Instructional Coach

    Burlington-Edison School District, Burlington, WA

    “While most good educators recognize the incredible value of teaching conceptually, it is challenging. Julie Stern, Krista Ferraro and Juliet Mohnkern have created accessible, practical baby steps for every teacher to use.”

    —Dr. Vincent Chan

    Principal

    Fairview International School, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

    “The authors of Tools for Teaching Conceptual Understanding have crafted an incredible resource for teachers in secondary education. This book provides a strong rationale on the importance of Concept-Based Curriculum development in the classroom for the 21st century. The book delivers a framework on how to build a Concept-Based classroom from the ground up, offering practical, easy-to-apply tools and techniques that will allow teachers to redesign their curriculum in a rigorous way, while providing a classroom environment of deep learning. From developing great lesson plans to on-point assessments that target conceptual understanding, this book is an incredible resource for classroom teachers”.

    —Maria Cardona

    Middle School Science IB Instructor

    Corbett Preparatory School of IDS

    “Perhaps the most significant question every educationist asks today is how to meet the needs of all learners in a classroom. Conceptual learning teaches for deep understanding and enables students to find patterns and make connections, thus providing intellectual dignity. In the section on differentiation, there are clear action steps with examples as support for reaching out to all students. A must-read for all who are committed to Concept-Based teaching and instruction!”

    —Mona Seervai

    Former Principal, Bombay International School

    IB Workshop Leader and Consultant, Certified Concept-Based Trainer

    “Stern, Ferraro, and Mohnkern have truly ‘drilled down’ the Concept-Based framework, providing an understandable guide for teaching and assessing conceptual understanding. This book should be a ‘go to’ resource for every teacher!”

    —Susanne Long

    Director of Curriculum, Research, and Development Services

    Onslow County School System, Jacksonville, NC

    “Stern, Ferraro and Mohnkern’s method provides a lucid framework to deepen conceptual understanding. Building upon the foundation laid by Erickson and Lanning, this approach provides tangible strategies for classroom teachers to nurture deeper learning.”

    —Richard Healy

    Deputy Head of Secondary School

    Colegio Anglo Colombiano, Bogotá, Colombia

    “As the product, and facilitator, of a topic-based, coverage-centered education for some four decades, discovering the value of a Concept-Based approach to teaching and learning has caused a paradigmatic shift both in my classroom and in my own intellectual journey. Julie Stern, Krista Ferraro and Juliet Mohnkern´s book builds upon the best of recent educational theory and research to guide teachers on how to transform our students from fact-collectors into conceptual experts as they discover and transfer their understandings of the world around them, and ultimately, seek to solve real-world challenges.”

    —Neville Kirton

    Head of Humanities Department

    Colegio Anglo Colombiano, Bogotá, Colombia

    Tools for Teaching Conceptual Understanding is filled with assessments and ideas for teaching students to think conceptually in the classroom. Teachers can learn tools for developing student thinking and how to continually assess for conceptual understanding as learning happens. I recommend this book for anyone who is looking to develop lessons and assessments to support deep, conceptual thinking in their classroom.”

    —Amy Reisner

    Assistant Principal, District Concept-Based Trainer

    Bay View Elementary, Burlington, WA

    Acknowledgements

    Concept-Based Curriculum and Instruction—Series List

    Concept-Based Curriculum and Instruction for the Thinking Classroom, 2nd edition—H. Lynn Erickson, Lois A. Lanning, and Rachel French

    This resource offers a complete guide to designing curriculum and instruction that moves teaching and learning beyond lower level facts and skills to deep conceptual understanding.

    Stirring the Heart, Head, and Soul: Redefining Curriculum, Instruction, and Concept-Based Learning, 3rd edition—H. Lynn Erickson

    This book examines the current state of curriculum and instruction and proposes a curricular plan for achieving higher standards without sacrificing intellectual integrity.

    Facilitator’s Guide to Stirring the Heart, Head, and Soul: Redefining Curriculum, Instruction, and Concept-Based Learning, 3rd edition—H. Lynn Erickson

    This guide gives staff developers and workshop leaders the tools to help teachers gain a clear understanding of how to use Concept-Based Instruction to deepen students’ understandings and inspire a genuine love of learning.

