and Concept-Based Curriculum Units
uses concept-based curriculum units to teach students about the
National Park Service, its mission and the treasures it preserves
for all Americans. ParkWise uses the concept-based approach as described
by H. Lynn Erickson in "Concept-Based Curriculum and Instruction,
Teaching Beyond the Facts". (1998, Corwin Press)
means more than a focus on teaching concepts rather than facts.
It means teaching the broader context that helps students to develop
a deeper understanding of their world through the use of specific
topic areas. The focus is on principles and generalizations that
have a broad and timeless application, even though the material
presented is of one particular example.
instance, the golden eagle migration unit teaches the concept of
migration - why and how animals migrate. If a student develops an
understanding of the answer to these questions using facts about
golden eagles in Denali National Park and Preserve, they can think
critically about migration in other animals such as humpback whales
in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve or caribou in Gates of
the Arctic National Park and Preserve, and the seasonal movements
of people over the landscape in all Alaska national parks.
concept-based unit on planning teaches not just the details of a
specific proposal to build a road in Denali National Park and Preserve,
but how to make decisions when different people have different priorities,
and when members of the public expect the agency to make a decision
which is not consistent with its mandate. These concepts could be
used by students when making decisions in their own lives, with
family, friends and classmates.
education is important for an agency like the National Park Service.
Our mission is to protect America's treasures, whether they are
animals, plants, cultures, mountains, or history. Just as knowing
all the facts doesn't mean that a student understands the why and
how of their world, knowing all the facts does not fulfill the Park
Service's responsibility to the American people. The Park Service
must use the facts, which differ in each park and circumstance,
in a conceptual framework to preserve the resources unimpaired for
future generations, just as students must use their facts to understand
the world and make reasoned life decisions.
of a concept-based unit are:
Theme - the focus of the unit, it can be topical, "The
American Civil War" or conceptual, "Conflict during the
Concept (Conceptual Lens) - forces thinking at the integration
level by relating the topic to the broader study framed by the lens.
Note the difference between the topic "American Civil War"
and the concept of "civil strife".
Webbing the topics for study - what are the categories (intradisciplinary)
or the subject areas (interdisciplinary) that will be used to explore
the theme. What are the topics/skills for each category?
Generalizations (Essential Understandings) - are the statements
of conceptual relationship, they transfer through time and across
cultures, they transcend singular examples. [broad, abstract, timeless,
universal]. What do you want students to understand?
Essential Questions - are the bridge between performance-based
activities and deeper, conceptual understanding. They guide students
to discover meaning rather than relying on lecture methods and are
one of the most powerful tools for helping students think at more
Processes and Skills - processes are complex performance
requiring a variety of skills. Process: Design and conduct a scientific
investigation. Skills: formulate questions, conduct systematic observations,
make accurate measurements, identify and control variables, interpret
Instructional Activities - design activities so that students
may practice the processes and skills, and so that they may answer
the essential questions and understand the generalizations. "What
activities can be used to engage students with these essential questions
that will lead to the essential understandings?"
Culminating Performance - allows a final assessment on how
well students relate content to transferable, conceptual ideas,
and on how well they are able to perform with their knowledge. It
assesses understanding of one or more major ideas (generalizations)
for the unit, supported by critical content knowledge and demonstrated
through a complex performance.
9) Scoring Guide for
Culminating Performance - assesses performance according to
defined criteria and a scaled set of indicators demonstrating the
student's progress toward the standard.