This post serves as 50 initial thoughts about concept-based learning based on a course.

  1. Fuller talks about the idea of ‘doubling human knowledge’. By 1945, human knowledge is doubling every decade, and by 2020 each day depending on your chosen model. 
  2. Is knowledge all integral? How do we respond in the face of such overwhelming modernism?
  3. Sam Upson – half-life of facts. Some facts… in what subjects? ICT requires on practical facts whereas the arts rely upon proesses etc 
  4. Implications of knowledge doubling are questions raised are knowing what we need to teach, and also to understand the ideologies underpinning knowledge. Plato disparaged writing, suggesting that it would lead to us not agreeing on key meanings. 
  5. Which subjects have which types of learning? What kind of knowledge do we need to consider? Can students form maps? Are there existing conceptual maps? At what ages can students feasibly create such maps? Can schooling do this? To what extent do students need to have a nod at least to these points of access? 
  6. How can we acknowledge that there are sources of authority for knowledge? 
  7. Discipline/subject maps exist already. Do we only understand them tacitly? Can we ‘give’ them to students? Are we helping students by suggesting that any conceptual map of the world is as valid as any other? Vygotsky is useful here. 




  1. How do we teach ‘higher-level’ thinking? What does this really mean? Evaluation? 
  2. CBL has been used to improve weak results in a science primary school with a presumably mixed cohort. 
  3. Talks about concepts in science in a talk: talks about facts and skills relationship. Talks about these activity kits (are these available)?  See concepts as a way to link to facts and skills. 




  1. Sees 3D curriculum by connecting skills and content via a concept axis. 
  2. ‘Enduring or Essential Understanding’ ‘Generalisation or Principle’

– Believes that if students can articulate this, then higher-level thinking is understood.

  1. Like all models, it prioritises some ideas and deprioritises other. Therefore it is workable. 
  2. The term ‘concept’ is written horizontally across the top of the cube metaphor, rather than being vertical. It suggests again that concepts are similar to facts and skills but are a higher or more desirable form of understanding. Perhaps concepts are a different beast altogether, the sheet of a tent that relies on the framework of facts and skills.
  3. Speaks about how facts are fixed into time and space and context. Certainly, powerful knowledge is precise and specific, and vague and flexible knowledge lacks iteration. 
  4. Connecting old and new knowledge is key – this is more where the map metaphor is useful. 
  5. Talks about modernist and postmodernist understanding. To what extent do we want to encourage too much relativity of knowledge to novice thinkers? Are attempted evaluations really harder than understanding facts? 
  6. Trying reframe the terms ‘know’ and ‘understand’ – ‘understand’ here is different to how Bloom’s Taxonomy talks about it, because application and evaluation are distinct from understanding. 
  7. Challenging Bloom’s Taxonomy, and speaking about how facts and understanding of existing models of thought as a foundation for a curriculum is very welcome. 
  8. There are, of course, political implications for such curriculums. State curriculum can focus on adult-needs and accountability, especially academies that can be funded by corporate overlords. The need for cultural capital and the hidden curriculum is a huge element of such curriculum planning. Constructivist models are liberal, prioritising student choice and exploration. It should be pointed out that higher education currently does not operate with a conceptual curriculum, or at least not with those words. 


  1. CBL Creates a theory about how knowledge is structured. 
  2. Theories are usually discipline-specific because they rely upon experts having relatively agreed definitions on key words. Professors of cultural history have vastly different understandings of essential terms. Take the renaissance for example: some see if it as profound, others as a social construct that was defined afterwards, and some see if it as not existing at all! (see In Our Time). In the field of education, metacognition has struggled with the same with various professors uses the term ‘metacognition’ to mean at various times either:

  1. A) An emotive/affective reflection on learning;
  2. B) The strategies use in learning;
  3. C) The sense of the right time to use such strategies in learning.


  1. Academic papers refer to the authority of other papers for credibility, but they are sometimes referring to a different definition of what metacognition might mean. See my posts and essays on metacognition. 
  2. Therefore, in the human sciences, an attempt to pursue a entirely laboratory scientific method leads to weird and restricted understandings that are vague to the point of being inapplicable (unless they are applying for grant funding!). Instead, interpretivist methodology attempts to prize the specificity of experience. There are obvious flaws there, too. 
  3. Some of the generalisations here seem simpler than the facts (e.g. National Disasters can lead to feeling of anxiety). 
  4. The points about mathematics look interesting and situated, albeit outside my subject. 
  5. Creates key ideas: facts act as evidence to support topics. Topics are meant to be specific and precise contexts. These facts and concepts are not in themselves meant to transfer, although of course they can. 
  6. Concepts are ‘transferable’. However, they clearly rely upon the contextualisation of topics in order to be meaningful. 
  7. A principle is defined as a generalization that is a universal truth. How can this operate with the concepts themselves are 1-2 words? The concepts, also, surely need the specificity of contextualised topics and facts to be meaningful. 
  8. Since principles do not contain modality (and therefore operate across multiple/all contexts), do these operate well in literature? And if they do not contain modality, are they meaningful if they can operate in contradictory contexts? 
  9. Theory is defined as ‘supposition used to explain a phenomenon or practice’. 