    Transitioning to Concept-Based Curriculum and Instruction: How to Bring Content and Process Together—H. Lynn Erickson and Lois A. Lanning

    In this book, teachers will learn how to use the Structure of Process and Structure of Knowledge in designing Concept-Based Curriculum and units. Leaders and coaches will find advice for staff development.

    Designing a Concept-Based Curriculum for English Language Arts: Meeting the Common Core With Intellectual Integrity, K-12—Lois A. Lanning

    All of the recent research about learning, as well as current standards, mark a shift toward conceptual understanding of complex processes. In this “how-to” book, Lois A. Lanning introduces the Structure of Process as a tool to aid English language arts teachers (and teachers of other process-driven disciplines) in designing high quality Concept-Based units for the classroom.

    Concept-Based Mathematics: Teaching for Deep Understanding in Secondary Classrooms—Jennie Wathall

    When you teach concepts rather than rote processes, students see math’s essential elegance, as well as its practicality—and discover their own natural mathematical abilities. This book is a road map to retooling how you teach math in a deep, clear, and meaningful way—through a conceptual lens—helping students achieve higher order thinking skills.

    Tools for Teaching Conceptual Understanding, Elementary: Designing Lessons and Assessments for Deep Learning—Julie Stern, Nathalie Lauriault, and Krista Ferraro

    This guide provides instructional strategies for use in the elementary classroom. Teachers will learn how to teach metacognitive skills to young students and design lessons for conceptual understanding.

    Tools for Teaching Conceptual Understanding, Secondary: Designing Lessons and Assessments for Deep Learning—Julie Stern, Krista Ferraro, and Juliet Mohnkern

    This guide provides instructional strategies for use in the secondary classroom. Teachers will learn how to introduce secondary students to conceptual thinking and design lessons across disciplines for conceptual understanding.

    Acknowledgements

    For Dr. H. Lynn Erickson—may your legacy stir the heads, hearts, and souls of generations to come.

    Foreword

    What does a thinking student look like? In this book, Julie Stern, Krista Ferraro, and Juliet Mohnkern share their vision of thinking students and how teachers make that vision a reality.

    The attributes of a thinking student, which this book describes, bring to mind the main character of the highly popular Maisie Dobbs mystery series. In the series, writer Jacqueline Winspear chronicles the lives of several characters and stories within stories across time. Maisie Dobbs, the main character, is a psychologist and investigator. She is fascinating on many levels, but one of the traits that stands out is her inquiry work that just won’t let her go. She becomes so immersed in each case that she struggles to break away. Maisie tackles investigations searching for answers. One of her trusty tools is a “case map” that she creates using colored crayons and pencils to graphically capture relationships and patterns among emerging clues and to record questions that cause reflection and further digging. Although the Maisie Dobbs stories begin in the early 1900s, her patience, curiosity, perseverance, and mindfulness are characteristics that are just as prized and relevant today.

    People often lament, “Education has not changed in 50 years, except we are trying to cover more faster, using technology to speed the process.” As educators for over four decades, we understand the expression of concern, because teaching and learning still appear to be driven more by coverage of content, drill on skills, and an increase in test scores. But this book, Tools for Teaching Conceptual Understanding, Secondary: Designing Lessons and Assessments for Deep Learning—the latest contribution to the collection of books on Concept-Based Curriculum and Instruction—illustrates the shift that is taking place in rethinking curriculum design, teaching, and learning around the world.

    What has changed over the past 50 years is our deeper understanding of how knowledge and processes are structured, the importance of conceptual transfer, how the brain works, how to differentiate instruction for varied learners, and effective versus ineffective pedagogical methods. The task now is to help all teachers internalize these findings and move them into classroom practice, which is exactly what this book does.

    Tools for Teaching Conceptual Understanding, Secondary: Designing Lessons and Assessments for Deep Learning provides a sound overview of Concept-Based Curriculum and Instruction and then speaks directly to teaching and learning in thinking classrooms. The book honors the work of educational leaders, such as Richard Paul and Linda Elder, Ron Ritchhart, and Carol Dweck, and offers a valuable toolbox of strategies for helping students metacognitively analyze their own thought processes. Teachers will especially appreciate the ideas that focus on student intellectual growth. “Thinking” has long been a goal of instruction, but there was little support, until more recently, for exactly how to do this without making “thinking” a stand-alone exercise or skill set. The authors suggest students also benefit from understanding how knowledge and processes are structured. Specific strategies are offered that honor students’ personal intellect and help them consciously apply knowledge and skills to construct their own conceptual schemas.

    Since textbooks and purchased instructional units are generally not Concept Based, it is critical that teachers use the principles outlined in this and other books on Concept-Based Curriculum to design instructional units and lessons. Stern, Ferraro, and Mohnkern provide clear models, frameworks, and examples for designing Concept-Based lessons. Their four lesson frameworks bring together, through examples, the essential tenets of student-centered, intellectually engaging, Concept-Based pedagogy.

    The authors address assessment for conceptual understanding—an area that has been slow to evolve. It is easy to assess content and lower level skills, but assessing for transferable, conceptual understanding often feels nebulous—hard to nail down. Thankfully, assessment is changing. This book provides teachers with the rationale and specific methods for assessing beyond the facts and lower level skills. The chapter on assessment is both enlightening and timely in today’s test-driven environment.

    Ensuring equity in learning is a fundamental right of every student. This book helps teachers evaluate their instruction for equitable learning opportunities in four critical areas:

    • Teacher expectations and relationships with students
    • Purposeful and clear goals, activities, instructions and assessments
    • Constant collection of evidence, effective feedback, and thoughtful goal setting by teacher and students, and
    • Flexible grouping based on what students need at that moment to reach the goal.

    These areas have always been a focus for educators, but they require laser-like, minds-on work when considered in Concept-Based classrooms. Each of these areas needs to reflect the practices of Concept-Based teaching and learning with equitable opportunities and outcomes in mind.

    Finally, the authors of this book help teachers understand the relationship between popular educational initiatives and various academic standards relative to Concept-Based Curriculum and Instruction. Stern, Ferraro, and Mohnkern have written a coherent and cohesive book to support teachers as they shift from a traditional model to the cutting-edge Concept-Based model, which raises the bar for both instructional pedagogy and student performance. You will enjoy the Concept-Based learning journey with the support of this book. It may take effort, but the rewards will be plentiful—especially as you begin to see attributes of intellectual development blossom in your students, attributes like those of the tenacious and inquiring Maisie Dobbs, who would never accept quick, easy answers and who values reflection, emotions, and deep grappling as essentials of learning and to unraveling life’s mysteries!

    H. Lynn Erickson and Lois A. Lanning

    Acknowledgments

    The authors would like to thank Dr. H. Lynn Erickson and Dr. Lois A. Lanning for their vision and dedication to creating both theoretical explanations and concrete tools for designing curriculum and instruction for deep understanding. Their mentorship over the past several years has been an incredible gift. We admire you and we thank you.

    To Ariel Bartlett, for your enthusiasm and sage advice. We are extremely grateful. And to the design team at Corwin, thank you for making this book look beautiful.

    To the teachers and students at Cesar Chavez Public Charter Schools for Public Policy in Washington, D.C. (from 2007 to 2015), you taught us more about teaching, curriculum design, and leadership than you will know.

    To Mrs. Irasema Salcido, for your vision and for your continued support.

    To Dr. Sheron Brown, for introducing us to the work of Dr. Erickson, the Foundation for Critical Thinking, and lots of other great work on deep learning.

    To the teachers, leaders, and students at Colegio Anglo Colombiano in Bogotá, Colombia, for your openness to experimentation with these ideas and for your belief in possibility.

    To our husbands, Josh, Craig, and Brett, for your love, support, artwork, and edits.

    To our families, especially Gordon and Justine Harris, Michael and Karen Stern, Alex Tolor, Hannah Robinson, and Lois Schwartz, for your support, encouragement, babysitting, proofreading, and edits.

    And to Julie’s two boys, Alex and Andrew, for your patience as mommy got this done. Hopefully your schools will have deep, conceptual learning at the heart of the curriculum.