  1. Wants a model that operates as something across all disciplines/subjects. 
  2. Social studies and science units – again, science – are dominant it seems. 
  3. Literacy curriculum require a different model called a structure of process. Good to see this continual iteration of the model. 
  4. Skills + Strategies become a process… still skills-based, and does not reference how knowledge operates in this. For example, I know how to write persuasively. But without specific knowledge of content, my persuasive powers are dimmed. 
  5. Attempts to do this with the reading process. Of course, many of these processes become tacit. 
  6. I am excited to see a unit of learning that meets theory with practice. 
  7. What does it really mean that students can ‘understand how writers etc…’
  8. Now we have ‘structure of knowledge’ and ‘structure of process’. So the skills and process argument seems again to become arguably dichotomous. 
  9. The visual arts example seems clear.
  10. The structure of process in writing needs to understand that writing is idiosyncratic. Students need to see models since writing and appreciation of tone is often remarkably tacit. Attempting to make a map of a single reading model is bunk. Metacognition, for example, talks about the need for students to develop an awareness of the right times to use strategies, and not just an ability to use strategies upon prompting. 



  1. The schemas that students need to develop should be ‘conceptual schemas’ – are these subject specific? Can schemas be specific or general?
  2. What will drive a curriculum are what are seen as important concepts and conceptual understandings. But the concepts in themselves are only really ‘understood’ consciously at the point in which they are contextualised. Otherwise they are simply abstract nouns, and effectively devoid of power and meaning. 
  3. CBL talks about the need to not ‘reteach’ content. Students would presumably be more confident with material if they had multiple cues for retrieving or recreating what they know – that is, they had repeated transfers or recontextualisations of material. 
  4. CBL seems to stress that facts and skills are a foundation in learning with concepts being a superior form of understanding. 
  5. One thought about generalisations is that they rely upon teachers trying to consider their own unique concept maps. Without doubt I have read swathes of material and theory that makes my understanding unique, at least in the schools I work in. The idea of how to get students to consider their own maps and frameworks rigorously, whilst becoming aware in the shared language of academia and culture, is important. 
  6. In the words of… Western culture is low context whereas Asian culture is high context. It seems to me that CBL attempts to create a high-context culture that is specific to students. It is possible for students to still understand dominant models of understanding that exist in their disciplines, and that they will be expected to either know or articulate come undergraduate level. But that is an important step in this process – that any conceptual transfers need to have more ‘effective’ ‘significant’ or even just ‘recognised’ transfers than others. 
  7. I do believe that skills vs knowledge has been over politicised. I do believe that the skill-based curriculum has been the status quo in the UK system for a long time now. I believe that inspiring knowledge-based curriculums are more effective and student-based feedback and results have shown this. However, such models, being merely models, are limited. And I believe that CBL, despite its position as ‘just a model’, seems an aspirational and pragmatic curriculum organisation that I want to explore. 
  8. I see myself, politically and pedagogically, as a centralist, probably one step either side. I believe that my teaching is more effective the more I know myself. If CBL can create more efficient and effective ways for students and I to articulate our tacit maps of knowledge (conceptual schema?), then this is a path I am very interested in. 
  9. The dominant curriculum model is one based on exams and external performance measures, a dire alternative to CBL, and one that politically the constructivists rail against. 


Where do I currently stand in Conceptual Based Learning? 


In accordance with the table 5.2, I am ’emerging’, the center of the chart. I am not a passionate advocate of any particularly curriculum-wide pedagogy, instead finding (currently) more reward in subject-specific pedagogy. My discipline. I also cannot name research that reports on CBL. I believe I can paraphrase the key terms being used, although I still emotionally associate them my existing definitions. I want to be a master teacher of literature rather than a master teacher of any pedagogical method. However, CBL seems the most ambitious curriculum I have seen so far.  


Interestingly, the ‘traditional’ is used to describe both ‘fact’ and ‘skills’ based teachers, two camps of people who very much see each other as polar opposites. As a centralist, I should see CBL as a synthesis of the two with different qualities.