    Publisher’s Acknowledgments

    Corwin gratefully acknowledges the following reviewers for their editorial insight and guidance:

    Brenda Booth, Instructional Coach

    Burlington-Edison School District

    Burlington, WA

    Julia Briggs, Science Teacher

    Colegio Anglo Colombiano

    Bogotá Distrito Capital, Colombia

    Georgina Alice Carey, Chemistry Teacher (Grades 6–9)

    Colegio Anglo Colombiano

    Bogotá Distrito Capital, Colombia

    Elita Driskill, Educational Consultant/Coach

    Education Service Center, Region 11

    White Settlement, TX

    Fraser Halliwell, Director of Secondary School

    Colegio Anglo Colombiano

    Bogotá Distrito Capital, Colombia

    Richard Healy, Deputy Director of Secondary School, English Language and Literature Teacher, Theory of Knowledge Teacher

    Colegio Anglo Colombiano

    Bogotá Distrito Capital, Colombia

    Jane Hunn, General Science Teacher (Grade 6)

    Tippecanoe Valley Middle School

    Akron, IN

    Neville Kirton, Director of the Humanities Department

    Colegio Anglo Colombiano

    Bogotá Distrito Capital, Colombia

    Susanne Long, Director of Curriculum, Research, and Development Services

    Onslow County Schools

    Jacksonville, NC

    Ayo Magwood, Social Studies Teacher

    Maret School

    Washington, DC

    Amanda McKee, Secondary Mathematics Teacher

    Johnsonville High School

    Johnsonville, SC

    Lyneille Meza, Director of Data and Assessment

    Denton Independent School District

    Denton, TX

    Amy Reisner, Assistant Principal (K-8), District Concept-Based Trainer

    Bay View Elementary

    Burlington, WA

    Ms. Mona Seervai, Principal

    Bombay International School

    Mumbai, India

    About the Authors

    Julie Stern is a teacher trainer and instructional coach, supporting schools in transforming teaching and learning on four continents. She is passionate about helping educators to maximize human potential and break free of the long-standing industrial model of schooling. Julie is a certified trainer in Concept-Based Curriculum and Instruction and served as a specialist for Dr. H. Lynn Erickson’s Concept-Based Curriculum and Instruction Certification Institutes. She is a James Madison Constitutional Scholar and taught social studies for many years at schools in the Northeast and her native Louisiana. She is a Verified Master Trainer and has Coaching and Change Management Certificates from the Association for Talent Development (ATD). Julie previously served as the director of Public Policy and Curriculum Innovation at the Cesar Chavez Public Charter Schools in Washington, DC, where she led the revision of curriculum in all subject areas for Grades 6 through 12. She has a master’s degree in international education from The George Washington University and a bachelor’s degree in sociology and psychology from Loyola University New Orleans. She currently resides in Bogotá, Colombia, with her husband, a U.S. diplomat, and two young sons.

    Krista Ferraro is the History Department head at Thayer Academy in Braintree, Massachusetts. She is passionate about social justice and civic education. Previously, she served as the deputy director of Public Policy and Curriculum Innovation as well as a history teacher at Cesar Chavez Public Charter Schools in Washington, DC, where she repeatedly led her students to winning the DC We the People Constitution competition. Krista began her career in education as a 2006 Teach for America corps member. She holds a master’s degree in teaching from American University and a bachelor’s degree in American studies and Spanish from Cornell University.

    Juliet Mohnkern is the director of High Tech Middle North County in San Diego, California. In 2015, she completed an MEd in Educational Leadership at the High Tech High Graduate School of Education. She is passionate about providing all students with equitable access to learning that is academically rigorous, meaningful to students, and impactful in the real world. Previously, she was the director of Public Policy and Curriculum Innovation at Cesar Chavez Public Charter Schools in Washington, DC. She also worked at Match Charter Public School in Boston, Massachusetts. She has a master’s degree in ethics, peace, and global affairs from American University and a bachelor’s degree in classics from Boston College. In 2013, Julie, Krista, and Juliet cofounded Education to Save the World (www.edtosavetheworld.com), pushing for a vision of schooling where learning is organized around real-world problems that require the flexible application of each subjects’ concepts and skills to create a more sustainable, just, and healthy planet. Their summer workshops draw teachers and leaders from around the world to collaborate on ways to transform teaching and learning to meet the demands of the 21st century.

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